After Assembly Member James Brennan released the results of his telephone survey on the Prospect Park West bike lane last Friday, the assessment in the press was unanimous. WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein headlined her post on the poll results “They Like It. They Really Like It.” Gersh Kuntzman at The Brooklyn Paper began his story: “The survey says — again! — that Park Slopers like their controversial bike lane.”
The topline numbers in the Brennan poll — 44 percent for keeping the lane as is, 25 percent for making adjustments, and 28 percent for eliminating it — closely resembled the results of the web survey conducted by Brad Lander, Steve Levin, and Community Board 6 last year, which found that 49 percent of Park Slope residents wanted to keep the lane, 22 wanted to keep it and make adjustments, and 29 percent wanted to get rid of it.
Even the New York Post’s Sally Goldenberg, author of the most gratuitous anti-bike bile of 2011, led her Brennan poll story by noting that the bike lane “is a hit among Brooklyn residents in neighboring areas, a new survey shows.”
About the only person who didn’t read Jim Brennan’s poll as an endorsement of the bike lane is Jim Brennan. (If we’re also counting people who are obligated to oppose the bike lane, you can add Gibson Dunn attorney Jim Walden, the lawyer suing the city to remove it, to the list. So that makes two people.)
Earlier this week, Brennan’s office sent around a presentation [PDF], compiled for his office by the polling firm Kiley & Company, which includes the following header summarizing opinion on what should happen next: “After Hearing Arguments on Both Sides, Narrow Majority Favors Changing or Eliminating New Bike Lane.” You can only get to that narrow majority if you group the 25 percent who agreed with the idea of “altering it to address pedestrian and driver concerns” together with the 28 percent who actually want to remove the lane.
You could also say that a huge majority want to keep the lane or adjust it — the 44 percent who said the lane should stay as is, plus those 25 percent who like alterations. Unlike the Lander/Levin/CB 6 survey, Brennan’s poll didn’t suggest specific alterations to the design, so we don’t know what those 25 percent are really thinking. (Note: This didn’t stop the Brooklyn Paper from reprinting Brennan’s poll interpretation today.)
Despite the fact that his own survey found a substantial margin of support for the PPW redesign, Brennan’s office has been trying to portray those results as a reason to eliminate the bike lane ever since making the poll responses public.
The press release that accompanied the results last Friday concluded:
But 40% of residents near Prospect Park West, and 42% of older residents, feel less safe as pedestrians crossing or walking along Prospect Park West. This is why I am reluctant to endorse the bike lane as is, and would prefer that the City and the community continue to study the elimination of the two-way lane or the transfer of the bike lane to the righthand side of Prospect Park West with a buffer (an ordinary bike lane).
Brennan’s press release didn’t mention anything about the measured reduction in speeding on Prospect Park West or the fact that NYPD reported zero pedestrian injuries after the street was redesigned.
Streetsblog sent Brennan a list of questions about his position on the bike lane, how the poll was put together and financed, and why he’s been emphasizing the negative when the topline opinion numbers indicate support for the project.
Brennan wrote back referring us to last Friday’s press release, and included the following statement by way of introduction and explanation:
I am posting this statement along with my press release on the poll regarding the bike lanes along Prospect Park. The press release contains lots of information about the poll and a variety of its findings. It contains my position, in that the City should make the bike lane one-way or make it an ordinary bike lane on the right-hand side of the street and maintain the traffic calming measures (two-lanes rather than three).
The telephone numbers were drawn from a current data file of all registered voters in zip codes 11215 and 11218. There was no distinction between voting or not voting in any election. Boards of Elections generally make these files available for purchase by the general public.
The poll cost $11,000 and was paid for by Friends of Jim Brennan. [Editor’s note: This is Brennan’s campaign fund.] I take full responsibility for all content.
Brennan did not touch on the question of why he’s chosen to play down his own public opinion data indicating support for the bike lane. We can say, however, that even though the PPW redesign has made the street safer and enjoys significantly more support than opposition, Jim Brennan wants to make this illegal:
He’s okay with eliminating the bike lane on Prospect Park West and replacing it with a buffered lane on the right side of the street, turning the bikeway into an obstacle course of double-parked cars and turning vehicles, so that this will no longer happen:
Just 28 percent of the respondents to his survey are opposed to the bike lane, but that’s enough for Jim Brennan to be okay with putting a stop to this: