De Blasio, who called Sadik-Khan a 'radical,' comes around on an expansion of bike lanes
Bill de Blasio really likes bike lanes now.
"Right now, the city’s goal is to increase bicycling to 3 percent of all trips by 2020," reads the public advocate's mayoral campaign policy book, released late last night and available here. "Bill de Blasio will double that goal—using education, promotion and safer streets to grow bicycling to 6 percent by 2020."
Also, "De Blasio will continue expanding bike lanes around the city so that bicyclists have a safe, dedicated space to ride—and drivers and pedestrians will have more predictable streets. He will expand the public Bike Share program to outer-borough neighborhoods and increase education outreach to promote safe riding. With these tools, de Blasio will set a goal of cutting serious cycling injuries and fatalities in half—even as the number of cyclist continues to grow."
This is something of an evolution for de Blasio, who had long hesitated to take a firm position on the issue, seemingly wanting to convince the loud critics of bike lanes that he was on their side without actually committing to rolling back the Bloomberg administration's construction of a cycling infrastructure for the city.
Last summer, he called transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, the woman behind New York's rapidly expanded bike lane network, "a radical," and termed himself an "incrementalist" on bike lanes.
His statements prompted Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White to excoriate him:
[T]he candidate I know best, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, told an audience of Brooklyn donors that bike lanes are often “ill conceived” and pledged to put the brakes on the rollout of safer street designs in favor of a more “incremental” approach.
Yikes! What’s worse is that Bill is a good guy, a neighbor of mine and, until recently, a livable streets stalwart. So what happened? When did the tide change? I can’t say for sure, and I’m not convinced it truly has, but I do know that there are some well-connected, deep-pocketed people in this city who have an outdated view of our streets—and all the mayoral candidates on speed-dial.
The year before, de Blasio urged Sadik-Khan to hire private contractors to conduct full environmental impact statements before building each new bike lane.
There's no mention of that in his policy book.
I emailed Steely White to ask what he thought prompted de Blasio's apparent change in attitude, and he wrote back, "I think he's been moved by a few things, perhaps most compellingly the call for safe streets, bike lanes, bike share coming from the boroughs."
De Blasio's campaign had no immediate comment.
Bike lanes aside, de Blasio's policy book calls for some other major changes to New York City streets.
Building on the city's feeble attempts at bus rapid transit, de Blasio called for a "world-class" BRT network of more than 20 lines, including one that would better connect the Rockaways to the mainland.
Right now, just seven lines make up the city's "Select Bus Service" network, with several more in the planning stages.
He reiterated his call for a cross-harbor freight rail tunnel, a project that has its detractors, but which advocates say will help reduce truck traffic on city streets.
And he endorsed a bid to renew Madison Square Garden's operating permit on top of Penn Station for just a limited number of years, to make way for a new and much improved train station in its place.
"By limiting the permit and finding a new home for the arena, we can set the groundwork for a true transformation at Penn Station and for the rest of New York, with a new transportation hub that can accommodate the growth we want to see in our city," the policy book reads.
Update: De Blasio's campaign spokesman, Dan Levitan, sent over the following statement: "Bill has never opposed bike lanes and to report otherwise simply ignores the facts and his record. What Bill has done is consistently stood up when the Bloomberg administration ignored the voices of communities and imposed its will on neighborhoods without even talking to them - sometimes on policies he supported and sometimes on policies he opposed. When it comes to Bike lanes, Bill believes they are part of a greener future for the City and he believes the most effective way to expand them is to work with communities, not against them."