More Testimony From the City Council Bike Hearing

Steisel

Former deputy mayor Norman Steisel, in glasses and seated far right, waits to testify at yesterday's hearing. Everyone else who testified waited longer.

The definitive account of yesterday’s Transportation Committee hearing on NYC bike policy has got to be the stream of tweets from BicyclesOnly, which are still pretty close to the top of his feed if you want to take a look. He reported that former deputy mayor and PPW bike lane opponent Norman Steisel was the first to give testimony, permitted to jump the queue and exceed the two-minute time limit by at least five minutes.

At one point, apparently, Steisel suggested that DOT has been leaking data to Streetsblog. While I’d like to have unfettered access to all sorts of city data, I can assure him that all the information regarding the PPW project that we get from DOT comes from their publicly accessible online presentations.

Here are two more pieces of testimony that came our way after the hearing…

From reader Joanna Oltman Smith, who testified after nearly all the committee members had left:

Delivered verbally:

I want to thank Chairman Vacca and his staff for today’s lesson in how our democracy really works whereby well-connected, powerful, very important citizens representing their own personal opinions get priority and are encouraged to buck the rules of public testimony, while earnest, early-bird, little “nobody” citizens like the rest of us are made to wait for hours.  So, I am left to wonder whether the committee, most of which is no longer present, really cares about how we feel about biking in New York?  In case you do, I will say that I firmly believe my childrens’ health and happiness, and that of all New Yorkers, depends upon improving and increasing the number of bike lanes in our City’s system, and I do mean protected ones.  I also direct you to my sincere written testimony which I am now too disheartened to deliver.

Written testimony:

Biking is important to my family for many reasons.  It reduces our dependency on driving, and that makes the air cleaner for everyone, including my seven year-old who has asthma. The more people who ride bikes around town, the easier we will all breathe.  We’ll also get great exercise and all the health benefits that come from an active lifestyle.

Our family likes to ride for fun in Prospect Park on the weekends, but now that we have a protected bike lane in our neighborhood, we can ride during the week too.  Biking on the new Prospect Park West bike lane is our favorite way to get from our house to the ballfields where my sons play after-school sports — it’s a free, easy, and fun way for us to travel!  Before the city installed the PPW bike lane, we could not ride our bikes to class, because it was impossible to get home:  Although we could ride there through the park, cars start using the park road after five o’clock which makes it too dangerous for kids and grown-ups aren’t allowed to ride on the sidewalk.  Now we have a protected bike path that even my five year-old can easily navigate.  My kids know to respect the rules of the road including stopping at red lights and yielding for pedestrians.  We love being able to ride as a family!

Biking increases our connection with our community in many ways.  We enjoy how the slower pace of biking lets us enjoy the scenery and visit with friends we pass when we are out on a bike ride together.  We know other families will ride their bikes more often as the city builds more safe, protected bike lanes. Already, many of our friends who used to drive to school now ride their bikes instead.  Isn’t that great for all of our quality of life? Less fumes, honking, and dangerous traffic conditions outside of schools mean happier, healthier kids.

My kids say it best:  “The Bike Lanes are Nice to Ride On!”

From Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff:

I was born in 1947, roughly at the midpoint of Robert Moses’ 40-year reign as New York’s “master builder.” I moved here in 1968 and became a bicycle commuter in 1973. In 1986, I began the revival of Transportation Alternatives as its president, a volunteer position I held until 1992. In the 1990s I married, and, with my wife, also a cycle commuter, moved to lower Manhattan and started a family. Our children attend public schools here and are comfortable riding on the Hudson River Greenway, on the Grand Street bike lane, and on the Manhattan Bridge bicycle path to Brooklyn. I travel by bike approximately 3,000 miles a year, in every seasons and all weather. The ability to get around on a bike is probably the thing I prize most about this city I love.

I have been waiting more than half my life for a Transportation Commissioner like Janette Sadik-Khan. Not so much to make the streets safely bikeable for myself – nothing will stop me from riding here – but for my fellow residents of this great city of ours.

Commissioner Sadik-Khan has been derided as a bicycle zealot. If she is, let that be Exhibit “A” in her defense. To design and make space for the bicycle is to make New Yorkers more healthy and less obese, more active and less passive, more efficient and less wasteful, more punctual and less chronically late, more free and less oil-dependent, more solvent and less debt-ridden. All of us, particularly in government, should be more zealous on behalf of bicycling.

I leave to others the particulars of DOT’s bicycle-promotion policies. I imagine that there is room for improvement around the edges. Let the Council please keep in mind that reversing a century of infrastructure, habits of mind, and entitlements built around cars and drivers is no simple task. What Mr. Moses cast in concrete is not quickly undone. Adding bicycles to a congealed mix of autos and pedestrians requires a period of adjustment. There will be mistakes, and there will be resistance. Please do not let the resistance inflate the mistakes into conspiracy or catastrophe.

The British author H. G. Wells famously said, “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not fear for the future of the human race.” We could all do with less fear. The Transportation Commissioner and her staff are bringing hope to our streets and our city. They deserve your support.