Markowitz on PPW Data: It’s a Vast Biking Conspiracy

It’s hard to know what to say after viewing this CBS2/Marcia Kramer segment. Watch Marty Markowitz allege that bike counts on Prospect Park West were inflated because advocates got tipped off by DOT about when the counts would happen, then biked over to use the new lane on those days. Your jaw may drop.

Marty seems to have either lost the ability to distinguish truth from fiction, or his stubbornness is just all-consuming and he’s ceased to care about his public credibility.

Naparstek retrieved this Markowitz quote from an interview with WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein last April, which seemed to indicate that Marty would accept the PPW redesign if it panned out:

I think the two-way bicycle lanes will cause a great inconvenience to the residents of Prospect Park West… I hope that the commissioner and the department is right. If they’re right, and in fact it causes no bottlenecks, no inconvenience, and if it works, I’ll be the first to say I was wrong. I would.

The data shows that the project has met these criteria. So how far will Marty contort himself to defend his position? How long can he hold out, clinging to the notion that the street should go back to its prior incarnation as a three-lane speedway? The longer he does, the more he’ll be remembered as the Borough President who wanted Brooklyn to be plagued by dangerous streets.

Also, as Naparstek points out, how can Marcia Kramer and CBS2 broadcast this slander and not think to call up the advocates whom Markowitz accuses of collusion?

  • Marcia Kramer’s Eyebrow

    It’s completely preposterous. It’s hard to know what to say. But regardless of his logic…I do think he is actually giving the bike community way too much credit to mobilize over something like this. Really.

  • ddartley

    “Come with me/And you’ll be/In a world of Pure Imagination”

    This is important–his entire case is now pure imagination. “They tipped them off?” This is important to remember and point out IF the debate continues.

  • somebody

    Marty is a fool and a distraction. Concentrate on the NBBLers and their impending lawsuits.

  • LN

    All this political and media pushback game against cyclists is lots of political hype and perhaps might yield more readers and voters. But on the street it’s no game – the anger it’s been whipping up means cars are passing bikes a little closer, a little faster, there’s a lot less caring and sharing the road. You can feel that the streets have gotten more dangerous for bikes in these last weeks. And I’m not talking about the snow and ice!

  • Since Ben mentioned CBS2’s Marcia Kramer, I can’t resist posting the e-mail I sent her last April, suggesting a story idea on traffic crashes and NYPD stonewalling.

    Hi Marcia —

    How are you? We crossed paths way back when, during your stint at the Daily News, as City Hall bureau chief. I was an energy-policy guy, and still am, though I’ve mostly switched to transportation.

    I’m writing to interest you in doing a story on the NYPD’s blanket rejection of information requests on crash investigations of fatal bicycle crashes. An attorney I know at a Park Ave. law firm has tried for years (as a private citizen) to obtain NYPD Accident Investigation Squad reports on perhaps a dozen such incidents. In most cases he has been rebuffed, seemingly for no good reason.

    My interest is not just as a bicycling advocate (I was president of Transportation Alternatives 20 years ago) but as someone who has sifted through and analyzed hundreds of fatal crashes to pedestrians and cyclists and has published reports such as Killed By Automobile.

    It’s really hard to improve prevention programs and safety policies without direct access to hard data on the circumstances of serious crashes. By withholding such information, the NYPD is depriving New Yorkers of valuable data that could save lives.

    While it’s not a breaking story, I feel it’s one that the viewing public might find compelling, particularly when told through a mix of anecdotes and context. You’d be a great person to tell it.

    Please write or give me a call to discuss?

    Thanks and all best,

    Charles (Komanoff)

    I never heard back, not even after sending a follow-up note a month-and-a-half later. Yet I still think notes like this, though not nearly as compelling as Aaron Naparstek’s recent letter to NY Post reporter Sally Goldenberg, still contribute to livable streets advocacy. Comments? Suggestions?

