In Attack on Sadik-Khan, the Daily News Can’t Get Its Facts Straight

It looks like the Daily News could use some fact checkers for their weekend editorials.

While the Daily News editorial staff has done some bravura work on transit funding, their DOT hit job this Sunday is riddled with more errors than a paranoid rant from the keyboard of Steve Cuozzo. In a bid to discredit DOT chief Janette Sadik-Khan (headline: “Transportation Commish Sadik-Khan owes New Yorkers full disclosure of her plans for bike lanes”), the opinion page printed one factual error after another. It should be an embarrassment to the paper.

The entire premise of the piece is that bike lane plans are guarded like nuclear secrets and that the mayor should “order” the commissioner to “reveal where she proposes to put the next batch of cycling corridors.” Well, the DOT already does that. It doesn’t take much effort to find out.

The first example cited by the News is the Columbus Avenue bike lane: “[A] query to DOT [from Manhattan Community Board 7] about making all modes of transportation greener morphed into a plan for a Columbus Ave. lane.”

A quick Google search of “Columbus Ave community board vote” reveals that, in fact, the board voted in favor of the Columbus Avenue lane before DOT installed it. Before that vote, CB 7 had already asked DOT to prepare plans for protected bike lanes on Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. That’s what DOT was responding to when the agency presented the project.

The writers get basic stats wrong, claiming that “Sadik-Khan has installed 500 miles of on-street bike lanes.” That would encompass the entire on-street bike network, but in fact, the network has been getting built out for a few decades now, and hundreds of miles of bike lanes were on the streets before Sadik-Khan took over at DOT. Under Sadik-Khan, the pace has accelerated and DOT has been more responsive to local requests for measures to make biking and walking safer, leading to projects like the Prospect Park West bike lane and the new bike lane on Empire Boulevard.

The writers also say that bike lanes on Rockaway Boulevard and in the Rockaways were installed before community boards were notified or over their objection, but according to DOT, both Brooklyn CB 17 and Queens CB 14 were informed of the projects and expressed no objection before the lanes were striped.

Daily News readers deserve better than this lazy and inaccurate editorializing, designed to gin up anger about imaginary events. Will there be a retraction?

Some Streetsblog readers have told us they’re writing in to set the record straight. We’ll see what the Daily News decides to print.

After the jump, a letter to the Daily News from Christine Berthet, a street safety advocate who serves on Manhattan Community Board 4 and has worked on several projects with the city DOT.

Dear Sir or Madam,

As the co-founder of CHEKPEDS, a pedestrian advocacy in Midtown West, I find your editorial inaccurate, one sided, and misguided.

DOT did extensive consultation and outreach for the last three bike lane segments installed in Manhattan Community Board 4. Turn lanes are lengthened to increase vehicular flow. Gridlock is caused by drivers ignoring the law, not by bike lanes.  The 75% of New Yorkers who use public transportation/walk have no complaints.

The nuclear comparison would be more appropriate if you ever were to report on the 7,000 pedestrians and bicyclists that are killed or maimed by drivers annually in New York City. Bike lanes and their pedestrian safety features do reduce crashes (47 % for all road users) and save lives. Janette Sadik Khan has fully disclosed these statistics – the only ones that really count.

Christine Berthet

  • It’s really worth pointing out that the NYC Bicycle Master Plan was rolled out in 1997, by the Giuliani administration, under the auspices of then-Deputy Mayor for Operations Randy Mastro, who’s now deeply involved in the planned lawsuit aimed at eradicating the Prospect Park West bike path.

    The executive summary of the master plan includes this passage:

    Implementation of the Plan could have a profoundly positive impact on New York City, enhancing New Yorkers’ transportation and recreation options, improving the city’s air quality, alleviating the city’s notorious noise pollution and congestion and, in general, transforming New York City into a more welcoming, enjoyable place in which to live and visit.

    Not on Prospect Park West, apparently.

  • fdr

    So were the chairs of Manhattan Community Board 7, Brooklyn Board 17 and Queens Board 14 misquoted by the News? You criticize the editorial writers for saying that the Board 7 request “morphed” into a bike lane and that Boards 14 and 17 either weren’t informed or objected to bike lanes. But the editorial quotes the Community Board district managers by name.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    FDR:

    This would not be the first time that Community Board district managers said something totally divorced from reality and contrary to the actions of their own boards.

    The real question is: Which political consultant did Randy Mastro hire to put this Daily News editorial hit job together? Does he have someone in-house or has Gibson Dunn and NBBL contracted a firm to work on this?

  • Mike

    Yeah, that’s just a lie from the board chair (or a misquote). The CB specifically requested protected bike lanes on both Columbus and Amsterdam, between 59th and 110th. The single mile on Columbus is just the first phase of that.

  • Ken

    Believe me, it’s a misquote (actually, a mis-paraphrase) of CB7’s board chair. I understand a correction has been requested. To hear the chair’s real thoughts on bike lanes, read the succeeding post.

  • Lisa

    Here is Mel Wymore’s letter to the editor:
    I would like to clarify a couple of points in your editorial. First, Community Board 7 requested that the Transportation Department study all avenues on the upper West Side as possible candidates for multimode redesigns, but budgetary constraints narrowed the focus to Columbus and Amsterdam Aves. After receiving a specific proposal, the board voted in favor of a protected bike lane along 20 blocks of Columbus Ave. Understanding that the redesign would likely require adjustments, the Transportation Department agreed to work closely with the board to address community concerns. Having recently published the recommendations of the Columbus Ave. Working Group, we received a prompt and constructive response from the Transportation Department.

    Mel Wymore, Chairman, Community Board 7

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