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Singer Standard

July 31, 2011

Just when it seemed like the ink well was starting to run dry for Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes, this gem by Alan Singer went live at the Huffington Post on Friday.  It’s remarkably similar to a screed Singer wrote in February, although this time he parrots the NBBL party line that the DOT definitely, certainly, positively, absolutely lied to the community and always intended for the PPW bike lane to be a trial project.  I’m not sure if Singer was directed by Gibson Dunn and Crutcher attorney Jim Walden or Linda Gross PR to write “Prospect Park Liar’s Lane,” but if he was, you’d think a group that wants to be taken seriously about its concerns over the aesthetic desecration of a historic boulevard would think twice before feeding information to someone who proposed building parking garages in Prospect Park to “benefit the working class of Bed-Stuy and Sunset Park who picnic in the park with their families all summer long while the affluent are in the Hamptons.”

Singer begins with the classic trope of any good anti-bike-lane screed: complaining about the weather.

All winter the bike lane on the west side of Prospect Park in Brooklyn went unused. It was too cold. For much of the summer the bike lane has gone unused because it is too hot. It is a ghost lane when it rains and for most weekdays.

It’s the Goldilocks standard: New York can never justify having bike lanes because it’s never just right for biking.  It may be colder in Copenhagen, but there’s something about New York’s climate that renders it unfit for bike lanes.  (Never mind that the bike lane was left unplowed following this winter’s big blizzards and that Singer is 100% mistaken about no one riding through the heat.)

Then there’s the specter of traffic congestion, which the bike lane has not caused:

But the traffic tie-ups along the twenty-five block long Prospect Park West corridor are every day and for much of the day. On a typical weekday morning and evening this summer school buses dropping off and picking up campers have virtually shut down the street for hours. Garbage trucks, access-a-ride transport for seniors and the disabled, as well as emergency vehicles either sit or spread out through the Park Slope neighborhood.

A twenty-five block long traffic tie-up sounds absolutely terrible, worse than almost anything drivers would experience approaching the Holland Tunnel or on the Cross Bronx Expressway.  If the bike lane has really turned PPW into a virtual parking lot, even on weekends, one would think it would be easy to get some video of it, especially with an infamous “expensive spy camera” allegedly trained on it since October.  We radical bike lane lobbyists may not have the money for such equipment, so we have to rely on shaky cellphone camera footage to make our point.

The city claims that traffic on Prospect Park West is now slower and calmer. I live on another side of the park and by the time these “slow and calm” drivers get to the street in front of my building they are cutting in and out and speeding when they can, which makes the street difficult to cross.

If this sounds familiar it’s because Alan Singer expressed the exact same sentiment on February 22, 2011:

Meanwhile cars are backing up, drivers are getting edgy, and tempers are flaring. They may drive slower on Prospect Park West, they have no other choice, but drivers will take out their heightened craziness as soon as they see clear space, I know that I do.

Why not just play out Singer’s complaint to its logical solution: because drivers may speed in one area after being delayed in another we should convert all roadways to highways, pedestrians and cyclists be damned.  Why get rid of just bike lanes?  Can you imagine how edgy drivers must be after waiting for a throng of pedestrians in a crosswalk?  That drivers can’t control their anger is an argument for more traffic calming and mandatory therapy for motorists.  Singer fails to understand the distinction between punishing drivers and compelling them to drive safely and obey the law.

It now appears that the Bloomberg administration, which has been fighting against community groups, Neighbors for Better Bike LANES and Seniors for Safety, that want to close the bike lane, reroute cyclists into the park, and restore Prospect Park West to three lanes of traffic for cars, is lying through its teeth.

We’ve heard this idea before from none other than neighborhood activist Norman Steisel.  It’s another classic trope of the anti-bike-lane writer: NBBL and SFS, stacked with a senator’s wife, a Brooklyn College dean, a former deputy mayor, and more than a few millionaires, are the underdogs fighting against an administration that’s in the pocket of Big Chain Lube.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz charges that that Commissioner Sadik-Khan told local officials the bike lane was a “trial” project subject to a “test period.

Singer’s current faith in Marty Markowitz’ honesty is a far cry from his strange-bedfellows description of the BP back in February:

I hate being on the same side of any issue as Borough President Marty Markowitz, who is derisively known as the “Clown Prince” of Brooklyn, and Senator Charles Schumer, but in the ongoing Great Brooklyn Bike War, the enemy of my enemy, an arrogant Mayor Michael Bloomberg, becomes my ally (at least temporarily).

Singer’s totally cool with Markowitz now, even though in less time than it took Singer to write two strikingly similar anti-bike-lane screeds, Markowitz received two ethics violations, one to the tune of $20,000.

Then there’s Singer’s attack of Brad Lander, a tactic straight out of the NBBL toolkit:

Lander’s website contains a letter from Sadik-Khan where she explains that the Department of Transportation would be monitoring the changes on Prospect Park West to “assess the effects” and “to assist in any refinement to the bicycle path design.” His reply, however, has been deleted from the site.

If you click the link in Singer’s article, you might expect to find a “404 – Page Not Found” message, but what you’ll actually find is Lander’s reply.  (The word “trial” is no where to be found.)   Was Singer hoping most readers wouldn’t click the link?  Was his goal to imply that Brad is in on some nefarious plot to destroy any and all evidence that the bike lane was a trial?  Maybe it was an innocent mistake on Singer’s part.  Either way, as of this writing there is no correction on the HuffPo piece.

The Petitioners also unearthed a speech made by Sadik-Khan at Occidental College two weeks after her private meeting with Markowitz, in which she said, “Everyone has an opinion and so you can always find people who can oppose these new ideas — everybody hates change — but when you do it as an experiment, it’s very hard to argue with. You get a lot of momentum that way.”

“The Petitioners…unearthed a speech.”  Sounds like they had to do a lot of hard work and digging to find it, right?  Do you have any idea how hard it must be to find proof of something that duplicitous Sadist-Con said in front of hundreds of people?  Well, if you want to pretend you’re a litigious bike-lane-hating NIMBY out to speak truth to power, try this fun game: Google “Janette Sadik-Khan experiment,” sit back, and…well don’t sit back because you won’t have any time.  Google returns the Occidental speech as the first search result in .14 seconds.

Singer knows as well as anyone that calling one thing an experiment does not necessarily make all things an experiment, but when you’re living in a world in which Jim Walden can send a curiously timed New York Times article to a judge, all bets are off when it comes to the lengths bike lane-haters will go to make their case.  A guy like Alan singer might even go so far as to flash his Transportation Alternative membership card as proof that some of his best friends are bike lanes.

By the way, I am a member of Transportation Alternatives and an avid biker, but this bike lane still makes no sense to me.

Alas, it’s the most tired anti-bike-lane trope of all.  Two times running, Singer has proved himself to be an intellectual lightweight when it comes to doing the heavy lifting for NBBL.

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