Update: Whoopi Goldberg apologizes for telling de Blasio that bike lanes are 'screwing' up NYC
Whoopi Goldberg griped about New York City bike lanes during the mayor's appearance on The View, and transit activists (respectfully) disagree.
Update, Jan. 21, 2019: Whoopi Goldberg has apologized for her comments to Mayor Bill de Blasio on The View criticizing the city’s push for more bike lanes, but some say she’s still missing the point.
The mayor appeared on the daytime talk show on Wednesday, Jan. 16 to talk about health care when Goldberg used to opportunity to say how protected bike lanes have been making her commute worse and that de Blasio’s effort to build more has “screwed the city up.”
On Saturday, Goldberg took to Twitter to apologize, writing “I’m heartbroken to hear that my conversation with the Mayor about bike lanes may somehow have led people to believe that I am against them, which is not the case.”
Bike lanes are “great and necessary,” she said, but she still takes issue with the medians and cement islands, saying that they are “not set up well and create dangerous situations for pedestrians, drivers and the bikers.”
But these medians and concrete islands are what make these bike lanes safe for cyclists, many responded to Whoopi online, by creating a barrier between traffic and preventing vehicles from parking in bike lanes.
Goldberg also called on all New York City bicyclists to wear helmets, “just like we do for our kids when they are riding their bicycles.”
Previously, Jan. 16, 2019: Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared on The View on Wednesday to discuss his new health care initiative for New Yorkers, but host Whoopi Goldberg took the opportunity to air her grievances with the city for its effort to install more bike lanes, proving that the battle between bicyclists and drivers on New York City streets rages on.
After the mayor detailed his plan to guarantee health care for all New Yorkers, Goldberg said, “I like all of that. That all sounds good,” before transitioning to what she doesn’t like about the city at the moment.
“You know what’s really pissing me off?” she said to the mayor. “You’ve built 83 miles of protected bike lanes, okay. And I like bikes, I like people who ride, but I don’t think you understand the impact of taking something like 10th Avenue, which is six lanes down to two-and-a-half, particularly when you have a winter storm and you can’t move – none of that is movable.”
As part of the de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, the city has been consistently building more bike lanes. In 2018, officials built more than 20 miles of new protected lanes for cyclists.
The mayor explained to Whoopi that these bike lanes help reduce the number of traffic fatalities, and in fact, in 2018, the city saw the fewest traffic fatalities since 1910.
The effectiveness of these New York City bike lanes is still up in the air to some cyclists, who say they are frequently blocked by parked cars and delivery trucks. But to Goldberg, it’s apparently the bike lanes that are getting in the way of the vehicles.
“You screwed the city up,” she said. “I come in every day, and I find that because you can’t make a turn anywhere, you can’t go straight anywhere. When there is a storm, people can’t move anywhere, because you got all these medians in the way, and I’m just saying you might want to take a look at some of this. Because now you have Cuomo coming in talking about congestion pricing, and I kind of feel like it’s a set up.”
But transit activists disagree with the EGOT winner’s assessment that bike lanes have “screwed” up New York City.
“Vision zero is saving lives. She contends that the mayor has screwed up the city, we would argue that cutting traffic fatalities by a third in just five years is the opposite of that,” said Joe Cutrufo of Transportation Alternatives. “Maybe even more important, bike lanes are a critical part of the transportation system in a city where the majority of residents don’t drive.”
Of the 3.8 million workers in New York City, only 27 percent commute via car, truck or van, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation. In Manhattan specifically (where Whoopi is concerned about) that number drops to 8 percent.
Daily bike commuting is pretty low, too, with about 45,800 daily bike commuters in 2016, though the Department of Transportation said in 2018 that more than 828,000 New Yorkers bike regularly, meaning several times a month.
“For a long time there has been a perception that drivers rule the roost,” said Cutrufo. “That needs to change and frankly that is changing,” we have reclaimed many miles of street space in this city and intend to reclaim even more.”
This change toward more pedestrian- and cyclist- friendly New York City streets is necessary, he added, not just because biking is fun (Transportation Alternatives even invited Whoopi out on a ride) but because streets that are designed for the safe accommodation of pedestrians and cyclists are “fairer, more equitable streets.”
“You can’t move as many people in cars as you can in space-efficient modes like buses and bikes and [by] walking,” he said. “It’s a shame that this narrative continues when the benefits of designing streets for pedestrian and bicyclists and transit riders are so obvious, for economic and environmental and equity benefits.”