Safe-streets advocacy group picks de Blasio over Quinn, with Thompson out of the running

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StreetsPAC boardmembers. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Not so long ago, Bill de Blasio was calling New York City's bike-lane-evangelist transportation commissioner a "radical," and Christine Quinn was saying bike lanes fall "in the category of things you shouldn't discuss at dinner parties, right?"

Times have changed.

Last Tuesday, de Blasio and Quinn sat down for endorsement interviews with the newly formed StreetsPAC, a political action committee that promotes bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets.

This afternoon, StreetsPAC will announce its endorsement of de Blasio in this year's mayoral election, citing, among other things, his call to expand bike commuting to six percent of all trips by 2020, and his endorsement of Vision Zero, a Swedish approach to street safety that aims to eliminate all traffic and pedestrian deaths.

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Also, de Blasio, unlike Quinn, has unequivocally stated that he would replace Ray Kelly as police commissioner. In the Bloomberg's administration's otherwise wholehearted embrace of bike lanes, pedestrian plazas and slow zones, Kelly's reluctance to crack down on speeding has been "the biggest disappointment," said boardmember Eric McClure.

"De Blasio has really laid out some very straightforward support for the need for better enforcement, crackdown on speeding, failure to yield and other forms of reckless driving," said McClure.

Quinn was a close runner-up.

"I must say I was actually pretty impressed by Quinn," said board member Doug Gordon. "She really was great in person and talked about this stuff with a high level of knowledge. But when you really just look at what Bill is offering ... he of all the candidates has the most quantifiable, measurable goals for how he is going to increase the safety and liveablility of city streets."

One candidate who did not impress was Bill Thompson, the third part of the trifecta leading the polls in the run-up to next Tuesday's Democratic primary. Thompson didn't show up for an interview, though he did respond to the questionnaire sent out to all of the candidates.

(Thompson's campaign says it tried a number of times to schedule time with the candidate and staff and were rejected.)

"The fact that [Quinn and de Blasio] were willing to meet with us shortly before the election and Thompson wasn’t told us that Thompson wasn’t taking us seriously, and wasn't taking transportation as seriously as a campaign issue as de Blasio and Quinn were," said McClure.

Neither Joe Lhota nor John Catsimatidis even bothered returning the questionnaire.

StreetsPAC was founded this spring and has about 200 active volunteers willing to go door-to-door on behalf of de Blasio (and a larger mailing list).

The advent of StreetsPAC coincides with the rise of cycling and street safety as potent political issues.

Both Gordon and McClure acknowledged that both Quinn and de Blasio have evolved quite a bit on the issue of street safety in recent years.

I asked McClure if, given his evolution on the topic, he wasn't worried about the possibility that de Blasio's bike-friendly stance was the function of a campaign-season shift.

"Of course, it's always a concern that you want to hear what somebody’s really gonna do, not what they're telling you they're gonna do and it’s politics and we understand that," he said. "But at the same time, these position papers and his statement on vision zero, his questionnaire response to StreetsPAC, this is all on the record."

In a statement after the endorsement, de Blasio said, ""This is part of the bedrock of making New York City more sustainable, more livable and safer for every family. We're going to make sure that neighborhoods that have waited for change on their streets have it, and we'll make sure New York City remains an innovator of ways to make biking, walking and public transit safer and more accessible to every single New Yorker."