Build it and they will hum.
If the city would design better roadways, drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians would all be singing “Kumbaya” instead of screaming, “Get the f— outta my way, a——!”
That’s the conclusion of Paul Steely White, head of Transportation Alternatives, the pedestrian- and cycling–advocacy group, which is championing Mayor DeBlasio’s latest boost for his so-called Vision Zero street safety plan.
“It’s a $2.5-billion capital commitment over 10 years — and the mayor just added $300 million, so that’s huge,” the man with the apt middle name said on Tuesday morning’s barn-burning episode of Brooklyn Paper Radio. “Casualties are going down and life is coming back to the street because we are investing in more protected bike lanes, slower vehicular speeds and taking care of our pedestrians.”
That’s why White’s group supported the controversial Prospect Park West bike lane a few years back and is now backing a redesigned Fourth Avenue, which would add a protected bike lane in hopes of slowing car traffic on a roadway many drivers use as a highway.
Show host Gersh Kuntzman of the New York Daily News said there are still far too many casualties — more than 150 cyclists and pedestrians were killed on city streets in 2015.
But White said that number is going down by “roughly 10 percent per year” because of Vision Zero strategies — and White wants more.
“Enforcement and educating drivers will help, but it comes down to design,” he said. “There is often controversy over streetscape changes because some people have a static view of what streets can and should be. But streets are flexible and we can design them differently. And I think we have helped people see that.”
Of course, it’s not enough. Kuntzman pointed out that Mayor DeBlasio’s much-hyped new ferry from the Rockaways to Manhattan is subsidized at a rate of more than $6 per ride — whereas the mayor doesn’t put a dime into CitiBike.
“The mayor still has time to add money,” said White. “For pennies per trip, we can create the most robust equitable bike share system in the world. If I have one beef with the mayor, it’s not enough subsidies for CitiBike. Yes, we need ferries because we live in an archipelago…
At that point, fellow guest Community Board 2 District Manager Rob Perris jumped in.
“I don’t think he’s using ‘archipelago’ correctly,” Perris said. “New York City is not a chain of islands.”
White defended his use of the term, which comes from the Greek words for “chief” and “sea.” A subsequent dictionary search revealed that the word “archipelago” typically means “a group of islands,” which could make White correct — but that’s an argument for another day.
In a related conversation, Kuntzman once again described himself as “devoutly heterosexual,” yet complimented the looks of all the men in the room, especially his co-host, Vince DiMiceli.
“I can appreciate male beauty,” Kuntzman said, “but the reason I’m bringing up DiMiceli is to say he is the most courteous driver I’ve ever driven with. If every American drove like DiMiceli, there would be roughly four vehicular deaths a year nationwide. And I don’t say that because he’s handsome.”
“The key,” DiMiceli said, “is I’m not like most drivers, who seem to think they have a right to get some place quickly. Everyone needs to relax.”
Brooklyn Paper radio is recorded and podcast live every Tuesday at 10 am — for your convenience — from our studio in America’s Downtown and can be found, as always, right here on Brook