  • mark davis

    The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their own abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to the situation in which less competent people rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence. Competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. “Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    Well, no one told me. And was it just one day?

    Can those rubber hoses measure bikes? They should set one up next June.

  • eveostay

    There are hose-type counters on the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge bike path. So it would seem the answer is yes.

    -eveostay (formerly J. Mork)

  • So DOT, NYPD, Councilmembers Lander and Levin, Brooklyn Community Board 6, Transportation Alternatives, Park Slope Neighbors and the Park Slope Civic Council, among others, are all in a grand conspiracy to fix the data to advance a radical campaign to make our streets safer.

    Atlantic Yards, on the other hand, was all on the up and up.

  • Ken

    As has been pointed out before, even if not one single cyclist ever used the lane, it would still be a success due to its effect on calming traffic and significantly lowering injuries. To hear a city official essentially accuse a city agency of fraud is incredible and unprecedented in my experience. It just shows the sense of entitlement motorists and their advocates have that the streets belong only to them, and the dread that this entitlement may be in jeopardy.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    while the highly skilled underrate their own abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority.

    Finally! This explains my inferiority complex.

  • Ken

    Or, as Yeats put it, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    are full of passionate intensity.”

  • Atlantic Yards, on the other hand, was all on the up and up.

    That’s it, isn’t it, Eric? If Markowitz wanted a bike lane he would use his connections to get someone to impose it by fiat, and then fake the data to do away with any complaints. So of course he assumes that’s what Park Slope Neighbors did.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Bing Bing Bing Bing Bing! We have a winner…

    If Markowitz wanted a bike lane he would use his connections to get someone to impose it by fiat, and then fake the data to do away with any complaints. So of course he assumes that’s what Park Slope Neighbors did.

    This is true of most of the accusations by Marty, NBBL and friends. They can’t imagine that the redesign of PPW came about via a community-driven, organic, grassroots effort to solve real problems with real solutions… because these guys DON’T DO IT LIKE THAT and can’t imagine anyone else does it any other way.

    Marty, Steisel, Iris and friends assume that everyone does politics like they do: Top-down imposition of policy, favors for friends, falsification of data (or, better yet, no data at all), no real effort to be accountable, and if you need a big crowd of supporters at, say, an Atlantic Yards hearing — you pay them, bus them in and give them sandwiches and sodas too! I mean, seriously: Marty’s accusation that cyclists colluded with DOT to pack the bike lane during the bike count times is, essentially, Marty describing his own tactics during the Atlantic Yard debate.

    If found it somewhat amazing to see Steisel and Iris shaking their heads at the CB6 meeting the other night and demanding more and better data from NYC DOT. I’m quite certain Steisel’s Sanitation Department never even imagined producing anything close to the level of study and analysis that DOT put together for the PPW redesign. Iris’s DOT was always perfectly happy with assigning a street a mysterious letter grade: “Level of Service C!” and then going ahead and doing whatever the fuck they wanted to increase capacity for motor vehicles. These guys never did a data-driven thing in their careers as city commissioners. Now they can’t seem to demand enough of it. Fucking unreal.

  • Shemp

    Explains Sarah Palin and her followers pretty well. It also explains why a lot of bike lane and traffic calming advocates approach issues from a factual point of view instead of inflicting maximum political pain on their enemies as they should do.

  • Lois Carsbad

    And what’s saddest of all is that they are manipulating little old ladies like Lois Carswell into believing that it’s all a vast DOT conspiracy. It was very sad to see Steisel shoulder to neck with her at the city council hearing and to see Norm and Lois sitting together at the DOT presentation.

    I don’t believe that Carswell is so sharp that she’s been able to cook up bogus case studies and conspiracy theories all by her lonesome. She’s being fed misinformation by her neighbors Norman, Professor Hainline, and Commish Weinshall. They are using her every time the media needs a poster child for vulnerable senior citizens who might be run over by a biker.

