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Electeds, Local Media Wage War on Staten Island Cyclists

The recent motorist assault on a Staten Island cyclist [1] is a symptom of anti-bike bias routinely displayed by local politicians and the Staten Island Advance, as chronicled on a web site encouraging action for safe streets.

STATEN_ISLAND_POLS.jpgCouncil Members Vincent Ignizio (l) and James Oddo scientifically prove that bikes can't fit on Jefferson Avenue in Dongan Hills. Photo: SI Advance
Drawing exclusively on Advance coverage, Islander Rob Foran's site, called "Life or Death? [2]," notes that City Council Members Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo, along with Borough President James Molinaro, have called on NYPD to excuse illegal bike lane parking [3], for the elimination of "sharrows" on Jefferson Avenue [4], and for the removal of the bike lane on Father Capodanno Boulevard [5], where Gregory DeRespino was allegedly yanked off his bike by irate driver Michael Graziuso in July. Graziuso now faces charges of assault and harassment.

For its part, three times in the past two months the Advance has editorialized against bike infrastructure, while criticizing NYPD for enforcing laws [6] intended to keep drivers out of bike lanes. Here's a passage from the first screed, published July 4, entitled "The City's Bike Obsession [7]":

More people should ride bicycles, for a number of reasons. But in the real world, that's not going to happen to the degree the cycling true believers fantasize about. Many people simply can't. And the great majority of those who have the physical ability have no desire to ride bicycles for transportation or sport -- especially on city streets. So hard-core cyclists will always be a finite minority, no matter how many bike lanes the city creates. And the notion that all these new lanes will promote a massive surge in cycling is pure fantasy.

Not only do they object to safer cycling conditions on the grounds that so few Staten Islanders bike -- in part because it isn't safe -- Advance editors claim that helpless motorists are bound to occasionally act out against cyclists who insist on exercising their right to the road.

You really have to read this August 21 editorial [8] in its entirety for the full effect, but here's a sample:

An ugly incident of road rage recently on Father Capodanno Boulevard underscores the folly of the Bloomberg administration's over-the-top infatuation with dedicated bicycle lanes.

The particulars of the incident -- this time between a motorist and a bicyclist -- are in dispute. The bicyclist says the enraged motorist got out of his car and pushed him off his bike.

The motorist, who was arrested and charged with assault and harassment, insists he merely tried to pull the bicycle off the street after the bicyclist had gotten off it.

What seems certain, however, is that the confrontation was the direct result of the city's contradictory and confusing policies regarding the rights of bicyclists and drivers, respectively.

In other words, if a driver stops and exits his vehicle to physically accost a cyclist in a bike lane, Mayor Bloomberg made him do it. Amazingly, the Advance stops short of calling for charges against Graziuso to be dropped. Perhaps a cyclist-induced temporary insanity defense is in order.

Foran urges cyclists and others interested in safer street conditions -- bike riders aren't the only vulnerable ones [9], after all -- to contact the mayor, DOT Commish Janette Sadik-Khan, and Council Member John Liu to show support for Staten Island bike lanes and continued enforcement of the law. And it couldn't hurt if Messrs. Ignizio, Oddo and Molinaro, and the editors of the SI Advance, were admonished to tone down their rhetoric, before the next like-minded road rager decides to take action.