James Vacca, NIMBY Accomplice

So we’ve gone through the initial round of coverage and reactions to Wednesday’s bike-share announcement.

Photo: ##http://yournabe.com/articles/2010/12/23/laurelton_times/news/lt_parking_meter_hike_20101223.txt##YourNabe##

Mixed in with a healthy amount of fairly straightforward reporting, there were the predictable slants. The Brooklyn Paper went in search of controversy. The Post and the Daily News editorial boards fantasized about dismemberment and death. Perpetual Soho crank Sean Sweeney produced perhaps the single most clearly-articulated expression of NIMBYism in his long NIMBY career.

Steve Cuozzo, of course, took the crazy prize for writing about the nefarious link between the city’s bike policy and escalating gun violence. (The Daily News gets the runner-up trophy for the brilliant idea of installing widespread red light cams for bikes.)

But what about the sane community? Someone who has actual civic responsibility. Someone who should ostensibly know about transportation policy and how New York needs to catch up to cities like Washington and Boston, which already have public bike systems up and running. Someone like City Council Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca.

He gave the papers this nugget:

The rubber will only hit the road if DOT is totally committed to working with local neighborhoods and Council Members in the siting and implementation of Bike-Share, because these stations are going to take up valuable real estate on our public streets and sidewalks.

Classic Vacca. The same day DOT comes out and says in no uncertain terms that they’re going to embark on an extensive round of public workshops to determine where bike-share stations will go, he chides them about public process.

It’s the same MO he’s used throughout his tenure as transportation chair. Remember the op-ed he penned for City Hall News last summer — the one where he said the Prospect Park West bike lane was “built over the objection of local residents,” forgetting to mention that it was, in fact, inspired by public workshops and approved by the local community board? His views haven’t evolved since then. To Vacca, the transportation benefits of bike policy and the public support for that policy never bear mentioning. Only the complainers do.

One of the interesting things about bike-share is that it’s so big, many, many New Yorkers can see themselves using it. Streetsblog wasn’t the only news outlet that found most people on the street eager to use the system once it’s up and running. Bike-share is going to make cycling accessible to a whole new range of people who live, work, and visit here. When anyone can hop on a public bike with the swipe of a card, bikes will be just another transportation tool for hundreds of thousands of people.

Does James Vacca really want to stand between them and a better way to get around town?

  • Glenn

    It’s clear from Vacca’s statements now on bikeshare and on PPW that he is speaking of the insider political elites, not the ordinary local neighborhood residents they purport to represent.

  • Albert

    Vacca: “…these stations are going to take up valuable real estate on our public streets and sidewalks.”

    I vote for siting all bike share stations on current personal car parking spaces—”valuable real estate” that the city apparently doesn’t value very much at all, since they give it away for free or practically free.

    At least, I’d vote for that if it weren’t for the bike backlash it would probably provoke (as if there isn’t backlash already anyway.)

  • Larry Littlefield

    NIMBY is the wrong acronym.  Bikeshare is something people want in their own backyard.  They just don’t want it in the places they want to drive.

    “One of the interesting things about bike-share is that it’s so big, many, many New Yorkers can see themselves using it. Streetsblog wasn’t the only news outlet that found most people on the street eager to use the system once it’s up and running.”

    Imagine if 50,000 people who otherwise would be afraid decided to give travel by bicycle a try, and find that they like it?  Then they get their own bikes, and start using them.  Then 50,000 other people try Bikeshare, etc.

    The more I think of it, I see Bikeshare as being like bike lanes.  Their most important effect isn’t their direct effect of separating bicycles from other traffic and allowing people to borrow shared bikes.

    More importantly, they serve as a form of massive outdoor advertizing, saying “yes, people do this, and yes you can do it too.”  With Bikeshare, there is the added benefit of “you can do this, and you can try this without spending a lot of money on a bicycle and equipment before you are sure about it.”

    Seeing people riding around flies in the face of what people read.

  • Marie

    As a pedestrian, the sidewalk real estate IS very valuable. and the city doesn’t exactly give it away for free. Anybody know how expensive a permit for sidewalk cafe is? Thousands of dollars. All he is trying to say is that with sidewalk cafes, bus shelters, construction equipment…all necessary and convenient aspects or urban life…adding bike kiosks makes the sidewalks ever more crowded for pedestrians. i think it’s a valid point. and the NYT–a bike favoring publication–agrees: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/15/bike-sharing-vs-sidewalk-sharing/

  • moocow

    Were the kiosks ever going to be placed on sidewalks? -Sidewalks that aren’t part of a plaza etc? The times comments are all crazy about that one point. I didn’t think that was ever an issue.

  • Jeremy

    @twowheel:disqus According to the DOT, they’re going to be placed on sidewalks, “plazas,” and private property.

  • No doubt sidewalk space is at a premium and bike-share stations shouldn’t make crowded sidewalks more cramped. If Vacca wanted to make that point, he could have issued a statement like: “Bike-sharing is taking off in cities around the country and it’s about time New Yorkers reaped the benefits of affordable, accessible public bikes. I look forward to working with the DOT on ensuring that we integrate this new system without encroaching on our scarce pedestrian space.” Instead he sent out this threatening, scolding message, implying that DOT’s public outreach efforts won’t be made in good faith.

  • @6b6a3fe730de2006198ee2f388021f7b:disqus  The kiosks will replace car-parking spaces too. The public workshops are going to be an important forum for people to speak up and say which part of the right-of-way the bike-share stations should go.

  • “and the NYT–a bike favoring publication–agrees”


  • Driver

    “implying that DOT’s public outreach efforts won’t be made in good faith.”

    Ben, I brought this up in the “Bike Share: First Look” thread
    that the DOT already seems to be trying to misrepresent how this will be implemented by publicizing their image of a bike share dock on the sidewalk rather than on the street. 

    Jeremy pulled a quote from the DOT bike share web page “Bike share stations will be sited on wide sidewalks, public plazas and
    private property. Stations with docked bikes are no wider than the strip
    of sidewalk occupied by tree-wells.”

    I think we all know most of these docks are going on street space.  It is the logical place for them in most cases.  But intentionally misleading the public to make it seem like most of the bike share system won’t be set up on street space is not exactly a show of good faith, it is more like a marketing trick. 

    I think Jeremy unintentionally hit the nail on the head when he said
    “Dunno if “public plaza” is code for “street,” but it sounds like these things are primarily off-street.”
    “Public plaza” IS code for “street”

  • Anonymous

    I was just in Montreal a few weeks ago and my impression was that the first choice was to put them on wide sidewalks or plazas but if no appropriate space is available in that neighborhood, then they put them in the street taking away a couple of parking spaces. I would expect the same here.


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