Top Bloomberg Adviser Sets Record Straight on Local Support for Bike Lanes

If you’re on the Twitter, you may have noticed that Howard Wolfson, a senior adviser and communications strategist for Mayor Bloomberg with a long resume in Democratic Party politics, has been tweeting up a #bikenyc storm lately. Wolfson’s bike tweets tend to focus on the lengthy record of public support for bike lanes — all the community board votes and public surveys that for some reason don’t get mentioned in the editorial pages of the Daily News or the Post.

The tweets come from Wolfson’s personal account, but given his position inside the mayor’s political circle, the bursts of text seem to hint that the administration’s support for Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan runs deeper than you would surmise if your only information came from, say, Michael Grynbaum stories.

This morning, with New York Magazine’s epic he-said/she-said on NYC bike policy making the rounds, Wolfson sent out a memo with more of an official imprimatur. Using “Office of the Mayor” letterhead [PDF] that should catch the attention of the city’s press and political class, he outlined the following case: Bike lanes are popular, supported by the public process, and a proven method to make streets safer.

He also includes a piece of data I haven’t come across before, which nicely encapsulates how illogical it is to claim that expanding the city’s bike infrastructure threatens pedestrian safety:

  • From 2001 through 2005, four pedestrians were killed in bike-pedestrian accidents. From 2006 through 2010, while cycling in the city doubled, three pedestrians were killed in bike-pedestrian accidents.

Shouldn’t this sort of information have made its way into Matt Shaer’s NY Mag piece, instead of bike lane crank Jack Brown comparing bike policy to terrorist attacks?

Here’s the full Wolfson memo:

MEMORANDUM

To: Interested Parties
From:  Howard Wolfson
Subject: Bike Lanes
Date: March 21, 2011

In light of this week’s New York magazine article about bike lanes I thought you might find the below useful.

  • The majority of New Yorkers support bike lanes. According to the most recent Quinnipiac poll, 54 percent of New York City voters say more bike lanes are good “because it’s greener and healthier for people to ride their bicycles,” while 39 percent say bike lanes are bad “because it leaves less room for cars which increases traffic.”
  • Major bike lane installations have been approved by the local Community Board, including the bike lanes on Prospect Park West and Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn and on Columbus Avenue and Grand Street in Manhattan. In many cases, the project were specifically requested by the community board, including the four projects mentioned above.
  • Over the last four years, bike lane projects were presented to Community Boards at 94 public meetings. There have been over 40 individual committee and full community board votes and/or resolutions supporting bike projects.
  • Projects are constantly being changed post-installation, after the community provides input and data about the conditions on the street. For example:
    • The bike lane on Columbus Avenue was amended after installation to increase parking at the community’s request.
    • Bike lanes on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg and on Father Capodanno Blvd. in Staten Island were completely removed after listening to community input and making other network enhancements.
  • 255 miles of bike lanes have been added in the last four years. The City has 6,000 miles of streets.
  • Bike lanes improve safety. Though cycling in the city has more than doubled in the last four years, the number of fatal cycling crashes and serious injuries has declined due to the safer bike network.
  • When protected bike lanes are installed, injury crashes for all road users (drivers, pedestrians, cyclists), typically drop by 40 percent and by more than 50 percent in some locations.
  • From 2001 through 2005, four pedestrians were killed in bike-pedestrian accidents. From 2006 through 2010, while cycling in the city doubled, three pedestrians were killed in bike-pedestrian accidents.
  • 66 percent of the bike lanes installed have had no effects on parking or on the number of moving lanes.
  • Rindler

    It is nice to see the Bloomberg administration finally defending its transportation policies. The silence from DOT has been deafening. I have not been able to understand why DOT higher ups (particularly JSK) have failed to stand up and defend their policies in the press in recent months. This refusal to participate in the dialog has let the critics of their policies have the press all to themselves. TA and Park Slope Neighbors are nice, but they do not have the authority to speak on behalf of the administration, and they cannot be expected to do the job of DOT or the mayor’s office.

  • JK

    It’s good to see City Hall support DOT’s efforts. Wolfson could make a broader point about the protected bike lanes and DOT’s newly created pedestrian spaces like Times Square and Madison Square. They reflect a new confidence in New York City, a belief that the city works: people can congregate in the city’s great public spaces, and exult in the city’s positive energy and excitement, without fear or crime. Koch’s Midtown protected lanes were built in 1980, at a low ebb in the city’s fortunes, and were overrun by disorder. The new Midtown lanes and pedestrian spaces aren’t. They work wonderfully, as does the Prospect Park West lane. New York City is not the “ungovernable city” of the 1980’s. People with children are choosing to move here and stay here. They are not oppressed by fear of the “other” or of scary “elements.” They are looking to participate in a city that mixes people and is best enjoyed while on foot, or with the convenience and flexibility offered by the bicycle.

