In Yiddish, of course, sadik refers to a wise and saintly man-and aside from the fact that NYC Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Khan is no man, she sure isn't a sadik. Last week, the commissioner appeared before the NYC Council to defend her effort to turn this town into Copenhagen by creating bicycle heaven. And make no mistake about it, this all devolves from Mayor Bloomberg's congestion tax plan to make Manhattan as auto-free as possible-except that Khan isn't stopping at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge.
The NY Times reported on the hearing: "The battle of the bike lanes, a civic discussion that has turned increasingly contentious and common at community boards and dinner tables throughout New York, made its way to the City Council on Thursday. The theatrics seemed to survive the transition. Dueling protests, vicious invective from both sides and good old New York-style kvetching have been hallmarks of the bicycle debate since the Bloomberg administration began installing hundreds of miles of bicycle-only lanes throughout the city."
In our view-as we have expressed a few times already-this isn't just about the commissioner's policy itself, but is also about the manner of its implementation-which includes the decision making process for creating pedestrian plazas and car restrictions on such major crosstown thoroughfares like 34th Street: "What's happening all over the city is that the mayor is acting unilaterally to impose his traffic vision on neighborhoods that are given any advise and consent role in the proposed changes."
The NY Times has more on the grandiosity of the mayor's Sadik: "First the city repurposed Times Square, converting some of its streets to a pedestrian promenade. Similar plans are in store for 34th Street by the Empire State Building.Now Union Square could become the latest Manhattan landmark to gain a pedestrian plaza, the open-air concrete park that is quickly becoming the Bloomberg administration’s signature contribution to the streets of New York. Almost all traffic would be banned from the block of Broadway north of Union Square, between 17th and 18th Streets, under a proposal under consideration by the city’s Transportation Department."
But the bike lanes are a special grievance in this regard-as we first pointed out with the unilateral changes Sadik-Khan made to Prospect Park and Columbus Avenue: "The NY Post's Steve Cuozzo picks up where we left off yesterday-and goes off against DOT Commissioner Sadik-Khan for her unilateral imposition of bike lanes all over NYC: "Brooklyn residents yesterday rallied against an ugly, two-way bicycle lane on majestic Prospect Park West -- just the latest costly and increasingly destructive traffic-rerouting scheme imposed by city Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Sadik-Khan's department dishonestly calls the bike lane "temporary" pending an analysis of its impact on traffic and safety, which won't be done until January. Does she really expect anyone to believe her?"
And on Columbus: "It's all working well-if the definition of the term is how well its working all of us over-and where is the city council? These so-called experiments are always self graded as excellent even when the review data shows no such thing: "Every time, the DOT concluded that its brainstorms worked just fine -- even though it's failed to persuasively document any improvement in vehicular flow that was the nominal rationale. The latest horror is on Columbus Avenue north of West 77th Street. The DOT dangerously narrowed auto lanes from 12 feet to 10 and replaced an entire parking lane with a little-used bike lane. Cars must now park in the middle of the avenue."
This is all by way of prelude to last Thursday's hearing-and the anti-car zealots were out in force with their auto-immune systems out of whack: "Advocates argued that the lanes encourage a safer, more environmentally friendly mode of transportation while making the city safer for pedestrians. “You’ve got to lay the tracks before you run the train,” said Noah Budnick, a deputy director at Transportation Alternatives, a cycling and pedestrian advocacy group. Opponents lamented the loss of parking spaces and traveling lanes for automobiles, as well as complaining about what they labeled an imperious approach by city officials."
Over at City Room, our view of the Columbus Avenue travesty-were bikes are rarely seen, but congestion reigns supreme-was given credence: "What if you build it and they don’t necessarily come? Two months ago, New York City marked out lime green bike lanes along the east-side curb of Columbus Avenue from 96th Street to 77th Street. The lanes, part of a 400-mile network the city has so far demarcated, narrowed the space for cars to drive down the southbound avenue and removed at least 50 parking spots in a neighborhood where parking is a challenge."
What even more egregious here is what kind of impact that this zealotry is having on the area's small businesses: "Meanwhile, merchants complain that they have lost spaces where their customers used to park or where wholesalers’ trucks once idled to make deliveries. Ms. Frangiadakis said she found it difficult to get deliveries of flowers, because the entire block’s parking zone has been converted into a bike lane, except for a short area that accommodates one long truck and is nearly always full. Her own trucks or those belonging to wholesalers often cruise the street for an hour or more to find a parking space and out of desperation double-park illegally on the other side of Columbus — blocking traffic and forcing her to run across the avenue to haul in her flowers, she said."
And what of the inconvenience to customers? "Ms. Frangiadakis explains: "“I lose lots of time because I can’t find parking,” she said while arranging purple and yellow flowers for a customer. Customers who used to drive by and stop, often on a whim, to buy flowers for their spouses or lovers, no longer can. “Who’s going to stop here to buy flowers?” she said, pointing to the street without parking. “Business is slow over all, and this is not helping.”
So once again, the city's small busineses get the shaft while the mayor crows about some grossly imagined NYC economic miracle. But the compelling issues here are two fold. The first, as Transportation Chair Vacca tell the Times is lack of proper oversight: "Nobody disagrees that using more bicycles is a good thing, but in a city where traffic is horrendous and finding a parking space is difficult, bike policy is all about trade-offs,” said James Vacca, the chairman of the Council’s transportation committee, as he introduced the hearing."
Finding the proper balance with regard to what the city's bike policy should be is all about having changes proposed by the administration-along with accompanying legislative hearings that seek to determine what the proper balance is for the diverse neighborhoods of New York. Which gets us to the second point-determining how successful the so-called DOT experiments really are.
As we said two months ago-citing the excellent reporting of Steve Cuozzo: "It's all working well-if the definition of the term is how well its working all of us over-and where is the city council? These so-called experiments are always self graded as excellent even when the review data shows no such thing: "Every time, the DOT concluded that its brainstorms worked just fine -- even though it's failed to persuasively document any improvement in vehicular flow that was the nominal rationale. The latest horror is on Columbus Avenue north of West 77th Street. The DOT dangerously narrowed auto lanes from 12 feet to 10 and replaced an entire parking lane with a little-used bike lane. Cars must now park in the middle of the avenue."
As we have seen with the fraudulent EDC ramp reports for Willets Point, we are getting to the point where no one can take this administration's oversight work for granted-even when they do public reports. So, while the council is at it-and if it isn't up to the task maybe the Public Advocate is-they should commission an independent review of the impact of all of these wholesale changes-on local communities and small businesses alike.
Nothing, however, can diminish the zeal of our helmeted leader: "While there are inevitable growing pains as cycling moves from the margins to the mainstream, its growth in New York is already delivering substantial safety, mobility and health dividends,” Ms. Sadik-Khan said. “The city’s bicycle program, with your assistance and support, is a huge success.”
The city-with the mayor's explicit or tacit approval-has embarked on a grandiose plan to thoroughly remake the city's streetscape. This is all being done without a single environmental impact study-and at an exorbitant cost. Much like the failed calorie posting experiment that DOH imposed by going to the unelected Board of Health for approval-while bypassing city council review-the current extreme makeover has never been properly reviewed by either city planning or the city council. When the council allowed the calorie posting to proceed without any complaint, it laid the seeds for this more radical usurpation of authority.
What we need now is for the city council to do more than brew some weak tea oversight that doesn't really address the outrageous and arbitrary actions of DOT. If the mayor pushes back, than the council should sue the administration and its rogue agency for going way beyond any legal purview that can be found in the city charter.