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

De Blasio made no attempt to win over skeptics of bike infrastructure, showed no grasp of the pedestrian safety effects of protected bike lanes, and appeared content to let anecdotes and unfocused anger sway policy instead of the proven track record of his own DOT's projects.

Mayor de Blasio at last night's town hall.
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.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “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.”

    Actually, it seems that a culture of disobeying all kinds of rules has emerged in the past few years, often with the encouragement of our local officeholders who complain about the impact of enforcement.

  • Joe R.

    Right, a culture of disobeying traffic laws has emerged among the rank and file of the NYPD.

    I don’t think we could do worse voting Republican in November. This clueless, spineless jackass has got to go.

  • c2check

    The bridge and tunnel approaches are congested because they’re giant bottlenecks. Putting in decent bike infra ain’t gonna change that. If anything, it could manage the flow towards the bottlenecks better. So much unused capacity nearby while the area immediately adjacent to bridges and tunnels is a mess because everyone is bunched there, shifting across 2 or 3 lanes, stopping and going, etc.

  • That the mayor doesn’t understand or seek to understand any of this better has a real cost in human lives. When law-abiding cyclists are killed by reckless drivers, the response from NYPD is to ticket cyclists. And guess what always winds up happening? More cyclists get killed by reckless drivers. This is the mayor’s fault. Period. He could put a stop to it but won’t. It’s his police department. His DOT. His Vision Zero. Yes, progress has been made, but it’s not coming fast enough and certainly didn’t for the people who died following useless NYPD ticket blitzes. He must do better, take an active role, talk to experts, and actually try to figure this out.

  • Bob

    Remember, four years ago, when StreetsPAC endorsed BDB over Quinn simply because polls showed he would win, despite Quinn’s excellent track record on issues that affect StreetsPAC???

  • Larry Littlefield

    Streetsblog was really down on Quinn because she rode around in an SUV, and DeBlasio promised not to rip out the PPW bike lane now that it was there.

    Perhaps it tends to be a little harsh with regard to pols who more or less do the right thing most of the time.

    Just compare what all our elected officials have done for bicycles compared with the subway.

  • Larry Littlefield

    To be fair I don’t go over to 2nd Avenue until I’m south of 30th to avoid the tunnel traffic. I don’t want to be near it on a bicycle either. What’s up with the East River pathway?

  • Vooch

    Guess BdB won’t be riding a Citibike to CityHall anytime soon.

  • Quinn had a troublesome record at best. Her attitude about the big picture of bicycle safety/usability was consistently worse than de Blasio’s off-the-cuff remarks last night, which for him was about on-par for his worst moments on the topic. She vocally upbraided DOT on numerous occasions for not giving in to cranky community board members, saying they failed to communicate when in-fact DOT’s community presentations were on her desk the entire time.

    BDB isn’t where we need him to be, but he’s still better than Quinn.

  • William Lawson

    I am so sick of these idiots. With every story about cyclists, regardless of the details (and usually when a cyclist has been killed by a reckless driver), the usual morons come out in force to claim that cyclists are waging some kind of campaign of violence and terror on pedestrians. You can point out to them that the average number of people killed by cyclists every year in New York is virtually zero, and that motorists are 100,000x the threat to their safety than bikers are, but they are so emotionally attached to the idea that cyclists are some kind of red peril that logic just bounces off them without leaving so much as a mark on their ignorance.

    I’m convinced that in a lot of cases, this anger is an expression of resentment over what they see as fit, mobile people zipping themselves around the city under their own steam rather than having to rely on the slow and filthy taxis and public transport they endure every day. A part of them wishes they had the moxy to ride in the city, and since they don’t, they hate everyone who does.

  • rogue

    “Here come the bikes, everyone get the hell out of the way”

    Cyclists know this is absurd. But it’s projection at its finest. Replace the word “bikes” with “cars” and it all make sense..

  • crazytrainmatt

    * Total gap between 145-155 and 125-135. The land is there but it has been a staging area forever, though I thought they finished bridge reconstruction a year or two ago. And it’s pretty sketchy between 135-145.
    * Detour on 1st/2nd ave between 88-96th for either seawall repair, or transfer center or ferry dock construction.
    * Detour on East End/FDR access road sidewalk between 78 and 82/83. Effectively no progress on replacement ramp site at since January (the ramp is largely done but is missing railings).
    * Gap beween 61st and 53rd will be filled by 2022 using the FDR ODR pylons (built in 2000 or so).
    * The UN deal fell apart, so don’t expect much to change from 53rd to 37th.
    Other than that, enjoy the FDR exhaust, bad pavement and choke points. It’s useful for some things but fixing 1st/2nd/5th/6th is far more realistic.

    Broadway is OK as a roundabout alternative but 7th Ave through Times Square still has 3-4 NYPD de-protected blocks.

  • veffari

    Bike lanes that are created safe and suddenly end without warning are particularly dangerous. 2nd Ave at 59th Street bridge is a bicyclist-death zone.

  • com63

    Also DeBlasio incorporated Vision Zero into his platform. We took his word for it, but we didn’t realize he would only do it half heatedly.

  • Bob

    Incorporated it as a naked political ploy when he clearly didnt/doesnt understand what, e.g., the Swedes mean by it.

    False re: Quinn. Here is StreetsPAC’s words from 2013: “Clearly, Speaker Quinn takes transportation issues seriously. She has been generally supportive of initiatives like the expansion of the bike-lane network, pedestrian plazas, and neighborhood slow zones. She’s committed to making the streets safer and to improving transit. But Mr. de Blasio has laid out a more complete and compelling vision.” That vision was him saying “vision zero” without anything in his background to suggest he really cared about it.

    The endorsement (and I said this in comments 4 years ago) was done entirely, IMO, because BDB was going to win and StreetsPAC wanted to back the winner. That is a fair reason to back someone – but don’t act shocked when he doesnt do what is required to protect people and improve quality of life.

  • Simon Phearson

    Hey, it didn’t stop this place from promoting it heavily. Lookit here! The bike network is coming together! Just not really!

  • Joe R.

    It’s exactly that. They not only resent people who don’t look like themselves (i.e. morbidly obese) but they resent the fact these people are getting around for pennies while they’re paying a small fortune to drive (or take taxis). I’m convinced it’s jealously. Many cyclists actually look like they’re enjoying themselves. That bothers these jerks no end. And these morons want to ruin it for them just like little kids who resent other kids having a good time while they’re not.

    It’s just a shame politicians (or really anyone) takes these people seriously. Everything they say can easily be proven wrong just by looking at the statistics.

  • Brad Aaron

    Can you find the link where we declare “mission accomplished” on Second Avenue?

    I’ve looked as far back as 2010 and I’m not seeing it.

  • BAMstutz

    We, as cyclists, need to better understand why we are hated and feared by pedestrians even though cars are much more dangerous and scary. Part of it is empathy. Everyone is a driver, and therefore empathic to the plight of drivers. They know what it feels like to be stuck in traffic, afraid they might hit us, or frustrated when we run a red light. Most peds don’t regularly ride bicycles so they have trouble relating to our concerns. Also, we are scary because we are silent and can easily startle pedestrians who don’t hear us coming. Politicians empathize with the emotions behind this hatred and fear. I don’t know how to change this. But I think it’s important that we not get angry at drivers and pedestrians because it just perpetuates the divide. I try to say sorry to pedestrians over and over again and try not to get angry.

  • Andrew

    Everyone is a driver

    Most New York City households don’t own a car.

  • Maggie

    If you think that the reason non-cyclists are “having trouble relating to our concerns” is because NYC doesn’t have safe and welcoming cycling infrastructure, for a dense 21st century city, what do you do? At a structural level.

  • PUFFS

    For all the huffing and puffing re bikes, cars, lanes and pedestrians, all 20+ miss the obvious. IT’S AN ELECTION YEAR and there are more pedestrians and drivers than cyclists.

  • Maggie

    I followed this closely and am wondering what Quinn track record you mean.

