More Testimony From the City Council Bike Hearing

Former deputy mayor Norman Steisel, in glasses and seated far right, waits to testify at yesterday's hearing. Everyone else who testified waited longer.

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 first to give testimony, permitted to jump the queue and exceed the two-minute time limit by at least five minutes.

At one point, apparently, Steisel suggested that DOT has been leaking data to Streetsblog. While I’d like to have unfettered access to all sorts of city data, I can assure him that all the information regarding the PPW project that we get from DOT comes from their publicly accessible online presentations.

Here are two more pieces of testimony that came our way after the hearing…

From reader Joanna Oltman Smith, who testified after nearly all the committee members had left:

Delivered verbally:

I want to thank Chairman Vacca and his staff for today’s lesson in how our democracy really works whereby well-connected, powerful, very important citizens representing their own personal opinions get priority and are encouraged to buck the rules of public testimony, while earnest, early-bird, little “nobody” citizens like the rest of us are made to wait for hours.  So, I am left to wonder whether the committee, most of which is no longer present, really cares about how we feel about biking in New York?  In case you do, I will say that I firmly believe my childrens’ health and happiness, and that of all New Yorkers, depends upon improving and increasing the number of bike lanes in our City’s system, and I do mean protected ones.  I also direct you to my sincere written testimony which I am now too disheartened to deliver.

Written testimony:

Biking is important to my family for many reasons.  It reduces our dependency on driving, and that makes the air cleaner for everyone, including my seven year-old who has asthma. The more people who ride bikes around town, the easier we will all breathe.  We’ll also get great exercise and all the health benefits that come from an active lifestyle.

Our family likes to ride for fun in Prospect Park on the weekends, but now that we have a protected bike lane in our neighborhood, we can ride during the week too.  Biking on the new Prospect Park West bike lane is our favorite way to get from our house to the ballfields where my sons play after-school sports — it’s a free, easy, and fun way for us to travel!  Before the city installed the PPW bike lane, we could not ride our bikes to class, because it was impossible to get home:  Although we could ride there through the park, cars start using the park road after five o’clock which makes it too dangerous for kids and grown-ups aren’t allowed to ride on the sidewalk.  Now we have a protected bike path that even my five year-old can easily navigate.  My kids know to respect the rules of the road including stopping at red lights and yielding for pedestrians.  We love being able to ride as a family!

Biking increases our connection with our community in many ways.  We enjoy how the slower pace of biking lets us enjoy the scenery and visit with friends we pass when we are out on a bike ride together.  We know other families will ride their bikes more often as the city builds more safe, protected bike lanes. Already, many of our friends who used to drive to school now ride their bikes instead.  Isn’t that great for all of our quality of life? Less fumes, honking, and dangerous traffic conditions outside of schools mean happier, healthier kids.

My kids say it best:  “The Bike Lanes are Nice to Ride On!”

From Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff:

I was born in 1947, roughly at the midpoint of Robert Moses’ 40-year reign as New York’s “master builder.” I moved here in 1968 and became a bicycle commuter in 1973. In 1986, I began the revival of Transportation Alternatives as its president, a volunteer position I held until 1992. In the 1990s I married, and, with my wife, also a cycle commuter, moved to lower Manhattan and started a family. Our children attend public schools here and are comfortable riding on the Hudson River Greenway, on the Grand Street bike lane, and on the Manhattan Bridge bicycle path to Brooklyn. I travel by bike approximately 3,000 miles a year, in every seasons and all weather. The ability to get around on a bike is probably the thing I prize most about this city I love.

I have been waiting more than half my life for a Transportation Commissioner like Janette Sadik-Khan. Not so much to make the streets safely bikeable for myself – nothing will stop me from riding here – but for my fellow residents of this great city of ours.

Commissioner Sadik-Khan has been derided as a bicycle zealot. If she is, let that be Exhibit “A” in her defense. To design and make space for the bicycle is to make New Yorkers more healthy and less obese, more active and less passive, more efficient and less wasteful, more punctual and less chronically late, more free and less oil-dependent, more solvent and less debt-ridden. All of us, particularly in government, should be more zealous on behalf of bicycling.

