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Bloomberg: Political Posturing or Legitimate Activist? — Carectomy - Removing Cars from People

Bloomberg: Political Posturing or Legitimate Activist?

by Kate Trainor on October 12, 2007

Bloomberg Bloomberg: Political Posturing or Legitimate Activist?

New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg talks a mean game. He’s pushing a congestion pricing policy that tolls car-traffic $4 to drive below 86th Street in Manhattan, looking into a citywide bike-rental system similar to Paris’ Vélib program, and has stirred much attention for his propensity to use public transportation.

Certainly all good things in Carectomy’s book. The potential problem lies in the mayor’s somewhat hypocritical approach to his public transportation commuting. Although the mayor has garnered tremendous publicity for riding the subway to work, the billionaire’s path differs from the typical commuter. As the New York Times reported, when Bloomberg does ride the subway, he first gets picked up by two king-size Chevrolet Suburbans and then whisked 22 blocks to a station where he boards an express train to City Hall. In the process, he zooms right by his neighborhood stop a mere four blocks from his Upper East Side doorstep.

Now, a couple of things stick out here. Yes, being driven in an SUV for a shortened subway ride and then scoffing at other New Yorkers who bitch about over-crowded trains does smack of absurdity. What really puzzles me here is: why the heck are there TWO SUV’s picking him up!? I mean, it’s not like the guy is too worried about assassination attempts if he’s riding in a train… What gives!?

So, rather than the mayor’s schlep to work simply requiring a driver to pick the mayor up in a honking SUV to drive him to City Hall, we have TWO honking SUV’s driving two round-trips (with the mayor briefly aboard), plus Bloomberg getting on a train for photo-ops. If you’re keeping score on your Carbon calculator, we’re not doing so well here.

Of course the adage about the importance of perception is doubly true in politics. If the mayor’s example encourages others to ride subways and drive less, then maybe he deserves a little slack. The mayor has power as a role model: so long as hack bloggers (and some rag called the NY Times) turn a blind eye to the hypocrisy, his efforts to clean up NYC an be app. Unfortunately the commuting example that he intends is very different than the one he sets here.

Photos via Flickr by RSEanes & Harriseye

Related posts:

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  3. NYC and Portland Give Ciclovia a Spin
  4. L.A. Mayor’s Traffic Reduction Plan
  5. The Circular Bike: Go Nowhere Fast, Have Fun Doing it!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ChipSeal April 2, 2008 at 12:14 am

Please stop patronizing me.

“If they’re done right, they can help make drivers more aware of cyclists’ presence on the roads…”

Taking the lane makes motorists aware of my presence, not a painted line on the road.

“…and leave more room for bike wheels than a thin crevice of concrete between speeding cars and the curb.”

Bike lanes do not add any space to a road unless the road is widened. I do not cower in the gutter, nor should you. Bicycles have every right to the public streets, and if the lane is too narrow to safely ride side by side with an automobile, take the lane.

“Even if the safety they create is merely illusive, we’re glad when city planners consider cyclists’ presence on the roads.”

To translate: Bike lanes are a waste of taxpayers money because even though they do nothing for cyclists, we like them because they make us feel good, and it is nice to be noticed by politicians.

Our efforts would be better spent on improving the conditions of our roads for ALL public road users! End curbside parking to increase space, for example, or lower speed limits. These measures would actually improve the safety for everyone in tangable and measurable ways, unlike bike lanes.

But if you did that, you might not get as much of a warm fuzzy feeling. I guess it is just a matter of what is important to you.

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2 brian April 2, 2008 at 3:31 am

i somewhat agree with Chip. As a hardened cyclist I have no trouble taking the lane when I need to, nor do I so much as bat an eyelash about going down a heavily trafficked road.
However, i cannot say it was always the case for me. I’ve been utility biking for about 2-3 years now, and I remember back then that I was REALLY scared OFTEN. Bike lanes, and bike paths helped that a lot.
Recently, I left my beautiful city of Sacramento to visit Davis, the bike capital of the USA. Sadly, it was nothing at all like I expected. There were tons of paved OFF STREET bike paths, some bike lanes on streets, some bike specific traffic lights, but that was about it. Grumbling on my way home, that Sacramento was fairly equivalent in terms of bike facilities (and is hella more interesting!) I realized WHY davis is the bike capital:
1. It’s a college town (college kids bike more anyway)
2. It’s flat (so is Sacramento)
3. the off street bike paths make it REALLY COMFORTABLE FOR BEGINNERS AND UNSKILLED RIDERS.

this last point is key I think. While bike paths may only offer illusory comfort, for many, it’s the difference between biking and not biking. It’s not just that bike lanes make cyclists more visible (although this is somewhat questionable), they also legitimate our presence. A motorist sees the bike blazeon on the ground and knows you belong there too. Of course good driver education would accomplish the same goal.
The bottom line is that beginner and unskilled riders need the lanes to feel safe and secure, and that will increase ridership so much more. Just go to Davis, and see literal seas of bikes, and the unskilled riders who ride them without helmets, and you’ll see what I mean.

