Commentary

Bike Lanes Fall Short in New York City

New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo has a hard hitting article on New York’s much vaunted bike lane program. He outright calls the city’s claims of success with the bike lanes a lie. I can’t validate the claim, but the figures he cites from the Post’s own survey seem pretty compelling that the actual impact of the bike program has been minimal. Cuozzo reports:

“We asked the Real Estate Board of New York, the landlords’ group that represents owners of most of Manhattan’s 400 million-odd square feet of office space. Last Thursday — a bright, sunny day offering optimal cycling conditions — REBNY collected responses from owners and managers of 77 million square feet in Midtown and Downtown.

“They reported a total of just 278 bicycles either in the racks or carried up to offices that day.

“Using a standard space-use formula that allocates 250 square feet to each employee, those 42 million square feet hold about 308,000 workers. Thus, a mere .09 percent of employees in those buildings went to work by bike.

“That’s fewer than 1 out of every 1,000 workers biking to the office — far fewer than even the paltry 0.6 percent the NYU study found citywide in 2009.

“After seeing the REBNY numbers, fearing they might be skewed, we asked employees at certain specific office buildings to count bikes immediately.

* At 1 Bryant Park — the new Bank of America tower at Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street, where 8,000 people work daily — a mere 11 of 30 bike slots were taken in a secure, indoor room. That sunny day, about one out of 727 percent of employees at 1 Bryant Park went by bike.

* At Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle — which wasn’t included in the REBNY poll — a 25-cycle rack in the building’s garage is similarly free to anyone who works there, whether in an office, store, restaurant or hotel. On that same bright day, our source in the building counted exactly one bicycle.

The New York Times hosted a roundtable on the issue last December in their on-line forum “Room for Debate.” Unfortunately, it looks like my predictions that this program is a massive subsidy for the few is bearing out.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.

Staley is the author of several books, most recently co-authoring Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008). Texas Gov. Rick Perry aid Staley and Moore "get it right" and world bank urban planner Alain Bartaud called it "a must read for urban managers of large cities in the United States and around the world."

He is also co-author, with Ted Balaker, of The Road More Traveled: Why The Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think, and What We Can Do About It (Rowman and Littlefield, September, 2006). Author Joel Kotkin said, "The Road More Traveled should be required reading not only for planners and their students, but anyone who loves cities and wants them to thrive as real places, not merely as museums, in the 21st Century." Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters said, "Balaker and Staley clearly debunk the myth that there is nothing we can do about congestion."

Staley's previous book, Smarter Growth: Market-based Strategies for Land-use Planning in the 21st Century (Greenwood Press, 2001), was called the "most thorough challenge yet to regional land-use plans" by Planning magazine.

In addition to these books, he is the author of Drug Policy and the Decline of American Cities (Transaction Publishers, 1992) and Planning Rules and Urban Economic Performance: The Case of Hong Kong (Chinese University Press, 1994).

His more than 100 professional articles, studies, and reports have appeared in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Investor's Business Daily, Journal of the American Planning Association, Planning magazine, Reason magazine, National Review and many others.

Staley's approach to urban development, transportation and public policy blends more than 20 years of experience as an economic development consultant, academic researcher, urban policy analyst, and community leader.

Staley is a former chair for his local planning board in his hometown of Bellbrook, Ohio. He is also a former member of its Board of Zoning Appeals and Property Review Commission, vice chair of his local park district's open space master plan committee, and chair of its Charter Review Commission.

Staley received his B.A. in Economics and Public Policy from Colby College, M.S. in Social and Applied Economics from Wright State University, and Ph.D. in Public Administration, with concentrations in urban planning and public finance from Ohio State University.