Quick Hits From Today’s City Council Hearing on Bike Policy

Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca, far left, puts a question to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, seated at the far table in the center. Photo: Ben Fried

The line to testify at today’s Transportation Committee hearing on New York City bike policy was snaking outside into the biting cold well before the 10:00 a.m. start time. More than 70 people signed up to speak, filling up two hearing rooms at 250 Broadway.

The first few hours of the hearing, however, belonged to committee members, who peppered Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan with questions about an exhaustive array of bike-related topics: how DOT decides to install bike lanes, how they measure the success of bike lanes, how much bike lanes cost, how the city intends to discourage rule-breakers on bikes, and yes, whether cyclist registration should be required.

“Nobody disagrees that using more bicycles is a good thing, but in a city where traffic is horrendous and finding a parking space is difficult, bike policy is all about tradeoffs,” committee chair Vacca said in his introduction. “Too many people are starting to get the impression that bike policy is about getting them to give up their cars.”

All of Streetsblog’s editors and reporters are gathering for our annual strategy session this afternoon, so unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the full hearing. But here are a few quick hits that will hopefully give a sense of where certain Council members stand on bike policy:

  • Vacca had the mic longer than other committee members and had the longest exchanges with Sadik-Khan. One question about the cost of building bike lanes yielded an answer that will be of particular interest to Streetsblog readers. All of the current DOT’s bike projects combined have cost a total of $8.8 million, including analysis, design, outreach, and construction, Sadik-Khan said. When you factor in the 80 percent federal match, the city has spent less than $2 million from its own coffers on the major expansions to the bike network we’ve seen the last few years.
  • Queens representative Peter Koo, who represents Flushing, said, “In my experience, I hardly see any people using the bike lanes. Meanwhile, the motorists have no place to park, and business people have no place for deliveries.” Statistics laying out the substantial bicycle volumes on certain streets — in the range of 10 to 20 percent of peak hour traffic on several corridors, Sadik-Khan said — did not sway him. “Some parts of the city, downtown areas, don’t need bike lanes,” he said. “They should go in suburban areas.”
  • Southern Brooklyn’s Lew Fidler said residents in his neighborhoods will not commute by bike and questioned the utility of long-term planning when it comes to bike infrastructure. He professed not to understand the DOT priority on building bike lanes that would yield a more connected, cohesive network of safe cycling routes. He also asked DOT to come back and install a bike lane along recreational routes by the water in his district.
  • Tish James asked DOT to expand the bike network in Brooklyn beyond the downtown core and neighboring communities, into central and southern Brooklyn. “The objections of my colleagues notwithstanding, I can think of no better way of addressing the sedentary lifestyle than expanding the bicycle network.” She also asked for more physically protected lanes in Brooklyn.
  • The first and, I believe, only council member to bring up the idea of mandatory registration for cyclists was David Greenfield, a freshman who represents parts of Borough Park, Midwood, and Bensonhurst.
  • East Side representative and occasional cyclist Daniel Garodnick asked how pedestrians’ perception of safety on streets with new bike lanes can be addressed. “Even before bike lanes, the number of complaints about riders who do improper things is high,” he said. He welcomed DOT’s new “Don’t be a jerk” education campaign, but he’d like to see more from the police. “I hope DOT will encourage NYPD to do proper enforcement of the rules, so that as we expand the bike network, people will use it properly,” he said.
  • Another East Side rep, Jessica Lappin, took a harder line on cyclist enforcement. “What people are doing is breaking the law and putting lives at risk,” she said. “I’ve heard countless stories of people who’ve been hit, killed, the list goes on and on.”

There were several camera crews in the cramped hearing room. Can’t wait to see how the coverage shakes out from this one.

If you want to report from the latter parts of the hearing or you have testimony that you’d like to share, drop us a line in the comments or send us an email at tips@streetsblog.org. You can also get lots of good snippets of testimony from the Twitter feed of Streetsblog reader BicyclesOnly.

With the hearing room full, lots of people were still waiting outside 250 Broadway when the Transportation Committee got started this morning.
  • Sounds almost as heart-warming as a CB 12 Traffic & Transportation Committee meeting!