    I really get tired of watching her try to kneecap de Blasio. She lost. People knew her. To me she came across to me as in the race to make life better for wealthy white women of Chelsea, and possibly also billionaires citywide. The electorate went a different way.

  • snrvlakk

    Well, speaking straight, and just among ourselves, it is possible the tendency we share to blow thru red lights and ride the wrong way on what are purportedly one-way streets, silently missing by inches pedestrians looking the “wrong” way because they rely on the traffic laws, might contribute just a tad to our lack of popularity.

  • The people who were killed on their bikes this year have all been New Yorkers.

  • Maggie

    I’ve been a strong de Blasio supporter and after this, I think I’m done.

    What’s so sad to me is the sheer number of New Yorkers whose lives will be ruined, or lost, just because they tried to walk or bike to school, work, home, and had to do that on routes without safe infrastructure in a city with hostile, unaccountable law enforcement.

    Not to mention the extra tonnes of greenhouse gases spewed into the air we all breathe, because our mayor wants the climate-friendly sound bites and can’t be bothered to even try riding a bike in his city or listen when cyclists who know DO clamor for the changes we need.

    I don’t know if he’s trying to create a Manila-on-the-Hudson instead of Paris, Copenhagen, Portland, or Pittsburgh, or if he just really doesn’t get it because he’s in his SUV all the time, but he’s had 4 years to figure this out.

  • walks bikes drives

    I strongly agree with most of your points, except the everyone is a driver part. Everyone is a street user, and they have their perspectives from behind the windshield, or over handlebars, or just in front of them as they walk. I think I have a pretty good handle on why cyclists are so hated: it is a change to the status quo that is not going smoothly. By not going smoothly, I think a lot of it comes from the bad behavior of some, the self preservation behavior of others, and the failure to address misbehavior by most. To start from the middle, because it is the least understood by non cyclists, drivers and pedestrians don’t understand that it is safer for a cyclist to go through an empty intersection against the light, or at least advance across the first crosswalk against the light, than to follow the letter of the law. This often gets misconstrued as part of the first part – the old school agressive and unsafe behavior of some cyclists, such as was shown in that bike messenger movie, Premium Rush. But I think the real nail in the coffin, which shouldn’t be, is advocates response to the first two. Obviously the safety needs to be pointed out and paramount, and laws should be reviewed and changed in a way that will make road use safe for all. But to get the general public on our side, arguing that cars do more damage than bicycles as the only counter point adds fuel to the fire as it falls on deaf ears. Advocates need to make a concerted stand against aggressive and unsafe cyclist behavior and not only agree to, but advocate for aggressive NYPD enforcement of bad cyclist behavior. As much as I agree that it is a waste of precious NYPD traffic resources, it would pay off in the end as we actually get the non-driving pedestrian public to align with cyclists for safe street design and infrastructure. But too many people think cyclists just make excuses and have an elitist attitude because most cyclists, especially vocal cycling advocates, do not come out clearly against unsafe cycling behavior. To win this argument, cyclists must lead by example. I don’t mean by following the letter of the law exactly, but there should be teams of people from TA and various other cycling organizations meeting get regularly with NYPD precincts and not just arguing for automobile enforcement, but working to guide cycling enforcement. The bad cycling apples are really ruining the rest of our bunch.

  • BKbiker

    Meh. The Mayor is playing to the crowd in an election year. He’s gone to bat for safer streets when he’s needed to, like on Queens Blvd.

    Could his records be better? Sure. I also think holding the impact of 12(!) years of Bloomberg and JSK against 3.5 years of BdB and Trottenberg is unfair, if not also short sighted. I won’t be voting for the guy in November, but it won’t be because of his record and stances on transportation.

    To the under current of this anti-bike resentment, let’s be honest for a minute — NYC cyclists are assholes. I routinely get cut off by salmoning cyclists in the bike lanes and when I’m walking have almost been hit many many times.

    Do we need better infrastructure and education, as well as at times proper enforcement as a stick? You bet! The sooner the cycling community owns that the sooner we can collectively say that one doesn’t proceed the other, and the old cranks at CB meetings can no longer hold better infrastructure hostage.

    It’s why I give my money to Bike NY and not TA.

