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Satirical “Bicycle Lobby” Twitter Account Fakes Out Media Giants

The parody Twitter account "Bicycle Lobby" jokingly claimed to have placed white flags on top of the Brooklyn bridge this week. Reporters from the AP and New York Daily News didn't get it.

Reporters from the AP and New York Daily News took a tweet from the @BicycleLobby account a little too seriously.

The @BicycleLobby Twitter account is a parody inspired by last year’s unhinged rant about bike-share from Wall Street Journal columnist Dorothy Rabinowitz. Its running joke for the past 13 months has been that “the all-powerful bike lobby” envisioned by Rabinowitz is real — and yes, it controls the universe.

Sample tweet from July 20: “Today is the 45th anniversary of the day we faked the Moon landing.”

So when someone noticed this morning that the American flags atop the Brooklyn Bridge had been replaced with white flags, naturally @BicycleLobby took credit:

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 1.50.49 PM

The funny thing is, some big news organizations took the bait. First the New York Daily News and then the Associated Press reported that bicyclists had claimed credit for the prank. Not long after, those early reports were scrubbed from the Daily News site and the paper was calling it a mystery. But News 1130 in Vancouver, BC, was still carrying the AP story at 2 p.m.

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WNBC Shames City for Letting Employees Hog Parking With Bogus Placards

The next time you’re in a part of town where a lot of city employees work, take a look at the dashboards of cars occupying curbside parking spots. In neighborhoods across the city, you’ll see bogus placards that parking cheats use to evade meters and other regulations. In a two-part series, WNBC’s Tom Llamas traveled to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and St. George on Staten Island to document the problem. He found that while officials at the top know the abuse is wrong, NYPD parking enforcement regularly turns a blind eye on the street.

Many city employees see free on-street storage of their private cars as a perk of the job. “Because we work for the city, why should we pay?” Tara Jones, a children’s services employee on Staten Island, told WNBC. “Do policemen pay for meters? Do firemen pay for meters? No.”

Most other placard abusers Llamas interviewed on the street remained nameless and either lied on camera about paying or were shamed into feeding the meter, perhaps because they knew what they were doing is wrong. After all, free street parking isn’t an entitlement, it’s a land grab that’s hurting local businesses and residents.

“Merchants here cannot find parking for themselves, for their customers, and it really hurts them as small business owners,” said Josef Szende, executive director of the Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District. A FedEx driver double-parked on Atlantic told Llamas that “it’s impossible” to find a legal space to make deliveries in the area.

“It’s disheartening because it’s so blatant. Everyone in the community knows they can’t park here,” said Robert Honor, who owns a wine shop in St. George, where parking abuse is a long-standing problem. Only 10 of the 89 parked cars inspected by WNBC displayed meter receipts, and those without proof of payment went without tickets.

While surveys of retail districts around the city show that most customers don’t arrive in private cars, placard abuse leads customers who do drive to clog up streets as they search for an open spot. And that can foil the city’s attempts to reform curbside parking prices.

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Portland Newscast Offers Biking Conditions With the Weather Report


Here’s a local newscast that’s getting something right. FOX 12 in Portland, Oregon, has taken to reporting the conditions for cycling along with the weather report.

“They’ve been doing it for a while now,” says Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland. “Just responding to market demand.”

The station reported on June 24th: ”Not a bad day to take the bike out for a spin. Roads should be dry most of the day.”

On June 19th: “Looking to get out on the bike? Ideal riding conditions Thursday.”

Is this the future of the local nightly news?

Steven Vance at Streetsblog Chicago reports that local cyclists have been lobbying the local NPR affiliate to broadcast conditions — including construction updates, wind speed, and wave conditions — on the Lakefront Trail, the busiest biking and walking path in the country.

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Marcia Kramer on Vision Zero: Why Isn’t City Hall Sticking It to Pedestrians?

She’s back. Marcia Kramer is here to defend unsuspecting New Yorkers from Bill de Blasio and his nefarious goal to eliminate traffic deaths in the city.

“The city says 250 New Yorkers are killed every year; 4,000 injured,” she began her report last night on WCBS. Okay, if the city says so.

