Seriously, Why Is Anthony Weiner So Terrified of Bike Lanes?

If Anthony Weiner has anything in common with his mentor Chuck Schumer, it is that he thrives on attention. And now that he’s created a niche for himself on the national stage as the unapologetic, in-your-face liberal congressman from Noo Yawk, he’s apparently gained a following of disaffected young Democrats who don’t necessarily feel represented by yellow dogs and centrist softies.

Anthony Weiner, equivocator. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/mysticchildz/5484417166/##Narita Choudhury/Flickr##

But as Reid Pillifant notes in his incisive Observer profile, for all the choreographed kookiness and “Oh no he didn’t” one-liners, the man who would be mayor goes all squishy on an issue that should be the unquestionable province of any worth-his-salt progressive. When he isn’t flat-out “ducking” (his word) questions on this particular topic, here’s what the brash Mr. Weiner has to say:

“Are bike lanes a progressive thing? I know a lot of very progressive people who were very pissed off at the bike lane in their neighborhood … I do believe that I’m pro-bike like a lot of New Yorkers are. I do hear a lot of New Yorkers say to me, ‘I love bikes, I bike all the time,’ or whatever it is, ‘But damn these f’ing bike lanes’ … That’s a weird place for us to be. That means that people who would be naturally part of a constituency are getting peeled away because they don’t feel something is right.”

“I do believe that I’m pro-bike.” That clear enough for you?

If not, there are other Democrats who have a more developed sense of self. In Chicago, Rahm Emanuel has pledged to build out 100 miles of protected bike lanes during his first term as mayor. And Weiner’s colleague from Portland Earl Blumenauer has for years been an outspoken proponent of cycling and sustainable transport in general. “It’s all about choice,” he recently told Grist. “In too many communities, people have to burn a gallon of gas to buy a gallon of milk. That’s not freedom. That’s tyranny.”

See? It’s not that hard to say it in a soundbite. How can a few lanes for bicycles be the source of such fretful vacillation for a pol who represents a city where over half the population does not own cars?

Back in 2009, when Blumenauer biked the city with the Streetfilms crew, we asked: “When will we get to see a rep from New York City walk, bike, or ride the bus with Clarence?” You can still be the one, Congressman Weiner. Just imagine the airtime.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Question: Why Is Anthony Weiner So Terrified of Bike Lanes?

    Answer: http://www.weiner.house.gov/district.aspx

    Anthony Weiner represents the most suburban, car-dependent neighborhoods of New York City outside of Staten Island.

  • I count Weiner among “entitled progressives” who think, “if only we tax rich people enough, we can give everyone an SUV and a McMansion.” Weiner obviously is not a friend and he’s exhibit A for our desperate need for a new politics that moves beyond the traditional left / right binary.

  • Anonymous

    Your mistake is assuming that everyone who isn’t riding a bike is instead driving a car. And vice versa. Especially in a city as unique as NYC, many of us don’t drive an yet aren’t necessarily avid cyclists and don’t necessarily unilaterally support the way bike lanes have been implemented. Plenty of gray in this debate.

  • Mark Walker

    Where’s Wiener on pedestrian issues?

  • Still Wondering…

    I am still considering voting for Weiner. But if he doesn’t stop this bizarre way of talking about bike lanes and make some sort of unqualified statement of support or at least explain why he is talking the way he does, I’ll be throwing my money behind someone else.

  • I guess Anthony Weiner hasn’t been paying attention to polls – NYC residents (despite the anti-bike atmosphere being leveled by the press) supports bike lanes 54% to 39%. And two polls in Park Slope, Brooklyn (where the press believes they are so “controversial”) show strong support as well.

    But I am more than willing to give Mr. Weiner some face time on a bike if he wants to go for a ride. clarence@streetfilms.org Hit me anytime.

    Or come to the Sunday PPW bike ride with families. Now there is an idea. Safe.

  • To add: over 8200 people watched Blumenauer bike around with Streetfilms. Come on Rep Weiner, have your staff set something up!

  • Guest

    Anthony, dude, you are in a really weird place. WTF are these people saying they love to bike but hate bike lanes? Seriously, Streetsblog readers have probably met lots of people who hate bike lanes and like to complain about bicyclists. But how many people reading this blog have met people who love to bike but hate lanes being installed? Has anyone met even one? Sure, you may meet bicyclists who dislike crappy lanes, but are there regular cyclists who hate seeing lanes installed? Where? Has anyone but Weiner met them?

  • I do not assume, oscar. First, I don’t ride a bike. But as a pedestrian, bike lanes make me safer from cars. And as an occasional driver, I appreciate the calming effect bike lanes and cyclists tend to have on other drivers.

  • ‘nads. Emmanuel’s got’em. Weiner doesn’t.

  • Anonymous

    Attention, Fox News. The next time Weiner comes on Hannity shouting and all combative, here’s a tip on how to disarm him: ask him about bike lanes.

  • Charles_Siegel

    “But how many people reading this blog have met people who love to bike but hate lanes being installed? Has anyone met even one?”

    I have been a pro-bike-lane activist for many years, and unfortunately I have run into people who love to bike but hate lanes. There is a contingent of macho bike activists who like riding in traffic rather than on separate bike facilities, and who think that all bicyclists should do the same.

    I think they are wrong. They ignore people who are less macho than themselves. But they do exist.

