There’s been a lot of levity the last few days about Wall Street Journal editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz’s Onion-like rant in the newspaper’s rather extraordinary “Death By Bicycle” video, embedded below.
More on that in a second.
I haven’t closely followed the implementation of New York City’s new bike sharing program Citi Bike.
But it seems like it’s going pretty well. I was especially interested in Alex Davies’ point by point tackling of the most common gripes in Business Insider. Here are four of the key gripes plus Davies’ response in his article New York’s Bike Share Is Brilliant, And Every Complaint About It Is Bogus:
3. The stations prevent emergency responders from accessing buildings.
The New York Post headline “Bike racks block EMS at victim’s co-op” echoes this view. But Brad Aaron at Streetsblog followed up with the FDNY, whose spokesperson denied having any trouble: “We had no operational or response issues to this call. Period.”
4. The racks and bikes are ugly.
This one’s harder to reject, because beauty is subjective. But remember that most Citi Bike stations are replacing parking spots, not public art works. There are lots of really ugly cars in the world that could be there instead.
5. Cyclists are a dangerous menace.
To quote Rabinowitz, “Every citizen knew — who was in any way sentient — that the most important danger in the city is not the yellow cabs…it is the cyclists.”
In April 2013, 32,653 vehicles were involved in accidents in New York City. 1,278 of them were taxi cabs. 358 were bicycles.
6. Cyclists are reckless.
This is a valid but specious point. As a NYC resident (and Business Insider’s car reviewer), I drive in the city. I walk, too. And I bike. I do all three recklessly at times.
So do many, many people. Drivers speed and blow through yellow lights. Pedestrians jaywalk, and step into the street when they don’t have right of way. That’s New York City.
Everyone should follow the rules, but few do — that’s as true for cyclists as for other groups.
To its credit, the NYPD has stepped up its ticketing of cyclists (not without controversy). The DOT has put “Safety Managers” on the street to keep cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers where they belong.
And urban cycling has become safer. According to the city, the average risk of serious injury for riders dropped by 73% between 2000 and 2011, even as the rate of biking more than doubled.
Davies also points out other obvious problems with Rabinowitz’s rant.
Many jokes have been made about Rabinowitz’s age, but I don’t really think that’s a joking matter. The issue, however, is real. I’ve written before about the fading echoes of older Americans who simply reject the most commonsense lifestyle decisions increasingly being made by younger generations. Hers are the words of someone who just doesn’t get it — and who doesn’t realize that she’s displaying an exponentially greater sense of entitlement than she accuses cyclists of displaying.
My favorite quotes beyond “Death by Bicycle,” which stays on screen for the full five minute interview:
- The bike sharing program was instituted so that “New Yorkers can feel like they’re in Paris and London.” (Say what? How about feeling like they’re in New York, but with a bike sharing program?)
- “I represent the majority of citizens.”
- “We now look at a city whose best neighborhoods are absolutely — begrimed is the word — by these blazing blue Citibank bikes.”
- “If the mayor had any guts, he would have undertaken a study.” (There was a 142-page study and 159 public meetings.)
- “The bike lobby is an all-powerful enterprise.”
If her attitudes are indicative of those of others on the WSJ editorial board, then it’s no wonder the editorials were so far out of touch with the attitudes of the American electorate in the lead-up to last fall’s general election.