Oddo: Bike Lanes Were Just to Grab Attention for Loosening Enviro Review

James Oddo

City Council Minority Leader James Oddo. Photo: SI Advance

City Council Minority Leader James Oddo has a surprising message for Streetsblog and its commenters: “Thank you.”

We didn’t think too highly of Oddo’s proposal to require environmental review for bike lanes. And experts said it would throw an unnecessary road block in front of expanding the bike network, making the projects exceedingly slow and expensive without any countervailing benefit.

But in a phone call with Streetsblog, Oddo said that story was exactly what he wanted to see. “I used you guys,” he crowed. “I knew when I touched the third rail of bike lanes, it would get noticed. The aim of my letter to the Deputy Mayor and the DOT Commissioner wasn’t bike lanes. It was the city’s environmental review process.”

He hurried to say that he didn’t have any problems with bike lanes — but his explanation will be cold comfort to cyclists who can no longer ride on the Father Capodanno Boulevard bike lane in his own district. “This commissioner and this department, they can build all the bike lanes they want,” he said. “As long as I get drivable roads in my borough, that’s my concern. I can’t help the fact that Staten Islanders are addicted to automobiles because the government hasn’t given us mass transit.”

Oddo called the environmental review process “arbitrary, pointless, and a job killer.” He said his ultimate goal was to raise attention to this white paper by Manhattan Institute fellow Hope Cohen, which outlines an agenda to reform environmental review.

To what end does Oddo want to loosen the city’s enviro review procedures? The Staten Island Advance reports today that he wants road widenings to be sped through the process — projects that will actually induce more traffic and cause more pollution. The Manhattan Institute paper does not address the appropriateness of environmental review for specific types of transportation projects, like road widenings.

And the Advance notes that Oddo does seem to have problems with bike lanes, which he said cause congestion and endanger all road users. Note that the project that got him and his Staten Island colleague Vincent Ignizio so riled up was merely the prospect of sharrows on a couple of streets.

So it can’t hurt to remind Oddo that you don’t want to see bike lanes burdened with unneeded environmental review. You can send him and Ignizio an e-fax here.

By the way, there are plenty of environmental review reforms Oddo could pursue that would actually be beneficial for the environment. Streetsblog has written about a few flaws in our local enviro review law: It doesn’t count the total impact of off-street parking, and it suggests that developers provide too much parking.

Any other changes you’d like to pass on? Leave your suggestions in the comments.