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Bike lanes — the third rail of New York City politics

The Brooklyn Paper
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City officials scrubbed a scheduled meeting set for this week on a new pair of bike lanes in Park Slope — which some see as evidence that a backlash against cycle paths is having an impact.

Community Board 6’s Transportation Committee said last week that its Feb. 17 meeting would include a discussion of new bike lanes on 14th and 15th streets between Third Avenue and Prospect Park West, near the controversial Prospect Park West lane.

But when this newspaper called the Department of Transportation with questions about the proposal, the item was abruptly removed from the agenda (but not before we took a photo of the original, right).

“There are no plans for a bike lane at this location at this time,” spokeswoman Nicole Garcia said.

Garcia declined to discuss why the item was on the agenda, then off — but CB6 District Manager Craig Hammerman said that he was told that the city was simply not yet prepared to discuss the issue or allow a “premature review of the proposal.”

Hammerman, who has been around the block plenty of times, agreed that the “heightened sensitivity” over bike lanes in general could have played a role, but added that the meeting cancelation was “no more than a misunderstanding.”

The lane request originated with Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), who strongly rejected this newspaper’s “thesis” that bike lanes have become the third rail of New York City politics, forcing local officials to reconsider even non-controversial schemes to benefit two-wheelers.

“I don’t think there’s anything to it,” he said.

But one high-profile opponent thinks there is.

“Lander realized he didn’t have his ducks lined up and is trying to think of a way to manipulate this to his advantage,” said former deputy mayor Norman Steisel, a strident opponent of the Prospect Park West lane.

“We have opened up a debate [and] a lot of people are questioning the process by which lanes are put in,” he said.

Pressed by this “thesis”-issuing newspaper to respond to Steisel, Lander added: “I’ll leave the accusations of manipulation to the former deputy mayor, and the fabrication of conflict to your newspaper, since they seem better at it than I am. I plan to keep working with residents … to help achieve safer streets and a more livable community. We look forward to having a dialogue later this spring with residents of 14th and 15th streets about a range of possibilities, including bike lanes and other approaches, to address the goals they’ve expressed — which is what we had planned all along.”

But having a “dialogue” with residents is exactly what many residents say has been lacking from the city’s rapid expansion of the bike lane network.

In fact, in southern Brooklyn, residents were so fed up with installation without representation that Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Mill Basin) drafted a bill mandating the city better inform communities about where the lanes would go. Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) drew a line in the sand of Brownstone Brooklyn when she said last year that she supported that bill.

But one thing often gets lost in the debate over new lanes — the city’s stated goal of improving safety. Eric McClure, co-founder of Park Slope Neighbors, which is working with Lander on traffic-calming issues, pointed out in an interview on Saturday that hours after Borough President Markowitz mocked bike lanes in his State of the Borough speech on Feb. 3, a cyclist was nearly killed in a collision in Williamsburg.

Updated 12:17 pm, February 14, 2011: Comments attributed to Eric McClure at the end of this story were actually made to another reporter at this newspaper. The original version of the story should have noted that.
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Reader Feedback

Or from Yellow Hook says:
All city officials should arrive by bike to the meetings - no cars!

Get those Mao jackets on comrades!
Feb. 14, 2011, 8:16 am
Resident from PPW says:
I wonder how much "support" CB6 is receiving from Bloomberg for these bike lanes?
Feb. 14, 2011, 8:33 am
Mike says:
These aren't even bike lanes -- the proposal is for shared lane markings. Brooklyn Paper is making a mountain out of a molehill here. Quoting know-nothing bike hater Steisel is totally inappropriate, too.

Resident's innuendo is ludicrous.
Feb. 14, 2011, 9:10 am
Steve from PPW says:
This is NBBL and Steisel's doing. If they weren't threatening a lawsuit and questioning data at every term, the community board might be able to at least discuss further street improvements that would benefit cyclists, pedestrians, and the vast majority of Park Slope residents who don't drive.