    Little old Lois would still be against this with or without Norman and Iris prodding her along, but maybe not to the extent that she is right now. These Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes people have real contempt for their neighbors. It’s appalling.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Steisel, Hainine and Weinshall need to appreciate how much worse off younger generations will be because of their bills. And if they want those bills paid, they shouldn’t be looking for ways to make it even worse than it is.

    PPW is the perfect symbol of where things were going. Why? Because there was once a trolley line, and then a bus line. Because so many debts were run up when their generation was around, they took the bus away. It’s replacement is a bike lane, which cost almost nothing and requires people to make far more effort than used to be required for the same trip.

    “You’ll have to pedal yourself while paying our pensions. Wait a minute! We won’t even accommodate you doing that!”

  • Danny G


    At least their generation gave us Zeppelin.

  • Emily Litella

    Let bubba have his fun, he knows he’s finished politically.

  • Danny G, you are of course referring to the Zeppelin Hindenberg, an airship that exploded in a massive fireball out in Jersey, right?

    I just went for a leisure ride on the Markowitz Bike Path, and noticed quite a bit of water, and very little (or spent) salt, left. So, morning commuters, watch those surfaces. There is however, so much salt at the northern end, be careful of loose traction there.

  • Zach

    I can’t even make a glib comment about Marty making me want to bike on PPW even more often – I’m afraid such a comment might be misconstrued as part of a conspiracy.

    Its almost as if unfounded attacks upon the very residents & government you represent in office might have negative consequences beyond the scope of a mixed use road.

  • rhubarbpie

    What I don’t get is why the safety question — not for bicyclists but for pedestrians — doesn’t ever get a hearing on these TV pieces. OK, I know why it doesn’t. But I wish it did.

    I sure feel safer crossing a street with one or two fewer lanes of vehicular traffic, since there’s that much less chance I’ll be hit by a car. (I imagine this would be countered by some person saying they are afraid of being hit by a bike, but — while I don’t want to be hit by a bike or a car — if I had to choose I’d go with the bike.)

    Traffic seemed to be moving pretty well on the roadway in Kramer’s piece in any case.

  • calmer than you are

    The vast, all-powerful bike lobby strikes again!

  • Capn’Transit nails it. Thieves think everyone else is a thief, but I suspect that what is most enraging to Marty, Steisel, and Weinshall, is that they haven’t just been able to get away with their usual m.o. – make a few calls, and that’s that.

    As was oft-heard on Scooby-Doo, “I would have gotten away with it, if not for you meddling kids!”

    This was a debate I had on FaceBook about a month ago concerning the bike lanes.

  • Thanks for that link, Peter. My favorite line:

    “It now takes me twice as long each morning to drive a mere few blocks up 1st avenue than it used to take.”

  • JK

    This is where a victims rights advocacy group like MADD would help. NYC needs the families of cyclists and pedestrians — and those hurt — to get organized and strongly confront this foolishness. It is pathetic that Marty is the one getting in a lather, when real people are being killed and maimed because of the kind of idiocy he, and others, are putting forth. Prospect Park West is a great project. But it should really just be the beginning. For every Prospect Park West or Times Square, there are dozens of very big, very fast, very dangerous streets that DOT cannot change without more political support. The grieving mothers from MADD were able to connect the dots between drunk driving and people dying. We need street safety connections made here in a personal way that starkly confronts the short-sightedness and foolishness.

  • Marsha Kramer’s Eyebrow

    Why is Marty so, so, so scared of one road in Brooklyn? There are thousands of miles in Brooklyn, but this one is so important? One that is safer, better for kids, better for cyclists. Marty is mentally unstable. He really is.

  • Henry

    Out of curiosity, what does the Borough President do other than mouth off about bike lanes? Is this position used for an actual purpose instead of demagoguery?

  • Speaking of real people getting killed and maimed on New York City streets, does anyone think the New York Post or CBS2 will show any sense of outrage over today’s “accident” on the Upper East Side?…

    MANHATTAN — A 35-year-old woman was killed by a dump truck on the Upper East Side late Monday afternoon, police said.

