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Mayor de Blasio Throws Red Meat to the Bike Haters in Midtown

2:02 PM EDT on September 27, 2017

Mayor de Blasio at last night’s town hall.

At a town hall hosted by Council Member Dan Garodnick in East Midtown last night, Mayor de Blasio offered a weak defense of bike infrastructure and promised the crowd police will ramp up enforcement against people riding bikes.

De Blasio's comments came in response to two attendees who claimed that city policies to encourage cycling have put lives in danger.

"You take your life in your hands now in New York City when you cross the street," E. 53rd Street resident Richard Resnick told him. "What has happened, and this I can talk to because I am a lifelong New Yorker, a culture has been created in New York: Here come the bikes, everybody else get the hell out of the way."

De Blasio did not push back on Resnick's assertion, which is contradicted by years of data showing that pedestrian injuries decline substantially on streets with protected bike lanes.

Instead, the mayor said that while he'd chosen to continue the Bloomberg administration's "original vision" of a "more bikeable city," a culture of disobeying traffic laws had emerged as a result. This assertion is also contradicted by the city's own before-and-after data from protected bike lane projects, which show violations like sidewalk riding decline dramatically when people feel safer riding on the street.

The fact is that under de Blasio, NYC DOT has made only modest upgrades to bike infrastructure on the East Side, mainly by filling gaps in the protected bike lanes on First Avenue and Second Avenue. Long stretches of Second Avenue remain dangerously unprotected, and crosstown bike routes all consist of paint with no physical separation from traffic.

Later in the evening, Astoria resident Macartney Morris, who commutes by bike on Second Avenue and regularly documents taxis, delivery trucks, and buses blocking the bike lane, told de Blasio that there's still not a connected network of safe routes for cycling in the area.

"Every single day there are people parking in the bike lane," Morris said. "When I have to dart into that traffic on Second Avenue, it scares the heck out of me. And I'm tired of the feeling that a cyclist or pedestrian has to die for DOT to make improvements on the street."

The empathy that the mayor showed for the bike haters earlier in the night did not extend to the bike rider. "I couldn’t disagree more that an administration that has constantly expanded Citi Bike and done Vision Zero is just waiting around for someone to die. I resent that, I think that’s unfair," de Blasio responded. "We have a difference of perspective. That being said, we want, and we’ve shown it by action, we want to expand bike lanes everywhere that we think we can appropriately. Second Avenue presents a particular challenge we’re still trying to fix."

He then turned to DOT Borough Commissioner Luis Sanchez, who explained that the city has held back on completing the Second Avenue bike lane in order to avoid impacts on traffic headed toward the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and Queensboro Bridge.

De Blasio said NYPD will be issuing more tickets to people on bikes, including electric bikes. The mayor said e-bike enforcement will focus on businesses whose workers use the vehicles, but did not provide further details. In the past, the 19th Precinct has seized e-bikes from delivery workers, typically immigrants who depend on tips to earn a living -- all while reckless driving continues to exact a far more serious toll on local residents.

Overall it was a miserable performance by the mayor, who made no attempt to win over skeptics of bike infrastructure, showed no grasp of the pedestrian safety effects of protected bike lanes, failed to grapple with where e-bikes should fit into the transportation system, and appeared content to let anecdotes and unfocused anger sway policy instead of the proven track record of his own DOT's projects.

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