  • J. Mork

    In a city where a minority own cars, I get the impression that the bike policy is about giving everyone else another choice for better mobility.

  • fdr

    According to the Daily News, Marty Markowitz sang his testimony. Leaving aside the merits of the debate, leave it to Marty to be a buffoon whenever the opportunity arises.

    “The two sides in New York’s great bike lane debate squared off during a City Council hearing today. More than 70 pro- and anti-bike lane advocates were signed up to weigh in on the subject but only one (so far) came prepared with a song (if no dance).

    That would be Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough President who sang the lyrics printed on the Christmas card he’s about to send out to supporters and others. Marty has been a vocal critic of a new bike lane on Prospect Park West but says he supports bike lanes elsewhere.”

    Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2010/12/martys-favorite-lanes-beep-sin.html#ixzz17e9zVFP5

  • Streetsman

    Yes, the city’s bike policy should be about a commitment to making commuting by bicycle a safe OPTION for those who choose it. New Yorkers who choose to travel by car have an entire 6,375-mile citywide network of vehicular-dedicated, safely engineered roadways, complete with lane striping, wayfinding signage, electronic traffic signals, 140,000 street lights, and lord only knows how many thousands upon thousands of subsidized free or low-cost on-street parking spaces at their disposal, all to make their travels safe and convenient. New Yorkers who choose to travel by bike have a modest 420 lane-miles of a somewhat connected, sometimes safe, rarely dedicated network of facilities. On all other streets they are taking their life into their hands, battling with moving traffic, harassed by drivers, subject to dooring, and will never EVER find available parking comparable to what is provided for vehicles. It’s not about a war on drivers or screwing the small business owner in favor of spandex racers, anarchist hipsters, renegade deliverymen, snobby elitists, or some other media-hyped cycling archetype, it is about making this clean, healthy, and efficient mode of transportation a safe and viable option for all New Yorkers. When I hear politicians talking about how bike lanes should only be in parks, along the waterfront, or in suburbs, they really aren’t getting that at all.

  • Lappin has heard “countless” stories of people being killed by cyclists? I can’t believe we elected a councilwoman who couldn’t count on one hand.

  • Doug

    Streetsman: Like. Well put – it’s the kind of well-reasoned statement that gets no response from bike-haters, just like the myriad other data reported on streetsblog. Bike advocates can-and do-meet any objection from the motorhead corner head on, yet never have the courtesy of a reply.

  • chuck

    I got this from Transportation Alternatives earlier today – still an hour left for you to EMAIL testimony:

    Dear T.A. Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and East Side Committees,

    Right now the City Council is holding the oversight hearing on bicycling. We showed up. We filled up the room until security wouldn’t let any more of us in. Many of us were left out in the cold, standing in line outside the building. Your voice can still be heard. Because of the space constraints, Council Member Vacca’s legislative policy analyst, Nivardo Lopez, will be accepting testimony via email until the close of business at 5pm today. Email NLopez@council.nyc.gov now and he’ll add your testimony to the file.

    It is important to speak from your individual experience in your testimony but here are some ideas for talking points that your testimony could include:

    A) Bicycling is great for NYC and for New Yorkers. Bike lanes make it safer for New Yorkers of all ages and abilities to give bike riding a try. In fact, streets with bike lanes have led to a 40 percent decreases in crashes for pedestrians, drivers and cyclists, as well as lowered rates of speeding, according to before and after data gathered by the DOT.

    B) Streets and sidewalks make up 80 percent of our public space in NYC. Re-thinking how we use our streets and sidewalks and making them safer through design ensures that we are using our public space in an equitable way to benefit the majority of New Yorkers who take transit, walk and increasingly, bike.

    C) Bike lanes are safety improvements just like sidewalks. They allow people to bike safely and they create a predictable place for cyclists to be on the street. Bike lanes improve bike behavior. Streets with bike lanes have seen an 84 percent decrease in the rates of sidewalk riding.

