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“City bike numbers unwheel,” is how the New York Post headlines a story today about competing surveys counting New York City’s cyclists. The tabloid’s war on bikes is long-running and why should this time be any different, with negative words crammed near the top of the article aimed at cyclists and the city’s bike lanes: “…they won’t come… aggressively… controversial… paltry.” At the heart of it, a new U.S. Census-based study says that only .06 percent of New Yorkers, or 22,686, ride a bike to work, less than in 2007, while NYC says “the number of cyclists is skyrocketing.” As the Post sort of explains — eventually — both can be true.
The city’s numbers count anyone who rides a bike for any reason, not just to get to work, and the figures are calculated ten times per year. As one expert explains, “The US Census measures the main mode of transportation to work. So if you bike two times a week and take a train three times a week, they are going to record the train.”
Because the expert is “balanced,” he then criticizes the city’s counters for having “focused on areas where there’s a concentration of bicyclists, such as Manhattan and the Brooklyn neighborhoods closest to Manhattan.” But it sounds like they counted bicyclists where the bikes are.
The Transportation Department touts a 66 percent increase in cyclists from 2007 to 2009, a number the Post does not really bother to fight against, save a misleading headline. Basically, they took two separate counts and compared them, draping it all in anti-cyclist spin. Journalism: tada!