The New York City Department of Transportation has released a new ad campaign telling cyclists, "Don't Be A Jerk." Apparently the DOT staff hasn't left their office for a while, because if it's jerks they're looking for on the streets of New York, there's no need to single out cyclists.
The DOT claims that the ad campaign "humorously highlights the essential dos and don’ts of safe, responsible biking," but it feels more like an apology to the anti-bike lane crowd that's hijacked the city's transportation policy lately. In the ads, celebrities like Mario Batali and Paulina Porizkova ride the wrong way down bike lanes, cut off pedestrians, and dominate sidewalks.
Yes, there are bikers out there who do these admittedly jerky things! There are also pedestrians who stand in the middle of bike lanes while they wait for the light to change, or cut off cyclists while skittering across the road when the light's against them. Let's not even get started on New York City drivers, who aren't exactly renowned for their polite, defensive driving.
People remember the times that bicycle headed straight towards them on the sidewalk, just as they remember the time that crazy cabbie swerved around the corner and stopped inches from their legs. But no one's suggesting that drivers need a re-education campaign, even though cars kill people, while bikes help make streets safer.
Despite the complaints of the anti-bike crowd, it's more common than ever before in New York to see cyclists routinely and safely using bike lanes or sharing the road with cars. Perhaps the DOT campaign will inspire more cyclists to take the “bike smart pledge” the department's promoting. More likely, though, it will only lead to more bike v. pedestrian animosity, as pedestrians feel more leeway to shout "don't be a jerk!" at cyclists, who will in turn feel more inspired to flip those self-righteous scumbags the bird.