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Tish backs the bike lane slowdown

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Talk about pedaling in two different directions at once!

Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) repeatedly broadcast her desire for extending bike lanes throughout the borough during Thursday’s hearing on the city’s bike lane policy — even though she’s backing Councilman Lew Fidler’s (D–Canarsie) call for public hearings that could curtail the city’s free-wheeling, bike lane-laying ways.

“I can think of no better way of addressing the sedentary lifestyle than expanding the bicycle network,” James testified as she joined the calcaphony of pro and con comments at the hearing about the city’s bike lane revolution.

Yet James is the only legislator in the Brownstone bike belt to sign onto Fidler’s bill, which would require public hearings before a bike lane is constructed.

But the bill has broad backing in Southern Brooklyn, as Michael Nelson (D–Midwood), Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island), Jumaane Williams (D–Flatbush) and David Greenfield (D–Borough Park) have all signed on.

James disagreed that she was being inconsistent.

“I want more bike lanes, but I also see a benefit in the community board determining if they are necessary,” she said. “They’re the voice of the people.”

But some of those people don’t want an extra layer of bureaucracy hindering the city’s expansion of its bicycle network.

“We don’t want to slow down the goal of building safer streets,” said Kim Martineau, a spokeswoman for the bicycle advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.

Hearings at the community board level would no doubt further widen the gap between car-dependent neighborhoods in Southern Brooklyn and the mass-transit and bike-friendly neighborhoods to the north.

In October, for example, Department of Transportation officials were nearly run out on a rail as they told Community Board 18 about plans to bring bicycle lanes to E. 94th and E. 95th streets in Canarsie.

Members of the board were adamant about stopping the bike lanes.

“If we lived in some kind of utopia, bicycle lanes would be wonderful,” District Manager Dorothy Turano said. “But in reality it’s not practical. No one here bicycles to work.”

Of course, Fidler’s bill wouldn’t give community boards any more powers than they have now. The bill only demands that the city notify affected community boards. There’s nothing in the legislation to prevent the city from installing a bike lane — no matter how much a neighborhood may hate them.

The new pushback against bike lanes comes as the city is in the midst of a Bicycle Master Plan, which calls for 200 miles of new bike lanes across town in the next three years. After that, the Department of Transportation plans to add about 50 miles of bike lane each year until 2030, when it is anticipated that the bike network will be finished.

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Reader Feedback

Mike from GP says:
Should we put each foot of sidewalk to a public hearing? Crosswalks?

Fidler's bill is crazy.
Dec. 13, 2010, 8:41 am
Steve from Park Slope says:
The DOT already goes to community boards voluntarily. There isn't a bike lane that's been put in under the current DOT that wasn't either requested by a local community board (CB6 requested the PPW lane) or talked about with the local CB before installation.

Fidler wants to add a layer of red tape to something that the DOT is already doing voluntarily. It would cost money and waste time, since the DOT meets with community boards on the boards' schedules, not when mandated by an unnecessary law.

This is a law designed to make anti-bike lane politicians feel in control. It does nothing to improve the communications process already in process.
Dec. 13, 2010, 9:05 am
Albert from Manhattan says:
When were automobile lanes ever subject to community approval? Basically never, I think.
Dec. 13, 2010, 9:38 am
ch from bh says:
Any bike lane in the Brownstone belt would be met with overwhelming support at any community meeting, so I can see Tish's logic in requesting them.

It would also remove one of the (false) complaints bike-lane-foes always trot out: "we weren't consulted."
Dec. 13, 2010, 10:43 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
Fort Greene/Clinton Hill residents are bike crazy! It is a terrific thing. Can Tish even ride a bike? What a disappointment.
Dec. 13, 2010, 10:43 am
Joe from Crown Heights says:
I don't get why on earth you would single out one small life-saving safety measure for people riding bikes, simple lanes painted on the asphalt, as something that specifically needs to be reviewed, but not all other traffic control measures like signals, stop signs, crosswalks, speed bumps, lane markings, road widenings, hatched areas, medians, etc. Just bike lanes? That sends a message that the council is less interested in engaging in real, constructive dialogue about how our streets should be designed and managed to make them as safe and efficient as possible, but instead they are just anti-bike facilities.
Dec. 13, 2010, 11:08 am
In the Slope from Park Slope says:
Tish is SUCH a GD hypocrite!!! It’s good to have community input when it suites her political purpose, where in the hell was any south of Atlantic community input when 470 Vanderbilt parking issues that will drastically affect those residents? Why weren’t those residents allowed any input?
Dec. 13, 2010, 11:50 am
J from Midwood says:
Bike lanes would be good if people on bikes would actually follow traffic laws. What good is a bike lane if the person makes a quick turn at every red light they come to, and put themselves in front of traffic at random times.

