Weinshall, Steisel: DOT Brooklyn Bike Lane Data is Wrong

Thursday, December 23, 2010 - 03:30 PM

We missed this yesterday, but since we've published DOT's data, we thought we should bring you this letter to the editor of the NY Times, in response to an editorial about how cyclists should be more law-abiding. In it, Iris Weinshall, the former NYC DOT commissioner (Janette Sadik-Khan's predecessor) makes a pretty strong public statement against the Prospect Park West bike lane.  Weinshall, BTW, is a resident of Prospect Park West, where resistance to the new lane is strongest, and the wife of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. --Transportation Nation

To the Editor:

Your editorial about the problems caused by law-evading bicyclists mentions data released by the New York City Department of Transportation that purport to show that the 50 miles of bike lanes it is adding each year “calm” traffic and cut down on fatalities.

But as the rest of your editorial suggests, the connection between encouraging biking — which we also strongly support — and making our streets safer and more pleasant for all users is far from established.

The D.O.T. data produce more puzzlement than enlightenment.

When new bike lanes force the same volume of cars and trucks into fewer and narrower traffic lanes, the potential for accidents between cars, trucks and pedestrians goes up rather than down. At Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, for instance, where a two-way bike lane was put in last summer, our eyewitness reports show collisions of one sort or another to be on pace to be triple the former annual rates.

Furthermore, the D.O.T. data’s lack of credibility is reinforced by our own videotapes. These show that the Prospect Park West bike lanes are used by half the number of riders the D.O.T. says, and that cyclists are not riding to commute as originally contemplated but are recreational users who could be better served by enhancing the existing lane 100 yards away in Prospect Park.

Finally, your point about the difficulty of giving tickets to cyclists who break the law is well taken. Educating bikers is a nice idea. But requiring them to be licensed like other potentially life-threatening high-speed vehicles is the only thing that will make enforcement any easier in the long run.

Louise Hainline
Norman Steisel
Iris Weinshall
Brooklyn, Dec. 17, 2010

The writers are members of Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes. Ms. Hainline is its president. Mr. Steisel is a former deputy mayor and sanitation commissioner of New York City, and Ms. Weinshall is a former transportation commissioner.

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Comments [5]


I suppose we should also give licences to pedestrians also. How about licences to go outside. This is garbage.

Jan. 24 2014 08:48 AM

Ms. Weinshall challenged her former agency's genuine metrics and data with "eyewitness reports" and "our own videotapes." I suggest you let it go Ms. Weinshall and go back to spending billions of tax dollars building the wrong facilities at CUNY.

Oct. 12 2011 08:37 AM
Deborah Kapell

Ms. Weinshall's insistence that 2 lanes of traffic is more dangerous than 3 is curious considering that there have been significantly fewer accidents since the bike lane was installed. In fact 2 lanes of traffic is more dangerous only when cars attempt to speed, as the majority of drivers did before the bike lane.

Dec. 24 2010 09:25 AM

I'm horrified, but not suprised that the NYT would publish this meaningless letter. I would hope that they would not have but for the heavy hitters involved. Where is this counter data? and, Please! Do show us the videotapes. How do they know who is a "recreational" user? And what enhancements do they propose making to the inner loop? Would they make it bi-directional? Increase the number of connections from the loop to the street from 3 to what? Otherwise recreational users will still be using PPW and the sidewalk just to get to the loop! There's no mention here that PPW, with 2 lanes south bound (down from 3), is now on a par with the 2 lanes on adjacent north bound 8th Ave. This letter is idiotic and completely disregards the generally strong neighborhood support for it!

Dec. 23 2010 05:55 PM
Ruse Enner

Bravo. I don't understand why dog owners are given more tickets than cyclists. I don't understand why dogs have to be registered and not cyclists. As long as bike riders can remain anonymous, they will continue to break laws that t are not enforced. I think this encourages the chaos I have witnessed as a driver and pedestrian. Since the city is always seeking new methods for revenue, why not initiate a small regustration fee and license for identification.

Dec. 23 2010 05:31 PM

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