Markowitz Speaks Against Safer Streets in State of the Borough

Earlier this week, friends and family members of traffic violence victims wrote to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, asking him to stop standing in the way of street improvements to make walking and biking safer. They had lost loved ones and seen lives disrupted by crashes that could have been prevented by better street design. They asked Markowitz to start taking the prevention of traffic injuries and deaths seriously.

Marty Markowitz at a press conference last month, calling for the removal of pedestrian refuges.

In his State of the Borough address last night, Markowitz did not acknowledge those letters. He did not mention the 80 lives lost each year on Brooklyn streets. Instead, he played his opposition to street safety measures for laughs, and continued to oppose a popular traffic-calming project, the re-design of Prospect Park West.

From Markowitz’s prepared remarks:

[Borough President rides in on bike lane]

Welcome to beautiful Sunset Park, Brooklyn, USA, and the 2011 State of the Borough address!

As you can see, I’ve taken advantage of the Department of Transportation’s newest bike lane. Of course, I can tell it’s still under construction, because the D.O.T. hasn’t yet removed all the seats in the auditorium to make room for it!

TRANSPORTATION

As I’m sure you noticed, I made my entrance tonight on what I like to [call] my senior cycle, so I hope you understand that I am not against bicycles. I’m not even against bike lanes. I’ve supported their creation around Brooklyn, including 9th street near Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Greenway that runs from Greenpoint to Sunset Park.

But for the majority of New Yorkers, it is simply not feasible to make bicycles their primary mode of transport, and unfortunately that’s the direction I believe the City’s policy is heading. They are trying to stigmatize car owners and get them to abandon their cars, when the fact is, even many bicyclists also own cars!

Cycling is no substitute for mass transit, and there are still tens of thousands of Brooklynites who live far from public transportation and who rely on a car to reach their jobs and live their lives. But of course, we must have a comprehensive plan that insures the safety of drivers, walkers and cyclists. And we should all remember to show respect to one another — drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, everybody who uses our streets. I have been a vocal critic of the Prospect Park West bike lane because I think it is a perfect example of how not to install a bike lane. It has disrupted the aesthetics of one of Brooklyn’s most beautiful thoroughfares and made it more dangerous to cross the street safely, especially for seniors, young children and parents with strollers.

Markowitz says he is for the safety of drivers, walkers, and cyclists, but in fact he is opposed to a project that has reduced injuries and tamed rampant speeding, making the street safer for drivers, walkers, and cyclists. At no point does he mention the 16,000 injuries sustained in motor vehicle crashes in his borough each year, or how he would keep Brooklynites safer on their streets.

Markowitz says he is concerned about people’s ability to get around and live their lives, but the data show that the PPW re-design has had no discernible effect on traffic travel times on any avenue. Meanwhile, thanks to the protected bike lane, more Brooklynites are using PPW to reach their jobs, take their kids to school, and conduct their daily lives than before.

Markowitz says he is concerned for Brooklynites who live far from transit. At no point in his speech does he mention the 57 percent of Brooklyn households who do not own a car, or how the city should improve streets so that they can get around more conveniently and safely.

Markowitz says he supports the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, but he was publicly silent last year when business interests based in the Brooklyn Navy Yard threatened to derail a large portion of the greenway route, on Flushing Avenue.

Markowitz says he is not against bike lanes, but he is against the Prospect Park West bike lane, which enjoys 78 percent approval among his own constituents, according to Council Member Brad Lander’s survey of nearly 3,000 Brooklynites.

Markowitz claims to be looking out for the interests of seniors, young children, and parents with strollers, but he is not looking out for these seniors, young children, and parents with strollers:

Photo: Ben Fried

Photo: Ben Fried