Tuesday, March 22, 2011

City Cites Bike Lane Success, Like Willets Point Ramps?

According to City Room, the city is claiming that the DOT bike lanes are a huge benefit to public safety:

"The Bloomberg administration released an unusual two-page communiqué on Monday laying out its arguments for bicycle lanes, the subject of what one magazine has labeled the “newest urban culture war.”

The memo (pdf), written by Howard Wolfson, the city’s deputy mayor in charge of communications and government affairs, uses statistics to demonstrate improved traffic safety and cites community-based support for the lanes, which have sprouted up under the supervision of Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s transportation commissioner."

Well, pardon us if we don't simply take the city's word at face value-not after what we have seen them do with all of the traffic issues surrounding Willets Point. And we believe that, just like with the ill-fated Van Wyck ramps, any evaluation of the impact of these bike lanes should be done with an independent review.

Wolfson, no Gridlock Sam, needs to release all of the city's raw traffic data-along with the time frames that its so-called review took place. And support from one local community board or another doesn't by itself make the bike lane experiment a fabulous idea. Might any particular supportive Board reacted differently if the lanes had undergone a full SEQR review?

And a full environmental review would also have to address the business impacts of the lanes-customer access and delivery impediments. These are factors that should, but haven't gone into any decision making process at bike crazy DOT.

The bottom line is that, just as has been the case with school test scores and the evaluation of menu labeling, it is never a good idea to allow self interested policy makers to grade their own papers. One aspect of the Wolfson memo did get our complete attention: "The memo also points to a Quinnipiac University poll released last week that found that 54 percent of New Yorkers agreed with a statement that the lanes are a positive development “because it’s greener and healthier for people to ride their bicycles.”

If the public feels that strongly about, "greener and healthier," public policies, we wonder what the opinion survey would reveal if the folks were asked about not conducting independent review of ramps servicing a project that will generate 80,000 car trips each and every day? Or, how they feel about the hypocrisy of an administration that is actively promoting car dependent malls that will destroy any greener and healthier impact of any bike lane plan?

The Bloomberg administration wants to have it both ways. It wants to mall the city to death-and do so by taking private property from its rightful owners in Willets Point-and at the same time it wants to posture as cutting edge green policy makers. But its first instinct simply overwhelms even the self proclaimed traffic calming gains of bike lanes.

As with the Van Wyck ramps, bike lanes are badly in need of an independent second opinion.