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What Backlash? Q Poll Finds 54 Percent of NYC Voters Support Bike Lanes

10:36 AM EDT on March 18, 2011

After several months of almost uniformly bad press from NYC's major media outlets, the expansion of the city's bike network still enjoys sizable majority support among city voters, with 54 percent in favor and 39 percent opposed, according to a Quinnipiac poll released this morning.

The poll is the first solid public opinion data on the city's bike program since new, physically separated bike lane designs debuted in 2007. Quinnipiac surveyed 1,115 registered city voters, reaching both land lines and cell phones. It's not the first indication that livable streets projects are popular in NYC, though. A 2009 Q poll found very strong support -- 58 percent -- for the new pedestrian plazas in Midtown.

Today's poll found roughly constant support for bike lanes among ethnic groups, with slightly more Hispanic voters -- 59 percent -- expressing support for bike lanes than the overall sample. Voters in the 18-49 age range approve of bike lane expansion at more than a 60 percent clip, with opinion evening off among voters 50 or older. Still, the generational divide is not a case of polar opposition. More voters 65 and older like bike lanes than dislike them -- 48 percent to 42 percent.

Overall, these numbers should give pause to mayoral candidates who think ripping out the [expletive] bike lanes will win votes. Most New Yorkers don't look at city streets the same way that placard-holders do. But if you're looking for reasons to be cautious, you'll find some in Queens and Staten Island. Opinion on bike lanes in those two boroughs, which have both sided with the winner in each of the last five mayoral elections, was more or less an even split.

The 54 percent support for bike network expansion makes it one of Mayor Bloomberg's most popular policy initiatives at the moment. The Q poll found that majorities currently disapprove of the mayor's handling of the school system and the budget.

Here's the full breakdown from Quinnipiac. As you can see, the wording of the question played strongly into how people feel about bike lanes, not necessarily their real effect on streets and transportation.

As you may know, there has been an expansion of bicycle lanes in New York City. Which comes closer to your point of view:

A) This is a good thing because it's greener and healthier for people to ride their bicycle, or B) This is a bad thing because it leaves less room for cars which increases traffic.

                                                                      Union                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Wht    Blk    Hisp   HsHldA) Good thing        54%    35%    59%    56%    54%    54%    59%    49%B) Bad thing         39     59     35     39     40     39     36     45DK/NA                 6      5      6      5      7      7      5      6                     HvKids                     PubSch Brnx   Kngs   Man    Qns    StIsl  Men    WomA) Good thing        56%    57%    54%    64%    45%    50%    56%    53%B) Bad thing         34     36     40     30     48     46     39     40DK/NA                 9      6      6      7      7      4      5      8                     AGE IN YEARS............                     18-34  35-49  50-64  65+A) Good thing        60%    62%    48%    48%B) Bad thing         38     34     44     42DK/NA                 2      4      8     10

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