Bill Thompson: I’ll Rip Out Bike Lanes and “Review” Safer Streets

cb2_grand_street.jpgFact check: The Grand Street bike lane was presented to Manhattan CB2 and won overwhelming support [PDF].
Bill Thompson is making it pretty hard for New Yorkers who care about safe streets to get behind his campaign for mayor. With Tony Avella out of the way, Thompson has no bike lane-bashing rival nipping at his heels. There's no anti-livable streets flank to shore up. But that didn't stop the Democratic nominee from telling a NY1 crew that he'll rip out the Grand Street bike lane at the first opportunity:

While campaigning in Chinatown, Thompson questioned whether a bike lane on Grand Street and the other bike lanes across the city have hurt businesses.

Thompson said if elected, he would rip out the Grand Street bike lane and review other ones put in by the Bloomberg Administration.

"I'm in favor of bike lanes but you can't put bike lanes in without speaking to the community," Thompson said. "You can't put bike lanes that are doing damage to local businesses."

The city just came out with horrible employment numbers across the board and we're in the depths of a historic national downturn. Naturally, in his talking points about the local economy, the Democratic mayoral nominee turns to bike lane removal.

Pandering to anti-bike sentiment under the guise of speaking up for "the community" doesn't pass the smell test when you're talking about a project that the local community board approved 33 to 1. So if Thompson is really in favor of bike lanes, maybe he needs a refresher on what that actually means.

Street space is finite and creating a cohesive bike network that people will want to use entails giving some of that scarce space to cycling. Odds are, not everyone will be thrilled at first, even if the public outreach is impeccable. But streets will be safer, more people will ride, New Yorkers can lead more active lives, and our carbon footprint will be lower. Democrats are supposed to stand up for these things, right?

If the city "reviews" its new bike and pedestrian infrastructure and caves at the slightest sign of discontent from any quarter, New Yorkers can expect to say goodbye to Grand Street and many more safety improvements. At one point or another, naysayers have torn into the pedestrian plazas on Broadway, the Ninth Avenue bike lane, the Eighth Avenue bike lane, bus bulbs on Broadway, pedestrian refuges on the Lower East Side, the list extends to the most mundane and basic changes.

The Grand Street bike lane has about a year of service under its belt, and the safety record is clear: Injuries are down nearly 30 percent since the bike lane was installed. Thompson has basically pledged to make streets more dangerous under his mayoralty.