The Public Process for Bike Lanes Right Under Christine Quinn’s Nose

Ignoring the 66 percent approval rating for bike lanes in the latest New York Times poll, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn dropped this whopper in an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer at a tourism industry event last Friday:

Christine Quinn. Photo: ##

“Bike lanes are clearly controversial,” Quinn said. “And one of the problems with bike lanes — and I’m generally a supporter of bike lanes — but one of the problems with bike lanes has been not the concept of them, which I support, but the way the Department of Transportation has implemented them without consultation with communities and community boards.”

Already Quinn is revising history the same way Bill Thompson did during the 2009 mayoral race, erasing the extensive public process NYC DOT has conducted for its street safety projects. Several miles of safer streets have been installed in Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, the West Village, and SoHo, so if anyone in the City Council knows that these projects go through the local community boards, it should be Quinn.

Here’s Streetsblog’s previous coverage of community board support for protected bike lanes in or near her district:

The same public process preceded other major street redesigns all over the city, including the First and Second Avenue bike and bus improvements (no fewer than three Manhattan community boards voted on that one), the Columbus Avenue bike lane, and the Prospect Park West bike lane.

When pressed, Quinn admitted that the new bike lanes in her district are actually quite popular with the local community board. “The problem,” she concluded, is that no one contacted her office before the Ninth Avenue bike lane was installed in 2007. Remember, this was the first protected on-street bike lane in all of NYC, and after getting it in the ground, the city saw traffic injuries plummet 56 percent along that stretch of Ninth Avenue [PDF].

New York could really use mayoral contenders who state the facts about the safety effect of bike lanes, instead of making things up about public process.

  • Anonymous

    This is one of the most sickening things a politician can do: pandering out of both sides of her mouth at the same time while pounding the table about “process” and community empowerment.  Note that she’s a “generally” strong supporter of bike lanes.  She just likes to invoke them as s symbol of “bad process” to prove that she’s in favor of “good process.”  And if any of the anti-livable streets constituencies she’s pandering to end up feeling dissatisfied about anything during her administration (should she have one), she’ll throw them a bone by “ripping out the f#@king bike lanes,” making good on her campaign rhetoric, because, well, why not? 

  • Larry Littlefield

    Reminds me of the “two sets of books” nonsense.  The organized selfish like to have sweet nothings whispered to them, even if (especially if) what is said is not true.

    You can have a blog on any topic and find the same thing going on.  If it didn’t work, particularly in the Democratic primary given who does and does not show up, they wouldn’t be doing it.

    The question is, will they face a general election in which things are thown in the face, like Romney’s 47 percent.

  • jrab

    The incumbent mayor is widely recognized as being a data-driven, truth-telling sort.

    This has caused problems for him, most obviously with regards to the stop-and-frisk policy. Yes, it does stop crime, no, it’s not constitutional, but hey, it stops crime, and according to the incumbent (and the tabloids), we must do everything we can, even maintain illegal policies, to stop crime. By next year, the courts will force an end to stop and frisk.

    Quinn is going to have to abandon stop and frisk, but she cannot do it before the election, or she will lose the Daily News’s endorsement. She is therefore painting herself as someone who will make city government be more “responsive” to the public (and its disapproval of stop-and-frisk) and using the nonissue of “bike lanes” as a stalking horse for this.

  • Don’t let Brian Lehrer off the hook either. I’m REALLY tired of him and the folks at Transportation Nation using life-saving street improvements as fodder for ratings and page views.  WNYC personalities carry the imprimatur of National Public Radio and as such should be more responsible with things like facts.

    The dirty little secret is that Brian Lehrer and producers such as Andrea Bernstein are avid bike commuters.  So maybe they and their fellow WNYC’ers are compensating for whatever “bias” they have for not getting killed when they ride to work.

    Politicians are the real issue, of course, but we need journalists to hold panderers like Quinn accountable when they state something that is demonstrably false.  Thank goodness for Streetsblog.  Maybe Ben should be Brian’s next guest?

  • krstrois

    Well, clearly it’s not a public process unless the elected officials who aren’t paying attention to public processes are privately informed of the process by a hand-holding envoy from DOT or Bloomberg’s office!