    D) The bike lanes that the City has added in the past 3.5 years are encouraging neighborhood friendly bike commuting. Biking is a healthy thing for New Yorkers — counter-acting epidemics like diabetes and asthma — and helps clean the air we breathe.

    E) All of the bike lanes that have been added are a part of the NYC Bicycle Master Plan, a citywide plan that was the result of extensive community input. Every bike lane that has been added has gone through the Community Board prior to installation, a forum in which all citizens are allowed to participate. Like sidewalks, bike lanes work best when they are continuous, and lead to somewhere.


    Caroline Samponaro
    Director of Bicycle Advocacy

  • Larry Littlefield

    “All of the current DOT’s bike projects combined have cost a total of $8.8 million, included analysis, design, outreach, and construction, Sadik-Khan said. When you factor in the 80 percent federal match, the city has spent less than $2 million from its own coffers on the major expansions to the bike network we’ve seen the last few years.”

    If New York City were a separate state, it would have the highest state and local tax burden as a share of personal income in the country, save for Alaska where oil companies pay most of the taxes.

    And what do we get for that? Take a look in a couple of years.

    And in exchange for that tax burden, they’re complaining because a dollar a New Yorker has been spent and a fraction of the total street space has been allocated to those who want to get around by bicycle? Give me a break.

  • Myself and CB2 (Manh.) Transportation Committee Chair Shirley Secunda gave our testimony at 3pm and stayed until the hearing wrapped up at 3:25. I give credit to Chair Vacca and Tish James, who stayed all the way until the end. A couple others (Lander, Van Bramer) actually stayed beyond the first round of DOT and elected officials, but the rest bailed very early on. The comments, from a wide range of people of all different backgrounds, elderly, young, health professionals, transportation professionals, and from all 5 boroughs (plus NJ!), were overwhelmingly supportive of the existing bike infrastructure and the expansion thereof. For the large number of people who were unable to stay for hours until their turn to speak, if you were in favor of livable streets, your position was well represented.

  • Joe R.

    Cyclist registration? I really hope nobody takes that seriously. Maybe for commercial cyclists it might make some sense but not for anyone else. All it will do is give police yet another excuse to harass and/or randomly stop cyclists.

    I’m also rapidly tiring of hearing about cyclists breaking laws. A lot of the law breaking ( i.e. sidewalk riding, passing red lights ) exists because of inadequate/unsafe infrastructure and/or traffic laws that make little sense to apply to bicycles. Give cyclists good infrastructure plus a set of laws that make sense for their mode of transport first. Only after you do that start worrying about lawbreakers. Funny how we never hear complaints about pedestrians regarding their nearly universal jaywalking and crossing against the light. We don’t because every NYer is a pedestrian at one time or another, and this behavoir is simple survival. Same thing for what cyclists do, although I can’t condone overtly reckless behavoir like riding fast on sidewalks, going against traffic, or passing lights without bothering to look or slow down. Unfortunately, most of that type of behavoir is economically driven, casued by paying delivery cyclists by the delivery instead of by the hour. Maybe we need legislation to require paying delivery cyclists an hourly wage.

    The comment of the day though came from the person who said “I’ve heard countless stories of people who’ve been hit, killed, the list goes on and on.” Not surprisingly, she was from the East Side, a haven of fairly recent out-of-town transplants who simply can’t cope with the issues of living in a big city, want to make New York resemble whatever small town they came from. If all these people have been killed or injured by bikes, then show me the statistics. You can’t because bikes simply aren’t responsible for the carnage bike-haters say they are. And if more people on the East Side would pick up their own food, you wouldn’t have all those delivery cyclists whizzing along the sidewalks. I’m convinced some people like to create their own problems just so they have something to complain about.

  • Thanks for the update, Ian. I’m in the photo above, right at the front of the line in (safety) orange, so I did miss getting in. But in retrospect I think that was a good thing.

  • BicyclesOnly

    What Streetsman said.

  • Joe R.

