Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Is New York City “bicycle friendly?” It may depend on whether you and your bike are friends with the mayor.

It’s Super Tuesday and I have nothing to say about it other than if you’re a Democrat you have two good choices, if you’re a Republican, several bad.

Okay, on to bicycles. My reader Bob in Brooklyn sent me a little clip noting that the Leage of American Bicyclists has handed the City of New York a “Bicycle Friendly Community Award.

Gimme a break. This is the town where the mayor’s police department harasses demonstrators on bicycles and sought to have any group of cyclists – such as those joining regular organized pleasure rides led by the New York Cycle Club and the Five Borough Bicycle Club – apply for a permit for each ride. It took a law suit backed by the ACLU to simmer that one down. Bicycle friendly my saddle-sore ass!

The view from K Street

If it’s true, what the League of American Bicyclists says – that the number of cyclists has grown by an estimated 75 percent since 2000 – it would be interesting to know where and how they got their statistics. It was certainly not from first-hand observation from their windows on K Street in Washington, D.C.

White "ghost bikes"
tell a different tale

More telling concerning how cyclists feel about getting around in New York are the white “ghost bikes” like this one that you’ll see around town.

Each ghost bike marks the spot where a cyclists was killed by a motor vehicle. So far, the cops have been good about not hauling the ghost bikes away, possibly fearing the publicity.

Orange "shill bikes"

Clearly in no fear of publicity – and almost definitely seeking it – are the orange Donna Karan bikes that have been getting chained up around town.

All this is part of a “guerilla marketing” campaign that is supposed to tell us something-or-other about Donna Karan. I’m not sure what, except possibly that they're willing to capitalize on the deaths of bicycle riders for commercial purposes.

I’ve already done a rant about the evils and dangers of ape-brained guerilla marketers doing their thing, which I find often to be sleazy, dumb and stupid.

When it comes to bad taste there's no bottom

If you want to pay for air time to act dumb and sleazy, like a commercial on last Sunday's Superbowl that had some goon connecting his nipples to a car's electrical system via battery clamps and then allegedly starting the car by drinking some power drink, that’s simply the hard luck of football fans. They can like it, hate it, or complain to the FCC.

But when you stick it out on the street for shock value, you shouldn’t be surprised if angry passers-by want to burn your company to the ground.

That’s pretty close to how some bicycle riders evidently felt about the orange Donna Karan bikes, in which they see a tasteless resemblance to ghost bikes. Read all about it – and some contrary opinions – on this bicycle club thread.

But not to worry. Despite the campaign, which supposedly supported cycling in New York, the “bicycle-friendly city” saw to it that the cops hauled Donna Karan’s bikes away. Thanks to Bike Blog for this wonderful photograph.

Which brings us to the question, what does it all mean?

Is New York a "bicycle friendly" city? Not really.

Did the mayor go out of his way behind the scenes to seek endorsement from the League of American Bicyclists for his "bicycle friendliness?" I don't know, but it certainly wouldn't surprise me.

Despite denials, Michael Bloomberg yearns to be president. The environment and less energy dependency are hot button topics this election year. And who knows but that the K-Street bicycle lobby couldn't use a little financial support from a billionaire mayor?

Am I kidding? Nope, just wondering, on this Super Tuesday, what we really know. And what we really don't know.


Dan said...

The bikes actually say DKNY.com on them and if you go to the website, they have a page dedicated to the city's initiative to make New York a more bike-friendly city. I don't think anyone is trying to capitalize on deaths for commercial purposes, rather quite to the contrary a New York brand is promoting bike safety in New York.

New York Crank said...

I dunno Dan. I just wasted a perfectly good half hour at the Donna Karan website, and found nothing, nothing, nothing about bicycle safety. Nor have I ever heard about a New York City initiative to make New York a more bicycle friendly city.

Of course, I'm not talking about Nuu Yorkxxx on the Planet Mars. I'm talking about New York City,
USA, under Michael Bloomberg, whose police bust cyclists and keep them in cells overnight, and who break bike chains so they can confiscate bicycles. Yeah, real "bicycle friendly." With friends like that, I don't need to get run over by a truck.

As for Donna Karan, she is about selling clothing. Of course they put their name on the orange bikes. They're doing it for publicity and attention. And if you can explain how putting their name on orange bikes that eerily mimic the white ghost bikes either promotes bicycle safety or doesn't capitalize on the deaths the ghost bikes remind us about, feel free to post here again.

However, I hope I'm not falling into the trap of calling attention to the fashions on the DK website.

Yours very, VERY crankily,
The New York Crank