  • walks bikes drives

    I try to avoid the east side completely between the 50s and 30s, and using the “greenway” south of the 30s.

    What’s your route through the area?

  • BAMstutz

    Right. But everyone has driven, and is often in a car.

  • Joe R.

    The problem here with that tactic is simple logistics. No arguments that truly dangerous cycling behavior needs to be stopped. However, consider a typical example of this, like a cyclist bombing through a crowded crosswalk at 20+ mph, then threading through cross traffic. By the time a cop at the intersection witnesses this behavior, the cyclist is already half a block down. Even if we assume they were in a squad car ready to give chase, good luck outrunning a fast cyclist on crowded streets. That’s not even getting into the exponentially greater danger such a chase would create.

    Other tactics, like maybe radioing to cops a block or two down, are likely to be equally ineffective. The cyclist could make a quick turn off into a side street. On even a dangerous u-turn if the cop is on the next corner, followed by a turn and an escape. Bottom line, it’s really hard to catch a fast cyclist determined to get away. They can go anywhere a pedestrian can, but at 5 times the speed. I’m not saying they shouldn’t try, but they’re not going to catch enough of these reckless cyclists to deter the others. This isn’t even getting into the fact the majority of truly reckless cyclists have a financial incentive to ride that way. Maybe if we required them to be paid by the hour things would be different. Unfortunately, this would also mean bike deliveries will take too long, and the businesses these cyclists work for would suffer. No easy answers here.

    I will say that the long term solution is probably completely separate infrastructure wherever feasible. It’s pretty obvious motorists and many pedestrians don’t like sharing the streets with cyclists. Given my choice, I’d rather not share the street with them. We could make everyone happy by just having a (mostly) separate cycling network in the most congested parts of the city.

  • Joe R.

    “Idaho stops”, or even “Idaho yields” shouldn’t bother anyone. By definition both things imply you looked and yielded to anyone with the legal right of way. I get the animus towards people blowing lights, but from my observations that’s a small minority of cyclists, mostly delivery people who have a financial incentive to ride recklessly. I’ve said many times if the people in these neighborhoods are bothered that much by delivery cyclists, they can put a stop to it by just picking up their food like I usually do. If they want their food delivery fast and hot, well, it’s going to mean chaos on the streets. You can’t make fast deliveries in the city without riding recklessly. It just boggles my mind these people don’t realize they indirectly created this problem.

  • walks bikes drives

    Oh, I don’t mean the cops have to actually be able to give the tickets, they just have to be out there with cyclists publicly supporting the goal of catching them. Cyclists need to stand up and say clearly that those that ride unsafely are not part of US.

  • walks bikes drives

    But they don’t vote.

  • Joe R.

    I think his problem is more being afraid to rock the boat than anything else. We’ve seen it with Vision Zero, with bike, with the subway. Vision Zero was doomed to failure from the start unless we implemented a plan to drastically reduce traffic levels. There just isn’t any other way to radically reduce fatalities. Unfortunately, the mayor was never on board with that part of the plan because it would have meant going to war with motorists. All we got was a token 5 mph reduction in the default speed limit, which might as well be 0 mph given the level of enforcement. Basically, he gave lip service and did just enough to not offend drivers, but not enough for real change.

    On bikes, he’s sent the same schizophrenic message Bloomberg did, namely we want you to ride bikes but we’re going to sic the NYPD on you big time. And we’re not going to change traffic laws to something which makes sense for cyclists. Only difference is De Blasio ramped up the already ridiculous levels of enforcement even more just to pander to ignorant community boards spewing anecdata at meetings. He’s either unwilling or unable to control the NYPD. And it seems like he fundamentally doesn’t understand how streets works, just as is the case with Vision Zero.

    The subway? Not directly under his control, but he could have been a lot more forceful with the governor. He also could have found some money from the city. Just the money he spent adding those extra unnecessary cops might have helped.

    Bottom line is he’s a weak leader. His administration reminds me more and more of Dinkins, who thus far was the worst mayor in my lifetime. If the people of this city are dumb enough to vote him in for a second term, I think he’ll surpass Dinkins’ negatives in every category.

