Tour de Brooklyn: City is Considering Car-Free Central Park Trial

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New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan enjoys a lighter moment with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz as Noah Budnick of Transportation Alternatives welcomes cyclists to the 2007 Tour de Brooklyn.

The third annual Tour de Brooklyn bike ride rolled through the borough Sunday with sunny skies, temperatures in the low 70s and a light breeze along a scenic waterfront route. For the first time, the event was led by New York City's transportation commissioner, newly appointed Janette Sadik-Khan, who introduced herself to riders at the beginning of the ride and praised cycling (transcript of her remarks follows below the fold).

Speaking with Streetsblog before the event, the commissioner said she is considering a car-free Central Park summertime trial and talked about the need to improve cycling conditions in New York City. "I think there's been a renaissance in cycling," she said, "and I think you're seeing that energy come from a lot of the investments that we've made in the city's bike infrastructure -- making it easier for people to get to where they need to go and connecting the different bike paths we have in the city to create a strong biking backbone."

She said improvements to the cycling lane system would begin this summer, and called them "smaller interventions, urban acupuncture, to make it easier for people to see the city." In Brooklyn, the Department of Transportation plans to create 20 lane miles of bike lanes this year and 15 more next year, she said.

The commissioner said she enjoyed cycling. "I think it's one of the best ways to get around," she said. "Of course, the emphasis for us now is to make it as easy as possible. Sometimes it's not as easy to get around, and that's basically what the mayor's emphasis is on the sustainability 2030 plan is to make it easier to get on their bike to get to work, to get on their bike to get to school."

If congestion pricing is implemented, the department would encourage a broad modal shift toward public transportation, she said, playing down fears of a "border effect" expressed by lawmakers such as Jessica Lappin in which communities fear people driving to the border of the congestion pricing zone, seek to park for free, then board transit. "We believe that it's not as big of an issue as people fear," she said. "We think that it’s more likely that people are going to make those modal choices early on."

Hinting at a broader philosophy of urban space, Sadik-Khan noted that the success of street space might be measured in terms other than volume of automobiles moved in a given period. "The streets and sidewalks are the living rooms of New York," she said. "We have to figure out the best way to utilize those living rooms."

Below the fold, a transcript of the commissioner's remarks to the Tour de Brooklyn riders.

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Remarks by Janette Sadik-Khan, New York City Transportation Commissioner:

Thanks Noah.

Good morning. As Noah mentioned, I was recently appointed transportation commissioner by Mayor Bloomberg. And I want to thank Transportation Alternatives for organizing this terrific event. And want to welcome you to the 2007 Tour de Brooklyn. When I was coming over here, I thought it was interesting, when I was on the other side of the bridge, it was called the Tour de Brooklyn, when I got over to Brooklyn, it was called the Tour duh Brooklyn.

But this is a great opportunity for recreation and it's great to see you all out here. Cycling is also the backbone of our city's transportation network. And we need to do more to find ways to build out our transportation infrastructure to include biking. And that’s what we want to change.

The Brooklyn cycling network continues to evolve, and we really want to do everything we can to make that happen. Brooklyn could certainly be called the bicycling borough. Downtown Brooklyn has been a focal point of our investments. And if you consider the huge investments that we've made to date on the East River bridges alone, I think it's some serious cycling infrastructure and I think it's the envy of many riders from across the country. And if you're from the northern borough – the northern part of Brooklyn, and you use the Williamsburg Bridge, congratulations: That's the most popular bridge in the city today, with 2,600 riders crossing this bridge every day.

And moving forward, we're going to dramatically increase this with Mayor Bloomberg's sustainability program, we're going to continue to invest in better connections to the biking network. Make better intermodal connections to our transit stations, and do everything we can to improve the quality of life for bikers in this city. So thank you so much. None of this could happen with out you.

I look forward to your support as we move forward to improve transportation and the biking network in New York City. So, on to the road.