    I’m going to call out Peter Koo for his comment about people hardly using bike lanes. For starters, there are no bike lanes in downtown Flushing to use ( or to be hardly used ). Maybe he should get out more and familiarize himself with the local streets. Second, a number of years ago there appeared to be heavy bicycle use in downtown Flushing, even with no bike lanes, as evidenced by the sheer number of bikes locked to any and all street fixtures along Main Street. I’ll guess many of these bikes were used by students going to the library at Main Street and Kissena Blvd. Apparently this “eyesore” of parked bikes offended the sensibilities of influential people ( nevermind how ugly rows of parallel-parked cars make a street look ), and the police apparently cracked down. If people hardly use bicycles in Flushing now as Koo says, perhaps it’s because the city choose to not allow them anywhere to park. Bike parking is as important as bike lanes. Locking to street fixtures is parking of last resort. Cyclists woud prefer and use safe indoor parking if it existed over lampposts.

  • fdr

    Nothing like creating stereotypes, Joe R. There are at least a few East Siders who aren’t out of town transplants who can’t cope with living in a big city and don’t pick up their own food. And “the person” who said she’s heard countless stories, Jessica Lappin, is a lifelong resident of Manhattan. You can agree with her or not, but your stereotypes are no more valid than the arrogant, self-righteous cyclists who think they don’t have to obey the law…oops.

  • Marco

    Yeesh – $8.8 million in government spending on cycling projects, and some people want to prevent the city from buying “no cycling on sidewalk” pedestrian safety decals because they’re “too expensive.”

  • MinNY

    8 Million on bicycle infrastructure spending over the years, with only 2 million or so coming out of the City’s budget. That’s 25¢ per New York City resident out of the city’s pocket. I’m tempted to give anyone who really hates the bike lanes their quarter back.

  • Joe R.


    Sure, there are absolutely still some native NYers on the East Side although their numbers are dwindling. However, if I took a poll, I’ll guess the majority of complaints come from recent transplants. Moreover, I couldn’t care less whether Jessica Lappin is a life long resident of Manhattan or not. She has no business making up things like the hyperbole about countless people being killed or injured by cyclists. The statistics don’t support that. I welcome opposing points of view provided the person sticks to facts. Once they start making things up, to me they’re no longer worth listening to.

    As for the arrogant, self-righteous cyclists you mentioned, they’re a minority by far. To me it’s important to distinguish between unsafe and safe behavoir. Obeying the law doesn’t always keep one safe, disobeying it doesn’t always place one in danger, and traffic laws designed for motor vehicles really don’t make sense to apply to cyclists or pedestrians. Unfortunately, the dinosaurs in the legislature don’t see it that way.

  • Marco

    @MinNY – I’m not really concerned about how much is city vs state vs federal – I’m just astonished that there are those at Transportation Alternatives and others who wanted the community residents to go out of pocket to pay for the pedestrian safety decals, because they were too expensive for the city/state/federal government to buy.

    In light of this $8.8 million figure, that’s quite unbelievable.

  • BicyclesOnly


    We shouldn’t generalize about upper east siders (full disclosure: I’m one) but I’ll cut Joe some slack because (1) payback’s due for my own Manhattan-centrism and (2) Lappin came off like a real prima donna and the complaints she’s hearing are mostly wildly exaggerated baloney, as I have heard them all too many times before from the people she appoints to CB8.

    But these complainers are not recent transplants; quite the opposite. The complainers are curbside parking, rent-stabilized or controlled, Mitchell-Lama’ed and otherwise heavily subsidized UES lifers who can’t deal with the bike traffic caused by their own insatiable appetite for delivered food and the fact that Yorkville is increasingly inhabited by recent transplants living in 3 and 4 person shares who bike because the transit sucks so bad in their neighborhood. Shame on Jess Lappin for ignoring these these recent arrivals in Yorkville and pandering so heavily to the haters.

    And Joe is right on target about biking in Flushing. I am astonished that Peter Koo actually had the nerve to trash bike lanes so heavily when there are virtually none in his district, and I’ll bet a substantial number of his his constituents make a living delivering food on bikes. I was in downtown Flushing last summer and I saw bikes EVERYWHERE!