But as for the mayor’s plan to prevent New Yorkers from getting injured and killed by keeping dangerous drivers off the road, he’s got it all wrong. ”Apparently not at the top of the mayor’s list is helping motorists,” Kramer said, apparently oblivious to the fact that more than a hundred motor vehicle occupants are killed and thousands more injured in New York City each year.

No, forget about protecting people in cars from reckless drivers. To “help motorists” you have to do something about those pesky pedestrians. “Who can argue that jaywalkers are a driver’s nightmare?” Kramer asks. “But not the mayor’s priority.”

You know what’s worse than jaywalkers? Of course: bicyclists. “What about bicyclists who don’t stay to the side of the road or go up one-way streets the wrong way… [and] who weave in and out of traffic, going into whatever lane they want?” Kramer asks, over a shot of a cyclist riding with traffic up Sixth Avenue, navigating outside the door zone of a stopped taxi cab.

What a nightmare.

Kramer does mention one victim of traffic violence: Noshat Nahian, age 8, who was killed just feet from where de Blasio signed the traffic safety bills yesterday.

Was he jaywalking? Riding his bike the wrong way? No, he was walking to school with his sister, in the crosswalk, with the signal, when an unlicensed tractor-trailer truck driver drove over him. Kramer never mentions that.

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Anonymous NYPD Sources Blame Another Victim of Motorist Violence

Area of Roosevelt Avenue where a speeding driver killed a cyclist Tuesday afternoon. Image: Google Maps

Area of Roosevelt Avenue where a speeding driver killed a cyclist Tuesday afternoon. Image: Google Maps

A motorist killed a cyclist near Citi Field Tuesday afternoon. The driver was ticketed for speeding, but true to form, anonymous police sources and the media blamed the victim for his own death.

The crash happened on Roosevelt Avenue near 126th Street, under the elevated 7 train on the perimeter of the stadium, at around 12:48 p.m. According to NYPD and published reports, the driver of a Mercury minivan hit the cyclist from behind.

Photos and video of the scene show that the frame of the victim’s bike was snapped into pieces, with the minivan perpendicular to the sidewalk, its windshield shattered. The victim, whose name had not been released by police as of this morning, died at the scene.

The Post and DNAinfo reported that, according to unnamed police sources, the cyclist “cut in front” or “swerved into the path” of the driver. The NYPD spokesperson we spoke to had no such information. The spokesperson said police summonsed the driver for speeding — a crucial detail that was not reported in the press. So once again, unnamed NYPD personnel selectively leaked information that served to blame the victim, and reporters repeated it without question.

At this point the speeding ticket is the sole charge against the driver. The investigation into the crash is ongoing, NYPD told Streetsblog.

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NYPD Fails to Charge Driver Who Killed a Child in Red Hook This Morning

Witnesses say a driver hit 14-year-old Nicholas Soto with enough force to throw him away from the street and over a nearby fence. NYPD filed no charges. Image: Google Maps

Witnesses say a driver hit 14-year-old Nicholas Soto with enough force to throw him away from the street and over a nearby fence. NYPD filed no charges. Image: Google Maps

A motorist killed a teenager in Red Hook this morning.

Nicholas Soto, 14, was crossing Lorraine Street at Hicks Street at around 7:00 when the driver of a BMW sedan slammed into him.

From WNBC:

Witnesses said the force of the impact flung the boy up in the air and over a fence.

Millie Mendez said the sound of the boy being hit was so loud she thought two cars had collided. When she realized it was a boy, not a car, that had been hit, she said she couldn’t believe it.

“He was bleeding everywhere,” Mendez said.

Mendez and others told WNBC speeding is a problem in the area. “The cars come like they’re on a thruway,” Mendez said. ”They need a light, speed bump, they need something on this corner because this is dangerous right here,” said resident Edward Ulsalston.

Photos from the scene show the BMW with front end damage and a cracked windshield, signs that the victim was thrown onto the hood. Though photos and witness accounts point to driver speed as a factor, police told WNBC that “No criminality is suspected.”

Daily News reporter Rocco Parascandola, meanwhile, cited an unnamed police source who blamed the victim.

