Sunday, the Wall Street Journal published a vexing interview with editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz.
The video was comprised of five minutes of criticisms of the bike share program.
This included critiques of the “autocratic” rule of New York City Mayor and “practiced denier” Michael Bloomberg as well as claims that cyclists were more dangerous than cabs.
Even stranger, the video included claims that New York wasn’t Paris, London or Amsterdam (this is verifiably true) and observations that Citi bikes were a fire hazard because now “the firetrucks can’t get into subway stations and park there because you’ve got Citibank racks.”
Most interesting, Rabinowitz claimed that “the bike lobby is an all-powerful enterprise,” and alleged that her view was held by a majority of citizens.
Our interest piqued, we contacted Transportation Alternatives, one of the largest rider advocacy groups in the city and the closest thing New York has to the lobby Rabinowitz seems to have in mind.
Transportation Alternatives is a 501(c)3 organisation. As such, they can’t actually lobby, but they’re still one of the most involved groups when it comes to backers. They have 100,000 members and are celebrating 40 years of advocating for pedestrians, cyclists and commuters.
They’re the closest thing to “Big Bicycle” in the city.
When it comes to their funding, they’re actually outstandingly upfront. According to their public IRS Form 990, they receive most of their contributions from foundations and individual donors.
We spoke to Caroline Samponaro, the Senior Director of Campaigns and organising, about the video. She described Rabinowitz as “out of touch” and wanted to challenge the idea that it was some outside group forcing bicycles on innocent New Yorkers.
Samponaro said that the video contained “a lot of pretty extreme statements,” and looked as if it was Christopher Guest mockumentary at first.
“There are around 6,000 miles of streets in New York City and only about 700 miles of bike lanes,” Samponaro said in a subsequent email. “Anyone who calls us the “all powerful bike lobby” clearly needs to work on their maths skills.”
In fact, she said, neighborhoods without bike share are “lining up” to get it. She mentioned Councilman Stephen Levin from Brooklyn, who has already accumulated 80% of his signature goal on a Change.org petition to bring bike share to Greenpoint and North Williamsburg.
Even more, Samponaro said, Rabinowitz is wrong while claiming she’s in the majority here. A Quinnipiac poll found that New Yorkers overwhelmingly supported the bike share program 72% to 23%. Try to find another issue that New Yorkers support that strongly.
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