Last week Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio infuriated cyclists with his misleading comments about the Bloomberg administration's bike lane expansion. In an interview with the Brooklyn Paper, de Blasio said:

The motivation [for bike lanes] has been noble but the approach has often been without the kind of communication with the community that I’d like. What I’d say is that let’s look at actual evidence, not biased evidence, but actual evidence about what has happened with each of them. Where they’ve worked, great, let’s keep them. Where they haven’t worked let’s revise them or change them.

This notion that the DOT has forced bike lanes upon an unsuspecting public without community input is brazenly counter-factual, and de Blasio certainly knows it. (His press secretary, in fact, is Wiley Norvell, the former spokesman for Transportation Alternatives.) But this fiction of bike lane TYRANNY has been so effectively established in the local media that it's easy for politicians like de Blasio to score cheap points with NYC drivers and merchants who disagree with the DOT's safe streets strategy.

At least the NYPD hearts bike lanes. (Hudson on Flickr)

To be sure, de Blasio is not alone in milking the bike lane wedge issue. Mayoral frontrunner Christine Quinn has signaled that if elected she will not be continuing the DOT's policy of bike lane expansion. In an interview with WNYC, Quinn glibly shrugged off a question about bike lanes by suggesting that they belong “in the category of things you shouldn’t discuss at dinner parties...It used to be money and politics and religion. Now in New York you should add bike lanes."

That's in large part because retrograde tabloid columnists and unhinged TV newscasters have manufactured a narrative that "real" New Yorkers are fed up with lunatic spandex cycling fanatics. Meanwhile, a New York Times poll showed that New Yorkers favor bike lanes by a margin of 66 to 27 percent. Quinn's joke is that the issue is just too divisive to discuss in polite company, and she has a point—bike lane opponents tend to be just as passionate as bike lane advocates. Nevertheless, the Speaker waded in anyway:

Bike lanes are clearly controversial. And one of the problems with bike lanes — and I’m generally a supporter of bike lanes - but one of the problems with bike lanes has been not the concept of them, which I support, but the way the Department of Transportation has implemented them without consultation with communities and community boards.

Again, spectacular bullshit. The DOT has consistently worked with Community Boards throughout the bike lane expansion. The most recent example could be seen on the Upper West Side, where Community Board 7 threw its support behind an extension of the Columbus Avenue bike lane. "There’s this meme, this myth, that Bloomberg has crammed bike lanes down people’s throat,” Transportation Alternatives director Paul Steely White tells the Times. "I get that Bill de Blasio and others are striving to distinguish themselves from Bloomberg. My advice to them is to pick another issue."

Good luck with that, Mr. White. NYC's tabloid media has masterfully turned the bike lane into a potent symbol of Bloomberg's indifference to blue collar New Yorkers, a highly visible manifestation of the mayor's alleged disdain for outer-borough Joe Sixpacks. It's been an easy wedge issue for years—who could forget Anthony Weiner's infamous promise to tear out Bloomberg's "fucking bike lanes" when he became mayor. (Fortunately, Twitter had other plans.)

Today the Times examines the "Anxiety Over Future of Bike Lanes" and finds that the leading candidates "have expressed little enthusiasm about the expansion of bike lanes, and a few have made comments that suggest they may seek to erase some of them." In fact, Comptroller John Liu intends to erase bike lanes "in some parts of the city,” particularly in Brooklyn and Queens, while former MTA chief Joe Lhota would also get rid of bike lanes.

De Blasio, meanwhile, has refined his bike lane stance, sending out a statement this morning insisting, "I fully support bike lanes and I want to see them continue to expand around the city. They are clearly making many NYC streets safer. But I think we need to take an approach different from the Mayor’s. While more and more communities and riders want bike lanes, the City still hasn’t come around to proactively engaging those who are concerned by them."

It's unclear what de Blasio is specifically talking about when he says his administration would "increase our outreach and bring more residents and small businesses into the discussion early." Isn't he describing the process that goes on with every Community Board when a bike lane is up for consideration? A source with knowledge of the de Blasio campaign tells us the Public Advocate envisions a "more retail, door-to-door approach—soliciting input and putting out information to folks who may not know a bike lane is slated for their block."

Asked about de Blasio's stance last week, a Transportation Alternatives spokesman wondered, "What's his threshold for community support? Every single bike lane has had community support. Does he want 100% every time? Because that's saying that unsafe conditions are acceptable if even one person is opposed." What we do know is that Bill de Blasio's approval ratings stand at 11%. Bike lanes: 66%.

Update: In response to today's statement from de Blasio, Transportation Alternatives' spokesman says, "The Public Advocate’s support for bike lanes is an encouraging sign for every New Yorker because bike lanes are critical to keeping all of us safe."