A 14-year-old racing to catch a school bus was struck and killed by a car in Brooklyn Monday morning, police said.

Nicholas Soto was rushing across Hicks St. at Lorraine St. just before 7 a.m. when he was struck by a 2004 BMW heading west on Lorraine.

Nicholas, who lived nearby, died a short time later at Methodist Hospital.

The driver remained at the scene and will not likely be charged.

A police source said the teen’s vision may have been partially obstructed by his hoodie.

“It appears to be a tragic accident,” the source said.

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NYPD Transpo Chief Breaks Down Street Safety Basics for Local Press

At a press conference this morning unveiling a street safety redesign at 96th Street and Broadway on the Upper West Side, the first three questions from reporters were all about what the police are doing to deter jaywalking. So it was no surprise when, after a discussion of NYPD’s crackdown this week on drivers who text and fail to yield to pedestrians, Juliet Papa of 1010 WINS cut right to the chase for her drive-time audience.

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan. Photo: NYC DOT

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan. Photo: NYC DOT

“Will texting pedestrians also be part of the crackdown?” she asked over the roar of trucks on Broadway. “I just find this is very motorist-driven. Pedestrians and bicyclists must abide by the law.”

Setting aside that Papa implied texting while walking is a punishable offense (it is not), this was clearly an opportunity to explain street safety basics to the local press corps, and NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan hit his marks.

“Motorists are operating a 4,000 pound vehicle. And we cannot be distracted while we’re operating that vehicle,” he said. “When a collision occurs between a motorist and a pedestrian, the pedestrian loses 100 percent of the time. So again, it’s very important that our motorists, who are obligated to be licensed, that they operate in a way that’s not distracted.”

Later, I asked Chan for more details about the department’s enforcement efforts. Currently, monthly updates on moving violations are aggregated at the precinct level and released to the public in PDF and Excel documents. NYPD says it will step up enforcement along arterial slow zones, but there’s no way for the public to track the department’s progress on that promise.

Precincts often cite the number of tickets issued on a particular stretch of road at public meetings, and this type of information is part of Chan’s weekly TrafficStat meetings. But Chan claimed that releasing geographically-tagged data on moving violations is beyond the department’s current technical capabilities.

Whenever the department cites summonses issued on a specific street, officers are spending time tracking hand-written summonses, he said, rather than pulling information from a database. “Right now, we don’t capture that type of information. It’s not inputted into the computer by location in terms of where summonses are issued. That’s something that we can possibly look at to develop,” he said. “They would have to develop a whole system for that.”

Last week, the department improved the way it releases crash data, showing individual entries updated daily in an easy-to-use format. Chan called it a “great start,” so I asked if there are other traffic data improvements in the works.

“Not right now,” he said.

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After Jill Abramson’s Powerful Traffic Violence Piece, What Now for the NYT?

Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a powerful piece by executive editor Jill Abramson about recovering from injuries sustained on city streets, based on her own experience and those of three other Times employees. Their stories, along with accompanying maps of New York City’s most dangerous intersections, conveyed the widespread and profound impact of traffic violence more effectively than anything the Times has published before. Now the question is: Will the Times continue to beat the drum for safe streets?

New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Photo: Wikimedia

New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Photo: Wikimedia

There is a precedent if you look to the UK. After a Times of London reporter was seriously injured by a truck driver while commuting to work by bike, that paper launched a sustained effort to push for safer streets for cyclists. The “Cities Fit for Cycling” campaign covered everything from truck regulations to street design and speed limits.

The Times of London collected more than 36,000 signatures, gaining the endorsement of Olympic champions and earning plaudits from both Prime Minister David Cameron and the opposition Labour Party. But most importantly, the paper focused public attention on traffic violence, an issue that can easily get lost in the daily noise of metro coverage.

An overt campaign like that may be outside the New York Times’ comfort zone, but the paper doesn’t shy away from going above and beyond typical public service journalism. A Times series like last year’s “Invisible Child” can shape the discourse about a specific set of policy issues more powerfully than just about any other form of media.

