Chris Quinn: Don't Talk About Bike Lanes at Dinner Parties

Friday, January 11, 2013 - 12:34 PM

Bike lanes are now not good dinner party conversation.  So says New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.  "Bike lanes, I put that now in the category of things you shouldn't discuss at dinner parties, right? It used to be money and politics and religion.  Now in New York you should add bike lanes," the 2013 candidate for Mayor said, chuckling, as a luncheon audience of Broadway and tourism officials chuckled with her.

(For a famous dinner party conversation about bike lanes, read here.)

"Start wherever you want," urged WNYC's Brian Lehrer, who was hosting the event.  "But talk about bike lanes, and pedestrian malls, and all things Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan."

More chuckling.

"Bike lanes are clearly controversial," Quinn said. "And one of the problems with bike lanes -- and I'm generally a supporter of bike lanes --  but one of the problems with bike lanes has been not the concept of them, which I support, but the way the Department of Transportation has implemented them without consultation with communities and community boards. "

The City DOT disputes that, and has provided reams of evidence over the years of community board interest in bike lanes.

In her remarks, Quinn kind of acknowledged that, but still maintained there wasn't enough community notification.

"So, for example in Chelsea, the Ninth Avenue bike lane south of 23rd street was put in place -- and the Community Board Four loves the bike lane, LOVES the bike lane, been asking for bike lanes for years and years and years.  It was put in on Ninth Avenue without notification to my office, and I was speaker at the time.

"That's a problem, right?," Quinn went on. "That's a problem particularly in a community like Chelsea, where there is such interest in bike lanes but then you just create tension. It's also a problem for example in Lew Fidler's district in Brooklyn, where I'd say the jury's mixed about bike lanes.  They were okay with the idea of the bike lane, they just wanted it moved one block over. "

Quinn's remarks -- a variation of which have been uttered by many of the Democratic candidates running for Mayor -- came despite polls showing bike lanes are favored by a majority of New Yorkers.


Comments [7]

Morris Zapp

Shame on Chris Quinn, Brian Lehrer and Andrea Bernstein for toying with peoples' lives to benefit themselves.

I expect no less from the craven Quinn, but as a dues-paying member of WNYC I expect honesty, not sensationalism.

This is not a game. People are dying.

Jan. 14 2013 12:02 PM

It's only controversial in Chelsea because, as Quinn admits, the problem is not that the community loves them so much, but that she was personally left out of the process. It's a controversy of ego.

Jan. 14 2013 10:59 AM

That particular bike lanes was the first one. It was put in two weeks after the presentation to the community board and we had to work for months afterwards to fix the errors... Now DOT Consults in advance . Still they are not responsive to requests of modification by community boards.
There is still room for improvement.

Jan. 14 2013 10:28 AM

Quinn's comment about not knowing about a bike lane installation in her district is either a lie or gross incompetence. Doesn't her staff attend the community board meetings, or at least, read the minutes? These bike lane installations take many community board meetings.

Jan. 14 2013 10:14 AM

Leave it to the commenters to provide the detail and facts that Transportation Nation does not. How about more reporting and less sensationalism?

Jan. 14 2013 08:23 AM
Sean Kelliher

@Rachel - proposed bike lanes are presented through community boards and the public can attend these meetings and offer its input. Each community board usually has a webpage so you can check meeting schedules and agendas, then show up and voice your opinion for or against something.

It would be logistically challenging to telephone each residence or leave a flyer at their doorstep. In addition, this kind of outreach would probably be considered harassment by some cranky NY types.

With regard to bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, and congestion, the results can be surprising. If you search on the DOT website you should be able to find "before" and "after" travel times for areas affected by re-designs. I believe the data is usually complied by collecting GPS data from taxis.

Bike lanes and pedestrian plazas are often done in combination with other measures to ensure traffic flow remains fluid. With Times Square, for example, when DOT installed the plazas, it also re-configured traffic lights resulting in traffic speeds that are about the same to faster, depending on the street you're looking at.

Additionally, you may want to note that accident rates for all users have fallen in places where pedestrian plazas and protected bike lanes have been installed. I think this would be especially important to parents with children.

This leads me to my last item: safety. Nobody likes jerks in any mode of transportation. If you see someone behaving badly on a bicycle call them out on it. Most other bicyclists will support you for it. In reality your changes of being seriously injured or killed by a bicyclist are very remote, but still bad behavior like a cyclist speeding through a crosswalk does degrade quality of life, and should be reprimanded. But to say that there should be no bike lanes because some people on bikes misbehave is unfair. If we applied the same standard to motor vehicles and pedestrians, the streets and sidewalks would have been shut down long ago.

Jan. 13 2013 04:55 PM

Rachel if you deeply resent all the hundreds of millions of adult cyclists on earth who don't wear a crash helmet while going about about their business, you must be tired. Why not take a break and mind your own business?

> It makes for horrible traffic congestion which may not be an issue that the biker riders here care about, but which certainly affects us in Manhattan.

Do you know that "biker riders" also live in Manhattan, with you? Of course we hate congestion. Some of us hate it so much we don't drive or use personal cars for much of anything. Others compromise. But don't kid yourself: driving causes congestion. Honking makes noise. Parking takes up valuable space that could be used for something more interesting than automobile storage. You do less of these things, you have a better city.

The actual evidence for DOT outreach is in this very article, from Quinn herself. Yes, she contradicts herself. Many bike lanes are there because community boards asked for them, including CB4. They do not go door to door for bicycle lanes or car lanes or anything else (nor does any DOT, nor should they), but for bike lanes they do all sorts of regular outreach to community boards that you can read about often in this in other publications, if you care.

Jan. 13 2013 04:00 PM

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