Why is NYC Taking Away Bike Lanes...to Make Room for Cars?

nyc-bike-lane photo

Photo: Richard Drdul under a Creative Commons license

New York was doing so well. The city has seen a steady rise in the number of cyclists and pedestrians over the past few years, and has made trend-setting efforts to make the streets safer for these new, car-rejecting commuters. But in a surprising step backwards, the NY Department of Transportation announced this week that the bike lanes on Staten Island's Capodanno Boulevard will be removed, to make room for a bus lane, a turning lane, and more street parking.The decision is based on some familiar arguments: bike lanes are unsafe, they slow traffic, they hurt local businesses by taking away parking, and what are cyclists doing on streets designed for cars, anyway? In September, the Staten Island Advace published an editorial laying out the case against bike lanes on Capodanno Boulevard.

The decision reached, City Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island/Brooklyn) told the Advance: "The bus lane is a better fit. You can't fit a square peg in a round hole, no matter how noble the peg is." From here on out, Staten Island residents looking to commute without the aid of fossil fuels will be relegated to the beachside boardwalk that runs parallel to Capodanno Boulevard. But, cycling advocates complain, that path is indirect and meant for recreational use, and is not a good option for commuting.

Transportation Alternatives, a New York bicycling, walking and public transportation advocacy group, issued a damning press statement, saying:

Father Capodanno is an integral piece of Staten Island's meager bike network, connecting bike commuters to and from the Staten Island Railway and the St. George Ferry Terminal, local cyclists to the Snug Harbor Park and Cultural Center and the Staten Island Yankees Stadium. In a borough that is frequently denied the bike and pedestrian street safety improvements the Bloomberg administration has installed to make NYC's other boroughs safer, the removal of Father Capodanno is effectively a foreclosure on the right to safe cycling for Staten Islanders.

The Bloomberg administration has apparently decided that the opposition of a few drivers and local political bosses can trump public process and the irrefutable evidence that bike lanes save lives and make streets safer for everyone.

What remains to be seen is how local cyclists react. Last winter, when 14 blocks of the bike lane on Brooklyn's Bedford Avenue were removed, outraged cyclists took the matter into their own hands, repainting the lane (and filming it). So keep an eye out for a guerrilla video from Staten Island in the near future.

More on New York City bike culture:
New York City's First On-Street, Two-Way, Physically Separated Bike Lane
NYC Mayor Wants Massive Bike-Sharing Program
Video Guide to New Bike Lanes in New York City">

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