  • Joe R.

    I’d love to have the police truly be on our side, meaning if I do a careful Idaho yield in front of a cop I know I won’t get a ticket, while at the same time being confident police will try to catch those cyclists who make things dangerous for all of us. Heck, I’m even willing to help chase down these people. In fact, maybe such a “crowd-sourcing” solution is a partial answer. I can’t give out tickets, but I can tell these cyclists that their behavior is unacceptable and why. So can other cyclists. Maybe with enough social pressure the truly awful behavior can mostly go away.

  • walks bikes drives

    They shouldn’t bother people, but they do because we don’t provide a convincing argument that people will actually here. We convince ourselves, but we do a piss-poor job of convincing those that actually need to be convinced.

  • walks bikes drives

    I already do chase them down.

  • Joe R.

    For my part I could go into boring dissertations about average speeds/average power levels to maintain a given speed when you stop, versus when you don’t stop, the safety benefits of getting ahead of the platoon of cars, and so forth. If I don’t put people to sleep first I think anyone who is fairly reasonable might be convinced.

  • Joe R.

    Cool! I have a few times as well, mostly when they blow through a crosswalk full of people.

  • walks bikes drives

    But that’s the thing, talking about power levels and loss of momentum will not win over any skeptics. They see that argument purely as elitists who think the law should not apply to them. The same argument can be made for cars. Cars are more efficient and create less pollution when they don’t have to stop for a traffic light, or idle at a traffic light. Arguments must hinge on safety and safety alone. And we must show that we are out for the safety of everyone and except that means there is fault with some cyclists.

  • walks bikes drives

    Most New Yorkers, if they have never driven themselves, have probably been in a cab. But that does not mean they have windshield perspective.

  • Isaac B

    While I advocate for cyclists to follow the law and to make allowances for the errors of people who walk, I’ve concluded that people’s attitudes toward us (cyclists) are not driven by our behavior. My “aha” moment: Positioning myself to make a left turn off a 2-lane, 2-way street. Provided ample time and a hand signal. A car revs up from far behind and stands on their horn. The motorist’s (and to an extent, the walker’s) reaction is “how dare you?” The same reaction the white community had to black children wanting to go to the white school. The same reaction some people react to a woman wanting to be President or for a same sex couple wanting to be married. To the driver: “How dare you expect to have the same “rights” on the road that I have?” To the walker “How dare they think they’re better than us scared walkers? They’re going to make the drivers angry!”

  • Joe R.

    The best way is to invite the skeptics to go for a ride. When they see for themselves how a bike isn’t like a motor vehicle they should be convinced.

    I know the stuff about power and loss of momentum seems elitist, but it could be followed up with discussions of what they’ve done in the Netherlands. They realized people could have a much larger potential cycling radius if they can mostly stay in motion. So indirectly that meshes with the mayor’s supposed goal of increasing bike mode share.

  • walks bikes drives

    I hear you about inviting them for a ride, but most of these skeptics would never get on a bike. I hear you about momentum, and I do go through lights that are not 100% about safety for the momentum difference, although in each case there is a safety advantage. But that is a second step. Once the infrastructure is getting out there, then we can move on to make it more efficent. Baby steps. But if you go right for the end zone, we’ll end up turning the ball over.

  • walks bikes drives

    I agree with you on the driver side, but I think the pedestrian side was just a background deep seated and deep seeded disdain of bike riders.

  • c2check

    I bike from work at 42nd. Not a lot of better options for me! And crosstown routes still suckkkkkkk both ways

  • NYCBK123

    Agreed! His answer was more nuanced than this report states, as well. He talked about the fact that there are too many cars on the streets and that there are dangerous drivers. Later he brought up that there are too many cars and that we can’t encourage more of it.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Didn’t know the UN deal died. Too bad.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Going home, it’s 5th/Broadway if I’m stopping at Union Square for vegetables, and 40th Street to Park or Lexington to below 30th, then over to 2nd if I’m not.

    I had been using Park on the way in until they started building One Vanderbilt, but now come up 6th.

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