Cycle of Abuse
Whiny NY bike-riders add insult to near-injury
IT began with a close encounter and a tweet.
I was crossing 14th Street when a bike whooshed by, ignoring the red light. It was one of many close calls I’ve had in the city. If you work in Midtown, you’ve had them, too.
So, feeling perturbed, I responded like the millennial I am and sent out a tweet: “Times I’ve almost been killed by a driver in New York: 2. Times I’ve almost been killed by a cyclist in New York: 3,763,459.”
I put my phone away and didn’t give another thought. But I’d kicked a hornet’s nest.
A representative tweet: “~150 killed by drivers last year in NYC, >10,000 maimed. Zero killed by cyclists. Your irrational hatred doesn’t change reality.” Another: “This is the same idiotic logic that makes Americans worry more about terrorism than heart disease.”
The tweets continued to pour in: Furious cyclists and cyclist-sympathizers, who either didn’t understand I was making a joke or didn’t care, set on defending the sullied name of all bike-riders.
A common response was to blame pedestrians, in this case, me, for cyclists’ unsavory reputation. “In how many of those instances were you standing slack-jawed in the bike lane, your back to traff ic, staring blankly at the sidewalk?” asked a Twitter user, who ended up tweeting me more than once over my apparent anti-cyclism. “I’d put money on 1) standing in the bike lane and 2) not looking before she steps into oncoming traffic,” chimed in another.
More than even the obvious humorlessness, however, the sense of victimhood was undeniable. I was told cyclists are a “marginalized” group. Some said my comments were “irresponsible,” “hurtful” and a “shrill demonization.”
I have publicly criticized the alt-right, the far-left, radical feminists and men’s-rights activists. I never expected cyclists to match their combination of fragility and aggression.
Not all cyclists are madmen. But it seems all cyclists who are madmen are also on Twitter.
The temperaments of New York cyclists, in my experience, vary by borough. For instance, I’ve come across quite a few bike riders in Brooklyn, but they’re usually the type who pull out their Schwinn on Saturday morning and bike to brunch in a sundress: Not exactly Tour de France types, and I’ve never had a single bad experience with them.
I’ve also encountered plenty of delivery bikers out in BedStuy, but they seem to have no problem with pulling over at red lights, or, at the very least, waiting for empty crosswalks before zooming through.
Whether it’s the stress of a traffic-clogged commute or something else, Manhattan seems to bring out the worst in cyclists.
Of the 361 cyclist-on-pedestrian crashes citywide reported to city agencies in 2015, 199 collisions took place in Manhattan.
Occasionally, a bad encounter with a cyclist can put you in the hospital, or worse. In 2014, a cyclist struck Irving Schachter, a 75-year-old teacher who was training for the New York Marathon in Central Park. He was hospitalized and died two days later. That same year, Jill Tarlov, a 58-year-old mother, was hit by a cyclist in Central Park. She died of head trauma from the incident.
There are a number of cyclist-advocacy groups in the city. And the city looks different thanks to them.
More than half of the over 1,000 miles of bike lanes in New York has been built in the past 10 years. This year, Mayor de Blasio announced the city will be allocating over $100 million in funding to build bike lanes between East 53rd and East 61st streets, effectively connecting Manhattan’s bike lanes into one giant loop around the island.
Despite the lamentations of online grumblers claiming cyclists are the most persecuted of commuters, the city had been bending over backward to accommodate them.
One Twitter user summed up what seemed to be the predominant feeling: “There is a pervasive anti-cyclist prejudice that your ‘joke’ is feeding — that’s why people are mad.”
To be fair, there is a notable beef against cyclists on the road. I’m not entirely convinced that a sizable portion of them haven’t earned it. And I’m 100percent sure I am incapable of taking their outrage seriously, because they definitely haven’t earned that.
Either way, the cyclist community’s bridge-building to the pedestrians they force to play a 21st-century version of Frogger could use some work.
Bike path of least resistance: An overloaded Manhattan cyclist riding the wrong way.