    The woman, whose identity has not yet been released, was crossing First Avenue at East 91st Street about 5:43 p.m. when a black, 2007 Kenworth dump truck turning left onto the avenue from 91st Street hit her, police said.

    When police arrived at the scene, they found the woman lying unconscious and unresponsive in the road. EMS responding to the accident pronounced the woman dead at the scene, police said.

    The dump truck driver remained at the scene. No criminality is suspected at this time and the investigation is ongoing.

    In December, another accident involving a dump truck on the Upper East Side resulted in the death of 21-year-old Jason King, who was killed at the corner of 81st Street and Madison Ave.

    His death resulted in calls for the reinstatement of Elle’s law, which demands that anyone who strikes a pedestrian while driving recklessly have their license suspended.

  • Chris

    Aaron, I don’t think that Elle’s law was repealed, it’s just that the DAs don’t have the backbone to enforce it. That’s one of those laws unfortunately which politicians pass as lip service because the law may be largely unenforceable because of possible abysmal conviction rates for such offenses that DAs don’t bother to pursue it.

    The NYPD should be enforcing the law and investigating, but the DA should be making the decision to press charges or not, though the question is, does the NYPD even bother to pass on anything which could be considered criminality? That is to say, who makes the determination on whether or not it is an accident? Unless the driver was DWI/DUI the NYPD rarely declares “criminality” and even then, if it’s one of their own, well forget about it.

  • Danny G


    Norman Steisel, b. 1943 (approx.)
    Jimmy Page, b. 1944
    Marty Markowitz, b. 1945
    Robert Plant, b. 1948
    Iris Weinshall, b. 1953 (approx.)

  • Alberto

    Hey guys, let’s not deny the fact that we’re alerted and encouraged to attend all these bike hearings and protests.

  • NattyB

    @ Peter Re: your facebook “debate”

    Wow, wow, wow, wow, and wow.

    That is just amazing. A couple of those paragraphs were like, “wow, is this person a cypher for Marcia Kramer, Andrea Peysar, and the Post.

    How can someone lack such self-awareness. Like, the “few blocks up 1st ave” comment was just amazing.

    Thanks for getting in that flame war yourself. I sometimes can’t help but get wrapped in them, but, it’s nice to see one of those where you’re not the direct participant.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The bottom line is, between 7th Avenue, 8th Avenue, and PPW there were six motor vehicle parking lanes, seven motor vehicle moving lanes, six sidewalks, and no bike lanes.

    There are now six motor vehicle parking lanes, six motor vehicle moving lanes, six sidewalks and one bike lane. And no one is talking about another bike lane on the avenues.

    Yes the bicycles are allowed to ride in the motor vehicle moving lane, but most bicycle riders and most motor vehicle drivers would probably prefer that they do not.

    Perhaps the opposing group to “neighbors for better bike lanes” should be “neighbors for better neighbors.”

    But what do you expect in an era in which those who were already getting paid the highest salaries demanded to be paid ever more, justified during the 1990s stock market bubble by the “shareholder value” the executives claimed to have created and justified ever since by — well I don’t know how. Even as inflation and business cycle adjusted wages have fallen overall.

    An era when those who already had extensive tax-funded health care finance benefits — those over 65 — received even more — the prescription drug addition to Medicare — before anything was done for anyone else. And when something was done for someone else, financed in part by a slowdown in the rate of spending growth on those over 65, the majority of those over 65 pitched a fit.

    An era when those who already had the most years in retirement on the best terms, public employees eligible for pensions, got retroactive enhancements for even for lucrative retirement benefits. Enhancements whose costs were deferred.

    At some point, you have to concede “I’ve got enough, what about everyone else.” Don’t you?

  • Alberto

    Hey guys, let’s not deny the fact that we’re alerted and encouraged to attend all the hearings on bike lanes and attend in mass to protests. And Sadik-Khan was not exactly forthcoming at the hearing with her “I’ll get to you on that”.

