When it comes to bicycling, Joe Lhota has a penchant for ignoring facts in favor of opinions. As Hurricane Sandy approached landfall, the then-MTA chief tweeted a photo of a man riding in a shared lane on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, implying that bike lanes are to blame for bike-bus crashes. This May, he said that DOT didn’t coordinate with the fire department on bike-share station siting, when FDNY said that, in fact, DOT vetted the locations with them.
Now, we have another example of the Republican mayoral candidate ignoring reality, captured by YouTube user gifterphotos and tweeted by New York Observer editor Colin Campbell. Lhota was speaking on Sunday at the Flatbush Jewish Community Relations Council when he got to the topic of community consultation: “We now have more and more bike lanes. Let’s not debate whether or not we should have bike lanes,” he said. “But how is it possible that bike lanes go in your street without any community input whatsoever? The community boards don’t know about it. It just happens.”
Has Joe Lhota been to a community board meeting lately? Maybe he missed the bike lane planning and requests led by community boards in Co-Op City, Middle Village, Long Island City, Bay Ridge, Staten Island, and the Upper West Side, to name a few. Maybe he forgot that Local Law 90 requires DOT to give community boards a comment period on significant streetscape changes, including most new bike lanes. Perhaps he wasn’t aware that DOT was already doing this type of outreach before the law passed, and that while community boards are advisory bodies, the agency usually defers to them, even when it means a dangerous street design will remain in place.
Lhota continued: “When was there a speech or a major understanding of what the strategy is about bike lanes in New York? Where do you want to go with it? What is the vision for that? It just happened, and it just keeps being rolled out.” Maybe Lhota wasn’t paying attention during Mayor Bloomberg’s agenda-setting PlaNYC speech in 2007, or didn’t see the documents and updates that followed. Perhaps he didn’t see the city’s street design manual, which lays out which types of streets are fit for particular street safety interventions, including bike lanes.
For someone who once occupied the post of deputy mayor for operations, those are some awfully big blind spots about how the city currently operates.
Claiming the city has a one-size-fits-all approach to bike lanes, Lhota went on to cite an example on Staten Island — it’s not clear where, exactly — of DOT importing a Manhattan-centric approach to bike lanes and turn restrictions. “I’ve just had this issue on Staten Island. DOT makes decisions…for Manhattan and then they roll it out to all of the boroughs,” he said. “What’s good for Midtown makes no sense [on Staten Island]. But all of a sudden, they come to the conclusion, ‘If it’s good for here, it’s good for everywhere.’ And it’s not. It really isn’t.”
While Lhota didn’t specify what street on Staten Island he was talking about, he might want to know that Community Board 1, chaired by Republican consultant Leticia Remauro, passed a resolution last month asking DOT for bike lanes on Clove Road. According to Staten Island bike advocates, Remauro was particularly interested in protected lanes.
It’s not just cycling that’s fallen into Lhota’s blind spot: His platform doesn’t include anything about bicycling, walking, or street safety. Although Lhota said on the John Gambling Show that pedestrian safety would be his second transportation priority as mayor (behind syncing the stop lights), he hasn’t mentioned it since. Streetsblog asked the Lhota campaign if the candidate has any policy ideas on these issues. We’ll let you know if we hear anything back.