The post was commented upon, "Tweeted," and so forth by a fairly sizable number of people, and here and there readers asked whether I'd sent it to the Times.
I never do that, mostly because if something's on my mind I can just type it right into this blog with as many obscenities as I wish and then press "Publish." Sure, this blog has only a tiny fraction of the readership and respectability of the Times, but whether something is published here or there it also ultimately winds up on the same Internet. It's sort of like pissing in the shower instead of the toilet: "It's all pipes!," as George Costanza once pointed out. So really, why bother getting out of the shower in order to submit something to the Times when it all ends up contaminating the same water table?
(For the record, I don't actually piss in the shower because I'm extremely uptight. It's just a metaphor.)
Also, two years ago, the Wall Street Journal asked me to write something about bike lanes for them. So I submitted this--which they ultimately declined to print. Instead, they published a bike-baiting piece of shit by P.J. O'Rourke in its place.
That really pissed me off.
Nevertheless, when Streetsblog reported on Wednesday that, in the wake of mounting pedestrian deaths, the NYPD suggested we all walk around with flashlights so we don't get run over, I figured that was worthy of critique--even more so than the objectionable nature of the color blue, which the Times has already demonstrated they believe to be a subject worthy of an op-ed.
So yesterday I wrote up an op-ed of my own and sent it to the Times.
They didn't want it.
Therefore, by way of pissing in the shower, I'm publishing it here instead for your delectation, derision, or total indifference, as the case may be.
As always, thanks for reading, ride safe, and have an enjoyable and brightly-lit weekend.
--Wildcat Rock Machine
PS: That cab driver who maimed a tourist in the process of trying to run down a bike messenger will not be charged, so you can surrender now and lease yourself a Hyundai, because the cars have won.
SAFETY ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
by W. Katz Rockmanstein
There's a peculiar notion that, if you ride a bike without wearing a helmet, whatever happens to you is your fault.
"It's unclear whether the victim was wearing a helmet," the local news report will offer uselessly--unclear, most likely, because after the SUV driver ran the light the cyclist's head rolled away and has yet to be found.
Go ahead, judge cyclists and the helmetless all you want, but you should know that the forces of smugness and victim-blaming are coming for you too, even if the only vehicle you ride is the heel-toe express. Yesterday, the website Streetsblog.org reported the appearance of a flyer in the 78th Precinct in Brooklyn, posted by the NYPD and issued by 1 Police Plaza. The title of the flyer was "SAFETY TIPS FOR PEDESTRIAN [sic]," and the advice ranged from somewhat sensible to completely ludicrous, the three most egregious examples of the latter being these informational nuggets:
--Hold your hand up or do whatever it takes to make yourself more visible to drivers.
--Avoid walking in the dark and during bad weather such as snow, ice, rain or fog.
--Wear light or bright-colored or reflective clothing, especially if you walk at night. Use a flashlight if you walk at night.
Really, it's come to this? We're supposed to walk around New York City carrying flashlights like it's a KOA and we're venturing out of our tents to relieve ourselves in the bear-infested woods? Remember Woody Allen in "Annie Hall," perambulating in Manhattan and lamenting that the only redeeming quality of Los Angeles was "being able to make a right turn on a red light"? Now picture him that evening, wearing a reflective vest and waving a flashlight as he does jumping jacks while attempting to cross 5th Avenue--assuming it's not raining, of course, in which case he'd be well advised to avoid walking altogether.
Good thing it never rains here.
As New Yorkers, we love to lament the changes this city is constantly undergoing. You know the refrain: Brooklyn is the new Manhattan, Manhattan is the new Dubai. Nanny Bloomberg raised our rents, riddled the city with bike lanes, and tried to take away our big sodas. The whole city is becoming a soulless shopping mall, a tony suburb of Yonkers. And so forth.
Hey, we all knew this couldn't stay the greatest city in the world forever, but who knew after all we've been through it would end with the NYPD ordering us to surrender completely to cars by effectively dressing like traffic cones should we dare to step out at night? The "SAFETY TIPS FOR PEDESTRIAN" flyer is a response to "an increase in fatalities of pedestrians in New York City." However, to my knowledge, the NYPD did not issue a similar warning to motorists. A flyer called "SAFETY TIPS FOR DRIVER" placed under every windshield wiper, while no doubt worthless, might have at least been a start. (Tip #1: Avoid driving in the dark and during bad weather.) Instead, we're all supposed to go around jumping and waving our lights like a bunch of ravers on Ecstacy. (Albeit ravers on Ecstacy who still have the presence of mind to scrupulously adhere to traffic signals).
If you're not horrified that the police force in the largest city in America (and one of the few where people still walk) is recommending that its citizens dress like highway construction crews and carry flashlights like every day is Superstorm Sandy, you should be. The 78th Precinct, where this flyer was spotted, encompasses Park Slope, and as amusing as it is to imagine the local yuppies showing up at al di la dressed like Dynamo from "The Running Man," phosphorescent and in constant fear of drivers from Jersey is no way to go through life. It should also be noted that the 78th is Bill de Blasio's home precinct, and while he campaigned in part on "Vision Zero," a plan to reduce traffic fatalities to zero in 10 years, in the meantime he's still angsting over possibly having to give up driving his teenage son two miles to school. Given all this, I'd love to hear what he thinks of "Vision Wave-Your-Flashlight-In-Desperation-On-The-Way-To-Duane-Reade."
So if you've been waiting for a good time to join the growing number of people who are outraged over the culture of reckless driving and victim-blaming in this city, now would be a good time--unless you fancy walking around town lit up like a human Hanukkah bush. And let's hold di Blasio to this Vision Zero thing, because at this rate in 20 years you'll be reading news stories about how "the victim wasn't carrying a lightsaber."
In the meantime, sunset is at 4:38pm today. Don't forget your flashlight.