Weinshall, Steisel: DOT Brooklyn Bike Lane Data is Wrong

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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