Photo: Nadia ChaudhurySo Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) says he was just kidding around about ripping out those New York City bike lanes.
Here’s how The New York Times reported Weiner’s remarks in a recent piece about New York City’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan:
“When I become mayor, you know what I’m going to spend my first year doing?” Mr. Weiner said to [Mayor Mike] Bloomberg, as tablemates listened. “I’m going to have a bunch of ribbon-cuttings tearing out your [expletive] bike lanes.”
Weiner is considered one of five serious contenders in New York’s next mayoral election.
This morning, after failing to answer comments from many reporters (including this one) in search of clarification of his remarks, Weiner tweeted this from his verified account:
Obv joking in NYT but serious about the danger of making bikes and consultation a choice. #bikelanebacklashavoidable
That’s a little garbled — hey, probably Twitter isn’t such a great place to be making complicated arguments — but our best guess is that he means bike lane advocates need to be careful about how they implement projects in order to avoid backlash.
Weiner is the kind of guy who pretty much always has an adjective like “brash” attached to his name. He is famous for his outspokenness on the House floor, including the epic rant he unleashed on Republicans blocking a bill compensating 9/11 first responders.
But maybe it would be good if Weiner thought a little more carefully about the message his words send. Talking about ripping out bike lanes is more likely to inflame a bike backlash than to mitigate it.
And as Dana Goldstein writes on her blog, Democrats should be doing everything they can to promote alternatives to the automobile:
Chicago’s incoming mayor, Rahm Emanuel, is promising to build 25 miles of new bike lanes. Emanuel understands that reclaiming road space from cars is not only good environmental and public health policy, but also plain good urban governance. Quality of life improves when we cut down on dangerous and noisy car traffic and make it more pleasant to be out and about on the street, meeting our neighbors and spending money in local stores. …
Good public space policy should be a cornerstone of the Democratic urban agenda. It’s sad to see so many of the party’s New York City standard-bearers continue to cede ground on this issue.
Maybe Weiner — who is, incidentally, a member of the Congressional Bike Caucus — should take a ride with Congress’ most bike-happy member, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, some day soon. It might help to lower his blood pressure and clear his head.