Sir Walter Scott famously said, “What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” This quote, commonly attributed to Shakespeare, could easily apply to the deceit surrounding the ever-expanding web of bicycle lanes being woven around NYC, which is a story starting to become a modern urban tragedy.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn have been waging a war on cars, converting lanes vital to traffic flow into lanes for bicycles. The Department of Transportation is alleging there has been a boom in bike use around the city to justify the creation of existing lanes and many still planned.
Meanwhile, sightings of bikes using these lanes are about as reliable as sightings of the Loch Ness monster. And, when used, it is most likely a delivery rider with a package or an order of cold sesame noodles. The Furman Center at NYU backs this up with a recent report analyzing census data that shows the use of bicycles is far less than what the DOT claims.
Most recently, the New York Post has done its own research by polling landlords affiliated with the Real Estate Board of NY about the number of people taking advantage of laws requiring accommodations for people who ride bikes to work. What they found was not surprising, that very few people were biking to the office.
In a more informal check, Post reporters visited a number of new highly populated buildings during prime hours to see how many of the stalls for bicycles were actually in use, and found many empty spots. At 1 Bryant Park, the location of the new Bank of America headquarters, they found 11 of 30 stalls in their secure bike facility in use.
In spite of bike lanes creating more traffic, inconveniencing pedestrians, and hurting local businesses, the administration continues to push for more. To see the effect, just take a short walk down Broadway from 42nd Street to 34th Street. With a pedestrian plaza blocking access from the north, and the previous four lanes cut down to two for a bike lane, this formerly busy section of midtown is now more like a ghost town. Few cars or bikes are seen here, much to the chagrin of local store owners.
Ultimately, this might be what Bloomberg and Sadik-Kahn want, to turn NYC into a place where cars are more like ghostly apparitions. In “Hamlet,” Shakespeare wrote the famous line, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” Clearly, the current leadership thinks cars in NYC are not to be. This is a tragedy that even Shakespeare could never have envisioned.
Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant, blogger, and an active member of the Queens Republican Party.