The city is on track for a record low number of traffic fatalities this year, a milestone apparently lost on the City Council, which approved two more measures on Tuesday aimed at reigning in the Department of Transportation. The two new bills cap a year-long series of measures approved by the City Council to, as transportation committee chair James Vacca put it, make it harder for the DOT to “unilaterally reconfigure our streetscapes.”
The two new bills approved by unanimous votes on Tuesday, the Gotham Gazette reports, will “require the transportation department to consult with other city agencies, including Small Business Services and the police and fire departments, before it reconfigures streets,” and “provide statistics on the effects of the street change within 18 months of when the reconfiguration went into effect.” In other words, every bike lane, intersection reconfiguration and pedestrian plaza will have to undergo a planning, reviewing and tweaking process like the Prospect Park West bike lane.
That high-profile project isn’t cited as a cause for the increased scrutiny of DOT projects. Rather, Vacca offered: “Many of the bike paths, many of the pedestrian plazas negatively impact small businesses and their ability to survive in the City of New York.” How exactly the City Council determined that pedestrian plazas and bike lanes are the things running small businesses out of New York City is unclear. And the fact that they are positively impacting pedestrians’ and cyclists’ abilities to survive in the City of New York doesn’t seem to count for much. One of the council’s more legitimate concerns is that many of the DOT’s pedestrian plazas are not designed with the disabled—especially the visually impaired—in mind.”
But, shortcomings in pedestrian plaza designs notwithstanding, the number of hoops through which DOT projects now have to pass before reaching fruition is quickly becoming unreasonable. “No other safe-street improvement seems to get that kind of treatment,” noted Michael Murphy of Transportation Alternatives.