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My NYC Biking Story: Howard Wolfson

If you follow the Twitter hashtag #bikenyc, you've probably noticed more than a few tweets from New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, a.k.a. @howiewolf. In this episode of My NYC Biking Story, we'd like to introduce you to the man who's been tweeting out a flurry of facts, figures, and poll numbers related to NYC bike policy.

Wolfson is one of New York City's new bike commuters. He bought a bike in May and started commuting on National Bike to Work Day later that month. Streetfilms had the opportunity to join him on his six-mile morning trip from the Upper West Side to City Hall.


[music] 

Howard Wolfson:  [00.06] My name is Howard Wolfson, I’m Deputy Mayor here in the greatest city in the world.  As many times a week as I can I ride from home to work and back.  I was not an active cycler as a kid.  I was probably the only kid who grew up in the suburbs and didn’t really regularly ride a bike.  And I think all of the focus and attention on bike lanes made me want to do it.  It’s just for me a good way to get exercise, see the city in a different way.  You know if I can get up on the bike looking like Kermit the Frog riding down the Hudson, you know anybody can do it.  There’s a scene in the Muppet Movie where Kermit begins by riding his bicycle and my style on the bike has been compared to his.  We’ve seen poll after poll that has shown that the public supports bike lanes.  Despite a lot of negative publicity, that support seems to be holding pretty steady.  In New York you ought to be able to drive your car, you ought to be able to take a subway, you ought to be able to take a bus, you ought to be able to walk, and you ought to be able to ride your bike.  Over the last few months I think people were very frustrated in some of the coverage they were reading and seeing around biking issues here, and I’m not in the business of telling the media what to do, I am in the business of telling our story, to get out the facts, to make sure people know just how safe bike lanes make the city, how well used they are and we’re going to continue to make biking a safer, more accessible option for more New Yorkers.   

[music]

Transcription Sponsored by: Transcript Divas Transcription Services

Elizabeth Press is a Filmmaker for Streetfilms. She joined Streetfilms in 2007 to focus her video work on advocating for better biking, walking and mass transit.

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  • Eric McClure

    Thank you, Deputy Mayor Wolfson, for being a great advocate for safer New York streets! And for spreading the truth about New York City's bike lanes.

  • Toonces

    This is an incredibly nice entry in the series!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mattkime Matthew Kime

    I don't know what his political aspirations are but he certainly has my vote!

    Awesome!

  • MR

    Hmmm.  He runs the red (bicycle!) light at 1:04, across the pedestrian walkway, right before talking about how the media isn't telling the true story about bike safety.  Cute edit.  :)

  • Picky Rider

    Duuno about that, looks like he is putting down his feet preparing to stop.  Doesn't look like a big deal at all.  That's ridiculously picky.

    I was watching looking for any illegal shennaigans and the only thing I saw was him slightly riding over the double-yellow for a smidgen on the greenway, but he was passing another rider and not interfering with oncoming traffic.  I do that a few times on every commute.  That'd be picky too.

  • MR

    @ec1ae6e9f860fc682ee03c682851c6e8:disqus His stop and wait for the red should actually take place before the pedestrian sidewalk he rolls across - that's what those signs on the right are very clearly telling him.  Specific cycling infrastructure is what cyclists have been pleading for.  Kind of bizarre to make up reasons to ignore it already.

    It's the equivalent of a car rolling through a crosswalk against the red to cheat the light change.  It happens, but it shouldn't.  It *definitely* wouldn't happen during a video about safe driving.  :)

    This isn't a federal crime or anything - it's just funny in the context of the video's theme, and particularly considering what he's saying at that point about the media.

  • Eric McClure

    @3766193b804fcb929bf31f0ca7521ebb:disqus, "bike safety" is your phrase, "bike issues" is what Wolfson said. And I don't think anyone has a problem with the media reporting that a good number of cyclists don't stop at red lights -- that's perfectly true. What the Deputy Mayor is referring to, if I might venture a guess, are the perpetual hatchet jobs on cycling (and reality) done by Marcia Kramer, any number of NY Post columnists and reporters, and things like The Times's "there's trouble in bike share" nonsense.
    So, yeah, Howard Wolfson should have stopped before the walkway, though the light may have turned green by the time it disappeared from the frame. Fair enough. He did stop, though, which is more than can be said for the unrelenting media attack on complete streets.

  • MR

    @EricMcClure:disqus Actually, at about 1:20, he talks about "how safe bike lanes make the city," 15 seconds after he runs the red through the pedestrian walkway.  You can see that the light on the other side of the intersection is still red, btw.  I don't disagree with you, though - there should be less *emotional* coverage of bike lanes (on either side, frankly).  I think if people just got the straight story, they'd very much support bike lane inclusion on pretty much every street.

    Wolfson is good people, but it's unfortunate when bad cycling behavior is validated by inference in something like this.  It's startling that he and Streetfilms weren't on their best behavior.

  • Anonymous

    How refreshing!  Thank you Deputy Mayor Wolfson for being a voice of reason and practicing what you preach.

  • http://n8han.technically.us/ Nathan

    He stops somewhere in the crosswalk, a typical noob mistake that most cyclists stop making after a few New Yorkers gruffly walk around you to get across the street before the light changes, as any of us would do, when walking. The idea that it is a safety issue is a joke. The inconvenience occurs because the cyclists has entered an empty crosswalk without thinking that someone may need to use it before the light changes.

  • Steve O

    Thanks, Streetfilms, for this great series.  Can't wait for the next one.

  • http://promacnyc.com Jed

    Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. DEPUTY MAYOR OF THE MAYOR OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK commutes to his job at City Hall by bike. Do you think that might benefit NYC cyclists and bike commuters and have a positive effect on NYC in general? I certainly do. Way to go, HowieWolf. Reasonable voices like yours needed to counter the bad press a few rotten apples (bikers) give the huge majority of good apples.

  • Anonymous

    For the record, he stopped at every light on our ride.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Interestingly enough Steve O, the next profile is of "Steve O"!

  • Kmjmkm

    this series has a nice balance to them -love the template you are using

  • http://www.heartratewatchcompany.com/Garmin-210-p/garmin-210.htm garmin 210

    What an inspiration. I too
    am a cyclist in Bozeman. A great voice for cycling. It is very pleasurable to
    see a profile with one of those hefty bikes.  Says something about the simple pleasure of
    getting around at a manageable, happy speed.

  • http://www.alexandalexa.com/kids-balance-bikes-scooters.html alex and alexia Balance bikes

    I am really very glad visiting the blog. These was superb and very informative information shared here. Well, come to cycling I love to ride cycle, it was mine favorite exercise.