Thursday, October 01, 2009

Partland answers Brookyn Bridge "Debate": Advocates Gather In NJ: Hotvelociti shows Hot Bike Dress at Interbike

Many of us know that the NY Times began trying to attract a younger, more hip cycling audience about a year ago by increasing its coverage of bicycling related news. It even started a bike blog, and expanded its acceptance of op eds from regular people whose major preoccupation is cycling.

The Brooklyn Bridge: the center of controversy and division?

One such ranter who has received a lot of play from the Times is Robert Sullivan whose latest Op Ed piece on Sept. 26, caused somewhat of an electronic stir among NYC cyclists. First let me state that although the Times has anointed Sullivan one of the de facto mouthpieces for cyclists, no one in the cycling community seems to know him or agree with him, which just renders the whole NY Times-cycling-OpEd-blog experiment lame to begin with. Then when he writes, he frequently gets much of it wrong. No offense, I would probably like the guy if I met him on the single fact that he rides a bike. But this is going too far.

In his latest piece he focuses on the supposed conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists on the Brooklyn Bridge, and advises that as a solution cyclists should be consigned to a part of the motorist roadway.

Good that will do away with cyclists forever, not just in our conciousness, but also dead, like in cars mowing us down on the roadway.

He also says that this conflict is all over the city, "Indeed, the Brooklyn Bridge is just one of several bike-pedestrian flash points in the city; skirmishes (and anti-bicyclist sentiment) have arisen on the Hudson River Greenway and on the Central Park and Prospect Park loops."

What? Just waking up to that "skirmish?" "It" has been going on for years: we reported it at length and had big meetings broadcast on the Bike Show in 1997 for the so-called "conflict" in Central Park between all the users, motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and runners, not to mention skaters, baby carriages, horse and buggies, horses, skateboarders, skiers, motorcyclists, pedicabs, and taxis (they deserve their own category.)

But better, let's see what the reaction was from people who know the bridge, use the bridge, and actually are thought-meisters in the cycling community, like JP Partland, author of the books Tour Fever,  Mountain Bike Madness , and The World of BMX , and a regular contributor to Asphalt Magazine and Mountain Bike Magazine. (See pic of JP doing what he does best, joke around and race.)

In an email posted on E-bikes, one of the more serious email exchanges for cyclists in the city, he wrote:

I take issue with so much in Sullivan’s opinion piece. To begin with, I take issue with the premise.  Is the Brooklyn Bridge “one of the great battlefields in the war between bicyclists and pedestrians”?  Is there a war?  I didn’t realize there was one.  I also didn’t realize that I was fighting pedestrians, as I am both a ped and cyclist; I am not at war with myself.  Nor do I know that the Brooklyn Bridge is some kind of battlefield.  What percentage of city cyclists regularly use the Brooklyn Bridge?  My guess is very few.
Further, Sullivan himself doesn’t see it as a war, as he only cites cyclists as being the issue.  Where are the bad peds attacking cyclists?  He doesn’t write about head-up-their-bum peds who ignore the line, the signage, and the herd to threaten cyclists out of ignorance, stupidity, and a conviction that they alone deserve space set aside for cyclists.
Even if I were to concede both points, my experience is that most of the issue is between tourists and locals.  Maybe they take their wandering through the bike lane as a risk that is uniquely New York and kind of fun, albeit in a perverse way.
And if I were to concede, I’d want Sullivan to admit that peds have a habit of appropriating all spaces not explicitly taken by cars, and that peds have, for years, benefited from cyclists.  Cyclists, by most accounts, helped make Central and Prospect Parks safe at night.  Cyclists have made the greenways possible.  We probably make the Brooklyn Bridge safe at night as well.
As has been written by others, I am concerned about the rise of bike paths in NYC.  In many respects, this shoving onto bike paths it has cost us some legitimacy.  Many of the paths are poorly designed and thus of debatable safety.  Many have been appropriated by peds.  In both cases, cyclists are expected to take the path and get away from the roadway, which we’re then told belongs to cars.  Sullivan wants us to continue with this marginal existence and further our almost ghettoization on them.
The guy is going to be a thorn in our sides for some time.  The Times’ publishing of his opinion pieces makes him their go-to “good cyclist.”  And he gets that title because he largely writes about cyclists as the enemy.  He writes, “They are full-fledged New Yorkers now, not maniacs who need to be banned.”  Since when weren’t we full-fledged New Yorkers?  In his last piece, he wrote of his father being a cyclist and himself being a cyclist.  His father wasn’t a full-fledged New Yorker?  He wasn’t a full-fledged New Yorker back in the day?  As long as I have lived in NYC, I have been a full-fledged New Yorker, as have all those I know who ride.  In fact, I think of city cyclists as Uber-New Yorkers, among the New Yorkiest of the eight million or so that live here.
Let the Times know he doesn’t speak for cyclists."
It appears from other emails posted on e-bikes, a private exchange created and managed by Daniel Lieberman, most seem to agree that Sullivan does not speak for cyclists in New York. So why does the Times persist in using him for their Op Eds? This isn't the first time, and he certainly is neither objective nor fully researched.

