"Our Town" takes swipes at cyclists

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Anonymous's picture

"Bette Dewing's column in the 5/1 issue of ""Our Town"" (p43) takes a swipe at urban cyclists, young and old.

'Mother's Day? How about the other 364? Too many families need intervention, bike-riders do, too'
Our Town, 5/1/2003 Page 43, by Bette Dewing

'...Gifford Miller's aide, Amanda Mayer, calls me about the forthcoming Bike Week (a 10-day week) sponsored by a cycling advocacy group, Transportation Alternatives, which has not appreciated my longtime crusade against bike scofflawry.

""But, now"" said Ms. Mayer, ""they are tring to educate delivery cyclists about traffic laws. Do you know of restaurants whose cyclists are prime offenders?""

Heart sinking, blood pressure rising, I blurt out, ""I don't know any whose cyclists don't offend!""

[note from Isaac, while I find that restaurant deliverers often ride against traffic and/or on sidewalks, I rarely find them to be aggressive against peds.]

And not only food delivery cyclists break every law in the book, but so do the whole kit and caboodle of city bike riders. And not only in New York, but also in San Francisco, Chicago and Minneapolis, and in London, too, say news clips sent from my London-based goddaughter.

Should ""private wheels"" be encouraged in congested cities? Or scooters and bicycles ridden by inexpert little kids oblivious to the safety of themselves or others on these crowded sidewalks and park paths? In a Safety-Last Culture, what else?'

Responses can be addressed to
Our Town
c/o Manhattan Media
63 W 38 St, Suite 206
New York, NY 10018
[email protected]


Anonymous's picture
richard rosenthal (not verified)
Bette Dewing's anti-cyclist harangues are a constant in life.

Bette Dewing is a one-note trumpeter. Remove her unremitting, years-and-years-long hostility to cyclists and I don't know that there's much other meaning in her life.

Her anti-bike harangues have been published in that paper for years. I don't know that she has any other pulpit although she has, on occasion, put in an appearance at City Council transportation hearings to be heard on her favorite screed.

Members may not know the NYCC was a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit in 1991-92 to overturn the 15MPH speed limit on bikes in the parks. (Yes, there is one; we lost.) She was especially vocal in that matter.


Anonymous's picture
Isaac Brumer (not verified)


Dewing lives on East End Av. Bikes are barred from the walkway along the river in Carl Schurz Park. Any connection?

(BTW - nice shirt...)

Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)
Why can cyclist do no harm in some people's minds?

"I just came from the bike show. At one of the ""advocacy"" booths they had a t-shirt with the slogan ""End Car Violence"" and a dotted outline of a fallen cyclist.

I thought the perfect flip side to the shirt would be ""Don't Ride Like a Jerk!"" I've seen way more jerks on bikes than in cars, though a jerk in a car is a bit more dangerous.

Any cyclist on the sidewalk is being ""agressive to pedestrians"" just by being there. There's not enough room for walkers now. We have paved roads in NYC. If you don't want to ride on them, leave the bike home and hoof it."

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
apples vs. herrings

"Just who is advocating that cyclists should ride on the sidewalk? Talk about a red herring.

Some 250 pedestrians and cyclists are *killed* in the five boroughs each year by auto drivers. That's over 20 per month, or about one person killed every Monday through Friday. Splat. Right there on the street. And this doesn't count injuries, which can be grievous and life-altering.

One study has found that from 1994-97, drivers were responsible in some regard in 90% of pedestrian and cyclist deaths, yet were summonsed for moving violations only *16* percent of the time. The most frequent cause of fatality is drivers turning into *crosswalks.* These statistics are difficult to come by because of shoddy police accident records *even when someone is killed.*

Instead of casting the notion of advocacy into contemptful quotation marks, you should be better informed about the actual statistics of harm caused by drivers acting like jerks versus cyclists doing so. And support local groups trying against vast odds to improve your chances for survival.

www.rightofway.org (to download the study, ""Killed by Automobile,"" under the ""research"" link)


Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)
Red Herrings????

"Quote from the post I was responding to: [note from Isaac, while I find that restaurant deliverers often ride against traffic and/or on sidewalks, I rarely find them to be aggressive against peds.] That sounds like tolerance if not outright advocacy to me.

As for the stats, I'll quote Mark Twain as near as I can recall: ""In order of magnitude there are lies, damn lies and STATISTICS"".

What I know is what I've SEEN in my cycling, walking and driving life. Most drivers trying to get from point ""A"" to point ""B"" while doing no harm. A few aggressive jerks in cars and lots of people who seem to think that if you are on a human powered vehicle the rules don't apply and you can do no wrong.

Adults cycling on busy sidewalks should be arrested as they would be if the drove their cars on the sidewalk. If we want to be treated as legit road users, we need to act the part and stay off the sidewalks.

I've seen messengers and restaurant delivery bikers ride down crowded sidewalks when the street was not crowded and was well paved. Even if they are not ""aiming for peds"", people have to jump out of the way or get hit. I give them an elbow when I can.

An elderly person who gets a broken hip is often getting a death sentence. Somewhere I heard that after breaking a hip an elderly person's life expectancy is sharply reduced. They might not die at the scene, so they don't end up in your neat little ""statistics"", but they count as much as the ped under the Hummer.

The attitude that ""cars are evil"" and ""drivers are evil"" is foolish. They wouldn't pave the roads so nicely for just us cyclists if cars were banned and mass transit replaced it. Responsible cyclists and drivers can and should share the road.

The place I feel most at risk is on a car-free bike path surrounded by out-to-lunch and unpredictable bunch of cyclists, joggers and skaters. I'd hate to see the world become ""one big bike path"" with non-motorized people zig-zagging all over the place. That's why I avoid the 5 boro bike tour- to me it's a slice of hell on earth."

Anonymous's picture
Isaac Brumer (not verified)

"I rarely read ""Our Town,"" so I'm not familiar with Ms Dewing's history.

My personal attitude is that if we cyclists want to be respected on the road, we need to act in a respectable manner.

My observation regarding food deliverers is not advocacy. It's just that while food deliverers are doing everything wrong, it seems like it's from ignorance or laziness. They just might be ""educable."" ""Messengers,"" the ones who zig-zag through Midtown, whooping and cursing at peds and motorists are far worse.

My thoughts in posting the Out Town op-ed were a. We cyclists ought to be aware of how we're perceived in some circles. b. To the op-ed writer, there are no good cylists, not adults, not kids. She views bicycles as ""personal vehicles in a crowded city."" I though that the attitude merited a response.


Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)
I agree

"People tend to respond to incentives and punishments. The messengers and food delivery people are either ignorant or, more likely, know they are not supposed to be on the sidewalks, but do it anyway because the police have better things to do than chase them.

Their incentive for using the sidewalk is that it saves them some time and they can get in another delivery or two per shift and the meager payment that comes with it. As there is usually no punishment for their offense, they continue. I don't know if ""education"" will work on them.

Squeaky wheels like the op-ed author who complain about cyclists in general sometimes get listened to by the powers that be, to our detriment, (15 mph limit in the parks).

It may be easier to educate someone like the irate author about the difference between ""club cyclists"" and your average ""jerk on a bike""."

cycling trips