    I’m not sure how bike lanes are controversial. Don’t they consistently poll in the 60s and 70s in rooms not containing solely the members of NBBL? Probably in the 80s or 90s in her district. 

    It’s distressing and embarrassing that she is the first viable female mayoral candidate. 

  • Joe R.

    Someone needs to explain to Quinn that in order for a transportation system (which is what bike lanes are) to function in a viable manner, you can’t leave out key parts because local community boards object. Yes, at times this might be seen by these community boards as the DOT “ramming a bike lane down their throats”. Nevertheless, sometimes citiwide concerns are going to have to trump local desires or nothing of any substance would ever get built. I’m generally not a fan of Robert Moses but I admire how he took the my way or the highway approach to getting things done. Had his interest lay in building transit or bike infrastructure instead of car infrastructure, he may have been hailed as a hero by many of those who frequent this site. Someone needs to have the backbone to stand up once and for all to these community boards to tell them enough already, you can have a say only in local projects which aren’t part of something larger. I’m really tired of self-appointed “important people” thinking the city needs to ask for their approval on any project.

  • Quinn might be technically correct about what happened in 2007. Things have changed drastically since, with the DOT taking the community boards’ advisory opinions as gospel whenever making the decision to deploy a new street design. 

    This is actually rather poor governance, and our elected officials should be criticizing this timidity. They’ll let uninformed complaints, ones that are supposed to be advisory opinions, dictate which neighborhoods get injury/fatality reductions and which ones miss out on known safety opportunities (none of this is experimental anymore).

    In that light, the fact that Quinn is not only unaware of this newer problem (the opposite of the old problem) but is still fixated on anachronistic complaints makes me really question her ability to observe city government and effectively manage the city. It even makes me wonder if she’s fit for the council in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    I love Ben’s point that  Quinn’s claim of “no community input” boils down to her office wasn’t told at the right time in the right way prior to installation of bike lanes in her district.  As if a city councilmember the least bit engaged with the district she represents can plausibly deny constructive advance knowledge of anything like this going down in their own district. 9th avenue hardly happened “in secret.”

    It’s like the merchants who sit on CB11 like Patsy’s Pizzeria in East Harlem,who didn’t even bother to go to the CB meetings where the bike lanes were voted in, and then engineered a rescinding vote because the bike lanes were accomplished “behind their back” without community input.  Please!

  • Larry Littlefield

    Given our fiscal situation, if the standard of “don’t do anything unless absolutely no one objects” is applied to anything in addition to bike lanes, I wonder how long before the city is bankrupt?

  • Albert

    I’d love to see the evidence that community approval was sought when motor vehicle lanes were rammed through every single neighborhood of the city.

    I believe it was Mayor Seth Low who said, in 1902:

    “One of the problems with motor vehicle lanes—and I’m generally a supporter of motor vehicle lanes—has not been the concept, which I support, but the way the Department of Transportation has implemented them.  If DOT had consulted with community boards, then certainly the promise of higher rates of illness, even more traffic congestion, less room for pedestrians and a hitherto untapped new source of fatalities would have gotten the hearty approval of the citizens of our fair city.”

  • Anonymous

    @cc36704b289cbef0ac72a06121c6c6d8:disqus “It’s distressing and embarrassing that [Quinn] is the first viable female mayoral candidate.” She’s not. Then-Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger was the Democratic candidate in 1997, running against Mayor Giuliani. She lost decisively but ran a brave, serious, principled campaign. BTW, Ruth was a fierce advocate for cycling and livable streets.

    @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus “Someone needs to explain to Quinn …” Agreed. How about your being that someone? Will you re-fashion your comment into a private letter to her? It might carry weight — you never know.

  • swiftcat

    In a city where many of the world’s weathiest people choose to call their home Bloomberg has had considerable success navigating this town through a minefield of extraordinary crises that should have stopped it dead in its tracks; yet it seems to move forward with relentless success.

    Starting with 9/11 to the financial meltdown to the best that accelerating climate change has had to throw at us with the daunting power of hurricane Sandy, this city has prevailed.

    The chaos will continue to worsen in this
    most iconic trillion dollar real estate market and if someone is not found to carry on in similar fashion; well . . .


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