Published in
The Empire

How bike lanes became the front lines of a political power struggle

Transportation Nation's Andrea Bernstein posted a great piece that pulls back the political shroud around the battle over bike lanes in Brooklyn. It's a meticulously traced story of how high-profile political players--Senator Charles Schumer's wife, former Giuliani aides, and others--use their status for personal battles.

The lede here is priceless:

Last March, Mayor Michael Bloomberg dined privately with a small group of guests that included his former transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall, and her husband, the United States Senator, Charles Schumer.

By that time, both Schumer and Weinshall had made known their displeasure over a bike lane that had been built across the street from their home – on Brooklyn’s leafy Prospect Park West.

According to two sources familiar with what was said at that dinner, Schumer asked the mayor: “Can’t you get rid of that lane?”

“You don’t like it?” the mayor responded.  A beat. “I’m going to make it twice as wide.”

Thus ensued a political battle wrapped up as a NIMBY issue:

But the clash of two broadly powerful men is typical of the story of the Prospect Park West bike lane story, which was never really about a bike lane. Or rather, it was never only about a bike lane, but rather about the perennial New York City question – who decides what goes where in the densely-packed urban streets we call home, and how they get to decide.

It's well worth reading the entire article here.