I leave to others the particulars of DOT’s bicycle-promotion policies. I imagine that there is room for improvement around the edges. Let the Council please keep in mind that reversing a century of infrastructure, habits of mind, and entitlements built around cars and drivers is no simple task. What Mr. Moses cast in concrete is not quickly undone. Adding bicycles to a congealed mix of autos and pedestrians requires a period of adjustment. There will be mistakes, and there will be resistance. Please do not let the resistance inflate the mistakes into conspiracy or catastrophe.

The British author H. G. Wells famously said, “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not fear for the future of the human race.” We could all do with less fear. The Transportation Commissioner and her staff are bringing hope to our streets and our city. They deserve your support.

  • Bravo, Joanna and Charlie!

    For the record, I timed Mr. Steisel’s testimony, and he was accorded 16 minutes. He also derided NYCDOT’s data, claimed to be completely “data-driven” himself, and then provided zero real data in his testimony.

    And by the way, Joanna was waiting in the lobby when I got to 250 Broadway, at about ten past nine a.m. Mr. Steisel arrived a good twenty minutes later, behind a good 40-50 linewaiters, nearly all of them supporters of NYC’s bike-infrastructure expansion.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The data that needs to be included in public space use data and tax-funded spending data.

    Motor vehicles have most of the space and a substantial share of the tax dollars (net of tolls, gas taxes and parking fees) allocated to them.

    Pedestrians/transit get far less space (sidewalks, bus stops, the bus share of traffic, elevated trains supports). Property owners are expected to maintain their own sidewalks in addition to the tax dollars they pay.

    Substantial tax money goes to transit, not as a share of total transit spending here, but as a share of total tax revenues (because our transit system is so large).

    Bicycles cost virtually no tax dollars. And they are asking for relatively little space. And providing that space leads to more people using bicycles.

    The “sharing is hard” comment is pertinent. Particularly for those generations that will go down as the first in U.S. history to have left those following worse off.

  • It’s kind of hard to decide which of Marty’s statements was the most outrageous, but in retrospect I’m trending toward his proposal that the DoT should have no authority to make any changes in street design unless a separate, independent city agency approves the change the relevant borough president signs off as well.

    This is ludicrous. I cannot imagine a more wasteful and inefficient process than to have two separate citywide agencies with overlapping jurisdiction, sitting beneath a borough-based politician not part of citywide government with veto power. And Markowitz seems to forget that the charter revision of the 1990s definitely stripped the Borough Presidents of almost all their power, a change no one would like to reverse except Marty himself.

    Scott Stringer’s testimony was such a great counterpoint to Marty’s. Scott always seems to have done his homework and have specific, fact-based practical ideas for improving government. He’s also got good political skills in tight situations. I wonder why no one ever talks about him seriously as a mayoral candidate.

  • eliot

    Marty Markowitz is a clown. His song was a ridiculous display of contempt for the hundreds of citizens who spent took time from their day to participate in democratic government — or tried to

    The man can’t be bothered to speak like an adult in a public hearing. Why would anyone want to give him veto power over anything that matters?

    If Brooklyn Borough President was a real job, a real grownup would have it. As it is, I’m happy to have responsible planners ignore Markowitz completely.

  • Marcia Kramer’s Eyebrow

    Maybe we can do a parody of Marty’s little song? Or is it already a parody? Or a paradox?

  • Larry Littlefield

    The more I think about comparative money and public space allocated to bicycles compared with other modes (with pedestrians, for the most part, also using other modes), the more the other modes seem like a joke.

    Transit is going into decline because of a shortage of public money.

    The other “new” “growing” mode is ferries, but these too cost a lot of money, with very deep subsidies.

    And private motor vehicles require quite a bit of public money, an enormous share or public space, and an enormous investment of private money.

    Bicycle transportation requires so little, but for those who perpetually wear a face that looks like it just smelled something awful, the sort of people who frequent hearings like this, even that is too much.

  • Kristen

    When I heard how cheap the ENTIRE bike plan was, I about fell off my chair. I was truly shocked.

    BicyclesOnly, thank you so much for your tweets yesterday. I was not able to make it to the meeting, but I felt like I was there because of you. What a great service you provided for those of us who couldn’t make it.

  • *thanks* to those who took the time to testify yesterday. I was unable to attend, and so penned a lengthy note to Councilmember Vacca.

    Does anyone have Marty’s song lyrics handy? Did BicyclesOnly tweet them?