    And Marco, decals on the sidewalk to discourage sidewalk cycling is misguided because they don’t work. They’re all over the UES and have no impact. It’s a waste of money because it has zero effect. CB7 shld be more active in getting their precinct to do enforcement; UES’ers put pressure on their precinct and have made it into the highest-summons precinct for cyclists in the city. More fundamentally, what is needed is state legislation to make the employers of the delivery people pay the ticket.

  • Ken

    BicyclesOnly, you’re right on re: the decals. But Lappin is responding to the people who vote, who by and large aren’t 20-somethings packed into shares but seniors and other long-term residents. And the squeaky wheel always gets the grease, and these folks squeak plenty loud.

  • Joe R.


    Thanks for the show of support and also for correcting some of my preconceived notions about the UES. It’s all too easy to resort to stereotyping here, unfortunately. I’ll also admit to becoming a bit tired of all the negativity which seems to rear its ugly head any time cycling is discussed in public meeetings. That sometimes affects my clarity of thought.

    Yes, loads of bikes here in Flushing, and many aren’t even used by delivery people. I’m increasingly seeing bicycles parked outside banks, groceries, drug stores. A few bicycles I even see regularly enough to recognize. Even during the worst months last winter when it was in the teens, I saw a reasonable number of people out and about on bikes. They weren’t all delivery people, either. All this despite the limited infrastructure ( all we have by me are door-zone lanes on 73rd Avenue, Jewel Avenue, and 164th Street ). Imagine how it might be with more infrastructure. This all bodes well for the future of cycling in the outer boroughs. This is really where we have the most potential to replace car trips with bike trips.

  • eLK

    Stand on a street corner for 5 minutes. How many cyclists break a law? How many pedestrians cross against the light or are standing in the street? How many cars or trucks push into the crosswalk on a red or block the box, or are double parked? Go ahead. Tally it up.


  • Glad we have the Vaccaros to keep this Vacca in line!

  • Marcia Kramer’s Eyebrow

    I’d like my 25 cents back. Oh wait, I don’t live here!

  • tom

    Sorry to hear “All of Streetsblog’s editors and writers are gathering for our annual strategy session this afternoon” and presumably could not be there for the most important CC hearing of the year for biking. There’s another person who, I think, was looking for an excuse not to be there. That would be Commissioner Sadik-Khan. I was there and that was not pepper but buckshot the CC members hit her with today. She limped in on a cane after a foot operation, it was reported by the chairman, CM Vacca. I suspect DM Goldsmith strongly suggested she show. Or was it the Mayor, the Daily News, the Times and the Post?

    Her testimony was disingenuous at best. She would testify that biking in NYC had increased dramatically but could not remember any hard numbers. “I’ll have to get back to you.” This is what a Transportation Commissioner says to her oversight committee. Not believable.

    It was also silly at points. She claimed that more biking and bike lanes were needed to attack the “obesity epidemic”, and implied the lanes helped in the City’s economic recovery of late. To this I proposed the City immediately fund stationary bikes and salads for all. Controversy-free solutions.

    I do remember right after the Commissioner spoke Norman Steisal gave detailed testimony about the Prospect Park West protected bike lane, why no mention? This was the-issue-of-the-month just yesterday. He said DOT was not sharing information with local opponents, and he presented testimony of data they had collected that appears to contradict information put out by DOT.

    Can’t wait for this hearing to replay on Crosswalks(Channel 74 on Time Warner in Brooklyn) a month from now. If you can please post the time and day on the events calendar for all to note? Thank you.

  • Of course you’re right, Ken. But just maybe we are witnessing the birth of NYC cyclists as a cohesive electoral constituency.

  • @tom (#25):

    You misquoted S’blog editor Ben Fried. He didn’t say that S’blog staff “could not be there for the most important CC hearing of the year for biking” (your words), but that they couldn’t stay for the duration, i.e., into the mid-afternoon. When I left the hearing, just before noon, Ben was fully present, note-taking away.

