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Here Are The Top 5 Cycling Stories Of 2011: Crackdowns, Lawsuits, Terrorists, Jerks

<p>2011 was the biggest year of the so-called "bikelash," wherein certain media outlets like the Post did everything they could to amplify a small but vocal (and well-financed) array of people who aren't exactly pleased with NYC's booming growth in commuter cycling. To be sure, New Yorkers have been torn apart by bike lane wars since at least 2008, but this year the rhetoric intensified, the mainstream media coverage expanded, and the city wound up in court defending against a lawsuit that sought to remove a mile-long stretch of bike lane along Prospect Park West. Click though on the photos for five of the cycling stories that the<em> whole world was watching. </em><br/></p>


<strong>The Crackdown: </strong>The year began with the news, <a href="http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/34/1/34_1_crackdown.html">first reported by the Brooklyn Paper</a>, that the NYPD would <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/01/07/nypds_brooklyn_bike_crackdown_to_la.php">begin enforcing a number of laws</a> that cyclists had traditionally shrugged off without repercussion, such as rolling through <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/03/15/central_park_cyclist_red_light_crac.php">red lights</a> and <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/04/08/cops_also_ticketing_cyclists_for_ig.php">stop signs</a>. A flurry of ticketing ensued, with cyclists issued costly summons for everything from <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/02/07/cop_tickets_cyclist_for_not_wearing.php">biking without a helmet</a> to riding with a <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/04/15/cop_tickets_cyclists_for_hanging_to.php">tote bag on the handlebars</a>. (Note: neither of those are illegal.) The crackdown reached its nadir with police setting up a speed trap <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/03/22/cops_ticketing_cyclists_in_central.php">to ticket cyclists in Central Park</a> at dawn (which the department quickly apologized for). And though the enhanced enforcement seems to have abated somewhat, City Councilmember James Vacca <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/12/27/more_cyclist_crackdown_promised_by.php">promises it will pick up again</a> in 2012! <br/>


<strong>The Terrorists: </strong>Credit where credit is due: CBS 2 reporter Marcia Kramer <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/07/08/local_tv_reporter_warns_of_bike_lan.php">broke the biggest bicyclist story of the year</a> when she told viewers why the Second Avenue bike lane was such a bad idea: the bike lane passes by the Israeli Consulate.<strong> "Imagine if the man on the bike was a terrorist!" </strong> Kramer warned, while the copy on the CBS 2 website phrased it slightly differently: "A Second Avenue bike lane is next to the Israeli consulate, leaving many wondering what would happen if a man on a bike were a terrorist." <em>Many indeed! </em>How many? Surely too many to count, but we're guessing they can all be found inside Kramer's head. <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/07/13/spiked_license_plate_frames_the_sol.php">Related</a>: spiked license plate frames, the solution to all your cyclist terrorist needs!



<strong>The Lawsuit:</strong> Oh, Christ on a cracker, the freaking <a href="http://gothamist.com/tags/ppw">Prospect Park West bike lane lawsuit</a>. Where do we even begin? The DOT installed the lane with the full approval of the Community Board in the summer of 2010, and though cyclists and most local residents loved it, a small but <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/02/07/chuck_schumer_self-hating_cyclist_o.php">politically-connected group</a> of Park Slope residents claimed it <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/02/14/video_ambulance_takes_prospect_park.php">caused gridlock</a> and made deliveries difficult on their precious PPW, which was previously a three lane thoroughfare <a href="http://gothamist.com/2010/08/03/prospect_park_west_redesign_is_slow.php">favored by speeding drivers</a>. <br/>When well-orchestrated protests against the lane failed to sway the DOT, <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/03/07/park_slope_big_shots_sue_dot_over_p.php">they took the city to court</a>, accusing the DOT of <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/01/21/dot_denies_ppw_bike_lane_data_fudgi.php">fudging data</a> showing the bike lane was a success. Then <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/08/17/ppw_bike_lane_lawsuit_is_this_reall.php">they lost the lawsuit</a>. Unfortunately, the fight seemed to have a chilling effect on the DOT, and this year some <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/04/12/big_bay_ridge_bike_lane_proposal_ki.php">good bike lane initiatives</a> were thrown under the bus by a publicity-shy department.


<strong>The Fatalities: </strong>The official year-end tally of cyclist fatalities has not yet been released, but there's no doubt that this year saw far too many drivers kill cyclists. Among those lost were DBA owner <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/07/05/cyclist_bar_owner_ray_deter_dies_af.php">Ray Deter</a>, <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/08/31/cyclist_killed_by_mercedes-benz_in.php">dancer Erica Abbott</a>, attorney Alan Dershowitz's sister <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/07/03/marilyn_dershowitz_killed_by_7-ton.php">Marilyn Dershowitz</a>, and <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/10/24/no_charges_against_truck_driver_who.php">artist Mathieu Lefevre</a>, whose family was understandably outraged at the NYPD's refusal to press charges against the truck driver who killed their son and drove away. <br/>The Lefevre family seems to be catalyst for cyclists citywide who say the NYPD doesn't seriously investigate car crashes involving cyclists. <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/11/30/nypds_handling_of_traffic_crash_inv.php">Transportation Alternatives has launched an investigation</a> into the NYPD's handling of these investigations, which routinely end with no charges filed against the driver. <a href="http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/12/27/in-memoriam-3/">Streetsblog takes an unflinching look</a> at the cyclists and pedestrians killed in 2011, and <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/10/12/map_of_the_day_crashstat_plots_bike.php">here's a chilling map</a> of cyclist/pedestrian accidents citywide. <br/>


<strong>The Jerks: </strong>In an attempt to shame cyclists into being more conscientious toward pedestrians and others, the DOT <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/05/10/mario_batali_known_to_ride_his_vesp.php">launched their "Don't Be A Jerk" PSA campaign</a>. Starring Mario Batali, Paulina Porizkova and John Leguizamo, the commercials tried to use humor to remind cyclists that they need to respect everyone else on the road. This is true, and <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/12/08/dot_commuter_cycling_up_8_over_last.php">with so many more cyclists on the streets</a>, there is more of a need for public awareness about the rules of the road. (Here are <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/09/15/five_things_novice_cyclists_should.php">seven safety tips</a> for new cyclists.) <br/>But the DOT's decision to pejoratively characterize cyclists as potential "jerks" <a href="http://gothamist.com/2010/09/17/dot_tells_cyclists_to_stop_being_je.php">struck some as tone deaf</a>, especially coming at a time when motorists have been demonstrating increased hostility toward the rising tide of cyclists. Also, it's worth nothing that one of the ads' stars, Mario Batali, likes to ride his Vespa in the Prince Street bike lane. So in 2012, we hope the DOT expands its campaign to include all jerks: behind handlebars, behind the wheel, and behind a BlackBerry texting while wandering obliviously across an intersection. <br/>