    What a buffoon! If there was ever an argument for term limits Marty Markowitz is it!

  • My pleasure Kristen! I was inspired to supernatural tweeting by the knowledge that so many people had been excluded by the timing of the hearing. And how strange that the Transpo Committee couldn’t find a larger hearing room when it must have known (or at least certain of its members knew) that only about a third of the people who showed up to testify attend would be accomodated.

    jen’s notion that anyone could tweet fast enough to keep up with Marty’s singing has my head spinning!

  • Scott Stringer’s testimony was such a great counterpoint to Marty’s. Scott always seems to have done his homework and have specific, fact-based practical ideas for improving government. He’s also got good political skills in tight situations. I wonder why no one ever talks about him seriously as a mayoral candidate.

    The time to start building him up is now, to head off Weiner in ’13.

  • Having Norman Steisel as an opponent of bike lanes is a badge of honor.

    Rarely saw such display of unadulterated self importance and arrogance. After touting (honking) his own horn, breaking all the rules , like speaking over the Chair while the Chair was telling him to stop, he left the room with great displacement of air and righteous indignation as if he had done the people’s work ….

  • If there’s a candidate who’d be in the right place on more issues than Scott Stringer, I can’t think of her (or him).

  • BicyclesOnly

    Well said, Christine!

    It occurred to me last night that Markowitz’s assertion that his motorist constituents view the privacy, security, and convenience of driving as fundamantal to their “quality of life” is highly significant. That was about the only accurate thing Markowitz said, and it is a deep truth indeed.

    For decades, livable streets advocates have been trying to foster a debate that addresses our need for safety on the road; the health, economic and other burdens of hegemonic car culture; and our desire to replace car culture with a richly-articulated, face-to-face urban culture centered on public spaces.

    And too often, that debate has never really gotten off the ground, because the motoring status quo is embedded so deeply and comprehensively in the fabric of people’s everyday life that they don’t even get what we’re talking about. They think cyclists are the source of danger on our streets, and conceptualize “freedom” as sitting in their car twice a week for ASP so that they can “escape” from the city in it.

    But now here’s Marty forced to defend the status quo by invoking values of privacy, security and convenience. This invites the debate we want. It lets us explain the moral and practical problems inherent in trying to protect one’s personal safety by giving over the streets to high-speed, armored motor vehicles. Let’s us show that costs of the motoring lifestyle in terms of personal health, economic drain, lost time, anxiety over parking, damage, tickets, etc. far outweigh any ostensible “conveniences.” And gives us a chance to prove that the heightened civic engagement that naturally follows from walking, biking and mass transit use is as a matter of lifestyle preferable to the disengaged privacy of the passenger compartment.

    So though the Commissioner says “this is a bout balance, not banning cars,” Markowitz and his ilk understand that this is about stripping away some of the unfair advantages motorists have long enjoyed. They get it, and they’re on the defensive, trying to establish the evidently false proposition that motoring promotes “quality of life.” Issue has been joined, and it’s OUR issue. This is a debate livable streets advocates will win.


  • Marco

    @BicyclesOnly – but demonizing cars only gets you so far. The pedestrian needs to be convinced that more bicycle-pedestrian interaction is better than the current car-heavy experience. That’s a heavier lift, for a variety of reasons.

  • his ilk

    “Jane, you ignorant slut!” was a great opening line by Dan Ackroyd when he debated Jane Curtin on SNL. It immediately told you what he thought about Jane’s argument, and what he though about Jane as a person. It also alerted you that his argument would be totally opposite to what Jane had said. You knew this debate would not go well. Funny yes; efficient no.

    Back to the matter at hand.

    There is a discussion taking place among people with an interest in daily transportation. By that I mean people who have given time over to the perceived problems among pedestrians, drivers and bikers on the public streets. In addition there is a great negotiation taking place every day between them but as individuals when they encounter each other on our roads. At each encounter they learn a little more how to interact. Drivers and pedestrians have had their protocols for safety worked out for some time to their own satisfaction(maybe or maybe not). Bikers who have been around forever but could be overlooked in the mix are out there in greater numbers and must now be dealt with with new protocols. Driver-and-biker, pedestrian-and-biker, biker-and-biker. They are all confused. It is imperative they all understand what each will likely do and how each could likely react in the situation at hand. That’s happening now.

