Brooklyn Paper Op-Ed on Bike Law Enforcement Has False Claims and Fictional Cyclists

01/14/2011 3:31 PM |

Bike Acrobats

In another of their questionable op-eds, the Brooklyn Paper had Leslie Lewis—the 84th Precinct Community Council’s president and an outspoken supporter of the NYPD’s problematic new initiative to finally police cyclists the same way they do drivers of other vehicles one uses to get from A to B and then C—write today’s opinion piece. Therein he makes a bafflingly incorrect assertion about bike laws (one acknowledged by the editors, sure, but how can a guy advocating for the enforcement of bike laws be so wrong about one of the most basic?), and tells of frequent encounters with what must be a family of bicycle acrobats on his daily commute to Downtown Brooklyn.

First things first, Lewis writes:

I’m not anti-bike, but I follow police statistics: About 90 percent of the bicyclists killed in this city died, in part, because they were not following the rules of the road. Obviously, these deaths were tragedies and they never should have happened. But in many of these cases the bicyclists were violating the rules in some way. They were either on roads without bike lanes, going through a red light or riding the wrong way down the street. The “ghost bikes” you see in the different neighborhoods that honor these fallen bicyclists only tell half the story.

I dunno, suggesting that bikes should only be on streets with bike lanes sounds pretty fucking anti-bike to me! The New York City page on bike laws says differently, thankfully:

Use marked bike lanes or paths when available, except when making turns or when it is unsafe to do so, etc. If the road is too narrow for a bicycle and a car to travel safely side by side, cyclists have the right to ride in the middle of the travel lane. Bicycling is permitted on all main and local streets throughout the City even when no designated route exists.

And then this, from Lewis’s account of his daily commute, is just incredibly puzzling:

Often I see a bicyclist with three toddlers sitting on the back of his bike. Now, when the light is red, he waits at the crosswalk, but as soon as he feels that he’s not going to get squashed, he zips into the street—with three little babies in tow!

How is this possible? One baby in a bike seat, sure. Two in one of those pull-carriages, or one of those cargo bikes, yeah, I can see. But three babies? Just sitting on the back of his bike? Unless this cyclist is training a team of daredevil babies, or possibly it’s actually Elizabeth Streb and her children practicing a new dance, I just don’t see how this is possible. Also impossible: making a strong case about the enforcement of traffic laws as they apply to cyclists when one does not know where, according to said traffic laws, cyclists are and are not permitted to cycle.

4 Comment

  • I live on the same block as Lewis. There is a cyclist in the neighborhood who does haul a load of small children to a local school on the back of a Kona Ute. I wouldn’t testify in court that he hauls three (I’ve never looked that closely), but he certainly hauls two past our block on a regular basis.

    I can see how it’s un-nerving for people to watch. He rides up Bond Street, which is pretty narrow, and has no bike lane. That said, he always struck me as a safe rider, but I’m a xtracycle rider, so I’m sympathetic.

  • Brooklyn’s civic and political class is loaded with dolts like Leslie Lewis who live in the f’ing dark ages when it comes to bicycle transportation and a lot of other stuff. They have absolutely no interest in the safety of Brooklyn streets.

    Last week we saw an elderly rabbi run over and killed in Midwood, the mom of 9-month-old twins run over on the sidewalk by an out-of-control livery cab driver in Sunset Park, and a 3-year-old boy in Williamsburg run over… in HIS F’ING BABY STROLLER.

    If Leslie Lewis, Marty Markowitz and the Brooklyn Paper actually gave half a crap about the safety of Brooklyn streets, they’d be focused on seeking justice for incidents like these and figuring out how to prevent them in the future. That’s not what these guys are interested in. Rather, they are looking to score political points against Mayor Bloomberg and have discovered that fighting against bikes and bike lanes is a good way to do that. Leslie Lewis and his fellow senior citizens on Community Boards across the Borough see something new and different on Brooklyn streets — people who want to transport themselves without guzzling gas, spewing exhaust, or owning a 2.5 ton liability. They feel threatened by this new and different mode of transportation and the change that it represents, and they want to stamp it out.

  • In every vehicular-pedestrian encounter, speed is always a factor. Your chances of getting killed by a vehicle go up exponentially as the speed of the vehicle goes higher. Therefore, it makes sense to slow down cars. How? Speed limits are regularly flouted as drivers “keep up” with each other. Signs are ignored. One way is to make a mixed use street, with lanes for bikes, islands for pedestrians, and a general “livable street” bustle. This doesn’t even slow overall trip time significantly, because cars practice hurry-up-and-wait, getting slow later in their journey as traffic bunches up again, after thinning earlier. We have to advance past the day of Car Domination, to make our streets an inviting place for everyone, for pedestrians, bikers, store owners (which cars just whiz by) and yes, even drivers. Neighborhoods should not be a place to pass through, they should be a place to live.

  • Where did they get the 90% figure for cyclists’ culpability in their own deaths? There’s a bill before the City Council to force the NYPD to release information on traffic crashes and fatalities that occurred, and summonses issued. The police oppose the bill on the grounds that the don’t have the resources to share traffic data.