Lawyer Suing City on Bike Lane Discusses Bike Lane Popularity, and Why He's Doing Case Pro-Bono

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(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Jim Walden, the lawyer representing groups who are suing New York City to remove a two-way bike lane that runs along Brooklyn's Prospect Park West, was on WNYC's Brian Lehrer show today (listen here or below) to discuss the lawsuit.  Much of what he said dedicated readers of this blog have heard before, but here are a few interesting parts.

About 15 minutes in, Brian asked Walden about the survey conducted by Brad Lander showing some three-quarters of residents surveyed support the bike lanes as is:

Walden:  (About 14:50 in) "As I've said to Brad directly,  I'm concerned about the position he's taking.  They keep trumpeting this study, as if safety was a popularity contest. What they don't talk about, and it mystifies me how they would do this - there are significant number of people who responded who said they felt less safe.  Now clearly the majority of the people felt more safe but it was more than 30 percent.

"I wonder if he conducted the survey again, and if he conducted the survey in person, and not over the internet so people could pad the numbers, and if he conducted it with senior citizens who access the park and disabled people who access the park what those numbers would say. "

(Michael Freedman-Schnapp, Lander's policy director, had called into the program, and he responded that some of the surveys had been conducted in person, and that all told eight percent of all residents living between Prospect Park West and Eighth Avenue -- a block away -- had responded to the survey. )

Brian Lehrer: (about 17:40 in) " Why are you doing this pro-bono? Isn't that usually reserved for indigent clients, not politically connected neighborhood groups?"

Walden: "No,  but I'm glad you asked me that question.  It's clearly been a source of great interest."

BL: "Right, I mean people say you're trying to suck up to Senator Schumer and get a job from him, because his wife is part of this group."

Walden: "She's not part of the group. He turned me down for the only job I ever applied so I promise you its not for any of those reasons. My pro bono work largely falls into two categories, part of it is a lot of work for indigent people and a lot of it is good government litigation.  I was part of the term limits team, attacking the mayor's decision to sidestep term limits, property tax rebates -- when they tried to double the expansion of a prison in a residential area.  These good government suits largely have big groups of the community, some of them rich, some of them middle class, some of them poor. None of them should have to pay to get their government to work."

[Just to clarify the above, when we'd initially reported on this, Walden told us he'd been introduced to the plaintiffs by Randy Mastro, a former deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani.  Mastro has working closely with both Senator Schumer and his wife, the city's former transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall.  While it's accurate to say that neither Senator Schumer nor his wife are plaintiffs, both have made their anti-Prospect Park West bike lane position clear, in a wide array of forums. Both joined a Facebook group in favor of removing the bike lane, and Weinshall co-signed a  letter to the New York Times. ]

Brian then asked about last week's Quinnipiac poll, showing that New Yorkers think bike lanes are "a good thing" by a 54 to 39 percent margin.

Walden: "If 54 percent support, that means a very, very significant minority do not, and you can feel the pulse around the city and people are largely extraordinarily upset that the administration has been so fast and loose with the data, promised a robust study, and failed to deliver."

Note: New York City deputy mayor, Howard Wolfson, will be on the Brian Lehrer Show on Thursday morning (at about 10:25am) to talk about bike lanes from the city's point of view.

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