Wednesday, November 07, 2007

NY Bike Blog-o-Sphere: Bike Lock?

Well, some of our local NYC bloggers have been working overtime. Some of it is entertaining, some of it well, not as balanced as we would like.

Like the two important events recently covered by NY Velocity: One, the cycling-assists run by Richard Rosenthal, was covered nicely by photographer Marco (we assume Marco Quezada?) and pictured at NYVelocity.com. He also did a nice job taking photos of the runners (runners? there are runners in the NYC Marathon?)

NYVelocity also managed to take pics of all of their friends at Interbike, though they strangely missed one of the most exciting product booths in all of Las Vegas, Hotvelociti. Maybe they didn't have time? Though oddly they managed to find time to take pics of the platinum-dyed boob-job girls (hmm, wonder what they do for a living?)

Gawker recently covered the Alec Baldwin rant about the "dirty" Upper West Side. Sorry, but I have to agree with Baldwin--the streets are sometimes so dirty they are often ugly and depressing. The sidewalks are streaked with old food remains, dog pee, and pigeon s--t. Garbage cans are overflowing--where is our sense of pride?

The handsome Baldwin speaks out about dirty upper west side.

But even though entertainment abounds in the bike blog-o-sphere, in some areas I think we need some more work.

For example, regarding that whole relationship between Streetsblog, Transportation Alternatives, and Sam Schwartz--and now, the NYC Department of Transportation--some of it with good results, but some of it muddied by the lack of independence between the entities.

On November 6, WNYC's Brian Lehrer interviewed Mark Gorton's Street Renaissance campaign (funded by his millions from Lime share ware) and you guessed it, NYC Department of Transportation's chief, Janette Sadik-Kahn (more on this getting together of two sides later).

Gorton finally got the city to pay attention to the work of architect Jan Gehl in Copenhagen who Transportation Alternatives and Streets Rennaissance have been trumpeting for two years. We like it when Gehl comes to the city, and we're happy that Gorton's money brought him here. But if you read on, you will see how closely this triumvirate--with traffic engineer Sam Schwartz, has now worked to bring the city's mechanism into play.

I am sorry, but I have kept quiet about this too long: Streets Rennaissance's Streetsblog may be trying to become the de facto site for alternative transportation in New York, but their coverage is not balanced.

Not sure how Transportation Alternatives--or even NYC Department of Transportation feels about that, though we know from previous events that they work together. So much so it's getting to look a little like the latest fashion, with independent colors merging with one another (and that look is already out). In a Feb 7 article, the NY Observer reported that Gorton is TA's largest single donor. But even though everyone is getting into the act, big money wins!

On his site, Streetsblog funder Mark Gorton sticks himself into every video cast: see for yourself how his engineering degree has trained him as a journalist despite excellent work by producer Clarence Eckerson and his team, for example his piece on platinum bike city of Davis, CA.

Gorton's presentation talks to those who are already on their side. Why not interview NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, or NYC Council head Christine Quinn whose records on these issues are not the same or so straightforward?

Which leads me to the point, couldn't Gorton find someone fresh out of journalism school to do his interviewing and stick to what he does best, running a succesful software company? His GeoServer technology should be brought to the forefront of the cycling revolution in this country, which needs mapping of bike routes, not car routes.

In one of their latest missives, Streetsblog (no writers here, only the "filer" mentioned, which says what exactly, that writing is no longer a craft?) practically fawned over traffic engineer Sam Schwartz, who also in the past year has appeared innumerable times on their pages, at events, in their videos and in press releases.

Only one person who worked with Sam Schwartz during those official, long-ago, Schwartz-DOT days will speak off-off-off the record on his bike-likeability quotient.

Honestly, portraying the guy as a bike-knight in shining armor, is a bit over the top. Those 400 or so words a day all cover motorist traffic.

A lot of the city and state construction funding is going into bike lane construction and "pedestrianization" now, a big possible source of income for many traffic engineers including Sam Schwartz, PLLC.

It's more likely what we suffer from in the city now is BIKE LOCK rather than Gridlock, in terms of our impossible-to-navigate streets, a growing plutocracy of bicycle planners and players, and a narrowing of our information sources.

Why not rename the movement and give it some new owners who have really been working hard at this all along, like research curmudgeon Charles Komanoff, or previous Tristate Trans Campaign's Jon Orcutt (who was recently named to a post within the DOT admin)? Or get other people involved, those who use the streets the most, like bike messengers, commuters, and recreational cyclists?

And even if I totally agree with what Streestblog has to say--enthusiastically and wholeheartedly--I find myself hoping that they will find journalistic nirvana soon so they can be taken more seriously by the rest of the world.

Streetsblog editor Aaron Naparstek, whom I have tremendous respect for, should go start his own, self-financed blog.

Speaking about independence, we're on a hari-kiri roll and we can't gloss over this one. BBB spied Sadik-Kahn at Barry Benepe's award ceremony for the Jane Jacob's award (sadly the only event that BBB had time to go to in a long time). Transportation Alternatives Paul Steely White and a couple of other sparkling-eye puppies (male version of young eye candy), were almost stuck to Sadik-Kahn's side.

I can sort of understand that--Sadik Kahn is a brilliant transportation planner. Never mind that she is also a gorgeous streaked-blonde-redhead reeking of upper east side elegance, decked out in black designer clothing with a slim figure to match.

New DOT chief, Janette Sadik-Kahn
But Steely White might want to preserve some independence.

"Cyclists and pedestrians are still an oppressed class of our society, even in New York," said a cyclist who belongs to TA off the record. "The leader of transportation alternatives should represent this group and not as a friend of the establishment that maintains and perpetuates the oppression, no matter how friendly they are."

In other words, it is important to be diplomatic, but remember what side of the table you are on. "But I still like what Steely White is doing," said our source.

Benepe went up and introduced BBB to Sadik-Kahn, and got a chilly reception. But we know that's because BBB is still independent and on the other side of the table.

Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives.

Add one more member--Sadik-Kahn-- to the upper echelon of the pro-bicycle movement, now a plutocracy, a triumvirate no more.

Hopefully that's a good thing because it might mean finally--finally--New York City government, traffic engineers, advocates, "filers" and citizens are all seeing things the same way, with green-colored glasses.

Filed by: A staff member of BBB

1 comment:

Clarence to Mergatroid said...

Jen,

Please get your facts straight. You wrote "Streetsblog funder Mark Gorton sticks himself into every video cast..."

Between May 1st and October 3rd we produced 38 videos on the site. Mark is only shown speaking on camera in ONE of those ONE time (and that is re-purposed from another video as a reference, see on Oct 3rd.) In two other videos he is shown riding a bike with his kids in two T.A. rides - 10 seconds of footage maybe, plus the 15 seconds of him in the Oct 3rd clip.

That makes about 25 seconds of video of Mark over nearly 1/2 a year. Just because he has been featured in a few as of late, doesn't mean you shouldn't do your research.

Please stick to the facts.