    Jan Gehl said it before Commissioner Sadik-Khan, there will be a new balancing of the streets. Less freedom of movement for motor vehicles, more for pedestrians and bikers. More mobility and space for people. This is now being worked out. First by individuals, then, when a consensus is achieved, by public regulation. Until then there will be conflict. Let’s keep it civil.

  • Well put, Christine and BicyclesOnly!

    These issues are essential to elucidate in public–they expose the fallacy that cars are a long-term remedy for the city-starving conditions they in fact reproduce! I just started a blog about such things:
    In my post about thursday, I address what I think amounts to Marty et al’s generational near-sightedness, with a tender suggestion about where to find some more time-sensitive lenses.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Motorist constituents view the privacy, security, and convenience of driving as fundamantal to their “quality of life” is highly significant. That was about the only accurate thing Markowitz said, and it is a deep truth indeed.”

    My car improves my quality of life, but it decreases everyone else’s quality of life, particularly other drivers who compete with me for parking.

    Everyone else’s car reduces my quality of life, including Marty’s.

    That’s the problem.

  • Joe R.

    If anything what has been happening in the outer boroughs especially makes the case that ONLY the DOT should have authority to make changes in street design. Community boards or other city agencies should keep out of it. I’m referring of course to the huge proliferation of traffic lights in places where they are totally unnecessary from a traffic engineering point of view. All these unneeded ( and poorly timed ) lights do is increase the time car engines spend idling, adding to the already often poor air quality. It’s not up to a community board to say “we need a light at such and such intersection” because it’s “dangerous”. That should be solely up to traffic engineering professionals to decide. Fact is in general traffic lights cause more problems than they solve. They platoon cars together instead of having them naturally spread out along the road as they would be otherwise. This in turn creates more opportunity for interaction/accidents. They also cause motorists to drive on autopilot, on the assumption that a green light assures a clear intersection. Unfortunately, since humans are not infallible, this assumption can be deadly when the occasional motorist fails to notice a red light, colliding with another who assumed the way would be clear. In fact, the majority of accidents I see are indeed at signaled intersections. It’s high time in my opinion to have traffic engineers review each and every intersection with the goal of removing as many unneeded traffic lights as possible. Let the community boards complain. They had no business in the first place insisting that traffic lights be put in certain locations. It’s even easy to see which groups have the most influence by seeing where some of the most blatantly obviously unneeded traffic lights are installed. In these times of fiscal austerity the city could save a bundle by only keeping lights in places where they really are needed. My guess is the number of accidents ( and also driving speeds ) would go down dramatically. Drivers would be forced to look at each and every intersection. As a result, they could no longer speed down the road at 50 mph with a wave of green lights, assuming the way would be clear. Slower traffic plus far fewer lights in turn would benefit cyclists immensely. We want liveable streets. I’m of the opinion that the city’s overuse of traffic lights thanks to vocal community board input has been counter to that goal.

  • Joe R.

    This is definitely worth a read for anyone interested in liveable streets:

    The author feels segregated cycling infrastructure isn’t necessarily the best way to move forward. Rather, he advocates reducing speed limits for cars, reducing parking, and getting rid of all the “junk” as he calls it ( i.e. pavements, traffic signs, pedestrian crossings, traffic lights and everything else that has the function of regulating the interactions between road users ), with the goal of forcing people to “look, think, and communicate with each other in traffic.”

    I especially agree on that last point. And also with getting rid of as much motorized traffic as possible ( with the exception of e-bikes whose use should be increased ).

  • BicyclesOnly


    Who said anything about demonizing cars? My point was to try to get people to realize the actual, empirically verifiable harm they cause, and to demonstrate that as a dominant urban transport mode, on a net societal basis, they do not improve quality of life.

    As for selling people generally on the advantages of increased pedestrian-cyclist interactions, that strikes me as fruitless. No one values traffic interactions for their own sake (although for me, chance encounters with friends is one of the best things about biking versus mass transit or driving). But pedestrians could be persuaded that bike traffic is less unpleasant than car traffic if they objectively assesed the actual risks posed to them by these modes, and if the minority of cyclists who disrespect and endanger pedestrians were reformed.

  • Blind Boy Grunt

    As the saying goes, “The hearing ain’t over until the fat man sings.”