    You brand as “silly” Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan’s stance that more biking is an effective strategy against the obesity epidemic, which for some reason you placed in quotes. Do you not believe that obesity has and is still rising relentlessly, with huge consequences to personal and societal solvency and well-being, particularly in poor and minority communities? Do you think you are better informed on that score than Councilmember Tish James, who today rightly assailed the sedentary lifestyles of fellow African-Americans and appealed for bike “access to the parkways and shoreways of our borough of Brooklyn” — in large part so they could enjoy healthful physical activity along with fresh air and open spaces?

    It is true, and it was surprising, that Commissioner Sadik-Khan couldn’t provide a figure on the number of daily cyclists in NYC. But she did enumerate the rate of growth in cycling here in recent years, which arguably is a more important metric.

    Your speculation about Sadik-Khan’s motivation for attending is offensive, in light of her very recent surgery. She should be commended for her physical courage.

    As for Steisel’s testimony (which I missed), we’ll all look forward to combing over his numbers and reviewing his analysis. Where are they?

  • Brent

    Those complaining about bicycle lanes ought to be prepared to offer solutions to the traffic, pollution, and public health problems the commissioner is trying to fix in one (inexpensive) stroke.

  • BicyclesOnly


    You SO have Steisel’s number. Every time he added another “eyewitness account” and “documented incident” to his parade of horribles, without providing any details, he lost more credibility.

    I do hope PSN will demand in writing that he and his client produce the evidence to back up the claims of a spike in crashes, peds injured by cyclists, and loss of emergency vehicle access, all due to the PPW path.

  • this was sad and pathetic. the irrational fear of bicycles held by nypd has spread like a cancer to too many corners of the city.

    critical mass is our only defense. do you still remember how, NYC?

  • At least we are winning the battle against the environment!

  • As climate disasters pummel the planet, big polluters are trying to weaken a global climate treaty in Cancún.


    Maybe we should have hearings on bringing back smoking in bars and restaurants?

  • A true town hall meeting should not be be limited in access and a one-shot event, nor skewed to those with exteme power such as the fossil fuel industry.

    It must be open source and democratic.

  • My favorite testimony came from Mel Wymore, Chair of CB7, who said that the only issue more controversial than bike lanes, the only issue that generates more phone calls and complaints…is dog runs.

    Why? Because sharing is hard, Wymore said. When a group of people have to share something that previously wasn’t, feathers get ruffled. It takes some getting used to.

    Another thing that struck me as interesting was a theme throughout the council members’ questions and statements: the difference between “noticing” something and “studying” something.

    Council members Koo and Vacca (as well as PPW resident Steisel) commented how they “noticed” a low number of cyclists in bike lanes when they looked at them, therefore implying that they aren’t necessary. The DOT studies things, it does not “notice” things. It does not go to one location for a couple of hours and take general notes about what is happening. The DOT does studies that last weeks or months and runs dozens and dozens of trial runs down streets before and after redesigns to measure changes in travel times.

    It seems that some council members simply aren’t comfortable admitting that some people actually have the means to KNOW something. (Especially when that person is a confident woman such as Sadik-Khan.)

    As for Steisel, perhaps the reason he’s generating so few comments here is because his testimony was worthless claptrap filled with one contradiction after another. He kept spewing about how there is no data, or about how no data has been made available, yet nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that Steisel does not like what the data shows and will ignore study after study.

    I agree with the woman who testified that the hearing was a great lesson in representative democracy. The wealthy, powerful, and connected were able to waltz in and testify without waiting and flout the 2-minute testimony rule, while those of us who bothered to show up early were forced to wait for hours to speak to only the one or two council members who had the decency to stick it out until the end.

    Also, Marty Markowitz is a 100% bona fide buffoon. I’m dismayed that taxpayer dollars will be used to spread his ideology in the form of a puerile anti-bike-lane holiday card mailed to Brooklynites.

    Also, Letitia James rocks.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I agree with the woman who testified that the hearing was a great lesson in representative democracy. The wealthy, powerful, and connected were able to waltz in and testify without waiting and flout the 2-minute testimony rule, while those of us who bothered to show up early were forced to wait for hours to speak to only the one or two council members who had the decency to stick it out until the end.”