My guess is they continue to because he is so off the mark he sets off hundreds of letters to the Times, and if they aren't disagreeing with him, they aren't necessarily agreeing either, just tapping into an un-exorcised mountain of sentiment from a deeply ignored population group. On an Op Ed piece he wrote last March, there were 322 comments under the story.

Advocates to Ride in Montclair New Jersey this Saturday, October 3rd.

This weekend several local advocates will be leading a ride aimed at creating safer cycling in New Jersey.

The ride will take place in Montclair, NJ starting at 10 am. Montclair has often been called the Greenwich Village of New Jersey, but cycling to and from the town will sooner or later--more likely sooner--land you at the foot of a major highway with no where to turn.  That's why this ride should be so interesting:  even families with children are invited: "Families members are welcome on the ride, keeping in mind that we will be riding on some busy roads - so trailers and trail-a-bikes will be in order for younger kids," said the notice written by an advocate who for professional reasons could not be identified for this article.

The easy-paced ride will meet at Edgemont Park, 292 Valley Road, Montclair, NJ 07042 at 10 am, and will stop at a few points along the way "to learn how Montclair has been working to make cycling safer, and the challenges they've faced. This will set the stage for talking about the issues common to all NJ towns," said the advocate. The ride will be followed by a brunch at 11:45 am at Nauna's Bella Casa, 148 Valley Rd, Montclair, NJ 07042, where everyone will be able to discuss the future of bicycle and pedestrian advocacy. "If you are bringing friends or family make sure to include them in the RSVP so we have enough tables. Pay your own way," says the invitation.

For more information, contact Benepe at 917 723 9017.

And finally, some little sex injected into your cycling day (as if cyclists weren't like normal people!)

Hotvelociti, yes, BBB's alter ego, showed off their new cycling skinsuit dress at Interbike as part of their 2010 collection (see above), worn by the gorgeous Alicia Arencibia--and it made the pages of Pez Cycling's Daily Distractions.  Nothing like putting the "hot" back into "Hotvelociti.!"  Now just so you know the skirt part came in a little tight and in production will be a lot looser, so you can actually ride in it, eh hem.

Thanks Richard Pestes, Editor in Chief of Pez Cycling for the great photo AND the cycling kit you gave to BBB--it's really nice! (see Matt Conn, left, of the Pez cycling team, with his daughter, and wearing the new Pez Cycling kit.) Currently you can buy their 2009 kit here. We are not sure when the new "Mondrian" one will be available.

And, a note from the editor: My apologies to Transportation Alternatives in the late posting of the review of the New Amsterdam Bike Slam held a few weeks ago, which will be posted this weekend. It was an amazing use of New York and Amsterdam talent to create two visions for better cycling in downtown Manhattan. Coming up this weekend!

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