If there's a reason to be mad at anyone, it's Chuck Schumer, Iris Weinshall, Louise Hainline, and Norman Steisel. What community board is going to want to so much as whisper "bike lane" at a meeting knowing the fake scandal that could be whipped up by rich residents and their politically connected cronies? Not to mention the media storm it generates.

Let's be clear: whether you agree with them or not Hainline, Steisel, Schumer, Weinshall and co. don't want better bike lanes, they want NO bike lanes. As the commenter above said, these were just painted lines on a street and still they were taken off the table.

This is what you get from a group of rich NIMBYs who don't like their neighbors.
Feb. 14, 2011, 9:18 am
Eric McClure from Park Slope says:
At no time during my interview with Gary Buiso did I mention Marty Markowitz's State of the Borough address or the serious injuries suffered by cyclist Serena Rio in Williamsburg.

What I did say was that the Department of Transportation had likely decided, given the fact that 15th Street is the dividing line between Community Boards Six and Seven, to hold a joint meeting with the two boards' Transportation Committees, since they both have jurisdiction over that street.

I also said that 14th and 15th Streets have been indicated for some time on the official NYC Cycling Map as the sites of proposed future bike routes.
Feb. 14, 2011, 9:35 am
Concerned from Bklyn says:
I'm more concerned with Eric's correction above than anything else... What the hell, Gary?!?! You on Murdoch's farm team auditioning for The Post or something? If there's news here, report it -- otherwise please spare us the sensational exaggerations.
Feb. 14, 2011, 9:53 am
Come on, Gersh and Gary from Brooklyn says:
Shame on you, Gersh. Before Murdoch bought you, Brooklyn Paper was a valuable part of our community. That is no longer the case. You are now merely someone who foments conflict, provides a platform to scumbags, and does damage to community members who are legitimately trying to improve quality of life.

This article is nothing more than manufactured controversy and another opportunity for this discredited toad Norman Steisel to get up on his shaky pedestal, bloviate and attack people who actually do good work in our community.

14th and 15th Streets have long been marked on the NYC bike map. Class III shared lane markings are not a big deal. They are not controversial. They do not impede traffic or harm communities.

As for Lew Fidler down in Mill Basin -- WTF is he complaining about? I think he has exactly two bike lanes in his entire district and neither of them have taken any asphalt away from his beloved automobiles.

Norman Steisel's donut-induced stroke can't come soon enough.
Feb. 14, 2011, 10:05 am
Gary from PPW says:
While I appreciate the local coverage Brooklyn Paper provides, we don't need false controversies. We have enough real ones thank you very much.
Feb. 14, 2011, 10:09 am
al pankin from downtown says:
the bikers think they are a special bunch citizens in new york with special rights, just like dog owners...if the residents want bike lanes in their communites they should be allowed to vote on it and the dot should abide by the vote of the majority..the decesion should not be left to the elected bunch of numb nuts we put in office who eventualy leave office and everyone is stuck with their lousy decesions.
Feb. 14, 2011, 11:05 am
teegee from sunset park says:
it would take a revolution, but imagine - neighborhoods turned into "no motorized vehicle" zones, deliveries dropped off at commercial transfer hubs for bike delivery within those zones. And parking areas on the outskirts of the boroughs for folks who want cars.

yeah, a dream, but unless we dream we're doomed to die from air pollution, lack of exercise & car/bus/truck accidents.

i'm ready to give up my car, whose next?
Feb. 14, 2011, 11:43 am
al parkin' from downtown says:
the motorists think they are a special bunch citizens in new york with special rights, just like dog owners...if the residents want cars clogging up all the streets in their communites, spewing exhaust everywhere, running over pedestrians a few times a week, honking their horns all the time, parking for free on public streets, they should be allowed to vote on it and the dot should abide by the vote of the majority..the decesion should not be left to the elected bunch of numb nuts we put in office who eventualy leave office and everyone is stuck with their lousy decesions.
Feb. 14, 2011, 12:21 pm
William from Downtown Brooklyn says:
To me, a lifelong NYC resident and native, aggressive and rude driving is the hands down, number one quality of life issue for me.

