Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Bike lane backlash reaching fever pitch
From the NY Post:
Mayor Bloomberg conceded last night that his administration hasn’t done enough to consult with communities about bike lanes after irate residents of the Rockaways heckled a top Transportation Department official who extolled their virtues at a town hall meeting.
"Bicycle lanes are one of the more controversial things, obviously," the mayor said following the outburst at the Bayswater Civic Association.
"Some people love ‘em and some people hate them... It’s probably true that in many of these cases we could do a better job and we’re going to try to do that."
The meeting was proceeding routinely, dominated by local issues such as school closings and flooding, when Michael Gliner, a printing company owner, asked whether the bike lanes installed last summer on the main thoroughfare of Beach Channel Drive could be relocated.
Maura McCarthy, the Transportation Department’s Queens Borough Commissioner, responded that numerous neighborhoods were getting bike lanes and "Rockaway is one place we’re very proud to have put them in."
The boos that ensued from the crowd of about 250 were so loud that the moderator felt compelled to warn, "We will not have any of that at this meeting."
From the Brooklyn Paper:
Two former top city officials — including an ex-Transportation Commissioner who emphasized car travel over bikes during her tenure — have emerged as the principal leaders of the opposition to the city’s controversial Prospect Park West bike lane.
One day after the Department of Transportation announced last week that the lane has improved safety for drivers and cyclists, two members of the city’s old guard — former Sanitation Commissioner Norman Steisel and former Transportation boss Iris Weinshall — struck back, claiming that the agency fudged numbers to make the lane appear more successful than it is.
“We’re skeptical,” said Steisel, whose group is called Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes. “They’ve been opportunistic about the way they’ve used their numbers.”
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Steisel said that current Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is so driven by her passion for bicycles that she may be “pushing facts so hard that they don’t paint a proper picture of the truth.”
From the NY Post:
Two city councilmen are pressing Mayor Bloomberg and his bike-lane-loving transportation chief to require that any new bicycle lanes go through the same exhaustive public review as other road changes.
Staten Island Councilman James Oddo, the Republican minority leader, said plans for new bike lanes should undergo the city's lengthy environmental-assessment process, or the city should allow other, more minor traffic changes to bypass the review.
Oddo and Councilman Vincent Ignizio (R-SI) penned a letter last week demanding an explanation from Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, an avid cyclist and bike-lane proponent, of why the lanes don't require the scrutiny.
"The creation of bike lanes and the removal of vehicle travel lanes represent a major reordering of Department of Transportation priorities that may affect the environment and appear to qualify" for a formal environmental review, the letter reads.
Oddo told The Post, "To add one left-handed turning lane [on Staten Island], it's taking us eight to 12 years, yet there have been all of these bike lanes installed without any bumps in the road. How is that possible?"
From the NY Post:
The NYPD is "sick" of brazen bicyclists -- and has started a major campaign to slam the brakes on riders' out-of-control behavior.
Early this month, the police began a ticket blitz targeting bike scofflaws by handing out a slew of summonses to riders who refused to follow basic traffic-safety laws, sources told The Post.
In just the first two weeks of January in Manhattan, cops handed out nearly 1,000 tickets charging wayward riders with breaking the kind of laws many seem to constantly ignore: going the wrong way, running lights, making illegal turns and riding on the sidewalk.
"Bicyclists should travel like vehicles and must obey the same laws," said a police source familiar with the crackdown. "The department and the people are sick of it."
The sources said that bike riders -- including messengers and pedicab drivers -- had better get used to the hardened approach toward violations.
"It's from now until forever," a source said. "There is no set time."
The NYPD did not have the exact number of bicycle tickets written out in Manhattan over any other two-week period, but sources are sure they broke a record in early January.
"It's an all-time high," one high-ranking source said.
In addition to 979 Manhattan tickets, 315 were issued in Brooklyn and 167 were doled out in Queens.
Sources said that lawbreaking by cyclists has become the top quality-of-life complaint in some neighborhoods.
From the NY Post:
Not long ago, a confidant of Mayor Bloomberg's cornered me with a blunt question: "Can you figure out what his third term is about?"
I paused before offering the only thing I could think of: "Bike lanes?"
"Thank you very much," the frustrated Bloomy backer answered. "That's exactly my point."
Jerry Seinfeld made a successful TV show about nothing, but governing has to be about something. A year into his third term, even strong supporters wonder if Bloomberg has a clear focus.
It must be more than sailing through ribbon cuttings and gimmicks like splashing white paint on rooftops and streets to call yourself "green." Trips and speeches around the country definitely do not qualify.
What would qualify is a push that ties together the loose ends of the first two terms and secures the city's progress and his legacy. So far, there is no vision or energy for that closing argument.
But nature abhors a vacuum, so failures are defining City Hall. The snow disaster, the $80 million CityTime ripoff and citizen reports that the Bloomies are fudging data to defend unpopular policies help explain the mayor's 37 percent approval rating.
He said recently he hoped to be considered "the greatest mayor ever," but time is running out to make the kind of gains that could stand history's test.