And it was only after having a brief exchange with the "tweeter" that I realized he's an NYPD detective:
So basically, someone's on death's door and this guy's first reaction is to take to Twitter and goad a wiseass bike blogger and a safe streets advocate.
This is why we're the Number One Bike City in America.
As for the article Detective Mennen was kind enough to send me, it was the first I'd heard of the incident, and predictably it was up to the New York Post's usual high levels of journalistic excellence. For example, it goes out of its way to specify how much the bicycle costs:
A cyclist pedaling a $4,000 racing bike at high speed through Central Park slammed into a suburban mom in town shopping for her daughter’s birthday present — leaving the woman brain-dead, sources said.
You know, just like they do when a car hits somebody.
It also makes it sound like the cyclist was riding without brakes;
Fenton’s pal Tom Longman said Marshall was hunched over the brakeless, triathlon-style “aerobars” attached to the handlebars of his high-performance, yellow and black ride.
The article's been edited by the Post's keen editorial staff since I first read it, but the original version also included their usual misspelling of "brakes" as "breaks," and was generally more cringeworthy.
So if you want to read a summary of what happened, I'd recommend this instead:
As for the incident itself, naturally I'm disgusted, so learning about it first from an NYPD detective who felt like breaking my balls was particularly vexing. Sure, motorists do this and worse pretty much every single day, but that that doesn't diminish my disgust one bit. The very worst Freds and Tridorks--in fact the very worsts cyclists period--are the ones using the parks to launch their personal hour record attempts, and if this is the same Jason Marshall's Strava account (which I'm fairly sure it is) then it looks like he makes a habit of it:
In fact he appears to have set the above "achievements" yesterday, perhaps with visions of Jens Voigt dancing in his head, which is the same day he plowed into that poor woman.
That is seriously fucked up.
I'm loath to implicate Strava in any of this. Yes, I have a strong dislike for Strava and all it represents (in particular this sort of riding) that goes past simple annoyance and borders on a moral objection. But it certainly did not invent the sort of selfish, moronic, abjectly fuck-tarted weenie-ism that compels cyclists to speed through the city's most heavily-used neighborhood green spaces and tourist attractions in the middle of the day, in beautiful weather, at exactly the time people head to the park. Instead, it simply capitalizes on it, and fairly shamelessly.
To blame Strava at all is to take responsibility from the riders. There's no reason to be doing hot laps in the middle of the goddamn city. There are miles of open road just over the George Washington Bridge. There are also actual races in either Central or Prospect Parks pretty much every weekend--sanctioned ones, with marshals and everything. Even then, people have died. Remember "Tiger Williams," famous backer of Tailwind Sports and US Postal?
In a race in August, Williams accidentally hit a pedestrian who ignored marshals' whistles and walked onto the Central Park course. The man, who police say was homeless and hasn't been identified, died later that day in the hospital. Williams says he suffered two compression fractures in his back and doesn't expect to be riding outdoors again until next year.
I'm fairly certain that race was an ITT, too, so both of these instances share aerobars in common.
In fact, it's exceedingly rare that anybody is killed by a bicycle in New York City, but when it does happen it seems to happen in Central Park:
This is not the Central Park of 20 years ago. It is full of people pretty much all the time. If you need to get a workout on a bike while you'e in there, go hard up the hill where you can make a maximum effort without gathering much speed. And if you have time to ride your bike in the middle of a weekday afternoon you have time to head out for a "real" ride in an appropriate setting.
There seems to be some disagreement as to whether this latest cyclist had the light. However, that doesn't matter. It's a park. You know people are going to cross against the light, and if you choose to ignore that inevitability the blame should fall on you. The worst kind of cycling arrogance is the notion that the world is going to conform to your sense of what it should and shouldn't do, and then to base your decisions and behavior on that assumption. Forget pedestrians--I know someone who shattered a hip in Central Park when a raccoon ran out in front of him, and this is someone I wouldn't hesitate to call an expert cyclist. Shit happens, especially in parks, where there are all kinds of variables. So why would someone riding a bike with aerobars--specifically designed to ride in a straight line with your head down--expect a more favorable outcome?
Anyway, the upshot of all of this is bound to involve the police coming down hard on cyclists, in a way that is simultaneously justified and infuriating. There's long been a movement to ban cars from Central Park, but I'm willing to bet that before that ever happens they'll ban bikes first.
So please fellow Freds of New York City and beyond, let's get our shit together and keep it that way, OK?
Lastly, I'd like to make a sincere plea. I do not use Strava, but I know many of you do. I also know I'll never, ever convince you to stop being the gigantic dorks you all are. However, as a way to show the world that we're not all just a bunch of Lycra-clad weenies with our heads up our asses, I'd like you to join me in a pledge to turn off Strava for the entire weekend. Yes, I don't know what "turn it off" means because I don't use it, but log out, shut it down, whatever, starting RIGHT NOW until this coming Monday. You can do all your normal "epics," all your cyclocross races, all your Sunday group rides. Just (gasp) do it without gathering data which Strava then sells to regional transportation departments.
I'm totally serious, just this weekend, as a gesture of respect to the victim's family.
(Come on. One fucking weekend. You can do it!)
Thanks very much for reading. I love you. Ride safe this weekend.
--Wildcat Rock Machine
PS: Next week, the best 200 word essay about what you learned from switching off your Strava for the weekend wins a BSNYC hat. Strava junkies preferred, email to "bikesnobnyc [at] yahoo [dot] com." Use subject line #NOSTRAVA. All other entries will be discarded.