    I’m glad you learned the lesson. Just to complete it, it sound as if this public hearing was way above average. Thank goodness for the internet.

  • Can someone please dig up pictures of PPW from the late 1800s through the 1950s? A link would be great. I’d like to give them to the people who say the bike lane defouls the historic character of the neighborhood.

    I’ve heard there was a streetcar — and only one lane of car parking — on PPW through the early 1950s. If people are so concerned with the area’s historical appearance, I’d gladly sacrifice the bike lane so we can get a streetcar back on PPW. All of the sake of history, of course.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Can someone please dig up pictures of PPW from the late 1800s through the 1950s? A link would be great. I’d like to give them to the people who say the bike lane defouls the historic character of the neighborhood.”

    I just have it in a frame, not on line, but I’ve shown up to a couple of local events in the neighborhood with a picture from the 1950s.

    There was a two-track streetcar line with stations along the park. As a result, people had to “look both ways” before entering the park.

    It was replaced by a bus line that was one way on two avenues, and which has now been eliminated.

    The picture is by the Sanders Theater, so I can’t tell if there was one moving lane or two on the rest of the street.

    Noted a bike lane opponent when I showed him the picture: I don’t see any bikes in that picture.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Oh, and in the book about Brooklyn transportation “How We Got To Coney Island” you find that local NIMBY’s objected to the installation of electric trolley cars on Prospect Park South West because they might obstruct the carriages entering the park at Park Circle. But electric trolleys were installed. I guess back then you had politicians who were willing to stand up to the carriage trade.

  • Doug, check out the city’s interactive map. There are aerial photos from 1924 and 1955 rectified onto the map grid; click on the camera icon.

  • The other piece of Markowitz posturing that needs debunking is the “scrappy underdog” routine where he argues “if-it’s-good-enough-for-PPW-why-not-do-it-on-5th-Avenue-in-Manhattan.” Don’t get me wrong–I would love to see a bike facility installed on 5th Ave–but I can think of three reasons off the top of my head that distinguish the rationale for the PPW facility that don’t apply, or don’t apply with the same force, on PPW:

    1) 5th Avenue hosts a massive amount of bus traffic–not just the M1, M2, M3 and M4, but also at least ten different express buses not to mention plenty of charter buses to the museums and double-decker tourist buses. The bus traffic is so intense that there are dedicated bus lanes that supplant the parking lanes during rush hour. There is certainly an argument to be made that on 5th Avenue, buses are a more efficient use of road space than cars OR bicycles.

    2) park slope, the neighborhood adjacent to PPW, has one of the highest commuter cycling rates in the city, eight times the rate found on the Upper East Side (~2% vs. ~0.25%). Now in my view, it would be valid to target cycling facilities to areas with below-average active transportation levels, in order to promote cycling and walking, but taking this approach on 5th Avenue comes close to the roadway “ideology” and “experimentation” that Markowitz & co. denounce so rabidly. In contrast, it is difficult to (rationally) argue against putting bike facilities in the neighborhoods where people are already biking in large numbers.

    3) In addition to heavy bus traffic, 5th Avenue has very heavy taxi traffic. In my experience, both buses and taxis tend to speed less because they’ve got professional drivers, and cabbies are often riding slow because they’re cruising for fares. I’m also pretty sure that Fifth has a higher volume of traffic overall than PPW. The heavy volume and the tendencies of all these commercial drivers keep the traffic on 5th down at 30 or less most of the time. In contrast, PPW had a very serious problem with excess capacity and speeding before the bike path was put in.

    4) There’s also a much higher volume of pedestrian traffic on 5th Ave. than on PPW. Museum Mile is huge draw for tourists and locals alike, not to mention the Zoo and the overflow from the shopping district that begins at 5th and 59th Street. For sure, a creative engineer/designer could come up with a bike facility on 5th Avenue that would accomodate and fairly allocate space among pedestrians, motor vehicles and cyclists. But the extraordinary tourist-heavy pedestrian volume would always be there to undermine the efficiency and safety of the facility. (This is the only arguments against the Broadway bike path through Midtown that carries any weight with me, and the reason why that path disappears in the 40s). One hopes that Ms. Lynn and the other PPW resident who were invited to jump the queue to testify shoulder-to-shoulder yesterday with Steisel would be somewhat less clueless in how to navigate around a bike path than the tourist crowd on Fifth Avenue.

