Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s aggressive reshaping of New York City’s streets and sidewalks has earned big praise from groups that want to take public space away from cars – and big fears that his successor will give voice to a backlash.
So Transportation Alternatives, the nonprofit that encourages biking, walking and mass transit instead of driving, is trying to shape the 2013 mayoral dialogue over getting around the city before it even starts.
To influence next year’s mayoral candidates, the organization is meeting with them to show detailed results of a survey by Penn Schoen Berland – Bloomberg’s pollster of choice – of 600 residents with a history of voting regularly. Their demographics matched the city as a whole; a majority owned a car, a minority owned a bike and most of them were lifelong city residents.
And most of them support bike lanes.
“We learned a lot from talking to habitual voters,” said Noah Budnick, Transportation Alternatives’ deputy director.
Across the city, the poll showed 60 percent of New Yorkers support bike lanes – even among car owners. In Brooklyn and Queens, support was 63 percent; among black voters, it reached 69 percent.
Equally encouraging for Transportation Alternatives: 64 percent of voters see more New Yorkers biking in the next five years, and 76 percent want to increase or maintain the number of bike lanes.
“If you’re in your 50s, then it’s a new thing if you’ve been driving since you were in your 20s,” said Brodie Enoch, who does community outreach on public transit for Transportation Alternatives. “But it’s less of a new thing. People are getting used to them.”
Former Congressman Anthony Weiner became a poster child for resisting those changes when the New York Times reported he told Bloomberg at a 2010 dinner, “When I become mayor, you know what I’m going to spend my first year doing? I’m going to have a bunch of ribbon-cuttings tearing out your [expletive] bike lanes.”
But as Transportation Alternatives shows its survey results to likely mayoral candidates, it uses its hard numbers to make the case that Bloomberg’s street changes are popular despite the cries of a vocal minority of opponents.
“We need to get inside the heads of the candidates and think about what they’re thinking about,” Budnick said. “Nobody has a platform written out yet. Good politicians welcome you in and are open to ideas.”
The survey asked about more than bike lanes, though. Wide majorities of voters want the NYPD to be tougher on speeding and reckless driving. Among car owners, 41 percent drive less than once a week.
And when voters were asked a series of questions about issues facing New York City, 83 percent said preserving mass transit was very important – second only to the 96 percent who felt that way about creating jobs, and far above the 51 percent who said reducing traffic congestion was very important.
Asked who deserves the most blame for mass transit service cuts, 35 percent said the mayor – even though he has no authority over the MTA – compared to 23 percent for the state Legislature, 17 percent for the City Council and 7 percent for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
As the MTA seeks more money to pay for construction projects in advance of a scheduled fare hike next year – and as transportation planners continue to push for bridge tolls or congestion pricing to pay for them – Transportation Alternatives hopes candidates will use their poll as a guide for how to get ahead of public sentiment.
“If the way to become mayor is to get votes, then the way they’re going to get them is to be the transit mayor,” Budnick said. “Running against bikes and safe streets is going to lose votes.”
Tags: 2013, Andrew Cuomo, Anthony Weiner, bike, bike lane, Brodie Enoch, brooklyn, cars, City Council, Congestion pricing, governor, Legislature, mass transit, mayor, Michael Bloomberg, MTA, Noah Budnick, pedestrian plaza, Penn Schoen Berland, poll, public space, Queens, reckless driving, sidewalk, speeding, streets, tolls, Transportation Alternatives
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