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Cyclists Blindsided By City’s Erasure of Father Capodanno Bike Lane

For the second time in 12 months, the Bloomberg administration will remove a link in the bicycle network after receiving complaints from bike lane opponents. The Staten Island Advance reports that the bike lane on Father Capodanno Boulevard will not be striped again after the street is repaved. The news comes two months after the Advance published an editorial urging the city to remove the lane, and about a year after the city erased a 14-block stretch of the Bedford Avenue bike lane in response to opposition from local Hasidic leaders.

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This time the bike route on Capodanno from Midland Avenue to Drury Avenue will be wiped out. The bike lane on the inland side of Capodanno will be converted to parking and turning lanes, and, in a measure of compensation for sustainable transport, the bike lane closer to the shore will be converted into a bus lane. A portion of the bike lane that crosses Staten Island Expressway ramps will be preserved, according to DOT.

Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro and local City Council member James Oddo both applauded the change. Molinaro, Oddo, and the Advance editorial board have been clamoring for the lane to be removed for some time.

Now, without any discernible public process, most of the Capodanno lane will vanish, erasing one of the few routes for safer cycling on the island. "Father Capodanno is an integral piece of Staten Island's meager bike network, connecting bike commuters to and from the Staten Island Railway and the St. George Ferry Terminal, local cyclists to the Snug Harbor Park and Cultural Center and the Staten Island Yankees Stadium," Transportation Alternatives said in a statement released this morning. "The Bloomberg administration has apparently decided that the opposition of a few drivers and local political bosses can trump public process and the irrefutable evidence that bike lanes save lives and make streets safer for everyone."

Staten Island cyclists feel blindsided by the change. "None of us saw this coming, from a mile away," said Meredith Sladek, a member of TA's Staten Island volunteer committee. "None of us were consulted." The greenway that runs parallel to Capodanno, she said, mainly serves recreational users and doesn't meet the needs of people biking for transportation.

After dark, the greenway is interrupted due to the nighttime closure of Fort Wadsworth, near the Verrazano Bridge, which forces cyclists to take a route that crosses Staten Island Expressway ramps. The bike lane will be preserved on that portion of Capodanno, north of the intersection with Drury Avenue.

Streetsblog has phone calls in with Molinaro and Oddo, the mayor's office, and Staten Island Community Board 2 to find out about how the decision was reached.

DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told the Advance that the "redesign is tailored to meet Staten Island’s unique transportation issues. We heard from the community and worked closely with local leaders to engineer a solution that works whether you’re on transit, a bike or behind the wheel."

While Molinaro and Oddo may have burnished their reputations with local bike lane opponents, Mayor Bloomberg is undercutting his own legacy on street safety and green transportation by allowing these erasures to happen on his watch without so much as a public hearing. Even as the city makes huge strides in expanding its bike network and introducing innovative designs that are making bicycling safer and more accessible, it is sending the signal that bikeways are vulnerable to political pressure.

Here is TA's full statement about the bike lane removal:

Transportation Alternatives is deeply concerned about the City's abrupt removal of the bike lane on Father Capodanno Boulevard in Staten Island. Father Capodanno is an integral piece of Staten Island's meager bike network, connecting bike commuters to and from the Staten Island Railway and the St. George Ferry Terminal, local cyclists to the Snug Harbor Park and Cultural Center and the Staten Island Yankees Stadium. In a borough that is frequently denied the bike and pedestrian street safety improvements the Bloomberg administration has installed to make NYC's other boroughs safer, the removal of Father Capodanno is effectively a foreclosure on the right to safe cycling for Staten Islanders.

The Father Capodanno Boulevard bike lane removal occurs one year after the Bloomberg Administration removed the Bedford Avenue bike lane in Brooklyn, another key Manhattan connection for cyclists. The Bloomberg administration has apparently decided that the opposition of a few drivers and local political bosses can trump public process and the irrefutable evidence that bike lanes save lives and make streets safer for everyone. Bike lanes across NYC have proven to decrease crashes for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers up to 60%. Mayor Bloomberg’s public health efforts like the ban of smoking and trans fats are never the subject of backroom negotiation -- safe street design should not be either: all are life saving measures. We are working with the Department of Transportation to gain a better understanding of the Bloomberg Administrations’ ostensibly new political criteria for the removal of street designs that are proven to save lives.

Noah Kazis contributed to this post.

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