  • fdr

    “It’s not up to a community board to say “we need a light at such and such intersection” because it’s “dangerous”. That should be solely up to traffic engineering professionals to decide.”

    In fact, that’s the way it’s done. Anyone, whether a community board or an individual, can ask for a traffic light. DOT’s traffic engineers then conduct a study. It’s on the DOT web site at

  • Most of the bike supporters showed up at a 9:15 AM.
    Very, very early. Few of us got to speak. Here in my testimony.

    More Bikes, Less Cars.
    Testimony in Favor of Bike Lanes
    by Benjamin Shepard, PhD

    Benjamin Shepard here. By day, I am a college professor at New York College of Technology/CUNY. Every day, I ride my bike from Smith Street across Jay Street to Tillary, where I traverse into traffic to avoid crashing into cars double parked outside of the Court, swerving in and out of the designated bike lanes. I am certainly not alone in having this experience. According to a Hunter College study, there is a 60 percent chance of a cyclist being obstructed by a car in a bike lane (Nelson, 2009).

    For the last five years, I have participated in bike lane liberation rides as a member of Times UP! We have witnessed cars double parked in lanes, police cars in bike lanes, loading trucks in bike lanes, delivery vans in bike lanes. Yet, never have I seen a policeman arresting a car in one of these lanes. “Is this a parking lot or a bike lane? we frequently ask those parked in the lanes. “Is this thing a bike?”

    My days begin dropping my two daughters off on Prospect Park where countless kids now ride to and from school. We lost a bus line (the #71) so more and more people ride. I hope the ride will become safer as time passes and these new riders grow. I applaud the city for its commitment to cycling. But the experience must become safer so more of the new bikers can ride with confidence.

    Today, riding in New York City is not a safe experience. Over the last year, I have been doored by two cars – this year alone and that was on a bike lane. On one of the drivers even suggested it was an optional bike lane. No one should take their life in their hands when they ride to school or work.

    The New York Department of Health report “Bicyclist Fatalities and Serious Injuries in New York City1996-2005” confirms this finding. Key findings from the report note that:

    1. While bicyclist injuries declined between 1996 and 2003, fatalities remained steady.
    • Between 1996 and 2003, a total of 3,462 NYC bicyclists were seriously injured in crashes with motor vehicles.
    The annual number of serious bicyclist injuries decreased by 46% during the 8-year period.
    • Between 1996 and 2005, 225 bicyclists died in crashes. Bicyclist deaths remained steady during the 10-year period.
    2. Bicyclist fatality rates in New York City are similar to national rates, though NYC has higher rates of
    cycling for transportation.
    • The bicyclist fatality rate for NYC is similar to the national rate – 2.8 compared to 2.7 per one million residents.
    • Census data show that many more NYC adults (11% vs. 3%) walk or bicycle to work compared to the national average.
    3. Nearly all bicyclist fatalities (92%) occurred as a result of crashes with motor vehicles.
    • Most crashes (89%) occurred at or near intersections.
    • Although they make up only 5–17% of vehicles on NYC roadways, large vehicles (trucks, buses) accounted
    for almost one third (32%) of fatalities.
    • Nearly all (94%) fatalities involved poor driving or bicycle riding practices, particularly driver inattention and
    disregarding traffic signals and signs.
    • Although there are many more miles of local roads, more than half of fatal crashes occurred on arterial (large,
    four lane) roads (53%).
    • 7% of fatal crashes occurred on limited access highways, where bicycling is prohibited.
    4. Bicycle lanes and properly used bicycle equipment may reduce the risk of fatalities.

    Biking is a solution for a global city. It reduces traffic and opens up the city to new perspectives, connecting the boroughs, bridging streets and people, communities and individual riders. Yet, the program will never reach its full potential as long as there is no enforcement of traffic laws prohibiting cars from parking in the bike lanes.

    I applaud the city for the increase in bike lanes. I now ask for assistance from you in supporting safe, non-polluting transportation.

    NYDOH. Bicyclist Fatalities and Serious Injuries in New York City

    Nelson, Katie. 2009. Hunter College Survey Finds Car Drivers Block Bicycle Lanes in
    Manhattan. New York Dailey News. , 3 December 3. , Accessed 29 December 2009

  • Ben,

    Thanks for posting your statement. This thread seems like a good place to share the statements given to the City Council. Below are two statements given by members of the Transportation Alternatives East Side Volunteer Committee:

    Statement of Clark Vaccaro
    Hearing of Transportation Committee of New York City Council, 12/9/2010

    My name is Clark Vaccaro. I live on the Upper East Side and go to school on the Upper West Side. I’m thirteen years old, and since I was eight I’ve traveled mainly by bike. Thank you for this chance to explain why protected bike paths are so important to me and other teenagers.

