It’s no secret that City Councilman Lew Fidler is not one to coddle bike lane advocates. The pol has been painted by bicycling enthusiasts as a car-crazed obstructionist hell-bent on keeping his district’s yokels addicted to gasoline. But to locals, he’s a bit of a savior, winning over Community Boards and civic groups in his district by blasting the Department of Transportation’s misguided installation of bike lanes in awkward, unsafe and unwanted areas.
But if you ask the councilman, he’s not on a crusade against peddlers and their thoroughfares; he just wants more community input – and input from local cyclists – before a bike lane “drops out of the sky,” as he put it in September 2010, when he announced he would draft legislation securing that right. (Sheepshead Bites was the first to report on the legislation, back in August 2010.)
The bill is now headed to a full City Council vote after the Transportation Committee held hearings on it this Monday. The bill would require the DOT to hold a public hearing in conjunction with affected Community Boards no more than 90 days before the start of construction. It currently has the support of the DOT, as well as 28 sponsors, and is expected to pass.
“Whether you’re a biker, or not a biker, whatever your preference, communities know best what their desires and their needs are,” Fidler told Community Board 15 last night, explaining the purpose of the bill. “Every now and then the bureaucrats have to shimmy down from their ivory tower and come out to the community and listen to what we have to say.”
It’s important to note, however, that the bill does not give Community Boards the ability to block a planned bike lane, only to express support or opposition and to contribute ideas.
But though the DOT and the mayor’s office are behind the plan, bicycling advocates are blasting the proposal, saying it will add delays to planned projects and complicate implementation by giving residents too much say.
“This bill prescribes mandatory hearings and months of delay for the city’s most minor, routine and boring bike lanes,’’ said Juan Martinez, lawyer for Transportation Alternatives, as quoted by the New York Post. “This delay will not accomplish the legislation’s stated aims but will instead keep New Yorkers less safe.”
But Fidler told the Community Board last night that such complaints are hogwash, and are really an attempt to keep residents from giving input on projects to ensure the best possible planning for locals.
“[The bill's opponents] actually had the temerity to suggest that Community Board members would be bored by having hearings on mundane subjects,” Fidler said. “I wish they would come to a council meeting and sit through a land use hearing on the issue of sidewalk cafes. Quite frankly, [the criticism] was kind of silly.”