Chuck Schumer: America Needs More Streets Like Prospect Park West

Senators Chuck Schumer and Barbara Boxer on the return leg of their journey this morning.
Senators Chuck Schumer and Barbara Boxer on the return leg of their journey this morning. Photo: Carly Clark

Senator Chuck Schumer broke his long public silence on the redesigned Prospect Park West in dramatic fashion this morning, leading members of Congress on a two-wheeled tour of the physically separated bike lane that runs past his Brooklyn home. Schumer used the occasion to announce that he’ll be introducing new legislation to promote investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

“I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this bike lane, and I just wanted to wait until this moment to say, ‘What’s not to like?'” Schumer told a press gaggle at Grand Army Plaza. “There’s much less speeding and more people feel safer riding their bikes to get around the neighborhood thanks to this new design. America needs more streets like this.”

Schumer’s bill, the Livable Streets Act of 2011, would make $3 billion available to states and cities each year for investment in walkable street networks and improvements to bicycle and pedestrian safety. The bill is intended to be part of the upcoming long-term reauthorization of the nation’s transportation law.

At the presser, Schumer was joined by California Democrat Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee and will shepherd much of the transportation bill through the Senate. Schumer said he’s been waiting since the redesign was installed last summer to show it to Boxer as an example of what bicycle and pedestrian investment can accomplish.

“Nothing beats a nice, long Brooklyn bike ride with my friends from Congress, but it used to scare them to death getting passed on this street by traffic going 40 miles an hour,” he said after leading a leisurely round-trip ride, in a light drizzle, to the opposite end of the bike lane and back. “Now you can start off comfortable and relaxed, and you see so many other people out biking. They’re going to work, they’re taking their kids to school.”

“You know, the President talked about ‘winning the future’ in his state of the union speech this year,” he added. “Well, we’re winning the future right outside my front door. This is what progress looks like.”

After the ride, Boxer said she looked forward to working with Schumer on incorporating his legislation into the final transportation bill. “You really get incredible bang for the buck out of projects like this, which make a whole lot of sense when you consider that 40 percent of all the trips we make in America are within two miles of home,” she said. “Factor in what you save from having fewer crashes and injuries and less wear-and-tear on the roads, and this is going to pay for itself.”

Invoking his policy muses, the imaginary Massapequa couple he calls the Baileys, Schumer noted that smarter zoning and safer streets could make bicycling a viable transportation option even if you have creaky knees and live in the suburbs. “These days the Baileys are getting squeezed at the pump,” he said. “Gas costs $4 a gallon. They can’t afford to make every trip by car. If we think we can drill our way out of this situation like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and the other extremists who get marching orders from Big Oil, we’re kidding ourselves. We need better choices for getting around, and transit and bikes have got to be part of the mix.”

When asked about the lawsuit filed last month by opponents of the bike lane, Schumer defended NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and called the plaintiffs’ campaign against the redesign “a cynical concoction of distortions and lies.”

“Janette is taking it on the chin from what I call the culture of inertia, this small group of self-appointed people,” he said. “Here we have kids, families, and grandmas who finally feel safe biking on this street, and people want to sue it out of existence? We can’t give in to this shameless bullying. If we do not change, we will die.”

  • Mark Walker

    I nearly forgot what day it is. A friend calls this my “first response faith in human nature.”

  • Crusty

    He must have an interesting marriage.

  • Suzanne

    Well. That’s nice, Chuck. Can you call off your dog Jim Walden, now?

  • Ty

    Seriously, his marriage much be like James Carville and Mary Matalin. “You’re a cynic and a liar!!” followed by make-up sex.

  • I can’t believe Marsha Kramer didn’t ride along!

  • Naomi Doerner

    Wow. I am pleasantly surprised. This is the best bit of news I’ve heard in a while!

  • Naomi Doerner

    Wow. I am pleasantly surprised. This is the best bit of news I’ve heard in a while!

  • Naomi Doerner

    Wow. I am pleasantly surprised. This is the best bit of news I’ve heard in a while!

  • Stanoct

    Is today April 1st?

  • Stanoct

    Is today April 1st?

  • Stanoct

    Is today April 1st?

  • NattyB

    Not Funny.

  • NattyB

    Not Funny.

  • NattyB

    Not Funny.

  • Naomi Doerner

    Oh wait. Did I just fall for something – April Fool’s?! The pics do look a little photo-shopped. Aww, say it ain’t so?! I was flying high there for a moment…

  • Naomi Doerner

    Oh wait. Did I just fall for something – April Fool’s?! The pics do look a little photo-shopped. Aww, say it ain’t so?! I was flying high there for a moment…

  • Naomi Doerner

    Oh wait. Did I just fall for something – April Fool’s?! The pics do look a little photo-shopped. Aww, say it ain’t so?! I was flying high there for a moment…

  • Aaron

    If only…

  • Ty

    Stupid April Fools… herrumph.

  • krstrois

    Y’all did Schumer a big favor by taking him out of his normal Ur-Nerd biking attire.

  • Doug

    Boo! If only…

  • Doug

    Boo! If only…

  • moocow

    I always get burned by Streetsblog and April 1st.

    Though some of the past jokes have come true.

  • =v= Meanwhile, in her home district, Senator Boxer is being honored by the installation of green “bike boxers” at major intersections.

  • Doug G.

    Hilarious! Although it’s not quite as funny as the studies and new language NBBL has invented on days that aren’t April Fools.

  • Suzanne

    Wait… It’s April 1st?

    Noooouuuuuu!!! This makes me sad 🙁

  • Suzanne

    Wait… It’s April 1st?

    Noooouuuuuu!!! This makes me sad 🙁

  • Anonymous

    Not funny. It’s way too much like what should actually be said. It makes me feel like the world we live in is the cruel April Fool’s joke.

  • Eric McClure

    Well done. But I thought it was so clearly fake that I’m shocked any of you rubes got taken in.

  • Suzanne

    Blame it on wishful thinking 🙁

  • Ken

    This is good, but you guys missed the big story of the day: The NYPD is now ticketing Central Park cyclists for wearing Lycra!

  • NM

    I choose to believe what I want and will not be swayed by your made up numbers (“calendar dates” as you call them). This story is true.

  • Bluewonderpowermilk96

    April Fools, you don’t even have to look at the picture, the title’s a dead giveaway it’s a joke.

  • Jo

    Now I know how my kids felt when they realized that school wasn’t really cancelled for a Rain Day this morning.

  • Jo

    Now I know how my kids felt when they realized that school wasn’t really cancelled for a Rain Day this morning.

  • Jo

    Now I know how my kids felt when they realized that school wasn’t really cancelled for a Rain Day this morning.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Genius

  • After the first few years, I stopped falling for these, but I still love reading them!

  • No one has anything to say about Barbara Boxer riding without a helmet?

  • It’s way too much like what should actually be said.

    Mission accomplished.

  • I would have included a line about reportings asking him about his wife’s opposition to the bike lane. A great creative opportunity in that.

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