An Open Letter to CB 7 Transportation Chairs Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert

Mark Gorton is the publisher of Streetsblog and lives on the Upper West Side with his wife and four children. This is an edited version of a message he sent to Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert, the co-chairs of the Community Board 7 transportation committee, after neither of them voted in favor of extending the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane this Tuesday. (The project did clear the committee and will be going to the full board later this month.)

Dan and Andrew,

I am writing as a follow up to last night’s CB 7 transportation committee meeting. I was heartened by the overwhelming community support for extending the Columbus Avenue bike lane, and I was glad to see the outcome of the vote of the transportation committee. However, I am still distressed that the leadership of the transportation committee is still so misinformed about the basics of street safety.

I understand that you have the perception that more cycling makes our streets less safe, but that is just not true. DOT studies on Columbus Avenue and around the city show that protected bike lanes make our streets safer for everyone. Similar studies from around the world also demonstrate that fact. The cities in the world that have the safest streets (Stockholm, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, etc.) are also the cities with the most cycling. In the complicated ecosystem of our streets, bicycles are a safety device. Ninety-nine percent of the danger on our streets comes from motor vehicles, and the largest safety effect of bicycles is their impact on reducing the danger from cars and trucks.

I understand that you “feel” differently, but the basics of street safety are well-established principles. Whatever your feelings might be or whatever anecdotal observations you might make do not change the reality of street safety. Your misperceptions have delayed much-needed safety improvements for our neighborhood, and as a result, people are being injured and killed. Hundreds of your neighbors have come out time and time again to tell you how much these safety improvements mean to them, their families, and their neighbors. Last night, multiple people were on the verge of tears because they so desperately want these safety improvements. It amazes me that you have not been moved by the strength, depth, and emotion of the testimony from your neighbors that you have heard time and time again.

It seems that by selectively focusing only on certain pieces of data and by disproportionately weighing anecdotal evidence, you have convinced yourselves that black is white and up is down and protected bike lanes are unsafe. You both have taken very public positions against street safety.

But as members of a community, you have a moral obligation to accept the reality of street safety. You two occupy the positions of leadership on transportation on the UWS. People are being maimed and killed on the streets of the UWS on a regular basis. This issue is too important to avoid.

The UWS needs leaders on its transportation committee who understand street safety, who are familiar with best practices from around the city and around the world, who are willing to tackle the glaring problems of the streets of the UWS. What the UWS does not need are more years of denial that lead to unnecessary injuries and deaths.

Making our streets more friendly to people, more humane, less mechanized has so, so many more benefits other than safety. It makes the neighborhood more livable, pleasant, economically strong, healthy, and vibrant. It gives children more freedom to explore their world. It makes parenting easier.

I ask that you look in your hearts and ask yourselves whether you are really suited to the roles that you currently occupy as heads of the transportation committee. I know that you have been there a long time, but under your tenure the UWS has fallen behind other parts of the city as the transportation committee desperately clings to outdated, discredited practices. We need and deserve better for our community.

Sincerely,

Mark Gorton