In Attack on Sadik-Khan, the Daily News Can’t Get Its Facts Straight

It looks like the Daily News could use some fact checkers for their weekend editorials.

While the Daily News editorial staff has done some bravura work on transit funding, their DOT hit job this Sunday is riddled with more errors than a paranoid rant from the keyboard of Steve Cuozzo. In a bid to discredit DOT chief Janette Sadik-Khan (headline: “Transportation Commish Sadik-Khan owes New Yorkers full disclosure of her plans for bike lanes”), the opinion page printed one factual error after another. It should be an embarrassment to the paper.

The entire premise of the piece is that bike lane plans are guarded like nuclear secrets and that the mayor should “order” the commissioner to “reveal where she proposes to put the next batch of cycling corridors.” Well, the DOT already does that. It doesn’t take much effort to find out.

The first example cited by the News is the Columbus Avenue bike lane: “[A] query to DOT [from Manhattan Community Board 7] about making all modes of transportation greener morphed into a plan for a Columbus Ave. lane.”

A quick Google search of “Columbus Ave community board vote” reveals that, in fact, the board voted in favor of the Columbus Avenue lane before DOT installed it. Before that vote, CB 7 had already asked DOT to prepare plans for protected bike lanes on Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. That’s what DOT was responding to when the agency presented the project.

The writers get basic stats wrong, claiming that “Sadik-Khan has installed 500 miles of on-street bike lanes.” That would encompass the entire on-street bike network, but in fact, the network has been getting built out for a few decades now, and hundreds of miles of bike lanes were on the streets before Sadik-Khan took over at DOT. Under Sadik-Khan, the pace has accelerated and DOT has been more responsive to local requests for measures to make biking and walking safer, leading to projects like the Prospect Park West bike lane and the new bike lane on Empire Boulevard.

The writers also say that bike lanes on Rockaway Boulevard and in the Rockaways were installed before community boards were notified or over their objection, but according to DOT, both Brooklyn CB 17 and Queens CB 14 were informed of the projects and expressed no objection before the lanes were striped.

Daily News readers deserve better than this lazy and inaccurate editorializing, designed to gin up anger about imaginary events. Will there be a retraction?

Some Streetsblog readers have told us they’re writing in to set the record straight. We’ll see what the Daily News decides to print.

After the jump, a letter to the Daily News from Christine Berthet, a street safety advocate who serves on Manhattan Community Board 4 and has worked on several projects with the city DOT.

Dear Sir or Madam,

As the co-founder of CHEKPEDS, a pedestrian advocacy in Midtown West, I find your editorial inaccurate, one sided, and misguided.

DOT did extensive consultation and outreach for the last three bike lane segments installed in Manhattan Community Board 4. Turn lanes are lengthened to increase vehicular flow. Gridlock is caused by drivers ignoring the law, not by bike lanes.  The 75% of New Yorkers who use public transportation/walk have no complaints.

The nuclear comparison would be more appropriate if you ever were to report on the 7,000 pedestrians and bicyclists that are killed or maimed by drivers annually in New York City. Bike lanes and their pedestrian safety features do reduce crashes (47 % for all road users) and save lives. Janette Sadik Khan has fully disclosed these statistics – the only ones that really count.

Christine Berthet