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Mayor de Blasio: Get Out of Your Car

October 7, 2016

Here we go again.

Yesterday, during another appearance on the Brian Lehrer show, Mayor de Blasio repeated the idea that stopping in a bike lane isn’t always worthy of a ticket, so long as the driver has what I might call a relatable reason.

…if you’re just getting out to drop off a child or, you know, bring some groceries into a home — that should not be a ticket. So, that’s something we have to work on. Our enforcement agents of course need to show some sensitivity to when people are very, very briefly doing something like that. So, that’s something we will try and work on to improve because that’s not the kind of enforcement we’re looking for.

I’ve already articulated why the mayor’s philosophy is dangerous, wrong, insensitive, and antithetical to Vision Zero. Dorothee Benz at CityLimits.org, offers a similar perspective in this great piece on the reality of biking in New York:

It’s illegal to stop or park in a bike lane, yet Mayor de Blasio himself recently signaled that stopping in a bike lane isn’t really that bad. A car that blocks a bike lane to “let someone off at an appointment or something like that, or just drop off kids at home or something quickly” is “different” than someone who leaves their car parked in a bike lane, he told Brian Lehrer.

Not to the cyclist who has to dodge the car and the kids it’s dropping off.

More fundamentally, if the mayor who initiated Vision Zero doesn’t get that a cyclist’s safety is more important than a motorist’s convenience, how will the other eight million New Yorkers?

The first time Mayor de Blasio excused away bike lane blocking, I was willing to give him a little bit of a break. As I wrote before, “To a lot of drivers, stopping in a bike lane for just a minute or two to let someone out feels a heck of a lot less harmful—and therefore less deserving of a ticket—than leaving a car in a bike lane for an extended period of time.” On its surface, this is not an unreasonable point of view. But when you dig just beneath a surface into the laws of physics—which tend to be neutral on the subject of groceries, kids, and driver intent—the mayor’s excuses fall apart.

I don’t think the mayor understands how much law-breaking his words excused. If stopping in a bike lane for a second is okay so long as a driver is unloading groceries, surely it’s okay for Fresh Direct to do it all over the city, right? What about UPS? Some parents send their kids to school in taxis. Is it okay for taxi drivers to block bike lanes to pick them up and let them out? If all one needs is a good reason to break a law, why observe it?

Discussing the finer points of multi-modal transporation policy is never going to be Bill de Blasio’s forte. This is a man who, during the 2013 campaign, used his “I’m a motorist” schtick as a way to curry favor with car-obsessed tabloids and outer-borough voters. In February 2014, just days after the then-new mayor announced a slew of Vision-Zero-related initiatives, his caravan was caught speeding and rolling through stop signs. In 2015, he floated the idea of ripping out the Times Sqaure pedestrian plazas. For goodness sake, he’s driven to a gym twelve miles from his house nearly every day.

Nobody is expecting perfection, but politicians should be expected to evolve, especially on issues of life and death. When they introduce a major policy, they should be expected to bone up on its key points. And when they make a mistake, they shouldn’t come back two weeks later and repeat it to a radio-listening audience.

I’m also not expecting the mayor to suddenly ditch his caravan of SUVs and hop on a Citi Bike to get to City Hall. But it would serve the mayor of New York well to see how the majority of New Yorkers live. Walk with us. Bike with us. And stop making excuses.

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8 Comments
  1. October 8, 2016 12:08 pm

    The mayor also lost an opportunity to challenge the caller’s assertion that “no one’s using those Citibikes” at the specific Citibike stations she dislikes. Her hyperbole left me wondering at the validity of the evidence she might cite for reaching her conclusion.

    Maybe the caller’s experience is similar to what I see at the nearest Citibike station to me (Upper East Side). At the times of day when I typically see it, this station almost always seems to be in one of two states: 1) approximately zero bicycles or 2) exactly zero empty slots (i.e., either the station “looks empty” or the bikes appear to be “completely unused”).

    Because I tend to see this particular station around the same two times every day (due to my particular schedule), I rarely see the station on its way from one state to the other, so I reach a general conclusion based on my observation, my general knowledge or ignorance, and my biases.

    An opponent of Citibike (or of just that particular station), whether motivated by perceived loss of car parking or by simple bike hatred, might indeed conclude that “no one’s using those Citibikes.”

    But a person informed about street usage would probably see that this station is both an important point of origin for those who bicycle (“The station looks empty because there’s a lot of demand for its bikes”) and an important destination for those who bicycle (“This station is often full because many people tend to leave bikes here”).

    Far from meaning that “no one’s using those Citibikes” at this location, the fact that these extremes are seen at all is actually evidence that not only is the station *not* underutilized, but it’s not even close to meeting the demand for that location, and that either the station should be made larger or an additional station needs to be nearby.

  2. Jesse E Greene permalink
    October 9, 2016 7:26 pm

    This issue seems really simple actually. If drivers want to stop being ticketed for stopping in the bike lanes then we should have more protected bike lanes.

    • October 10, 2016 9:55 pm

      And more loading zones on streets without protected bike lanes. But that means losing a few parking spaces here and there…

      • Steve permalink
        October 11, 2016 10:23 am

        I came here to say “loading zones” but I see you already covered it. We desperately need congestion pricing and resident parking permits to enable us to start using our space more wisely.

  3. Cycler permalink
    October 11, 2016 10:20 am

    Not a big deal. Just steer around it. Everyone bends the rules, it’s the NYC way.

  4. SPLAT permalink
    October 11, 2016 4:25 pm

    Ouch! I got run over by a speeding garbage truck while steering around the car in the bike lane! Oh, the car was dropping off groceries? Picking up children? I suppose my death is a small price to pay.

  5. Lianne permalink
    October 13, 2016 11:51 am

    If a car needs to double park on a one way street with a bike lane, it is so much safer for the bikers if the car double parks car lane leaving the bike lane unobstructed. Cars that need to go around will be cognizant of entering the bike lane to do it, will need to slow down and look and the chances of a biker overtaking a car in this situation is small. The other way – for a car to double park in the bike lane, slower and less protected bikers are the ones who need to merge into the car lane, look way over their shoulder and could easily be hit by a faster car that is not on the lookout for bikes entering their lane.

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