Borough President Markowitz is so opinionated about bike lanes, that he’s even singing about them!
Markowitz sang the song, “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music” at a City Council hearing on Wednesday — with the lyrics rewritten to emphasize the danger of having the Department of Transportation installs bike lanes without public comment.
“Strollers and schleppers and skaters and joggers, holiday lanes just for egg-noggers, but let’s not forget cars — it’s getting insane,” Markowitz crooned. “These are a few of my favorite lanes.”
That said (or sang), an equal mix of pro- and anti-bike lane advocates spoke at the hearing, which stems from a bill put forward by Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Canarsie) that would require public hearings before the city could install a bike lane.
The hearing’s guest of honor (or dishonor, depending where you live) was Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who disputed the notion that her agency fails to consider local opinion on a proposed bike lane.
“Every single [bike lane] that exists in New York City today was supported by the appropriate community board or boards,” Sadik-Khan said. “Our project teams and borough commissioners post project plans online, survey buildings and establishments along street corridors, meet with individuals and local groups both before and after projects have been implemented.”
Markowitz disagreed, reiterating his position that the agency is biased against motorists.
“I don’t trust the Department of Transportation to make these decisions,” he later told us.
In his unsung testimony, Markowitz said that he and the City Council should call the shots — after considering local opinion — on new bikes lanes.
“This kind of significant change … should not be the sole purview of the executive branch of city government and the Department of Transportation,” Markowitz said. “Public hearings should be required so that community boards can make informed decisions based on the residents and businesses they represent. And of course, borough presidents must be part of this oversight.”
The borough president picked up a strange bedfellow in Craig Hammerman, the district manager of pro-bike Community Board 6, which supports the same Prospect Park West bike lane that Markowitz despises. Like Markowitz, Hammerman said his board supports public hearings on bike lanes, citing a massive response to a recent survey on the Prospect Park cycle path that found widespread support, but also significant support for some adjustments to the two-way route.
Through it all was the subtext that Markowitz represents two Brooklyns: the so-called North Brooklyn, which is bike-friendly and well served by mass transit; and South Brooklyn, where most people commute by car. Markowitz tried to walk (or really drive) a fine line.
“Although cycling is a wonderful way for people to traverse the city, it is simply not a viable option for the majority of commuters,” Markowitz said. He added that he supports bike lanes in neighborhoods close to Manhattan, but he has been an opponent of the controversial Prospect Park West bike lane, which eliminated a lane for car traffic, as well as 22 parking spaces and changed the stately look of the boulevard. He said at the hearing that the establishment of an “impartial agency” to study the possible benefits and consequences of proposed bike lanes would prevent another Prospect Park West fiasco.