How the Mayoral Candidates Stack Up on Safe Streets for Biking, So Far

Matt Flegenheimer got five leading mayoral candidates on the record about bike lanes for a story in the Times today, and one of the encouraging things about it is that you can start to see the candidates running against each other (and not just the three-term, lame duck incumbent) on bike policy.

It’s still early in the race, but here’s what the Times story tells us about these five so far:

John Liu: Probably going to wipe out some bike lanes in Brooklyn and Queens if he’s elected. Doesn’t believe the Quinnipiac, Marist, or Times polls that consistently show about two-thirds of New Yorkers support bike lanes. Apparently he would put more faith in a poll commissioned by bike lane opponents. (May we suggest this one, which found… about 3-2 support for the Prospect Park West bike lane.) But it’s okay, he’s an avid biker!

Joe Lhota: Open to bike lane removal where he sees fit. Like where? Well, he’s under the impression that bike lane stripes are somehow interfering with buses on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, but it’s been common knowledge since before the bike lane was installed that double-parked cars and traffic congestion are the real problems. Lhota even tweeted about the non-problem of the Fifth Avenue bike lane on the evening Hurricane Sandy struck, so, with beliefs this irrational, who can say what other streets would fall victim?

Bill Thompson: Here’s where things start to look up. Thompson seems to have made progress on this issue since his 2009 mayoral bid, when he said he would rip out the Grand Street bike lane. Now he’s telling the Times he’s not going to remove any bike lanes and would consider expanding the bike network if bike-share proves successful.

Christine Quinn: No firm statement about bike lane expansion, but she supports cycling in general and bikes on days off at the shore. City biking seems to be a different matter. While she claims too much credit for DOT’s public process for bike lane implementation (the agency was doing thorough outreach for bike projects before the City Council mandated community board review in 2011), she also acknowledges the enthusiasm for bike lanes in her district.

Bill de Blasio: Gave the Times a statement, posted in full on the public advocate’s site, which is a departure from recent remarks to the Brooklyn Paper that appeared to be heavily influenced by opponents of the Prospect Park West bike lane. De Blasio now says unambiguously: “I fully support bike lanes and I want to see them continue to expand around the city. They are clearly making many NYC streets safer.” Gone is the assertion that the data on bike lanes is “biased.” But his appeal for “proactive outreach” overlooks all the ways the current DOT has opened up the planning process, with web-based planning portals gathering ideas for street improvements in Jackson Heights, and community-based efforts like the Grand Army Plaza Coalition finally having a seat at the table.

If you want to get more specifics out of Quinn or de Blasio, both will be attending a Downtown Independent Democrats candidate forum in Tribeca tonight at 6 p.m.

  • swifty

    None of mayoral candidates have the chops to sustain the human-powered affluence Bloomberg has made possible in this city.

  • Anonymous

    DeBlasio’s new statement that going to Community Boards is not enough seems measured, but has absolutely no precedent. It suggests that a bike lane needs 100% approval of those who live along it in order to be installed – something that flies in the face of logic and reason. What does he want? Door-to-door canvassing? A poll of all neighboring residents? All this does is drive up costs, water down these projects, and delay, delay, delay.

    The only good thing about Quinn’s bill that passed in 2011 was that it also required community outreach before a bike lane is removed… so Liu can talk all he wants, but if the community wants to keep a bike lane that he and his wealthy donors don’t like… too bad.

  • Danny G

    This sounds great, but whatever candidate has the balls to widen the sidewalks on Broome and Canal Streets has my vote.

  • For someone who lives in Park Slope, DeBlasio seems willfully ignorant of bike lane debates and realities there.  Or did he like cars speeding down Prospect Park West at 45 mph?

  • Triple Prime

    Never mind the fact that DOT went door to door on the Upper West Side to reach out to businesses along Columbus Avenue.

    de Blasio can call for a change in the process all he wants.  I’ll start listening when he explains HOW he’ll change the process.  I’ve checked his website for policy details on this and other subjects and turned up very little.  Is it too much to ask a candidate for higher office to have some idea of how he’d govern if elected?

