Brits Get the Clearest View of Park Slope Bike Lane Fight

If you just landed in the city or you’ve been off the grid for the past eight months, you might be wondering what the heck is going on on Prospect Park West. To catch yourself up, dive into this exquisite piece from the Guardian’s Matt Seaton.

Seaton’s blow-by-blow masterfully sets the scene: the controversial, effective transportation chief, her wealthy, well-connected detractors and their high-profile corporate lawyers, all engaged in a battle over a few hundred feet of asphalt in a drama playing out on the front page of the “world’s finest newspaper.”

But unlike local media, Seaton puts all the pieces in one place:

Two days before the lawsuit was launched, the Sunday edition of the New York Times’s Metro section led with a feature about how much Sadik-Khan had upset people with her highhanded approach to policy-making. Putting aside the implicit sexism of the piece, there was no attempt to report the facts — the booming commerce in the newly pedestrianised Times and Herald Squares, the improvements in road safety, particularly pedestrian casualty numbers, from the traffic-calming effect of installing bike lanes, and the increase in cycle use itself.

“What is more,” Seaton writes, “the article made occasional use of an interview with Sadik-Khan evidently recorded some weeks earlier; so clearly, this feature had sat on the stocks until an editor decided the moment was ripe. And that moment just happened to be the Sunday before the Monday when the lawsuit was filed.”

Media conspiracy theories aside, Seaton, like Rob Hoell before him, illustrates how outsiders have a better grip on the politics at play than our own media. And he certainly shows a keener understanding of what’s at stake.

New York City justly sees itself as the world’s greatest city: here, in some sense, people live the way everyone would live if they had the chance. How New York — the city that still has a uniquely low level of car ownership and use — manages its transport planning in the 21st century matters for the whole world: it is the template. If cycling is pushed back into the margins of that future, rather than promoted, along with efficient mass public transit and safe, pleasant pedestrianism, as a key part of that future, the consequences will be grave and grim.

  • Geck

    I fear the problem here is the NY Press license plates. The establishment NY media is used to the perks of driving and parking where ever they please so they have lost all perspective on this issue.

  • fdr

    I’m pretty sure the feature articles in the Sunday Metro section of the Times, like those in Real Estate and other Sunday sections, are prepared some time in advance, they are not immediate news articles. If so, that would negate the conspiracy theory that it was intentionally published the day before the lawsuit was filed. I don’t know this for sure, just a theory. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t meant to be a hit piece on Sadik-Khan, it clearly was.

  • Greg

    The Times’ hatchet job on Sadik-Kahn is just part of their on-going vendetta against our Republican mayor. They are hell-bent on discrediting him before he runs for any higher office. So you can’t say the Times doesn’t grasp the politics of the situation … It’s pure Democrats (Times) vs Republicans (Bloomberg).

    Thank goodness for the Guardian. Their coverage of international news is always superior to the Times.

  • kevd

    Also, the Guardian has much better football (soccer) coverage.
    Much better than the NYTimes.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Crikey! I went to look at The Economist magazine, and what do you think is right there on the main page. A critique against the New Yorker article.

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2011/03/tragedies_commons

    I read The Economist for an honest right wing view point, as I expect an honest left wing point of view from Public Television. There is no honest right wing point of view in the U.S. that I have come across. And there apparently are surprisingly few non-hypocritical liberals in NYC.

  • Peter
  • eLK

    What ever happened to Bill Thompson? All he had to do to get my vote was to say “Very good Mayor Bloomberg, but it’s time to go.” and he would have had my vote. Instead he played the Hate card and lost my vote. No imagination, not very forward thinking.

    Kreuger? Oh, I remember him. I had also forgotten Iris Weinshal until recently. Time to go. Hmmm, it may be time to chuck Chuck too.

  • “New York City justly sees itself as the world’s greatest city: here, in some sense, people live the way everyone would live if they had the chance. How New York — the city that still has a uniquely low level of car ownership and use — manages its transport planning in the 21st century matters for the whole world: it is the template. If cycling is pushed back into the margins of that future, rather than promoted, along with efficient mass public transit and safe, pleasant pedestrianism, as a key part of that future, the consequences will be grave and grim.”

    Well, N.Y. accepted the theft of Westway, placing all that vehicular traffic on the surface near the bike lane there- an environmentalist move NOT!

  • Emily S.

    Larry, thanks for the link to the Economist piece.

  • “Well, N.Y. accepted the theft of Westway, placing all that vehicular traffic on the surface near the bike lane there- an environmentalist move NOT!”

    Right, supporting bigger and better freeways, like Westway, is a sure sign of an environmentalist. Freeways are great for the environment because they reduce traffic on local streets. And Robert Moses was the greatest urban environmentalist in history.

    In reality, when the West Side Highway was removed, 53% of the traffic using it simply disappeared, which means less traffic throughout the city, less energy consumption, lower ghg emissions.
    http://preservenet.com/freeways/FreewaysInducedReduced.html

  • “In some cases, reductions were more dramatic than this average. In 1973, when New York city’s West Side Highway collapsed, 53 percent of the traffic that had used that freeway simply disappeared”

    “On December 15, 1973, the northbound lanes between Little West 12th Street and Gansevoort Street collapsed under the weight of a dump truck, which was carrying over 30 tons (27,000 kg) of asphalt for ongoing repairs of the highway. A four-door sedan followed the truck through the hole; neither driver was seriously injured. The day after, both directions were ‘indefinitely’ closed south of 18th Street. Ironically, this not only closed off the oldest section (between Canal Street and 18th Street), but also the newest sections (south of Canal Street), because of the placement of ramps to prevent northbound traffic from entering and southbound traffic from exiting south of Canal Street.”

    Driving actually dropped severly around that time due to the articifical petro shortage caused by the OPEC oil embargo, starting in October 1973.

    Yes placing heavy traffic underground DOES matter for urbna environment. Killing Westway was about preseving the under pier areas for sex encounters, and sticking heads in the sand over the MTA bookkeeping and the US wars budgets.

  • I live in Park Slope. Please go to the link and read my Huffington Post column. thanks.

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