Confirmed: Former DOT Commish Weinshall Wants PPW Bike Lane Gone

David Goodman’s City Room piece on the PPW bike lane survey includes the first new information in months about the extent of former DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall’s involvement in efforts to do away with the current design.

Following the October demonstrations where bike lane proponents vastly outnumbered naysayers, Weinshall and other opponents have not let up in their campaign to undo the re-design. Together with fellow PPW resident and former deputy mayor Norman Steisel, Weinshall, who directly preceded Janette Sadik-Khan as DOT chief, has sat down with City Council members and discussed her wishes to see the old three-lane speedway come roaring back, Goodman reports:

Since the Park Slope protests, some well-connected people, including  a former city transportation commissioner, have lobbied for changes to the current lane. Iris Weinshall, the transportation commissioner from 2000 to 2007 and the wife of Senator Charles E. Schumer, and Norman Steisel, a former deputy mayor, had breakfast last month with Mr. Lander and, shortly after, with Mr. Levin.

“They made very clear that their goal is to see the bike lane removed and the old configuration restored,” Mr. Lander said in an e-mail.

Ms. Weinshall said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that she “had concerns over all about safety elements of the bike lane and the level of both community input and the data that’s being made available to the community.”

Ms. Weinshall had previously declined to comment on the lane, with speculation in the cycling press swirling around her role in opposing it.

“I’m not opposed to bike lanes,” Ms. Weinshall said. “I put in a number of them as commissioner, including the lane on Plaza Street” that connects to Prospect Park West.

The most dangerous activity I can imagine on Prospect Park West — barreling down the street in a multi-ton vehicle at deadly speeds — is down dramatically since the re-design took effect. A safety-based rationale for returning to three wide lanes of traffic defies explanation.

In related news, Weinshall is rumored to have a shot at replacing the widely respected Chris Ward as head of the Port Authority, if Andrew Cuomo gives the word.

  • Why didn’t she just openly state her opposition months ago, rather than lurk behind the scenes? She is a public person, the former DOT commisioner and the wife of a senator. She could have used her authority and prestige publicly to make the case of what a bad idea the bike lanes are…

    Which of course is an even bigger mystery (why someone who supposedly champions safer streets could oppose a community supported measure to bring about safer streets).

  • BicyclesOnly

    I know DoT Commissioner is not the loftiest public office, Weinshall really ought to consider showing some of the grace we’ve come to expect from retired executive branch officials who disagree with their successors. If Weinshall has a policy disagreement with the current administration, that’s one thing, she can write an op ed or something. But here she’s just taking sides on a very local project that happens to impact her personally, engaging in behind-the-scenes trading on the prestige of her former job to pursue a personal agenda. Frankly, it’s embarassing.

  • fdr

    Someone should ask Schumer if his wife speaks for him on this issue – one of the few issues he hasn’t been heard on, at least publicly.

  • Oh Please

    The former Commissioner’s biking claim to fame is the largely useless Plaza Street bike lane (unless you’re a driver helping yourself to it as a convenient passing lane)? Talk about bona fides. And the level of community input? Yeah, we sure do miss the open, transparent and community-embracing DOT of the Weinshall administration.

    Too bad we can’t just turn back the clock, and bring back popular, “safety element”-laden ideas such as one-way Sixth and Seventh Avenues.

  • Clarence Eckerson, is it possible to reach out to Ms. Weinshall for a StreetFilm in which she could speak frankly about these safety concerns in light of the data provided by DOT’s study of PPW before and after the redesign?

  • Pete

    Does anyone have any statistics on the number of miles of bike lanes put in by Weinshall during her tenure as the head of DOT, versus the number of miles put in under JSK?

  • Pete

    Following on my question:

    Especially if those stats could be dovetailed with any stats about ridership, pedestrian accidents, and other safety/livable streets numbers..

  • We can only guess the reason why Ms. Weinshall hasn’t opposed the PPW Bile Lane publicly is because she and her husband knew it could cause him to lose votes in the recent election. Maybe it’s not even a logical or coherent argument since Weinshall has said in the past that she wanted to expand the bicycle network so her Chuckie would be able to safely ride from one end of the City to the other. Maybe its more about property values and the fear, warranted or not, that a big green line makes PPW look less like Central Park West and could prevent Madona from moving next door.

    Whatever her reasoning, we should be glad she’s no longer in a position where we have to seriously worry about her motives. She had her day, put in some lanes, to give credit where credit is due, actually made some improvements. Fortunately for us, we now have a better more creative commissioner in her place.

  • Emily Litella

    The woman and her henchpeople lacked the respect of most DOT staff from what I’ve heard. I thought hubby was an avid biker? The papers said so. Hopefully the bike lane will survive the few months it will probably take for coming gas price increases to again highlight the folly of driving around alone while increasing bike numbers.

  • Larry Littlefield

    My question is this: what is her solution for those traveling north on a bicycle, both to destinations in Park Slope and onto Manhattan? Ride on 8th Avenue?

    Does she believe riding a bicycle on 8th Avenue is safe for those under age 18 (but too old to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk)? Does she believe there should be a bicycle lane on 8th Avenue? Or does she believe people should not be allowed to ride bicycles, or should be allowed by forced to deal with danger if they insist on doing so?

    Or is she just saying, as people like her have been saying for 30 years as this city, state and country have been bankrupted, “I want for me now!”

    Before this change, between 8th Avenue and Prospect Park West you had five moving lanes for motor vehicles, four parking lanes for motor vehicles, four sidewalks, and no place for bicycles.

    Now you have four moving lanes for motor vehicles, four parking lanes for motor vehicles, four sidewalks, and one lane for bicycles, skateboards and whatever else.

  • JK

    Weinshall’s opposition to the PPW lane is disappointing. The lane is well designed, and a proven success at reducing speeding and improving safety. If she has concerns about the aesthetics, she should lead efforts to raise funds with the Park Alliance to buy nicer materials and pavement treatments. If aesthetics are not the issue, what exactly is? I’ve crossed the lane at least half a dozen times with my elementary school age kids and their friends, and not had any problems with bike traffic. Overall, traffic on PPW seems much less menacing, especially motorists turning off of PPW. It would seem stunning if there was measurably more traffic delays. I’d like to here her point to exactly what the problem is.

  • Jooltman

    Everyone who supports NYC’s expanded bike lane system should make a point to attend the city council hearing tomorrow morning, Thursday 12/9. Arrive at 250 Broadway at 9:30 (hearing @ 10) with eight copies of testimony as to how increased biking makes New York safer, healthier, and greener. Your own reasons are the best. This is the strongest way to counter the powerful PPW bike lane foes like Weinshall who prefer their behind doors dealmaking to true democracy.

  • Suzanne

    Grrr! All this bike-lash is infuriating! How do you give testimony? I thought you stood up and said something. Is it written?

    I’m going to write something right now…

  • Michael Drinkard

    There are no facts in Ms Weishall’s quote.

    Ms. Weinshall said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that she “had concerns over all about safety elements of the bike lane and the level of both community input and the data that’s being made available to the community.”

    The DOT study and Lander’s survey are fact based. The ex-political appointees are lobbying an elected official in private because the facts do not support their case. As a result we are left to speculate about their motives.

  • Free Wheel

    Let’s not forget the Williamsburg Bridge bike lane speed bump fiasco which happened under Dear Iris. They put in a dangerous condition, then blamed cyclists for the crashes, paid out thousands in lawsuits, then after many years and tears and pressure spent millions to install what they should have in the first place. I consider her the last of the Moses DOT commissioners.

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