As Abramson and her colleagues know too well, traffic violence is pervasive and affects people in ways that go much deeper than the topline statistics about deaths and injuries can ever describe. Fixing the problem is complex and multi-faceted too, requiring action from leaders in City Hall and Albany, as well as fundamental changes in how we view city streets and the act of driving on them. When the city has to beg and plead with state government to let it effectively prevent motorists from speeding, you know policy isn’t improving as urgently as the situation demands. But with more sustained, in-depth coverage from the Times about how to safely design and police our streets, solutions to traffic violence could come to fruition faster.

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Can Vision Zero Survive NYC’s Tabloid Editorial Boards?

New mayor. New DOT commissioner. Same old myopic Daily News editorial board.

The opinion writers who spent four years undermining the implementation of safer street designs want “clear and transparent data” from Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. Good idea, right? But when the data is right under their noses, they’re still not satisfied.

In a piece that’s ostensibly about holding the city to its traffic safety targets, the Daily News opinion team is still complaining about the Midtown pedestrian plazas on Broadway, which cut pedestrian injuries by 35 percent along the project area. Why? Because the city went ahead and made the safer design permanent, even though, according to the News, data on “average traffic flow rates” didn’t support the initial rationale for the project.

Except they’re wrong — average traffic speeds did increase, according to millions of taxi trips measured with GPS units. All the major nuances in the data (southbound traffic did slow down a tad) are captured in the city’s summary report [PDF].

The Daily News also still has beef with bike lanes, with their unequivocally positive safety record, and Citi Bike, which has recently been opening up all manner of data about bike-share trips.

Meanwhile, the data that street safety advocates really want to see opened up in standard, transparent format — NYPD’s crash information — doesn’t get a mention from the Daily News.

Open data is an absolute necessity for the public to assess policy and hold government accountable. But when the numbers are staring you in the face and you still insist on more data before taking action, maybe you just don’t want things to change. The Daily News opinion page is, after all, the same opinion page that fell back on the “more data” mantra when it called for the city to slow down on the 34th Street separated transitway, which the city abandoned soon after.

Eliminating traffic deaths is an ambitious goal that will require massive change — including more transformative street redesigns than the 34th Street transitway. Can the city make it happen if tabloid opinion writers are pushing against it every step of the way?

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NYPD and the Press Parrot Driver’s Account of Crash That Killed Lisa Julian

Yesterday’s fatal East Village crash is another example of how NYPD and the press blame deceased pedestrians and cyclists based mostly on the word of the drivers who killed them.

“Woman, 47, crossing against light in NoHo struck by car, killed on Thursday,” read the Daily News headline. But the only evidence presented that Lisa Julian was crossing against the light came from Oliver Parris, who hit her with an SUV as she crossed Third Avenue at St. Marks Place at around 6:30 a.m.

Lisa Julian. Photo via New York Post

Lisa Julian. Photo via New York Post

Here’s Parris, as quoted by the Daily News:

“I was trying to swerve from her and I couldn’t do it in time,” said Parris, who said that Julian was crossing against the light. Parris was on his way home from his job as a newspaper deliveryman at the time of the accident.

“She was walking,” he said. “I don’t think she was paying attention.”

And the Post:

“She was crossing against the light. I had a green light,” he said sadly.

“I tried to avoid her. I swerved.”

Julian was pronounced dead at Beth Israel hospital. ”She was a loving, upbeat, and interesting person,” Alexander Rubinstein, the victim’s boyfriend, told the Post. “She was very happy. It’s tough to talk about her right now.”

Reporters for the Daily News, the Post, and DNAinfo take care to note that Parris was upset, and that he did not flee the scene. These details cast Parris in a sympathetic light, and are offered in lieu of critical analysis. Not only do reporters accept Parris’s word that it was Julian who disregarded the signal, they don’t question whether Parris himself was “paying attention,” though state law requires motorists to exercise due care to avoid running people over.

Assuming that Julian did cross against the signal raises other issues. If reports are correct that Parris was driving straight ahead, why didn’t he see Julian in the street in front of him? How close did he get before he saw her? Why did he have to swerve in the first place? This information is critical to determining how the crash occurred. While it may be too early to expect answers to all these questions, it’s also premature to accept the driver’s account as definitive.

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