It doesn’t take a Woody Allen movie to see that New Yorkers are a conflicted lot. Just look at the results of a new poll on locals’ attitudes toward bike lanes, a passion of health-conscious Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, who has been known to commute by bicycle.
Some 66% of adults support them, yet only 25% think they’re alleviating the city’s traffic woes, according to a new Marist Poll on the contentious issue.
The poll, released Wednesday, was conducted among 808 New Yorkers age 18 and older during the last week of July amid debate over a bicycle lane installed along a 1.1-mile stretch of road bordering Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Thirteen percent of respondents described themselves as regular bicycle riders. Among the interesting findings: 40% of respondents think bike lanes increase traffic problems on city streets, and 30% say they make no difference. But although two-thirds of respondents like the bicycle lanes, only 27% think more should be added to the city.
To people living in more bike-friendly parts of the country, bicycle lanes might not seem like an issue worthy of angry protests, political battles and lawsuits. That would seem to be especially true for a city like New York, where driving a car — not to mention parking one — is akin to urban warfare. Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan have encouraged more people to use pedal power to get around, and in July, Bloomberg said the city had recorded a 14% jump in bicycling commuters over last spring. Since 2002, the city has installed more than 390 miles of bike lanes.
But city efforts to encourage bicycling have enraged some politicians and residents living along streets once lined with parking spaces and now laced by green pedaling paths. None has been as controversial as the one opened last year on Prospect Park West, a wide avenue lined with gracious apartment buildings that overlook the sprawling green space.
Opponents filed a lawsuit in March alleging that city officials had promised the bike lane would be temporary. They also say the city doctored data to quash opposition to the bike lane, which they allege is badly designed and dangerous for pedestrians who have to watch not only for cars now, but also bicycles.
“There’s been an effort to intentionally misinform,” said Norman Steisel of Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes, which opposes the bicycle path, after a recent court hearing. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
The city denies the opponents’ allegations.
Back to that poll: One thing that might not come as a surprise is that 78% of respondents said taxi drivers are not respectful of others on the road.