  • @Alberto,

    Who’s denying that? We all pay pretty close attention to city transportation issues, and those events were well publicized and benefitted from a lot of organizing. Let’s also not deny the fact that Norman Steisel and the so-called “Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes” got to cut the line at the Council’s bike hearing, and then got 16 minutes to speak during a public-comment period that allowed two minutes per speaker.

    As for what our showing up for hearings and at our own rallies has to do with Marty Markowitz’s crazy bike-count tip-off conspiracy theory, you’ll have to enlighten us.

  • Moocow

    Danny, you just put Norman, Marty and Iris’ names next to people who have added something valuable to society. I was making an off topic, ageist jab, thanks for setting me up to insult them twice.

  • Conspiracy?

    “In fact, there is no plausible scenario for complete energy independence in 10 years, since that would mean replacing oil in most of our transportation system, which is built around a massive, multitrillion dollar infrastructure of vehicle manufacturing plants and oil production and delivery.”

    Joe Romm, Climate Progress
    Should Obama omit any mention of climate change or global warming in the State of the Union address?

  • dporpentine

    At this point, I think we can safely say that Markowitz is trolling his own borough.

  • pat

    Alberto – I got an email heads up about the rally at Grand Army Plaza a few months back, and a phone call from Transportation Alternatives about going to the hearing this past week, so clearly I’m on “the list” for activating around this. So it’s strange that I never received a request to go out and ride back and forth on the study days, which Marty imagines.

  • Alberto

    Pat, if you had a close friend in Sadik-Khan’s office, you would have gotten the request. I did.

  • @Alberto – Where do I sign up to be a close personal friend of JSK (or even her office)???

    And yes, @Cap’n Transit has totally nailed it!

  • OBA

    @ Alberto:
    Marty, this is sheer genius! You’ve got all the proof you need now! And from their own website! Genius I tell you!

  • I have this strange craving to know what Iris Weinshall’s purse looks like. Does anyone have a picture?

  • =v= Only three years ago, we were a roving band of anarchist hooligans. Now we’re part of a vast governmental conspiracy. Verily, New York is the greatest city in the world!

  • dporpentine

    The request I got to bike in the PPW lanes on that day came through my fillings.

  • Jon Stewart Mill

    Alberto . . . Gonzalez?

  • I never got the notice to bike back and forth, but I also didn’t get the page to stay away from the WTC on 9/11, and I’m Jewish!.

    So WTF… who do I have to bl*w around here to get a heads’ up?

  • Don’t forget to visit my blog for the most extreme views of the bike conspiracy


Three Myths From Marty About the PPW Bike Lane

It’s showtime for the Prospect Park West bike lane, with a bike lane protest and a rally for the redesign coming up tomorrow morning. In a prelude to the big day, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is making some rounds in the media. The Brooklyn Paper and NY1 got some choice quotes from the beep, […]

Marty Markowitz Chooses the Perfect Moment to Jump Into PPW Lawsuit

How’s this for some impeccable timing? Less than 48 hours before the next scheduled court date in the Prospect Park West case, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is inserting himself into the proceedings in an attempt to keep the tenuous suit from being thrown out. Yesterday afternoon LCG Communications, the PR firm representing bike lane […]

Markowitz Speaks Against Safer Streets in State of the Borough

Earlier this week, friends and family members of traffic violence victims wrote to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, asking him to stop standing in the way of street improvements to make walking and biking safer. They had lost loved ones and seen lives disrupted by crashes that could have been prevented by better street design. […]

Marty’s Message: If You Disagree With Marty, You Don’t Count

At yesterday’s day of action on Prospect Park West, one contention from the opposition especially didn’t sit well with everyone who turned out to support the redesigned, traffic-calmed street. With hundreds of bike lane supporters gathered on the sidewalk a few feet away, Borough President Marty Markowitz’s chief of staff, Carlo Scissura, told the assembled […]