Bill Thompson, Business Owners Decry Phantom Bike Lane

IMG_6519.jpgGreenwich Avenue: Plenty of commerce-loving cyclists, no bike lane.
At a recent campaign stop in Greenwich Village, city comptroller and mayoral candidate William Thompson got an earful from local merchants about the hardships of running a small business. While Tea & Sympathy owner Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett calling Chris Quinn "a whore," and Thompson's reaction, made headlines citywide, The Villager's account of the forum contained this interesting nugget:

Shop owners also protested that bicycle lanes have made deliveries difficult if not impossible. A pizzeria on Greenwich Ave. that used to depend on cabbies stopping at the curb to get a quick slice has lost the trade and is closing shop, someone reported. Thompson agreed that bike lanes have been a nightmare in places like Astoria and in Manhattan, especially on Grand St. in Little Italy.

So Bill Thompson, opponent of East River bridge tolls and pedestrian safety improvements in Chinatown, apparently also thinks bike lanes are a "nightmare." If Thompson is out to establish himself as not-Mike Bloomberg, he's making a lot of headway when it comes to livable streets.

One thing, though: Thompson may want to tour Greenwich Avenue himself. It doesn't have a bike lane.

It could be that the "someone" in the crowd meant Greenwich Street, which does have a lane. Or maybe it was a typo. The larger issue, regardless, is whether current comptroller and mayoral aspirant Thompson really believes that business communities in cyclist- and pedestrian-rich places like Greenwich Village rely on auto traffic for their survival.

We asked Community Board 2's Ian Dutton (his letter to The Villager was already on its way) about the impact of actual bike lanes on business in his home district. Here's what he had to say:

It's no news story that businesses are having a tough time with the current economic state in our neighborhood and around the country, on streets with bike lanes and on streets choked with traffic. I find it hard to believe that the presence of a bike lane scares off customers in cars, upon which Village businesses rarely depend, but embracing a street design that leads to a more pleasant experience for pedestrians and bike riders might just be a jackpot for a business.

Tourists and local residents make up the lion's share of shoppers and diners in our neighborhood and you'd have to work hard to convince me that they'd stop patronizing a business that had a safer, quieter, neighborhood-oriented streetscape. Attributing an individual business' failure on a bike lane, particularly in an economy with shuttered storefronts on every block, is simply passing blame while ignoring reality.