FDNY: “We Haven’t Had Any Issues” With Bike-Share Locations

Republican mayoral candidate Joseph Lhota, on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show yesterday, said that while he didn’t “know this for a fact,” he views the bike-share program as an example of failed agency coordination in the Bloomberg administration, because he’d read press reports that people were complaining about new bike-share stations potentially impeding emergency response. Despite Lhota’s speculation, based off hysterical media reports, the Fire Department says they were consulted by DOT and that the stations have not been a problem.

Joe Lhota's speculation about bike-share coordination? Turns out not to be true. Photo: Daily News

“You bring in the police commissioner and the fire commissioner and the DOT commissioner and you coordinate and you work out all of the issues related to, for example, where the bike racks are going,” Lhota said. “I don’t know if they’ve done that.”

Lehrer then asked, “So you’re for the bike-share program, but you think the racks aren’t being put in the right places because there was a bad decision-making process?”

Lhota continued:

It’s possible. There have been some articles about it already. You’ve got the bike racks, some that were in the Village, it was written up in one of the newspapers yesterday, that it’s you know, according to the article — I don’t know this for a fact — but they’re in violation of the fire code…Now, you could make this into a larger issue than it is…I’m all for the bike-share program, I’m for the bike lane programs, I’m not to be interpreted that I’m against it. But putting it in front of an entranceway of which emergency services use to rescue people, that’s insensitive.

In DOT’s report about the bike-share planning process, it lists NYPD and FDNY as “planning partners.” It also says that station sites “must not impede the use of…fire hydrants.”

Streetsblog checked with the Fire Department to see if New York’s Bravest had been consulted by DOT. “We gave to them our input,” a spokesperson said, adding that discussions took place at the battalion division or borough level, as the program’s initial phases will not be citywide, covering only parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

When Streetsblog asked if the stations have impeded fire access to buildings, the reply was simple: “We haven’t had any issues.”

Lhota, who as MTA chief spent some time sending an anti-bike tweet while Hurricane Sandy was bearing down on the city last year, also claimed that a bike-share station in his own neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights is blocking emergency access to the Clark Street subway station.

A spokesperson in the MTA press office said this was the first time they had heard of this issue, and would get back to us with a reply. DOT’s report also lists the MTA as a planning partner. Update: “NYC DOT consulted with MTA New York City Transit during the process of siting bike-share stations,” MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan said via e-mail. “DOT presented a number of bike-share station siting options; we did not flag any issues with what they proposed.”

It’s not just the Fire Department and the MTA that were brought in during the bike-share station planning process. As WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein reported in a piece about Lhota’s remarks, “DOT held 400 community meetings at which participants chose sites for the bike share docks, and most community board managers have been effusive in their praise of the process.”

Lhota warned about making this “a larger issue than it is,” but what else do you call it when a mayoral candidate repeats unsubstantiated claims from ill-informed not-in-my-backyard types on the air?