Add that to the fact they've turned four-lane(2 in each direction) local streets into two-lane (1 each direction) w/ a bike path on both sides. (Gerritsen Ave) This adds traffic, causes longer delays to get through intersections and is a pretty big waste of money when the city has to lay off people and raise taxes but extends subway lines, builds new stadiums, turns major intersections into "pedestrian walks" and starts redesigning the designated lanes on major traffic areas (ocean ave coming down to Chruch Ave).

Given that it's the car owners that pay for this stuff with the tolls, the registration, the inspections, and public parking, why is it that it's the drivers that are being de-prioritized, for much less popular forms of transportation.

It's winter time, how many people will be in the bike lane when snow comes or the roads are icy? Perhaps we should start enforcing safety laws usch as reflectors or blinking reflectors for night time. A bike lane is great until the bike turns a corner and gets slammed into by a car that couldn't see him coming.
Dec. 13, 2010, 3:16 pm
Mellow Yello from Bed-Stuy says:
This is another tragedy. Cylcists have run out of allies on the city council. And we were so close to having a complete bike network, 80% funded by the feds. Instead now that money can go into MORE BUREAUCRACY!
Dec. 13, 2010, 4 pm
Mat from Marine Park says:
Is it me, or do some people seem to have it backwards? Since the Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods are much less serviced by transit, by common admission, then they should have more clearly painted bike lanes to accommodate those who are sick of waiting for the bus to the train to the transfer station to the other train. And sick of paying escalating gas prices to end up cruising for a parking spot to go to the store. Bikes are not the total answer, but if they reduce traffic for those who need to drive cars, then all the better. The "lost" lane on Gerritsen Avenue next to the parked cars is not wide enough to allow a car to pass without taking off someone's mirror!
Dec. 13, 2010, 7:07 pm
Andrew from Williamsburg says:
This last paragraph is almost completely misinformed.

The City is not building 200 miles of bike routes over the next three years because it built 200 miles of bike routes in 2007 (60 miles), 2008 (80 mi) and 2009 (60 mi). Starting in 2010 and going forward to 2030, the target is 50 miles per year.

As for the Bicycle Master Plan, it was drafted in 1997. Many of the routes that the City is constructing are in the plan, and the others are either requested by Community Boards/elected officials, or added as components of overall traffic calming proposals with the approval of the Community Boards. It is available to view or download as a PDF from the Department of City Planning here: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/bike/mp.shtml.
Dec. 13, 2010, 9:24 pm
Danny G from Queens says:
It would be unrealistic to expect people from Canarsie to bike all the way into Manhattan. But it would be very sensible to make it easier to get around Canarsie and surrounding neighborhoods by bike. You don't drive two blocks, you don't take a plane to travel 10 miles, and you don't jog for 5,000 miles.

Every distance has cost- and time-effective ways of getting around, and providing people in Canarsie with a good option for the 1-2 mile range makes sense. Just because some people ride bikes 10 miles to Manhattan while wearing special clothes doesn't mean you have to feel less hardcore for riding 10 blocks to the store in jeans and a sweatshirt.
Dec. 13, 2010, 10:34 pm
Joe from Prospect Heights says:
I've voted for Tish more times than any other politician, but she's off her rocker on this one. It would be one thing if she were supportive of the Brooklyn Greenway or TransAlt and she came out with this position, but she's not. She's starting to look more and more like an outer borough ignoramus than the dazzling and sophisticated urbanite she once proclaimed to be.
Dec. 14, 2010, 9:22 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
If any of you bothered to read the article, it said that Tish was for the bike lanes, but wanted them to go through community imput so that people will know that this was not something done arbitrairly like it has been lately. This is exactly what Fidler has been talking about as well. Why should placing a bike lane be automatic or given a blank check? To answer Mellow Yellow's concer on allies, it could be that you and radical cyclist friends on Streetsblog have a tendency to flout the laws constantly and almost never use the bike lanes where they are located. At one point, you had Scott Stringer, who is the borough president of Manhattan, on your side and giving you guys the benefit of the doubt, but now he has second thoughts after what he heard on saw. If you guys think that following the rules are for losers will make you part of the system that you are fighting, then it is very likely that once Bloomberg and JSK leave, the next administration will take this all away.
Dec. 15, 2010, 5:49 pm
Steve from Park Slope says:
I was at the Council hearing, and I did not get the impression that Letitia James was supporting a separate community board review process just for bike projects. I did not hear her explicitly supporting Fiedler's anti-bike, anti-pedestrian position.

What I heard was a request that community boards be involved in the planning and design of all significant traffic changes, and also heard that Council-member James knows that the PPW bike lane was requested by the community board in a process that involved several back and forth meetings and presentations. There was the involvement that is being called for.

Unfortunately, some people, not including James, are upset that the open public process came to a conclusion they don't like.
Dec. 20, 2010, 9:34 pm

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