Monday, December 06, 2010

Peddling Meddling

The NY Daily News nails the issue in editorializing on the unilateral bicycle lane program of NYC's own Sadik: "Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has been on a roll. She's been installing bicycle lanes everyplace she can squeeze them. The cyclists love it. And then there's everyone else."

The paper's real concern, though, is the lack of transparency-what we would label dishonesty-of the commissioners diktats: "She says she is doing everyone a favor by erecting barriers, pushing cars to park in the middle of avenues and creating clear pedaling for two-wheeled travelers. We dare her. Prove it. This is Bloomberg's data-driven administration, the government that measures and calculates to figure out whether something works. At this late date, Sadik-Khan should have at her fingertips facts and figures that tell the tale of what she hath wrought."

The News poses a series of questions that Sadik-Khan has yet to address-and we would argue doesn't have to because the city council hasn't aggressively stepped in to mandate an environmental review process; only a diluted oversight protocol that has no teeth:

"For example:
- Have dedicated bike lanes slowed vehicular traffic? If so, by how much?

- How many bicyclists actually use the lanes?

- How many bicyclists are a) ignoring the lanes or b) riding recklessly while doing so?

- Have the bike lanes affected both vehicular and pedestrian safety?"

Of course, even prior to this kind of useful post mortem the city should be required to submit a thorough statement of need-and a full EIS-that the CPC and the council staff could analyze before any new lane or plaza is constructed. The commissioner, however, apparently feels that this kind of transparency is unnecessary: "The commissioner's office has little of this information, opening her to understandable suspicion that she - an avid cyclist - just wants to impose her own preferences (and dreams of easing global warming) on an entire city. Adding to the suspicion are Sadik-Khan's feints and changing standards. In March, in a speech at Los Angeles' Occidental College, she said of the bike lanes, "You have to experiment, try things out. If it doesn't work, okay, you move on and try something else." She also said she had discovered that she could more easily persuade New Yorkers to go along with transportation changes if she labeled them experiments. However, Sadik-Khan's press office says the lanes were never experimental."

Sadik-Khan's actions underscore a dangerous pattern that the Bloombergistas have initiated on many different policy levels-an example of what has been appropriately termed, "illiberal progressivism." So imbued are these folks with a sense of their own rectitude, they dismiss as both unnecessary and unwarranted any sober oversight over their actions-it is all, they assure us with little circumspection or introspection, only for the good of the people.

But even after all of Sadik-Khan's social experimentation, there has been little to demonstrate its efficacy: "As for traffic speeds, the department has not taken hard before-and-after measures for comparison. Spot checks by traffic engineers equipped with radar guns are said to have produced guesstimates that volume and speed remained roughly constant - with some impressions that traffic has been slowed a bit. Which is just as well with Sadik-Khan, who issued one report on her handiwork that states, "These changes have a traffic-calming effect, lowering speeds and increasing driver attention."

Who really knows, and without any rigorous evaluation everything coming out of DOT-and Sadik-Khan's mouth-is simply blather. Meanwhile, the city's motorists, delivery drivers and commuters are being given the finger. First it was the Board of Health imposing menu labeling without any legislative oversight, then came the DOH commissioner misrepresenting scientific evidence in the name of forcefully slimming New Yorkers-and now this. It is time for the city council to fulfill its proper oversight role.