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3 DB April 2, 2008 at 11:21 am

As an aspiring biker — amen to bike lanes being less scary to us n00bs. I’ve read the studies, my rational mind knows I am less likely to become roadputty if I take the lane…but I am still planning routes which have separated bike lanes. After a year I’ll probably become more “rational.”

Also — regarding the stupidity of a one-block bike lane — my mother-in-law-the-borough-councilmember commented that one way local communities get sidewalks and bike lanes built without paying for them is to zone for them, so that every time land is developed the path has to be built — which makes the new path “free” for local tax purposes, but means it can be hopelessly patchy for years. In other words, this bike lane might be 5 miles long on paper…and slated for completion in 2032. Dumb, but less dumb than planning for a one-block lane.

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4 jungle April 2, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Come on, there are far more stupid bike lanes than that.

My favourite is the only cycle lane in my home town, Southam, UK. It’s only about 30ft long, halfway up a steep hill, facing uphill. Neither end of it is at an intersection or junction, and it’s probably a good mile from any other cycle lane.

The thing that makes it a really unusually stupid cycle lane is that in a stroke of genius they raised it above the road level to prevent cars driving in it (great idea, you might think!). Unfortunately they omitted to provide any helpful slope to allow bikes onto or off it. You must stop, lift the bike on, struggle to start on the hill, and then crash heavily off the other end 30ft further along the road.

Needless to say, it makes far more sense to avoid it and cycle around it than actually use it. Unfortunately the cycle lane also makes the remaining road very narrow, forcing cars to wait behind you as you crawl up the hill, when they didn’t need to before…

This was apparently built because the developers of the housing estate were required as a condition of getting planning permission to build “a cycle lane”. No detail was specified.

Ah, the genius of urban planning…

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5 MarkR April 2, 2008 at 2:00 pm

As you may have read me complain about bike lanes before, I definitely agree with ChipSeal and agree with some of Brian points. While bike lanes are great for The new cyclist and children, thats about where the benefit ends.

fyi Here are some links to a really stupid “traffic calming” device for cyclist that occured here in Austin a few years back. http://austin.about.com/od/mapsofaustin/f/curbislands.htm For future reference to planners, traffic calming devices and bike lanes do not mix.

And here is another reason I don’t like bike lanes here in Texas. http://mdahmus.monkeysystems.com/blog-img/shoalcreek7.jpg

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6 ChipSeal April 2, 2008 at 8:31 pm

Just to be clear, I object to bike LANES. As to bike PATHS I am an agnostic. Multiple Use Paths (MUPs) are fine, and though I don’t enjoy them, I have no objection to their construction.
Perhaps Brian has conflated the two?
The hazards introduced to cyclists by bike lanes make them particularly unsuitable to newbies and children. They teach improper positioning, make riding in a suicide slot a normalized government approved behavior, and reinforce the notion that bicycles are separate and unequal road users. (The ghetto effect of bike lanes) The newbie feels safer though, and feeling safer is more important than actually being safer, right?

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7 Josh April 2, 2008 at 8:51 pm

ChipSeal: The “ghetto effect,” or segregation of cyclists is a real concern. Bike paths do it perhaps more than lanes. Some states have legislation whereby, if a bike path exists beside a stretch of road, a cyclist *MUST* ride in the path, and not on the road.

John Forrester’s book, Effective Cycling, is a must read that consolidates both your and Brian’s points (maybe I’ll get an interview with him for a post here). Forrester argues that the safest road designs allow vehicles and bicycles to share the road. Furthermore, he argues, the safest cyclists learn how to ride IN THE LANE, where they’re visible. Bike lanes collect debris and are often the area most subject to opening car doors.

Forrester goes on to say that cycling-accidents are significantly more likely to occur on bike paths than on roads… although I don’t think he discusses the severity of injuries associated with the different locations (I’d assume cars make the average injuries graver).

Brian’s points about feeling safer are valid. Inexperienced cyclists are more likely to ride on a path, and on a road with a striped lane. Perceived safety actually is quite significant, especially if it gets more folks riding. Proper education, of drivers and cyclists, could get these newbies to make the next step and ride on the road.

We should start a thread on helmets and whether they actually increase safety… then we’ll really get some fired-up responses :)

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