  • Yep, this is one thing that Anthony Weiner and Paul Ryan have in common. They both object when federal transportation dollars get spent on bike infrastructure.

  • J

    Weiner needs to wake up and realize that as mayor, he’d be representing all of NYC, not just East Queens.

    Also, just because a largely progressive person does not like bike lane does not make bike lane not progressive. I think the next mayor should make decisions based on real facts and data, not what “a lot of New Yorkers say to me”. I will vote accordingly.

  • Ian Dutton

    Bike lanes aren’t about some kind of ultra-lib eco-terrorist agenda. They are about getting granny to the market to buy a loaf of bread without getting mowed down. Look at how they work in other societies – they give nearly everyone the ability to make a choice as to the best way to get around without the fear of dying while you do it. How can you be against that?

    The aggressive cyclists will be out there, bike lane or no. What Weiner is afraid to support is a transformational transportation option for regular city-minded folks. To me, that is his undoing.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    The Democratic primary is won and lost in Brownstone Brooklyn and the Upper West Side. These are the two sections of the city with the greatest density of Democratic voters. I dare Anthony Weiner or any of these other guys to run against bike lanes in the Democratic primary. You can not win either of these neighborhoods running against bike lanes.

  • When Weiner attends a fundraiser or cocktail party, he’s hob-nobbing with the uber-wealthy who fund his campaigns. Those people get plenty of face time with him… enough for them to say things like, “I love bikes, I bike all the time, but damn these f’ing bike lanes.”

    Those wealthy people also happen to drive – maybe not all the time, but enough to be annoyed by driving and find an easy scapegoat in bike lanes. So, those “New Yorkers” that Wiener hears are actually a very small subset of all New Yorkers. He just happens to hear from them a lot more, because they can afford to have access to him.

  • Weiner attends a fundraiser or cocktail party, he’s hob-nobbing with the uber-wealthy who fund his campaigns. Those people get plenty of face time with him… enough for them to say things like, “I love bikes, I bike all the time, but damn these f’ing bike lanes.”

    Those wealthy people also happen to drive – maybe not all the time, but enough to be annoyed by driving and find an easy scapegoat in bike lanes. So, those “New Yorkers” that Wiener hears are actually a very small subset of all New Yorkers. He just happens to hear from them a lot more, because they can afford to have access to him.

  • Crusty

    Answer: Because Anthony Weiner is a gutless, soulless twit who will say and do anything to get elected.

    Take a look at Barfowitz’s map and consider that Weiner probably has more miles of bike and prettier bike path than any other congressman.

  • Crusty

    Answer: Because Anthony Weiner is a gutless, soulless twit who will say and do anything to get elected.

    Take a look at Barfowitz’s map and consider that Weiner probably has more miles of bike and prettier bike path than any other congressman.

  • Eric McClure

    What he means is he knows a lot of people who think they’re progressive or pretend they’re progressive or whose similarly deluded friends tell them they’re progressive, who aren’t really progressive at all. The fact that you had long hair in 1968 doesn’t make you progressive in 2011.

  • My grandmother was a poor widow on Social Security and a lifelong (sidewalk) cyclist rode all around Sheepshead Bay at a snail’s pace. Why? Because it was the easiest, cheapest, fastest way to get around her neighborhood and run errands. Even if she had a car, there wasn’t any parking near the Coney Island beach (her primary destination) anyway. Biking was her low cost ticket to mobility. She would love the new on street separated bike paths if she was still around to see them. Weiner should understand that providing low income folks a safe alternative to expensive car ownership is progressive.

    Making people dependent on cars for basic mobility, especially in low density/low transit areas, makes them slaves to their cars. Poor folks in those area are not just living paycheck to paycheck, they are living one major auto-repair away from financial ruin.

  • We know someone this happened to. She had a major axle problem happen with her car. She was living paycheck to paycheck and had to borrow 2K for emergency repairs. That was almost a year ago and thanks to the ridiculous 26% interest still hasn’t paid it off.

    She thinks she has no other choice but to own the car for some reason, but feels that in her neighborhood she needs a car. The real truth is she doesn’t. She does bike occasionally. And if we had safer streets I’ll bet she could get converted and realize she could at least ride the bike to the subway. (She could take a bus to the subway, but doesn’t like riding the bus.)

  • Anonymous

    weiner is actually one of the most engaged of new york’s congressional delegation. I think he doesn’t understand that the new middle class (ie yuppies, transplants, financial services employees, media/technology workers) WILL BE his constituency if he runs for Mayor of NYC. Right now he represents the 9th district, where barely any of his constituents use a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation – they are the ‘old’ middle class of the outer boroughs and they are the people he feels closest to.

    He just needs to be educated and learn to have as much of a fighting spirit on progressive transportation issues as he has on other progressive issues.

  • Bolwerk

    ?? O, I WISH I WAS AN AWFUL, MYOPIC WEINER! ??

  • I was just emailed this response to a message I sent to Anthony seeking clarifications of his comments.

    Thank you for contacting me to voice your concerns regarding the comments I made in jest regarding bike lanes.

    I have a long history of supporting biking. During the Amtrak reauthorization, I authored an amendment that requires all new trains to accommodate roll on bike access and include bike racks. Since 2005, I’ve also secured over $1.1 million for the construction of new bike lanes in New York City.

    Please do not hesitate to be in touch with me on this or any other issue of concern.

    Sincerely,

    ANTHONY D. WEINER
    Member of Congress

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