  • Glenn

    So many points I might add, but a fair and reasonable set of talking points.

    My #1 add would be that bike lanes are largely funded by Federal dollars and the city has spent less than 1% of DOT budget on their installation.

  • Kevin Love

    There is one thing that is small, but annoys the crap out of me. That is Mr. Wolfson’s repeated use of the plain unvarnished word “parking” to refer to car parking only. Bike parking? What’s that??

    Of course, we all know that bike parking is an issue in New York. One that is linguistically whitewashed out of existence with his typical windshield view bias.

    Small issue? Yes. But annoying because it denies the reality that for many people like me “parking” doesn’t automatically equal “car parking.” I feel put down and disrespected. He writes like my issues, such as bike parking, simply do not exist.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr

    54% to 39% approval. That’s all I can add. I am gonna cite that number until I am blue in the face.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr

    Oh and Glenn:

    Look at this article in Portland Oregonian where they took a quote about bicycling Mayor Sam Adams said in a Streetfilm and turned it in to an entire article:

    http://tinyurl.com/4la9ss8

    Of course Ben and the good folks at Streetsblog have done some amazing analysis of just how little of the NYC budget (and street space!) has been dedicated to cycling and walking. We need to argue for an even higher percentage.

  • fdr

    No matter how little of the NYC budget has been spent on bike lanes, the opponents will always say that it would have been better spent on x number of teachers or Meals on Wheels or firemen or whatever other program is being threatened with budget cuts.

  • Chris

    Sensationalism sells papers and gets the page views, objective reporting does not. It’s as simple as that.

  • G-Bomber

    Hi, it’s me, the chatter watcher himself. I just had to write in and confess. It’s true, I can’t write a story about Prospect Park West or bike lanes without using the word “controversy.” It’s so perfect! Poor me. Some days are so hard here on the chatter beat. It took me all day to figure out what to do with Howard Wolfson’s facts. They are just so cold, so terribly lacking, so not me. Just call me a chatter box, but aren’t innuendo, double entendre, snark, cynicism, he said-she said, gossip, superficiality, false equivalence, soap opera and backroom whispers so much more fun than boring old facts. My editors think so. Those tedious facts are so… “unusual.” Take that Wolfson. Oh, I really, really hope I get the transfer to Lifestyle of the Times. Dealing with these facts is really getting inconvenient.

    “A cover story in this week’s New York magazine detailing the recent civic controversy.”

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/city-makes-a-cold-calculated-case-for-bicycle-lanes/?ref=nyregion

  • vnm

    Howard Wolfson was the chief spokesman for Chuck Schumer’s first senate campaign, back in 1998, which resulted in the epochal unseating of a powerful 18-year incumbent senator. He probably has a lot of credibility with his former boss. Maybe he can chat with him about the PPW lawsuit.

  • vnm

    Awesome memo on his part, by the way. This is really great to see.

  • Gene Aronowitz

    How can you argue with that?

  • Ellen Azorin

    As a cyclist who uses my bike as my primary means of transportation, what can I do to add my voice and support to the movement to make New York City more bike-friendly in the face of the powerful blitz of outcries by the automobiles that congest and pollute? Specific suggestions appreciated, and will be acted on! Letters, emails, tweets, facebook postings, etc. I invite folks to visit my facebook page, “Cyclists United for a Bike Friendly New York”

  • Ellen Azorin

    As a cyclist who uses my bike as my primary means of transportation, what can I do to add my voice and support to the movement to make New York City more bike-friendly in the face of the powerful blitz of outcries by the automobiles that congest and pollute? Specific suggestions appreciated, and will be acted on! Letters, emails, tweets, facebook postings, etc.

  • Danny G

    Ellen, write your councilperson in favor of pro-bike stuff and against anti-bike stuff. Go to public process events, such as precinct meetings, community board meetings (transportation committees), and organized bike events. Most importantly, ride with respect for other people and be courteous to all other modes of transport, especially those slower or more vulnerable than yours.

  •  I look forward to a day when New Yorkers can commute like Europeans do, using carrier bikes and Bakfietsen with their children.  We look forward to putting thousands of Zigo Leader Carrier Bikes on the streets of New York next year (http://www.myzigo.com)

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