Some advocates for bike lanes now want to disregard whatever the Upper West Side’s community board might have to say and have the city install bike lanes by the mayor’s executive fiat.
Bike lane advocates are frustrated that the community board has been slow to approve extension to the bike lanes and add lanes on Amsterdam Avenue.
“By voting against the Columbus Avenue bike lane, Community Board 7 blatantly ignored the wishes of the public,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “This bike lane would make the Upper West Side safer for everyone. That’s why support for this project is widespread. It’s time the City circumvented this backward thinking board and installed this lane and pedestrian improvements. The people have spoken and their community board continues to ignore them.”
The people have spoken?
As we reported, numerous people did come out to support bike lanes on Tuesday night. But to say that the community unequivocally supports the bike lanes the city has installed is ludicrous. There are more than 200,000 people on the Upper West Side! Maybe 100-150 came out to support the lanes on Tuesday.
We’ve heard from hundreds of Upper West Siders about this issue, at meetings, in discussions all over the neighborhood, and online. The community is still fiercely divided on the issue, and as far as we know there hasn’t been a single scientific poll that shows clear majority support for expanding protected lanes in the neighborhood (It was very simple to vote multiple times in the one Gale Brewer sent around, and there was no verification system to determine if people were actually from the neighborhood).
Even if people support the concept of bike lanes in general, they may not support the DOT’s implementation. That’s why we have these meetings.
Bike lane advocates have organized themselves well, and they make a strong case for the lanes at meetings. And the Community Board ain’t perfect, for sure. Some of the people on the board who object to the lanes may simply be misinformed, while some have strong arguments. They are appointed advisers, not legislators, but they play an important role in a city where power is now almost completely centralized. Most importantly for advocates: they can be convinced!
Instead of asking the mayor to bypass them, give them a call, set up a meeting, hear their concerns, and do what you can to win their vote. It could involve compromise, it could mean launching a campaign to insure bicyclist and pedestrian safety, it could entail changes in street design. But it will actually involve the larger community.
Robert Moses was famous for disregarding what local boards had to say, and just going ahead with his initial plans anyway. That resulted in numerous highways being built, often right through the middle of neighborhoods. He often had legal justification for doing this, even if it resulted in bad public policy. Why support that style of governing?
If the next mayor isn’t as keen on bike lanes, should he or she simply disregard what local boards say and go ahead with dismantling the lanes anyway? We presume bike advocates would object.