  • Make that four reasons!

  • Doug G.,

    Here’s a 1915 photo of Bartel-Pritchard Square, with the Prospect Park West trolley at left.

  • Eric,

    Thanks for that link! I will personally volunteer to have a copy printed and give it to anyone who pulls out the “you’re killing the historic charm of our street” argument.

    Also, thank you for your succinct debunking of Steisel in your testimony yesterday.

  • Mike

    On the other hand, CPW would make a GREAT place for a protected bike path. Fewer tourists or pedestrians, fewer (no?) buses, and the traffic really is in need of calming, for whatever reason.

  • dJay

    Hey Fried! you forgot this put-down by Jessica Lappin:

    “I will tell my staff that despite our negotiations, I guess the top of the agency is not engaged.”

    Surprised the DOT didn’t do more homework for this.

  • dJay,

    JSK could have handled the encounter with Lappin a little better, but the most that Lappin established is that JSK was not fully “engaged” with the particular crash data collection and disclosure bill that Lappin is sponsoring. If Lappin’s people are in fact negotiating the provisions of the bill with the DoT, then nothing could more surely bring the negotiations to a premature end than trying to corner the Commissioner while the TV cameras are rolling at a public hearing and insist that she take a position on the bill. Lappin’s petulant exit from the hearing room after delivering her quip further damaged what was left of her credibility, in my eyes.

  • Frances Beebe

    I would love to see someone discuss pedestrian lawbreaking and motorist’s disgregard for cycling lanes, as well as the right of cyclists to ride on the street. I don’t mean in any way that cyclist’s should disobey laws but that proper context is necessary to shed some light on how to fix the animosity. If we are discussing a PR campaign such as “Dont be a jerk!” then shouldn’t it also ask pedestrians not to J-Walk and motorists not to double park in bike lanes? A little understanding for all modes of transportation and everyone’s rights would go a long way towards fixing the disrespect and making the city safer.

  • Sproule Love
  • Chris

    ahaha, Rosalie’s quote is priceless.

  • I fully support Jessica Lappin. I live in the Upper East Side and see bicyclists riding on the sidewalks literally every day, usually 2 or 3 times. Their actions are extremely reckless and dangerous. Most are delivery people, but some are not. There is no reason why existing law should not be enforced.


The NBBL Files: Norman Steisel’s Ideas Became Jimmy Vacca’s Bills

Editor’s note: With yesterday’s appellate ruling prolonging the Prospect Park West case, Streetsblog is running a refresher on the how the well-connected gang of bike lane opponents waged their assault against a popular and effective street safety project. This is the fourth installment from the six-part NBBL Files. This piece originally ran on October 11, 2011. This is […]

More Testimony From the City Council Bike Hearing

The definitive account of yesterday’s Transportation Committee hearing on NYC bike policy has got to be the stream of tweets from BicyclesOnly, which are still pretty close to the top of his feed if you want to take a look. He reported that former deputy mayor and PPW bike lane opponent Norman Steisel was the […]

For Nearly Two Years, Ex-NYC DOT Chief Has Undercut the Signature Street Safety and Sustainable Transportation Agenda of Her Successor

Tomorrow, Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Bert Bunyan is expected to weigh in for the first time on the core arguments brought by opponents of the Prospect Park West redesign against the City of New York. Ostensibly, the dispute is between the anti-bike lane groups known as “Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes” (NBBL) and “Seniors for […]

Eric Ulrich’s Cure for BQE Potholes: Stop Building Public Plazas

Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca convened a hearing this afternoon on NYC DOT’s plaza program, a sequel of sorts to the bike policy hearing where opponents of the Prospect Park West bike lane got a big media moment and several council members laid out their windshield perspective on bike lanes for all to see. Today, […]