Marty Mocks Bikes While People Perish

On Friday, a woman biking in Williamsburg became the latest victim of a hit-and-run on New York City streets, and she remains in the ICU, according to Gothamist. If only there was someone who could have helped her…

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz insists he is no enemy of bike lanes, even as he mocks them mercilessly. He has sung dirges and staged protests, grandstood and genuflected. Markowitz likes bikes well enough, he says, but only where he wants them. On Thursday night, that was at his State of the Borough Address.

As you can see in this video proudly posted on the Borough President’s YouTube page, Markowitz arrived at the auditorium of Sunset Park High School atop an over-sized tricycle, carrying a Junior’s cheesecake in back. There he quipped, according to his prepared remarks, “As you can see, I’ve taken advantage of the Department of Transportation’s newest bike lane. Of course, I can tell it’s still under construction, because the D.O.T. hasn’t yet removed all the seats in the auditorium to make room for it!”

This was a sly reference to Markowitz’ revulsion for, among other things, the new bike lane on Prospect Park West. Which, never mind, has been shown to be favored by about three-quarters of locals and half of those living on the thoroughfare, as well as cutting injuries by half. 

Not that that matters to Markowitz. He is more concerned with conspiracies and crossing the street. Not only have all those new cyclists and their protected lane “disrupted the aesthetics” of Prospect Park West, but they “made it more dangerous to cross the street safely, especially for seniors, young children and parents with strollers.” They certainly pose a greater risk than cars, which once tore down the strip in three unencumbered lanes.

And herein seems to lie the misunderstanding. Consider this passage from Markowitz’ speech:

But for the majority of New Yorkers, it is simply not feasible to make bicycles their primary mode of transport, and unfortunately that’s the direction I believe the City’s policy is heading. They are trying to stigmatize car owners and get them to abandon their cars, when the fact is, even many bicyclists also own cars!

What does it matter if people bike once a year, even? There are lanes in the park, there are lanes a few avenues away, but when the sole sacrifice is a few dozen parking spots for safer, calmer streets, for making lanes where none existed, is that so much to ask? If there is room for sidewalks and two lanes of traffic, is it asking so much to squeeze in a bike lane? Not two days before Markowitz held his State of the Borough, a group of families who had lost loved ones to cars implored Markowitz to take a stand on behalf of complete streets and pedestrian safety. Instead, they were met with more mockery.

Mark Zustovich, Markowitz’ press secretary, insisted in an email the borough president is serious about these matters. “I don’t know how many more ways we can say it, but the borough president takes the safety of all Brooklynites seriously,” Zustovich wrote, adding: “The borough president is not opposed to bike lanes–in fact he has supported the 9th Street lane and the Brooklyn Greenway bicycle path. He is opposed to the installation of the Prospect Park West bike lane for reasons that have been well publicized.”

But, if so, why would he make his grand entrance in such a crass way? Noah Budnick, legislative director at Transportation Alternatives, believes it’s Markowitz’ way or the highway. “It sounds like Marty likes safety except when he doesn’t,” Budnick said. “To anybody around Brooklyn, around the city, around the world, I can’t think of how you could talk to anyone that would think safety is this negotiable thing some people can have and some people can’t.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misattributed Noah Budnick’s quote to Wiley Norvell. The Observer regrets the error.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @mc_nyo