Thompson vs. Bloomberg: The Ultimate Bicycling Referendum?

bloomberg_thompson.jpgTonight's debate will be broadcast on NY1.
Tonight at 7:00, mayoral contenders Mike Bloomberg and Bill Thompson face off in the first debate of the general election. Andrew Hawkins at City Hall News has some good pre-debate reading for New Yorkers who care about how this election will affect the future of our streets and public spaces.

To date, Thompson has uncorked a steady flow of escalating anti-bike lane statements, couched in a demand for greater "community input." The argument never squared with DOT's habit of seeking community board approval for bike projects, nor does it jibe with recent resolutions in favor of protected bike lanes passed by Manhattan Community Boards 7 and 8. So Hawkins' sources offer up a few other explanations for Thompson's stance:

George Arzt, a veteran Democratic political consultant, said Thompson appears to be making a grab for working class, outer borough votes with his calls to remove bike lanes and dump Sadik-Khan.

"It's a 718 issue, as we used to say," said Arzt. "He sees this as an advantage to do something for the car drivers, many of whom hate the bicycle lanes and are fearful of running over a cyclist."

Ross Sandler, a New York Law School professor who served as transportation commissioner under Mayor Ed Koch from 1986-1989, said that vast improvements in public safety over the past 20 years have increased competition for public space, which goes towards explaining Sadik-Khan’s controversial role in the political landscape, as well as the growing clamor for her removal.

"Everybody wants that space," Sandler said. "Parkers, truckers, drivers, cyclists, skateboarders. It is the most competitive space in the city."

One good thing about Thompson's hostile rhetoric toward real-world livable streets improvements: On TV tonight, we might actually get to watch New York's next mayor go on the record explaining how he believes this intensely contested space ought to be allocated.