The NY Post hates bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, and orgasms, so it's no surprise to see another anti-bike lane diatribe in today's edition. The author is our old favorite: cantankerous columnist Steve Cuozzo (who also goes by his Native American name "He Who Yells at Cloud"). For today's rant, he declares that "the city Department of Transportation is lying through its teeth about an alleged biker boom," and enlists the help of the Real Estate Board of New York [REBNY], which represents owners of most of Manhattan's 400 million-odd square feet of office space.
Last Thursday, REBNY called around to some offices to see how many bikes were stored inside buildings. You'll recall that in 2009, the City Council passed a bill requiring commercial building managers to accommodate bike storage if they submitted a formal request. Most landlords have long been opposed to letting cyclists bring their bikes inside, so using REBNY to cherry-pick some landlords for the Post's "count" is about as persuasive as someone looking at an empty bike lane on a freezing day and deciding nobody rides bikes.
REBNY collected responses "from owners and managers of 77 million square feet in Midtown and Downtown." On Thursday, REBNY found just 278 bicycles inside the offices. Cuozzo says that "using a standard space-use formula that allocates 250 square feet to each employee, those 42 million square feet hold about 308,000 workers. Thus, a mere .09 percent of employees in those buildings went to work by bike. That's fewer than 1 out of every 1,000 workers biking to the office."
And lest you think the Post is just citing biased survey results, they also cite bike storage intel from a couple more building managers who support the article's premise. So! Case closed. The city is wasting money on bike lanes that are mainly used by food deliverymen (who cares about them) and taking precious space away from motorists, who used to drive around NYC as free as wind blows and the grass grows. Time to rip out the bike lanes and return cars to their rightful place of dominance!
But wait, what's all this then? Out of the depths of the Post's comment sewer emerges one Brian Van Nieuwenhoven to deftly dismantle Cuozzo's article (thus sparing us from spending any more of our precious life force talking about it):
Readers: please consider these facts that Mr. Cuozzo has failed to include in the justification for his snide opinion about bike lanes:
* People who use bicycle lanes to deliver food are still actual people using bicycle lanes, and are human beings realizing a safety benefit without impeding traffic or pedestrians. Over time, the city would like to convince ADDITIONAL people that the lanes are safe to use - road hazards are the main reason why millions of people in NYC own bicycles and know how to use them but most are afraid to ride them here.
* Though last Thursday had agreeable weather, it had been cold and rainy the previous two days. The weather hasn't been nice for any period of consecutive days so far this year, and many people haven't had spring/summer activities on their minds yet. That will change when the weather improves and stays pleasant for a while.
* Office managers counted 278 bicycles that they observed being carried into a building, when on-street parking and private garages are other common methods for commuters to store bicycles. These figures also don't count commuters to work locations outside of Midtown, and doesn't count any children commuting to school (in locations - exurban, I suppose - where school commuting would be safe enough to consider). Since Midtown has exceptionally poor bicycle infrastructure and hazardous roads, cycling is not an ideal commuting option for many workers who otherwise have the equipment and ability to commute using a bicycle. In areas where bicycle infrastructure is easily available, commuting rates are higher. (Citywide, even conservative estimates count 50,000 - 100,000 work commuters per day - roughly double from six years ago).
* Offices in NYC are still unfriendly to bicycle parking regardless of that new law. Many tenants haven't bothered with requesting bicycle access and don't know about the new law. Some don't want it because they have overcrowded offices that have no appropriate space for bike storage OR new employees - regardless of how inconsiderate that is to the employees. Some buildings have installed bike rooms that are closed at 6pm, which makes them useless for people who work later (that would be most people). Some landlords deny office bicycle access through a loophole that allows them to do so if they declare the freight elevators unsuitable for such use - which they can do at their own discretion.
* Even if commuters used their other numerous bike parking options, the vast majority of employers do not provide bathroom washing facilities for commuters (other than sinks for handwashing) to clean up and prepare for the workday after a bicycle ride. This alone discourages many people from attempting bicycle commuting.
* The Time Warner Center is probably one of the worst examples to use. The bicycle rack is in the building's underground garage, not in a location highly accessible from the offices. There is just one bicycle lane leading to Columbus Circle, and it's one of the most hazardous in the city. Finally, the TWC is right next to a subway station serving three major lines.
* Work commuting is not the only reasonable daily use of a bicycle. What about hundreds of thousands of people who take the subway to work but wish to use bicycles near their homes for errands, socializing, and exercise? Bike lanes can be useful to them, too.
* The Census question about bicycle commuting only counts people who use bicycles as their SOLE method of transportation to work. It does not account for mixed-mode commuters - which would be an appropriate thing to account for in a city where the weather is 95 degrees and humid in July and 12 inches of snow in January.
* Most of the installed bike lanes in all of New York City have done nothing to hinder the lawful flow of traffic, while adding safety features for pedestrians and cyclists. In some cases, they are used as part of purposeful, sensible traffic-calming efforts that community boards have specifically requested, in order to discourage long-term trends of speeding and reckless driving.
* The main benefit of Broadway's reconfiguration north of 47th Street is that pedestrians, using safety islands, now only need to cross about 26 feet of road traffic - instead of nearly 70 feet with the old design. (With no bike lanes leading to or from the bicycle lane between Columbus Circle and Times Square, it's not part of any ideal safe path for regional commuting) Cars move at the same pace as before. For all these years it hasn't been possible to get through Times Square very fast anyway; in the past, four lanes of Broadway had to merge into the right lane of Seventh Avenue, which means even two lanes is more than the old Times Square can handle.
* Expansion of bike lanes has been shown in citywide polls to be agreeable by a majority of people; Mr. Cuozzo's position conflicts with the majority opinion, and is not politically sensible in a democratic society.
We never thought we'd say this, but in this moment we're kinda envious of the Post's commenters.
Update: Responding to this pos on Twitter, Cuozzo writes, "comment from the guy citing 'facts' I didn't include omitted fact that he's the guy who 'bought' my domain name. Brave." It is a fact: if the person commenting on the Post's article is indeed Brian Van Nieuwenhoven, this is the guy who bought SteveCuozzo.com, which redirects to the Transportation Alternatives website, as a gag.