Tell Electeds and the Media: I’m a New Yorker, and I Want Safer Streets

Does Anthony Weiner really intend to someday rip out all the bike lanes in New York City? Or was his remark to Mayor Bloomberg “on a balmy night last June” merely a topical quip blown out of proportion in last week’s Times profile of Janette Sadik-Khan?

We’ve queried Weiner’s office to find out, but the Times piece, more than anything, should serve as a rallying point for those who support the work of NYCDOT. Whether or not Sadik-Khan has hurt feelings or ruffled feathers, her efforts continue to make city streets safer and more accessible for the majority of New Yorkers. Period.

With the axing of the 34th Street pedestrian plaza, you can bet the haters — the “real New Yorkers” for whom pedestrians and bus riders are obstacles on the other side of the windshield — smell blood in the water. Today’s sneering editorial from the Post calling for Sadik-Khan’s job is likely but a hint of what’s to come.

Several Streetsblog readers have posted their letters to Weiner and the Times. After the jump, read what John Petro of the Drum Major Institute wrote to the congressman. At this pivotal moment, consider adding your voice of reason to what is sure to be an ongoing war of words over the very future of the city.

The Honorable Representative Weiner,

I live in an area in New York City a bit west to your House district, but I wanted to write to express my concern about your comments related to bicycle lanes as they were quoted by the New York Times on Friday afternoon. I know that you have stood up and spoken out in favor of pedestrian and bicycle improvements before, so it is quite possible that your quote was taken out of context. All the same I would like to take the opportunity to discuss exactly why recent improvements to the city s streets are so important.

I am a policy analyst for urban affairs at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, a progressive-leaning think tank based in New York City. My comments today reflect my personal opinion, not those of the Drum Major Institute, but I would like to refer to my position with this organization because I am currently researching a comprehensive paper about street safety in New York City.

Through my research, I have found that about 270 New Yorkers are killed by traffic incidents, on average, every year. For every traffic fatality, there are thousands of life-altering injuries, including the loss of a limb, chronic pain, and immobility. I have found that among our peer cities in Europe, New York City s fatality rate is extremely high. I also want to point out that the threat that street safety poses to the city s general public is on the same level as gun violence. In fact, more people are killed by traffic in New York City than are murdered by guns.

Therefore, street safety is a very serious issue. If there were about 270 fatalities at Kennedy or LaGuardia every year, I’m quite certain that we would feel compelled do something about the situation. And yet, the same number of people is being killed on the city s streets every year.

This is even more alarming given that many our peer cities in Europe have fatality rates half of New York City’s. For example, Paris halved the number of traffic fatalities in the city in the short span of six years. The interventions that reduce fatalities are well known. They aim to limit automobile speeds to between 20 and 30 miles per hour when pedestrians are present. These interventions, such as the wide-spread introduction of protected bicycle lanes, have been associated with reduced fatality rates in the cities that have implemented them, as studies in medical journals such as Injury Prevention have shown.

As a progressive, and one that has been closely watching your admirable statements on the House floor, I hope that you will take these facts into mind when developing your position on bicycle lanes in built-up urban areas. This is simply a matter of life and death, an ethical issue that should be treated with the utmost seriousness. Personally, I do not feel that 270 deaths and thousands of life altering injuries on the city s streets every year are acceptable. Given the fact that they can be avoided, as the experience of European cities shows, I cannot accept that level of violence.

If you have any questions about how I ve arrived at these conclusions I would be happy to share the academic studies and reports by organizations such as the World Health Organization which have concluded: interventions such as the implementation of bicycle lanes have the potential to save hundreds of lives every year in New York City. Thank you.

John Petro

  • Glenn

    Ripping out Protected Bike Lanes? fuggedaboutit – Ain’t gonna happen. You’ll spend more money ripping them out with all CITY tax dollars than the city spent putting them in with mostly Federal money. Last time I looked, Feds ain’t handing out cash to RIP OUT bike lanes – ain’t that right CONGRESSMAN Weiner? SENATOR Schumer? And then what? People, little KIDS put in harm’s way, just so your wealthy donor friends can double park in front of their doorman building? I don’t THINK so. Not in my city, not on my street. Go Back to DC and your fancy fundraisers.

  • tom

    Brad Aaron, question: Is it the Commissioner’s job to make the streets of NYC safer and more accessible for only the majority of New Yorkers? Why not all? Who’s to be left out, not identified, forgotten? Illegals? Tourists? Or, are you backing out the car owners/drivers? They are the plurality but still only a very large minority? You would still have ‘the majority’. DoT’s mission statement might be different from what you have stated.

  • tom: It’s tough to identify a question there. It’s undeniable that slower speeds also makes drivers safer. It’s also undeniable that drivers are not a majority in Manhattan and in fact aren’t even a plurality. No one is leaving out drivers, but by prioritizing pedestrians, drivers will be safer as well.

  • Tri-State is holding a press event on Wednesday at 9 am with other advocates and New Yorkers to say thanks to the city – two ways you can help:

    – Stand with us at 9 am at City Hall. We need as many folks as possible.

    – Send in a brief story about how NYC’s pedestrian/cycling/transit improvements have personally affected you. We’ll read some at the event.

    E-mail me at steven@tstc.org to RSVP and for more info. Ben/Brad, we’re sending you some more information on this.

  • KRN

    It’s also worth pointing out that the City might have to return/repay any federal funding that was used for these facilities, if they were to be ripped out so quickly.

  • I’m going to the TSTC event Wednesday morning. Any other Streetsblog regulars? Weather forecast looks good, at the moment.

  • epc

    Is there a mass-transit PAC?

  • EP

    Steven- I can’t make the press event, but am emailing you the letter I sent to Rep Weiner.

  • John Petro’s letter is so good ! Bravo.
    I will go to the tstc event

  • Are the bike lanes that big of a deal? The media is just hyping this up because it’s something visible and an easy target to pick on. Would you rather have more cars honking outside your window?

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