    Bicycling is the best way to travel and explore the city. My trip to school takes half as long by bike as by bus or subway. When I’m riding, I meet people I know and learn the neighborhood in a way I never could by taxi or bus. I’ve even stopped by a few times to visit Councilmember Brewer, whose office is on my way to school.

    On the weekends, our family bikes all over the City, to places like Coney Island, the Hall of Science, Wave Hill, Arthur Avenue, Snug Harbor, and Neponsit Beach. I don’t play sports much, so bicycling is very important for keeping me healthy and focused. Many other New York families also rely on bikes for commuting, touring, and exercise.

    Families need protected bike paths. Even when I was young enough to bike legally on the sidewalk, I used the roadway because pedestrians didn’t want me there. But riding in the roadway is dangerous and unpleasant, because motorists too often tailgate, honk and pass at unsafe speeds. I use unprotected, painted bike lanes when they’re safe, but too often they’re blocked by opening car doors, double-parked vehicles, and pedestrians. Only physically-separated, protected bike paths give cyclists a safe, clear right-of-way.

    The new protected bike path on Columbus Avenue has made a huge difference in my daily commute to school. I don’t have to look out for opening car doors or motor vehicle traffic from behind. Up until now, I have only ridden with my father or other adults. But more protected bike paths mean that I can soon begin riding on my own. On behalf of all the children and teenagers in New York, I ask the Committee to support the continued construction of protected bike paths.

    Statement of Steve Vaccaro
    Hearing of Transportation Committee of New York City Council, 12/9/2010

    My name is Steve Vaccaro. I’m a lifelong New Yorker, and the proud father of Clark Vaccaro, who has already spoken today.

    I’m also the Chair of Transportation Alternatives’ East Side Committee. We’re an all-volunteer group of East Siders who work at the grassroots for improved safety and quality of life in our streets. In that role, and as a daily cyclist, I’ve spoken at nearly twenty community board meetings on cycling and pedestrian improvements.

    The DoT takes community input on street improvements very seriously. DoT delayed its Union Square redesign three times to allow maximum community input, and then heeding that input, removed several cycling and pedestrian improvements from its initial redesign plan.

    The only case I know of in which DoT acted unilaterally was its indefinite postponement last June of improvements on First and Second Avenues north of 34th Street, after Community Boards 6, 8 and 11 all voted in favor of completing those improvements this year. Our East Side Committee collected over twenty-five hundred handwritten letters to the Mayor asking for completion of the improvements all the way to 125th Street next year, but DoT has not stated when, if ever, it will do so.

    But even with this broad support for street improvements, Community Board votes will not be unanimous. Motorists who park at the curb get a free benefit from the City worth hundreds of dollars each month. So don’t be surprised that some oppose bike paths that could eliminate parking spaces. And you can expect that motorists who’ve grown accustomed to driving 40 miles per hour on broad six-lane avenues will protest traffic calming devices like narrowed lanes and pedestrian refuge islands.

    Marty Markowitz may view this as a quality-of-life issue for drivers, but for me it’s an issue of the safety of my family. These objections are no reason to stop the reallocation of a modest amount of roadway space for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, who, after all, are the majority of New Yorkers. I urge the Committee to allow DoT to proceed with these safety improvements, for me, my family, and the majority of New Yorkers who support them.

  • Thanks Steve…

    This is great. Loved your testimony as well as that of your son.
    Really great. I sent a letter to Brad L and Letitia J. thanking them.
    I think your right about forward this to them.

  • Thanks Ben, Steve and Clark for posting your testimony. I did my best to tweet the highlights, but it would be nice to see all the testimony posted here.

  • I also would appreciate seeing more of the testimonies that weren’t made at the hearing. Seconding the motion made by BicyclesOnly, here’s the letter I sent to Councilmember Vacca:

    To Councilmember Vacca and the Council Transportation Committee:

    I write to express my unwavering support for the City’s current efforts to expand our streets’ bicycle network, and by extension broaden the range of mobility choices open to New Yorkers everyday. The interventions made so far have been terrific first steps at recapturing the potential value our streets can have for all New Yorkers, but more can be done to speedily distribute health, civic vitality, and economic growth through these invaluable open spaces.