What could possibly be wrong with something that forces New York City drivers to slow down while at the same time fosters physical fitness and no environmental impact transportation?

I don't get it. I really don't.

(And yes there are many jerk cyclists but the next time you see a cyclist rolling through a red light, look to see how many parallel jay-walkers there are. It is pretty much 100%.)
Feb. 14, 2011, 2:18 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
" neighborhoods turned into "no motorized vehicle" zones, deliveries dropped off at commercial transfer hubs for bike delivery within those zones."

The home of the $65. loaf of bread!
Feb. 14, 2011, 3:05 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
" neighborhoods turned into "no motorized vehicle" zones, deliveries dropped off at commercial transfer hubs for bike delivery within those zones."

Now go type that on your 300 baud modem.
Feb. 14, 2011, 3:06 pm
K. from Arkady says:
It's a real slog getting from the living room to the bathroom when I need to piss, is there a way I can drive inside my apartment? In fact, why can't I drive through my neighbor's apartments? It seems unfair that there are so many places I can't drive. WTF, is this the Soviet Union or something?
Feb. 14, 2011, 3:41 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I say that until cyclists start following the rules, no new bike lanes should be added. Why should they be given something when they act as if they are above everything? Most of the lanes are hardly used anyway, and that's even when the weather is bad. If you don't believe me, then ask the people who are by those lanes all year long and look at them most of the time, and then we will see who is really using them.
Feb. 14, 2011, 9:37 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I say that until drivers start following the rules, no new roads should be added. Why should they be given something when they act as if they are above everything? Most of the roads are hardly used anyway, and that's even when the weather is bad. If you don't believe me, then ask the people who are by those roads all year long and look at them most of the time, and then we will see who is really using them.
Feb. 14, 2011, 10:20 pm
JAY from PSLOPE says:
TEEGEE, I will not join you , in fact we shall fight you on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender our cars to the bike gestapo
Feb. 14, 2011, 10:24 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I would like the person who made that comment at 10:20 PM to be removed, because that person is an imposter, and that same person who did 12:21 PM is probably that same person.
Feb. 14, 2011, 11:16 pm
wkgreen from Park Slope says:
Neighborhood involvement is all well and good, but without being able to create a citywide network of bike lanes it will make getting around by bike that much more difficult. If this turns into a '2 blocks here' '3 blocks there' mish mosh of byways then what's the point? If this becomes a process where the forces of NIMBY get its hooks in, as the short sighted folks at NBBL are trying to do on PPW, it will fail. More bikes means less cars, and I would hope that DOT and Landers et. al. are looking at this from a more global perspective, and that they are working to get neighborhoods to understand that streets are friendlier and safer with fewer cars on them, even for people who drive.
Feb. 15, 2011, 12:11 pm
Hank from New York says:
Join the fight for our right to ride in Central Park--stop the ticketing blitz, sign the online petition

http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-the-ticketing-blitz-of-cyclists-in-new-yorks-central-park
Feb. 28, 2011, 9:49 pm
Sloper since 82 from Park Slope says:
Bikers are a total blight on this nabe--arrogant and ignorant. Overheard at 7th and Sterling: Biker 1 "Hey, we have to obey traffic laws now." As Biker 2 goes through the red light...On 6th and St Johns, a biker with headphones, holding a coffee cup in one hand as she bikes! At Flatbush and Bergen: 2 bikers scream at me (I have right of way; they have red light) to get out of the way. At Flatbush and the Duane Reade, girl rides on back of boy's bike and he has headphones in AND is balancing a bag on the handles. These are NOT rare examples. Many cities have bike licenses, and license plates that attach to the back of the seat, and a test to get them. Just for $30. NYC MUST have this. Once we can report the license number of these crazies,--mostly the holier than tho "I'm so superior eco" types, it will be better.
Jan. 23, 2012, 11:54 pm

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