New Yorker piece about Critical Mass

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Anonymous's picture

"Just read Ben McGrath's piece in this week's NYer magazine entitled ""Holy Rollers"" Its impressively up-to-date on cycling issues in NYC. As for the rest of the article, I am not sure of what his message is really. I think he gets it mostly right (the issues, players etc.) I am curious what other think?


Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)
Anonymous's picture
Tanya (not verified)
"""Holly Rollers"" or ""Drivers on Bikes"""

"I just finished reading it. Quite a wistful article, with very mixed sympathies. From an accurate survey of a wheely community (or the absence thereof) and amuzing accounts of Critical Mass rides that resemple happenings and performance art events, through the ""fingers"" of a disgruntled and traumatized veteran, to real concerns of ""the others"" -- the overall spirit, I would say, is not very pro-biking, and the article ends up being more about the City and its real citizens (and the author has his own heroes -- who have nothing to do with Critical Mass or Time's Up) than bike advocacy. Food for thought. Although, if nothing else, the cycling got some more publicity.

Oh, well, let's pick our label - ""lawyers in spandex"" or ""drivers on bikes."""

Anonymous's picture
JIM N (not verified)
Delivery guys don't even merit a mention. (nm)
Anonymous's picture
JIM N (not verified)
On second thought, don't read this article

After consideration, and with respect to Nik, I suggest that cyclists of the NYCC not read this article. It brings no new ideas to the discussion, spending most of its time with some anti-bike nut on one side and Time's Up on the other. It will leave you, as it has left me, anoyed and frustrated. Paul Steely White does, however, emerge as a voice of sanity.


Anonymous's picture
chris o (not verified)
He's not an anti-bike nut

"I was not annoyed or frustrated after reading the piece. I just wish it went on for many more pages like most New Yorker articles.

The guy you disparage is quite reasonable, if a little eccentric. His battle cry is ""Don't ride your bike on the sidewalk."" I thought it was quite eloquent when he pointed to the street and said that it is broken. And he pointed to the sidewalk and said it is not broken. So don't try to fix the street problems by riding on the sidewalk and ruining that space."

Anonymous's picture
JIM N (not verified)

"From the article: '“They’re very self-righteous, and they’re angry,” [Bernadin] said of bicyclists. ' and '“It sounds like a rattlesnake coming up behind you,” he said, as he scanned the intersection for bikes. “The chain: clickety-clack, clickety-clack. I find it so selfish.""'

By the way, I agree that the sidewalk is not broken, and the street is broken. Mr. Bernadin puts it quite well, there.

It's still a poor article, written in a lazy journalistic style of finding the two supposed sides of a debate and giving voice to their extremists. There's a much more interesting story about bicycles, cars, pedestrians, streets, and government. It's about an issue that's not foremost in many people's minds, that could have a huge effect on the city. It's also about the status quo, power, money, and public space. This article does not tell that story. It tells the other story about crazy bicyclists and vexed pedestrians, and I'm sick of the other story."

Anonymous's picture
Hannah (not verified)
tell it to the editor


Your third paragraph would make a great letter to the editor. Will you send it? Address: [email protected]

Who once had a letter published in the NYer

Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)
second that


Anonymous's picture
Jim N (not verified)
So mote it be. (nm)
Anonymous's picture
Hannah (not verified)
Cool. Good luck. (nm)
Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Letter to the editor

"Here is the letter that I sent to the New Yorker on behalf of the NYC Bicycling Coalition.

Nov. 7, 2006

To the editor:

The contest for space on NYC streets is not a culture war, as Ben McGrath's article suggests, but the predictable outcome of ineffective public planning. The cycling activists I know--many quoted in the article--are inspired less by moral zealotry than by a realistic vision of a more humane and dynamic city. Importantly, the article omits mention of the New York City Bicycling Coalition--some 20 local, non-factionalized groups (including five cited by McGrath) pooling our scant resources to lobby the city for livable streets.

New York will eventually wise up and allow a measure of safe space for all users--pedestrians, kids, seniors, cyclists, runners, skaters, couples with double-wide strollers--rather than relinquishing the commons to the automobile's unregulated chaos. Until then, my fellow advocates and I will cycle, walk, and run on New York's streets, striving to respect others' rights while remaining alert to the mortal risks posed by reckless drivers--risks the article acknowledges but downplays. Some 200 NYC pedestrians and cyclists die by automobile each year--a figure that should be morally unacceptable by any standard. But the pleasures of moving freely about our city and seeing our neighbors up close are too great to be sacrificed.


Carol A. Wood
On behalf of the New York City Bicycling Coalition


The magazine did not print our response, nor did it correct its factual errors. Instead, it printed a lame letter saying cyclists who ""choose"" to ride in unsafe NYC streets know they are taking their lives in their hands. In other words, if we decide to ride here, we are responsible for our deaths and injuries simply by taking the chance.


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