Eric Adams: If Jeff Bezos Is Going To Space, We Can Build A Protected Bike Route From Downtown Brooklyn To Park Slope
12:01 AM EDT on June 25, 2021
To infinity ... and Pete Hamill Way.
During a bike ride from Brooklyn Borough Hall to Park Slope on Thursday afternoon, Brooklyn Borough President and presumptive mayor of New York Eric Adams said that an Adams administration could replace the current mishmash of unprotected bike lanes he rode on with a safe route that would be more welcoming to cyclists of all stripes.
"Anything that would make our city safe. I'm open to any ideas," said Adams. "That's how I am, open. So I think everything is possible in an Adams administration. The sky is no longer the limit, Jeff Bezos is going to space."
Further pushing limits, on a later ride back to Brooklyn Borough Hall, Adams told WNYC's Gwynne Hogan he would maybe even consider a bike lane for Atlantic Avenue, long a killing field.
The ride was not really a photo op — but given that Adams this week won the first round of ranked-choice voting, how could it not be? — because Adams was on official Beep business, heading from his office in the heart of Brooklyn's civic core to attend the ceremonial renaming of Seventh Avenue and 12th Street in Park Slope "Pete Hamill Way" after the legendary tabloid editor. After seven years of Mayor de Blasio — who made one bike ride and counting, yet once famously called himself "the bike mayor" — seeing a potential mayor on a bike obviously surprised plenty of passers-by, some of whom did indeed yell out support for Adams as he rode down Boerum Place to Dean Street to (of all routes) Fifth Avenue to Ninth Street to Seventh Avenue.
But New Yorkers definitely won't be surprised to see their mayor on a bike (if, indeed, Adams holds onto the lead when counting resumes next week).
"As much as possible, probably daily," he said of his plans to ride if he's elected. "I enjoy riding. It keeps me close to people. I enjoy being on the subway system. I don't do it for photo ops. I do it because it's the best way to get around the city. So I'm going to ride just about daily, even if I don't ride to the job, that's my break," said Adams.
Adams was reminded that Mayor de Blasio often said he couldn't bike or take the subway to work because he needed to make calls, but Adams said that biking and still getting the job done would not be a challenge.
"I think that you can get that exercise and you take care of yourself. I'm no good to New York if I'm not good to myself first, and exercise and being on a train, talking to people," he said. [Mayor John] Lindsay used to do these things called walks, and he would just walk throughout the community. And that is what I'm going to do. You can't be a good shepherd if you're not among the sheep. You have to be among people. Mayors and leaders are too removed from people. ... If people don't feel comfortable enough to walk up to you and approach you, they're not going to be inspired by you. There's a lack of inspiration in our city, but that inspiration is going to change. They're going to see an ordinary guy be the mayor of New York."
During the ride, the Beep was peppered with questions about how he'd approach the issue of expanding cycling and making it safer in a city that's seen two consecutive years of more than 20 cyclist deaths, but also rising pedestrian deaths.
One way to get bike lanes spread across the city according to Adams is to create safe routes to schools, in order to grow interest in cycling for children, who will then kvetch enough to their parents to get them to drop any potential opposition to the street safety projects.
"You first you look at our schools, come up with real routes, and expedite to build out the bike lanes on real routes," he said. "If you allow children to pick three days a week, on say Monday, Wednesday, Friday to do school rides, children will go to the parents and say, 'We want bike lanes.' And those parents, will start thinking about safety, will start thinking about how do you deal with childhood obesity."
Neighborhood kids are credible messengers, Adams said, which are what's needed to help highlight transportation inequality as he said he's done in instances on the job like during the fight over the Classon Avenue bike lane or the effort to put a bike lane on Flatbush Avenue next to Prospect Park.
"There was some pushback at first with Prospect Park. But I started speaking to the people and saying why do we have protected bike lanes on [Prospect Park] West and we don't have it on other parts of the park. When people start to see the inequality — that you have in one place and not others. So it's about being a credible messenger that can bring people together, and that's what I have to do."
And as a regular cyclist himself, he was of course quizzed on what he as mayor would do about cars blocking bike lanes, which he came across multiple times going down both Dean and Fifth.
"It's problematic, this guy should be tagged," the BP said as he passed a pickup truck parked on Dean Street. "You have to send a message: you're not going to park in bike lanes like this guy up here. It's dangerous. I have friends who don't want to ride, and we have to lose that fear."
For Adams, he said the bike lane parking issue was one of enforcement, and making sure to take care of known bike lane blocking hot spots once they're identified, at least when it comes to civilians engaging in the practice. If the subject is police blocking the bike lane, Adams stuck by his previously suggested solution of having integrity control officers in offending precincts take care of the issue. Pressed further on the issue, as he might be the place where the buck stops soon, Adams said ICOs who shrug off that responsibility could wind up getting a personal phone call from a Mayor Adams.
"All I have to do is pick up the phone and call that integrity control officer, send him a picture of the blocked bike lane, and that problem is going to be resolved instantly," said Adams. "I don't think this police department has utilized the role of the integrity control officers the way they should, and I'm going to make forward use of them."
Whether cyclists trust that pronouncement could come down to whether they remember the fight over leaving cars parked on Cadman Plaza in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall. The BP defended his practice of letting employees park their cars on the public park, a practice he did not start, but did continue when he took over as borough president from Marty Markowitz in 2014.
Pressed during the ride on how he handled that issue, Adams characterized it as an issue where advocates decided to pick on him because he wasn't perfect. And while he was able to correctly peg his attitude towards cyclists and street safety as one that was friendlier than his anti-bike predecessor, even today reporters found Adams's personal car and an office minivan with three speeding tickets since January 2020 parked on the sidewalk (see below).
"I think I set the best example. There has never been a borough president more bike friendly than me. Marty was hostile. Scott Stringer, he doesn't even know how to spell 'bike,'" he said of his rival for City Hall who put forward aggressive pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly plans, though was resoundingly defeated.
"So what [advocates] need to do is don't look for perfection. Look at your best ally. I have been the best ally for bikers, and safe roads. Compare my record to any of the borough presidents and then use that as a criteria," Adams said. "But is that what folks did? No they said, 'Let's beat up Eric because you're not perfect.' And it just was wrong."
Dave Colon is a reporter from Long Beach, a barrier island off of the coast of Long Island that you can bike to from the city. It’s a real nice ride. He’s previously been the editor of Brokelyn, a reporter at Gothamist, a freelance reporter and delivered freshly baked bread by bike. Dave is on Twitter as @davecolon. Email Dave Colon at email@example.com
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