Can the Times Name a Transpo Project Planned More Openly Than Bike-share?

In an otherwise fair piece about the debut of the draft NYC bike-share map, the New York Times opted for this sensationalized lede: “After months spent shrouded in secrecy and speculation, the locations of bike-share stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens have arrived.”

I know we were all anxious to get a look at the map, and the anticipation has been intensifying recently, but come on. This is a ridiculous choice of words to set the stage.

For a real example of transportation planning “shrouded in secrecy and speculation,” try getting any info out of the Cuomo administration about the financial plans for the new Tappan Zee Bridge. (Still waiting for the Times story on that one.) The formation of the bike-share map has been a model of public engagement that other transportation projects would do well to emulate.

Siting the bike-share stations is complex stuff. Planners have to consider a lot of factors, from station density and bike-share usage patterns to how much light is available for the solar-powered kiosks and whether they will be compatible with existing street furniture. Hundreds of sites have to fit the criteria and mesh together as a network.

Having covered the planning and initial public rollout of bike-share station locations, it’s just hard for me to imagine how the whole thing could have been more open and interactive. First there was the web portal that was bombarded with requests for bike-share stations. Then came months of public workshops at community boards, beginning in February, where participants could look at potential station locations on the streets they know best, and tell bike-share planners which ones to keep and which ones to dispose of.

Last month, DOT started presenting partial bike-share maps to community boards, going through the draft locations in each community district. (After one of these meetings the Times even published a draft map of stations on the west side.) At a Manhattan CB 3 committee meeting on April 11, DOT policy director Jon Orcutt said the whole map was still in development and not far enough along to post online yet. When district manager Susan Stetzer asked to have a copy of the neighborhood bike-share map to show the rest of the community board, Orcutt said it would be available upon completion of the full service area map a few weeks later, in plenty of time for the May CB 3 meeting.

Here we are, a few weeks later, and the system map is online, weeks before community boards will vote and more than two months before the system goes live. How secretive.

  • Remember, these are people who think anything having to do with bicycles is inscrutable, and we designed it that way on purpose. “Ride a bicycle on the street?!?! How mysterious of you!!!”

  • Guest

    Bike share may be complicated
    but it ain’t as complicated as Tappan Zee. Just sayin’

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bike Share

    In the Times piece, they quote a Quinnipiac poll which asked the following question:

    “New York City is starting a program allowing people to rent bicycles. Do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea?”

    64% to 30% thought it was a good idea.

    You are renting a bike from bike share just as much as you are renting a seat on the bus. You pay for membership and then check out a bike, you don’t rent it.

  • Shemp

    It’s just reflecting the Andrea Bernstein/Christine Haughney imperative to poke as many holes as possible in the program.

  • Hey!

    Gimme a break!  DOT has only become more transparent due to the lawsuits, myriad negative news stories and editorials, CB complaints and activist demonstrations that forced DOT to be more open and democraticHowever, talking about secrecy, I can hear the deafening silence at streetsblog, which touts statistics, but conveniently ignores these in the Quinnipac Poll out today:”voters say 51 – 45 percent they do NOT want more bike lanes in their neighborhood. The biggest calls for more bike lanes are in Manhattan, 52 – 42 percent, and The Bronx, 51 – 46 percent. The biggest ‘no’ comes from Staten Island, 66 – 32 percent, followed by Queens, which is 54 – 41 percent opposed, and Brooklyn, opposed 54 – 42 percent.”The People have been asked and The People have spoken.  Sorry, guys.

  • Colonel Bikelash

    @7b9235e907bde71d8e0b2390030fc19e:disqus Aren’t you supposed to be on windshield flyer duty today?

  • J

    @7b9235e907bde71d8e0b2390030fc19e:disqus Um.. What does this have to do with Bikeshare or the NYTimes? It seems like the thrust of your argument is that DOT used to be secretive.

  • What?

    @7b9235e907bde71d8e0b2390030fc19e:disqus So DOT got sued and that’s evidence that they were secretive?  Baloney.  The people who sued DOT and accused it of secrecy neglected to come to one of the many many many community meetings about a certain bike lane before claiming it was jammed down the community’s throat.

  • There have been many transparent aspects of the planning of this project. But I’d like to see some transparency from DoT about the actual timing of the roll-out on the Upper East and Upper West sides.  ‘Cause word on the street is, that phase could be delayed 18 or more months.

  • Miles Bader

    I’d be curious to see (1) where the NYT editorial staff lives, and (2) how they travel to work…

    ’cause there’s a car-centric bias which seems slightly odd given the paper’s usually slightly liberal viewpoint.  Sure I expect the WSJ to froth at the mouth about cars being the only true American non-communist form of transportation, but the NYT?!

  • KillMoto

    @abb249055208c7af4d35568e422dfd63:disqus you cite the example that proves the rule.  Building a bridge is a massively complex thing – and thus requires a plan.  So why won’t the governor publish the plan – even scant details about it? 

    Because there is no plan.  They are winging it. 

  • Space Monster

    @twitter-22824076:disqus Remember that DOT isn’t in charge of rolling out the bikes. Alta’s the one responsible for that, so it really depends on their funding and production schedules. Based on the piece in Transpo Nation the other day, that they only secured the Citi sponsorship a couple of weeks ago, it’s understandable that some of these details still need to be worked out, and that they’re not being purposefully vague; they just don’t know yet.

  • car free nation

    And then when the DOT does thing like make 3rd avenue in Brooklyn into a two lane speedway, they don’t even bother getting neighborhood feedback. A few years back, they decided to make 3rd between Atlantic and Flatbush one way. Now cars routinely speed through these blocks, and what was a relatively sleepy block, is now a high-way.

    Was there any community involvement? No?

    But when they have to add a bike lane, they go through all the hoops. Seems like a double standard. Widen a road; just do it. Narrow one. 5 community board meetings.

  • Anonymous

    Happily, they appear to have edited the piece to get rid of the “secretive” claim. Parking and the lack of bikes in two boroughs are the new criticisms. 

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