Domenic Recchia: There’s a Place For Bike Lanes, But I’m Not Telling Where

Domenic Recchia says he's not against bike lanes, but here's a helpful tip: When you kill what would be your district's first east-west bike lane and refuse to suggest an alternative, you're against bike lanes. Photo: Tracy Collins via Brownstoner.

“I’m not against bike lanes,” City Council Member Domenic Recchia told the New York Times after forcing DOT to scrap plans for a four-mile painted bike lane along Bay Ridge Parkway two weeks ago. “I believe there’s a place for them.”

I’d like to believe Recchia. After all, there are currently no on-street bike lanes headed east-west between his district and that of Vincent Gentile, Recchia’s partner in crime. To repeat, in all of Sunset Park, Borough Park, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Gravesend, there’s not one east-west lane that runs for more than a couple of blocks. I’m sure, therefore, that as soon as Recchia proposes his alternate location, DOT will jump at the opportunity.

Since Recchia scuttled the Bay Ridge Parkway plan, Streetsblog has reached out repeatedly to his office to ask the self-identified bike lane supporter where he’d propose a lane instead. He wouldn’t. All he would say, in full, is: “Bike lanes should be sited based on community input. If my community requests a bike lane, I will be happy to entertain a proposal.”

Perhaps Recchia wouldn’t offer an alternative because articulating what exactly was wrong with the Bay Ridge Parkway lane would be nearly impossible without having to drop the pro-bike pretense.

After all, a DOT presentation on the proposed bike lane [PDF] promised that striping it wouldn’t require taking away a single travel lane or a single parking space. Where space was tighter, the bike lane was to be sacrificed, with sharrows replacing it.

It couldn’t be that the bike lanes would overly constrict motor vehicles. Even with the addition of five-foot bike lanes, moving traffic would have 11-foot lanes in each direction. To put that in perspective, 12-foot lanes are the standard for interstate highways. On Bay Ridge Parkway, an urban street with only one lane in each direction, all that excess room for cars just causes dangerous speeding.

The Bay Ridge Parkway bike lane would have been the east-west spine of the area's underdeveloped bike network. Image: NYC DOT

And it isn’t that Recchia’s constituents would never ride a bike. A majority of households in his district don’t even own a car and of those that do, not all drive to work [PDF]. His many transit-riding neighbors might appreciate the opportunity to safely ride a bike to the subway instead of waiting for the bus, or to bike for short trips and neighborhood errands. Those who already ride desperately need better bike facilities: cyclist Joseph Granati was killed in a collision with a driver in Gravesend just this Sunday.

Without a substantive leg to stand on, it’s easy to see why Recchia argued against the lane on procedural grounds. It’s the thing to do when you oppose safer cycling conditions but don’t want to say so. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio did the same thing. He praised DOT’s decision to drop the bike lane, calling it in a statement, “an important step forward that shows a willingness to respect the input of residents and community leaders.”

It is true that both Community Board 10 and Community Board 11 opposed the bike lanes, according to the Times. But Recchia is a popular leader in his community who knows the district as well as anyone and who was elected to represent it. If he really believes there’s a place for bike lanes, he should say where and make his case. The community boards would at least hear him out.

Until he does that, Recchia can’t have it both ways. He can’t claim he’s not against bike lanes as long as his only public statement on the issue is to crow about killing a plan for the only east-west bike lane in the area. He can’t say there’s a place for bike lanes without even hinting at where that might be.

We’d love to be proven wrong, but for now, Recchia counts as a full-fledged captain of the bikelash. Indeed, he holds one of its biggest scalps.