Former mayoral hopeful and social media lothario Anthony Weiner once infamously declared to Mayor Bloomberg over dinner that his first year in City Hall would be spent “tearing out your fucking bike lanes.”
It is a prospect that terrifies urban planners and bike advocates, who worship the public space rejiggering championed by current DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Mr. Weiner is obviously out of the running, but some other mayoral candidates have expressed concern about these streetscape changes, as well, most recently Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who called the commish a “radical” recently. But would he really go through with it?
Streetsblog wonders aloud about the prospect of Mr. de Blasio, a former streets advocacy ally, changing course: “In a way, supporters of livable streets should be thanking de Blasio for this eye-opener … the 2013 race is wide open and there’s just no telling, at the moment, how the next mayor will align on these issues.”
Yet what was most striking was the evidence Streetsblog gave that these reversals are real. Case in point: Toronto. There, Mayor Rob Ford has reversed countless programs of his predecessor.
It was in Jane Jacobs’ adopted home town that a progressive mayor, David Miller, laid plans to prioritize pedestrian safety, surface transit, and bicycling, only to see his successor Rob Ford assume office, declare an end to “the war on the car,” and proceed to reverse much of the previous administration’s initiatives.
Mayor Ford’s first day in office, he killed plans for a new light rail system and, yes, ripped up certain bike lanes. Streetsblog has a post from last year that explores his other transportation indiscretions further.
Following recent polls showing support for the new bike lanes, Commissioner Sadik-Khan sent The Observer a message praising the growing support for her programs: “After
five years of careful planning, community consultation and implementation, New Yorkers have spoken, and they like their bike lanes. New York today has the biggest and best bike network in the United States. It’s satisfying to see the support and demand for a bike-friendly New York that has allowed us to get here.”
The open question is just how demanding the electorate will be next year to keep it that way. If they do not speak up, or worse, if it becomes a wedge issue, the changes that seem so increasingly permanent—pavers, benches, bike lanes, plazas—might just disappear. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.