  • Anonymous

    Why isn’t community board outreach enough? The institutions are kind of a mess at times, but they’re also the best we’ve got. If DeBlasio thinks that CB review doesn’t reflect the will of the community, he should Publicly Advocate for reforms. If he thinks they do, then why reinvent the wheel. Keeping CBs as one hurdle that isn’t sufficient to show community support is the worst of all worlds. 

  • Stunned.  Bill Thompson who I probably bad mouthed 

  • Mark Walker

    Information worth considering, and I will consider it. As a pedestrian and transit user, I would also be interested in a followup on whether candidates intend to expand the city’s tiny sanctuaries of car-free space as well as their ideas for fully funding the MTA operating and capital budget. I am also looking for red flags: Do they demonize pedestrian plazas or the MTA?

  • Thanks for the info on tonight’s forum. Can’t make it because tonight is the full CB6 (Manhattan) board meeting, but I’ll be on the lookout for more of these events in the future. It would be very much appreciated if Streetsblog could be really active in publishing calendar info for this kind of stuff as the year progresses. I’ll even gather information for upcoming events for calendar publishing – if you can tell me where to reliably find it 🙂

  • Senator Bill

    The hasidim don’t like bike lanes (RiP Bedford Ave.) They are the most pandered to voters in the city because they vote in a block –which is especially important in a four or five way primary. DiBlasio is telling them that they — and the Weinshall/Schumers types — that they will have a veto over bike lanes regardless of community board vote. He wins this weeks “I feel strongly both ways” award.

  • Lhota’s comments are really frustrating.  

    Yes, it’s the bike lane on 5th avenue that’s taking up all the space.  

    It’s not the 2 lanes reserved for automobile travel and the 2 additional lanes set-aside for automobile storage.  It’s the bike lane.  

    Bicycles are a critical component in reducing automobile dependency as they help free-up both space and resources for alternative transportation.  Bikes also encourage the space-efficient planning and zoning necessary to make transit economical and effective.  And: any cyclist unable to ride through a flat tire or bad weather, obviously needs transit.  

    Do we really need to mention this? (apparently) 

    “Transit advocates” who take cheap shots at bikes are either dumb or disingenuous.  

    Which is it Joe? 

  • Joe R.

    It would be much more useful to me (and perhaps to most cyclists) to avoid the narrow focus on bike lanes in favor of some structural changes which would make cycling more pleasurable, much faster, and probably safer besides on ALL streets, not just those with bike lanes. I’m referring here to modifying the laws to get the NYPD permanently off the backs of cyclists for petty offenses. For starters, allow red lights and stop signs to be treated as yields if there is no cross traffic. And allow sidewalk cycling except maybe in midtown during business hours. While we’re at it, drop the law requiring bells since they’re mostly useless. Basically, change the laws so the police can only legally ticket the small percentage of truly reckless cyclists while leaving the majority alone. Bike lanes do nobody any good if they end up as magnets for police looking to meet this month’s quota. In fact, my somewhat more skeptical brother said Bloomberg probably installed bike lanes just to have another group to make money off of via tickets.

  • Joe R.

    @c5ec7a1167939a68d0865bb4b76da78a:disqus The removal of the bike lane on Bedford Avenue arguably violated the separation of church and state because it was done solely due to the objection of the Hasidim to “scantily clad female riders”. We should have a process in place to prevent something like this from ever happened again. If it’s determined by DOT that a particular bike lane is a vital link in the larger network then it stays, even if 100% in the community it passes through object. I’ve little doubt projects like the Cross Bronx Expressway faced near 100% objection in the communities they passed through, and yet they were built anyway. In fact, this precedent is all the more reason to not worry about community approval. A bike lane is far less disruptive to the neighborhood than an expressway, therefore any objections to it will likely fall apart when critically examined. If anything, bike lanes bring in business, calm traffic, and reduce health care expenditure. What are the objections to them based on? Mostly aesthetic and/or frivolous claims if the PPW lawsuit is anything to go by.

  • Guest

    I say let them differentiate themselves from Bloomberg – no administration is perfect.  DeBlasio’s new statement is encouraging and probably the best you can hope for.

  • summer

    @m_walker:disqus I’m interested too.  perhaps they’ll address those issues at next Friday’s mayoral forum on mass transit.

  • Chris Quinn is on WNYC right now (10:30am) with Brian Lehrer, good time to get a safe streets question in…


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