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DOT Touts Bike Lane Benefits At Council Hearing

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The growing number of bike lanes has become one of the mostly hotly debated issues in the city, and at a City Council hearing Thursday, the city’s transportation commissioner went on the defensive. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

To hear city officials tell it, the city’s proliferation of bike lanes has been successful on all fronts: cycling is up, crashes are down and all without increasing traffic congestion. But critics, including some on the City Council, suspect there’s an anti-car ideology at work.

“Biking is a good transportation alternative. But I do not believe that making it impossible to drive should be a policy our city pursues," said City Councilman James Vacca.

"This isn’t about banning cars. This is about balance. And making our streets work for all users of our transportation network," countered City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

At a City Council hearing Thursday it was clear there’s disagreement not only of opinion, but also of facts. Contrary to DOT data, critics say bike lanes have slowed traffic, made parking and deliveries more difficult, hurt small businesses, and increased accidents -- particularly along the new, controversial Prospect Park West bike lane.

“Just five months since the bike lanes were opened, we’ve received eyewitness accounts of 10 vehicular accidents on Prospect Park West, which compares to an annual average rate of 8.8 for the preceding four years" said Bike Lane Opponent Norman Steisel.

The DOT says in fact bike lanes make both bikers and pedestrians safer, and have community support.

“Many of the projects, if not most of the projects that we implement, are requested by community boards," Sadik-Khan said.

Another major complaint against cyclists is reckless behavior like riding against traffic, a problem the DOT says it intends to tackle, in part, with a major ad campaign set to launch in early spring.

“It will feature a good cast of celebrities but will bluntly tell cyclists to stop riding like jerks," Sadik-Khan said.

In 2012, the DOT will also launch a public bike-sharing program -- something that's enough to make critics sing the blues.

"Let’s not forget cars, it’s getting insane. Welcome to Brooklyn, the borough of lanes. When the horn honks, when the dog bites, when the bikers stray. I simply remember my favorite lanes, and then I just say, oy vey," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

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