It may be news to the national audience of BuzzFeed, but Anthony Weiner once said he would hold ribbon cuttings on his first day in Gracie Mansion to rip out the city’s bike lanes. He now insists the expletive-laced promise was a joke, but he’s firm in his opinion that at least two of the city’s bike lanes should be removed. He reiterated that position in an interview with BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith yesterday, adding that he’s “not going to be bullied” on the issue by “policy jihadists.”
Smith’s interview with Weiner provides perhaps the best example yet of the candidate’s “small talk, small stick” approach to bike policy. Here it is in three simple steps:
- Equivocate on whether you support bike lanes (“There are good bike lanes and bad bike lanes”);
- Talk about how great Citi Bike is (“You know, I belong to this bike-share thing”);
- And finally — this is the real wild card — speak off the cuff with a snappy one-liner.
In this interview, Weiner’s off the cuff moment came when he promised that he would stand up to what he described as “policy jihadists,” who he said are “incapable” of understanding “that there are going to be stupid bike lanes, and so you’re going to replace them.” Weiner promised that as mayor, he would not hesitate to rip out bike infrastructure — which, it should be noted, is making streets safer for everyone. “I’m not going to be bullied by people who are like, protesting outside my house because I made some joke about bike lanes,” he said.
When Smith asked whether Mayor Michael Bloomberg or DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan were “policy jihadists,” Weiner replied, “More the latter.”
The interview didn’t reveal much of substance about Weiner’s transportation policy. (He has twice volunteered an encouraging position on off-street parking reform, an issue other candidates have avoided.) He’s said he would remove bike lanes on Prospect Park West and Broadway, and on BuzzFeed Weiner again spoke against Broadway bike infrastructure. “They take Broadway and get it down to one lane,” he said, arguing that the current street design makes deliveries difficult. “They have to park the truck in one lane of traffic, or on the sidewalk, or in the bike lane. That’s a bad bike lane.”
Weiner fails to mention that most of Broadway through Midtown has two car lanes, and that Broadway has designated loading zones. If the street needs more or better-enforced loading zones, that’s a relatively easy fix, and would not require removing the bike lane. On the Upper West Side, merchants and elected officials worked together to ensure that loading zones along the Columbus Avenue bike lane were available for merchants who needed them. Perhaps Weiner could flesh out his transportation policy rather than reflexively designating certain bike lanes as “bad” or “stupid.”
At the heart of Weiner’s “jihadist” argument is that DOT and bike lane proponents are inflexible. But on Broadway, for example, DOT significantly changed its design from 42nd to 35th Streets after it discovered that the layout wasn’t working as well as it could. The city added pedestrian space and converted the bike lane from a protected curbside lane to a buffered lane next to moving traffic.
Perhaps Weiner himself is aware that his case against the Broadway bike lane is flimsy, so the candidate, who sank to 11 percent in the latest Siena poll, quickly pivoted to the hallmark of his bike platform: enthusiastic support for bike-share, which has consistently polled well. “I take bike-share to my campaign events,” Weiner said.
Smith seemed to interpret this as somehow undermining Weiner’s outer-borough bona fides. Though residents in those very boroughs (not to mention the Bronx and Staten Island) are clamoring for bike-share to come to their own neighborhoods, he asked Weiner: “Have you told your supporters in Brooklyn and Queens about this?”
“Yes,” Weiner replied, adding that he wants to expand bike-share to the rest of the city.