Monday, January 24, 2011

Bike Brakes

We can only say that it's about time-two Staten Island council members are calling out the Bloomberg administration for their failure to conduct a single environmental review of the disgraceful bike lane roll out: "Two city councilmen are pressing Mayor Bloomberg and his bike-lane-loving transportation chief to require that any new bicycle lanes go through the same exhaustive public review as other road changes. Staten Island Councilman James Oddo, the Republican minority leader, said plans for new bike lanes should undergo the city's lengthy environmental-assessment process, or the city should allow other, more minor traffic changes to bypass the review."

NYC's Sadik needs to be constrained-and we say it's about time because we have been questioning-along with the NY Post's Steve Cuozzo-for a long time why the city council has not instituted a challenge to this unilateralism. As we said last month: "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."

So kudos to Oddo and Ignizio-and their comments are right on point: "Oddo and Councilman Vincent Ignizio (R-SI) penned a letter last week demanding an explanation from Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, an avid cyclist and bike-lane proponent, of why the lanes don't require the scrutiny. "The creation of bike lanes and the removal of vehicle travel lanes represent a major reordering of Department of Transportation priorities that may affect the environment and appear to qualify" for a formal environmental review, the letter reads. Oddo told The Post, "To add one left-handed turning lane [on Staten Island], it's taking us eight to 12 years, yet there have been all of these bike lanes installed without any bumps in the road. How is that possible?"

Exactly so-and the comments from DOT indicate that the city must have stopped doing random drug testing of its employees: "DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow defended the exclusion of bike lanes from the city's review process. "Our job is to improve mobility and safety on city streets, and this kind of review is not necessary for any routine street changes we make to improve safety," he said."
Routine street changes? To which the Post archly points out: "Since Bloomberg took office in 2002, the city has added 373 miles of bike lanes, Solomonow said." And, as many have pointed out, it isn't just about safety, but also about the kind of environmental and business impacts that these changes are bringing to neighborhoods without the benefit of any rigorous analysis.

The NY Daily News nailed this last month in its editorial on the wacky world of Sadik-Khan-and calls her out on the DOT's failure to demonstrate that the alleged benfits of the bike lanes have actually been achieved: "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."

All of which makes  the effort of Oddo and Ignizio laudatory-as well as long over due. We'll give ourselves the last word from our comments last month on the commissioner's claims that the lanes have had a, "calming effect," on traffic: "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."