    As has been well demonstrated, the City’s forward-thinking efforts are improving safety for all street-users. Lower speeds from fewer traffic lanes have had a decreasing effect on intra-and inter-modal crashes, the air is cleaner, and more and more people of all ages are using their bodies to locomote! Particularly as we struggle to find sustainable fiscal support for our over-burdened transit system, easing its burden by giving more of us the opportunity to commute ‘in our skin’ instead of buses and subway cars, is also vitally important.

    But what is less discussed and I think essential to demonstrate to naysayers, is that more places scaled to pedestrian and cyclist mobility needs is good for property values. These enhancements make the city quieter, clean the air, spur higher volume economic development, and in general do a better job of capturing New York’s place advantage.

    Simply put, biking and walking are about *staying* in a place, while car use is about *leaving* it. I sincerely hope that the current efforts at paving and striping streets for staying signal an end to the era of planning for a New York worth leaving. All residents and business owners adjacent to these stay-able streets ought to be singing the city’s high praise for the lucrative futures readable in this renewed asphalt, and the increased access they offer to such amenities as the City’s great parks and enticing waterfronts. And those who live far from such streetgraces ought to be petitioning for them!

    Transitions, and particularly those that change up peoples’ everyday ways of knowing their places, are hard. The current backlash against streets for staying represents some very fearful reactions to unprecedented developments, but also some very rational concerns worth integrating into the City’s next street interventions. Little more than empathic listening can quiet irrational fears of change. But concerns about the “lawlessness” or “recklessness” of bicyclists encouraged by the likes of protected cycle tracks, and concerns about increasing traffic from decreased car lanes could be better addressed. I have read about the DOT’s “don’t be a jerk” campaign targeting cyclists who bike the wrong way on streets, imperiling themselves and all other road users, and I applaud this development. But if renewed streets are really a priority, then changing the perception of their safety is every bit as important as the numbers that show it. Peoples’ perceptions, afterall, are often shaped by little more than their first-hand experiences. One negative encounter with a careless cyclist can be terrible for the overall status of safer streets in the minds of affected individuals and by extension their communities.

    The City needs to better enlist the support of NYPD to maintain the safety of these lanes and the pedestrian areas to which they are adjacent. As this is a somewhat new scale of mobility regulation, it may be worth importing some street enforcement specialists from other cities with well-integrated bike-ped-transit-car networks– Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and even Paris would be great places to look–for some training in appropriate enforcement. Car-driving NYPD officers clearly need more parking space in the streets they patrol, and these ought to be better represented in DOT designs, so that other streets users’ efforts to share limited space are not stymied by their own law enforcement officers’ vehicles obstructing bike lanes. Just as ‘bus only’ lanes, we might have ‘law enforcement only’ parking spaces every 2 blocks or so.

    I also think the City would be wise to contract with organizations such as Transportation Alternatives and Streetfilms to team up with DOT and possibly with DCP to design a multi-media ‘streetshow’ to take around to various communities and unique street stakeholder groups.

    For restaurant owners, such a streetshow might address the importance of efforts to reward food delivery cyclists who not only wear helmets and use lights, but who bike with the flow of traffic. For homeowners concerned about traffic increasing or loss of on-street parking, a streetshow might show evidence-based property value findings from other cities that have slowly made streets more hospitable for people. Whether with ‘carrots’ or ‘sticks’, once convinced of their self-interest in the re-prioritization of people in streets, more New Yorkers will be likely not just to support the infrastructure already in place, but will demand more of it!

    Once again, I thank you for inviting these streets to reflect and distribute more of New York’s value. I hope that Councilmember Vacca and the entire City Council will continue to support visionary efforts to bring about a City worth staying in streets!


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 […]

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 […]

Ten Things NBBL Doesn’t Want You to Know

If opponents of an effective street safety project repeat dishonest distortions about it often enough, does that make their position true? Apparently, the Daily News editorial board thinks so. An opinion piece they published over the weekend on the Prospect Park West bike lane might as well have come straight from the desk of Gibson […]