Thompson: Baseless Speculation Trumps Safety Gains on Grand Street

Mayoral contender Bill Thompson continues to elaborate on his opposition to the city's expanded bike infrastructure. In an interview published Friday, Thompson told the Downtown Express that just because injuries are down on Grand Street since the installation of a protected bike lane last year, doesn't mean those improvements should be preserved.

According to Dept. of Transportation statistics, accidents of all types are down by nearly 30 percent on Grand St., but Thompson said those were not enough reasons to keep the lane.

“Then you move forward,” Thompson told the Express. “So you'll have a safer street where the businesses are going to wind up closing? That's not what you're looking to do. You're looking to strike that balance so it works.”

He said last week that he would have his transportation commissioner take a new look at any lanes that seemed to be problematic, such as along Grand St. and in Astoria, though he did not promise to definitely close any. He favors bike lanes and suspects ones on wider streets such as on Eighth and Ninth Aves. are working better.

So in Thompson's view, safety gains on Grand Street, proven by measured reductions in injuries, are no match for unfounded accusations that, all evidence to the contrary, bike lanes are bad for business. The implication: car traffic propels commerce even in dense, walkable lower Manhattan. Also, let's not forget that the vast majority of Grand Street's curbside parking has been retained. Eliminating the bike lane would simply allow motorists to resume driving faster and double-parking without blocking vehicles behind them. How is that good for business?

I'm not sure whether candidate Thompson can be swayed by studies, common sense, and the vision of a city where better streets for pedestrians and cyclists attract more foot traffic for local businesses. At this point, it seems pretty clear that his ear is more attuned to whoever whines the loudest.