Thompson vs. Bloomberg: The Ultimate Bicycling Referendum?

bloomberg_thompson.jpgTonight’s debate will be broadcast on NY1.

Tonight at 7:00, mayoral contenders Mike Bloomberg and Bill Thompson face off in the first debate of the general election. Andrew Hawkins at City Hall News has some good pre-debate reading for New Yorkers who care about how this election will affect the future of our streets and public spaces.

To date, Thompson has uncorked a steady flow of escalating anti-bike lane statements, couched in a demand for greater "community input." The argument never squared with DOT’s habit of seeking community board approval for bike projects, nor does it jibe with recent resolutions in favor of protected bike lanes passed by Manhattan Community Boards 7 and 8. So Hawkins’ sources offer up a few other explanations for Thompson’s stance:

George Arzt, a veteran
Democratic political consultant, said Thompson appears to be making a
grab for working class, outer borough votes with his calls to remove
bike lanes and dump Sadik-Khan.

"It’s
a 718 issue, as we used to say," said Arzt. "He sees this as an
advantage to do something for the car drivers, many of whom hate the
bicycle lanes and are fearful of running over a cyclist."

Ross
Sandler, a New York Law School professor who served as transportation
commissioner under Mayor Ed Koch from 1986-1989, said that vast
improvements in public safety over the past 20 years have increased
competition for public space, which goes towards explaining Sadik-Khan’s controversial role in the political landscape, as well as the
growing clamor for her removal.

"Everybody
wants that space," Sandler said. "Parkers, truckers, drivers, cyclists,
skateboarders. It is the most competitive space in the city."

One good thing about Thompson’s hostile rhetoric toward real-world livable streets improvements: On TV tonight, we might actually get to watch New York’s next mayor go on the record explaining how he believes this intensely contested space ought to be allocated.

  • Glenn

    The local level Democrats don’t seem to understand this issue at all. I don’t think there is really much depth to their opposition other than some NIMBY groups that show up at community board meetings that have made some noise about feeling left out of the process (because they didn’t get their way).

    Community boards have their place on these issues of modifying plans to suit particular circumstances, but as we have seen having a forward thinking DOT commissioner changes the balance of power.

    After this election, I’m seriously considering investing some time in going to Democratic club meetings just to see if this default anti-bike mentality has much depth to it.

    Looking out at 2013, the crowd looks pretty scary for sustainable transportation issues (Liu, deBlassio, Weiner, Markowitz, etc). By the next general election in NYC, we need to make encouraging biking and limiting traffic congestion to be the default and marginalize the NIMBY folks.

  • Moser

    The main question people should ask Thompson is what he expects to get done as mayor if he thinks every complaining local activist needs to be accommodated. The answer is: not a lot. Too bad the writer accepts stuff like the idea that everyone should be satisfied by every single project and missed much more relevant stuff like the Q poll showing 2-1 support for the changes along Broadway.

  • In addition to Thompson’s attitude toward biking, I would like to learn more about his views on pedestrian improvements. Would he extend the car-free portions of Broadway, keep them as is, or re-open them to cars? What are the candidates’ views on Donald Shoup’s ideas for parking reform?

  • mike
  • Quit frankly, all this Thompson talk makes me doubt that he really has any sort of plan or strategy. Thompson seems to be painting himself as the anti-Bloomberg without much thought or planning beyond that. Did he really come out against Bloomberg’s Millionaire tax and say the City should raise taxes across the board? He has plenty to say about what and who he doesn’t like in the Bloomberg administration but no discussion about what he would offer as an alternative.

  • Kwyjibo

    If Bill Thompson knows who Donald Shoup is I’ll eat my shoelaces.

  • Slopion

    Welcome to New York City, where the Democrats are the conservatives. The hack-itude of most of the prominent Dems here is beyond depressing.

  • S Greenberg

    I tried to get more detail on Thompson’s views of bike lanes and wrote to his campaign. All I got back was a request for a donation.

  • S Greenberg: I asked too and got the same request for a donation.

    As a registered Democrat I just find Thompson profoundly disappointing.

  • MisterBadExample

    Stacy, S Greenberg–I’m still waiting for an answer from Thompson on the bike issues, and I don’t like what I’ve seen. What is the answer for a good cyclist/walkable streets advocate? I’m almost ready to pull the lever for Reverend Billy–at least he’s in the right place on Critical Mass…

  • Emily Litella

    Thompson lost his chance at getting my vote. How undistinguished his behavior is. But the bigger question is, how is it that in 2009 bikes are still viewed by ‘718’ as imposing on anyone’s right to choose a car for mobility? People need to come together while it is still possible to. Many of today’s motorists will be tomorrow’s bicyclist. They just don’t know it yet.

  • Josh

    Wait, we should be concerned about the poor poor drivers because they’re afraid that they might run over a cyclist? That’s whose feelings we should be worrying about?

  • Erin

    Yep, I made the mistake of writing a question regarding livable space issues to the Thompson campaign via the campaign website and I didn’t get any response, although I’ve been spammed since then. I get at least 4 emails per day from his stupid campaign, and that’s even after I requested I be taken off the mailing list and marking the email as spam so that they go directly to my junk mail folder. But they get around that by using different email addresses. I receive mail from the Thompson for Mayor Campaign from no fewer than four different addresses. I really wish HE and HIS CAMPAIGN would take their backward attitudes and spammy practices and just go away. He might be Anti-Bloomberg, but not in any good way.

  • J. Mork

    What is the answer for a good cyclist/walkable streets advocate?

    Looks like a no-brainer. Have you heard about the incumbent’s DOT Commissioner?

  • Shemp

    Yeah, what’s with the idiocy of wasting a vote on a dufus like Rev. Billy when the mayor tried to implement congestion pricing, just did 200 miles of bike lanes and pedestrianized Times and Herald Square? Vote for Bloomberg and give him a mandate against all these flat-earth types.

  • Ian Turner

    Shemp,

    Not saying anything with respect to Billy’s credentials for the office, but there is plenty to dislike about Bloomberg outside of the transportation space, in particular his attitude toward civil rights and development. On the civil rights fronts, he’s presided over such things as mandatory licensing for photography, ridiculously unreasonable parade rules, mass arrests during the RNC, and the largest increase in CCTV ever seen in the nation. On the development front, he’s supported the Atlantic Yards project even as it becomes a boondoggle of epic proportions, and his West Side plan is equally dubious. These things even intersect with transportation occasionally, including the 7 train extension to the Javits center without a stop at 10th Ave., and the endless expenditure of police resources on Critical Mass.

    I will probably end up voting for Bloomberg because there is nobody better, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to criticize.

  • doodee

    Turning Times Square into The Grove doesn’t mean sh-t to most locals.

  • Shemp

    Ian, sure re: Atlantic Yards and I could add some other badly conceived development projects to the list. But in terms of core transportation policy reform, it’s tough to complain. On the other hand, I doubt anyone will ever be persuaded to court the Critical Mass vote, and stuff like congestion pricing, red light cameras and bus lane enforcement via camera will also expand surveillance.

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