Chuck Schumer and the Prospect Park West Bike Lane
Getting a picture of Chuck Schumer riding on the Prospect Park West bike lane is almost the Holy Grail of livable streets activism, and for a while it’s seemed like it would be an impossible quest. The Chuck Schumer who can’t bring himself to comment on his wife’s lawsuit against the popular and successful traffic calming project makes the Chuck Schumer who professes to love cycling through New York feel like a little like this:
Alas, the pictures I snapped this weekend aren’t exactly what a lot of people have been hoping to see, but they’re close. Maybe it was more convenient for the senator to push his bike across the street and down the block to his home. Maybe he knows better than to be seen enjoying the safety benefits a protected bike lane affords, lest it undermine Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes’ already undermined lawsuit. Who knows?
Senator Schumer happened to roll his bike through the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket on Saturday while I was there volunteering with Park Slope Neighbors at a bike share demonstration, snapping pictures of happy people going on test rides. The senator stopped to admire a bright red bike share bike. With an apple in his hand that he had just picked up from one of the market stands and his helmet on his handlebars, he told us that he had just gotten back from a great ride through Queens and asked us about the bike. When my fellow volunteer told him a little about the program Schumer replied, “I can’t wait for it to start here.” (Perhaps he’s used Capital Bikeshare to get around D.C. and became a fan.)
I was of two minds when I saw him walk away. One was that this was the guy whose wife set this never-ending saga in motion, who allegedly used his political connections to ask City Council members what they were going to do about Prospect Park West and other bike lanes, and who could probably make the entire Jim Walden media circus end with a single phone call. Why won’t he just do the right thing?
The other was that Schumer, rolling his bike back home, just seemed so average. With just a pair of khaki shorts, a green windbreaker, and some sneakers, he was the kind of older cyclist who’s aware of New York City riding enough to chain his seat to his frame but who carries a light padlock and chain instead of a Kryptonite. He was no different from any of the real “seniors for safety” I saw with their bikes enjoying an afternoon in Brooklyn.
I imagined that if he wasn”t the senior senator from New York, he’d simply be Chuck, that old guy you’ve seen riding around the neighborhood ever since you could remember, the kind of Park Slope character who chats with strangers in front of Connecticut Muffin or La Bagel Delight. In fact, seeing him like this one could even imagine him joining the vast majority of his community and sticking up for the Prospect Park West Bike lane at a Community Board hearing, if only his wife would let him.