Sarah Goodyear is a Brooklyn-based contributing writer to CityLab. She's written about cities for a variety of publications, including Grist and Streetsblog.
When the question is framed in terms of safety, there's plenty of agreement.
New York City politicians, listen up: Among people who go to the polls on a regular basis, two-thirds say they support better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure on the city’s streets.
A survey commissioned by the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives showed that 67 percent of likely voters in the city’s five boroughs either “strongly support” or “somewhat support” installing protected bicycle lanes and pedestrian islands in their neighborhoods. The study [PDF], which included responses from 875 New Yorkers, was conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based strategic research and communications firm.
The bike lane question was cast in terms of safety benefits, stating that protected lanes and pedestrian islands "have been proven to reduce injuries to pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and passengers by nearly 50%," a phrasing based on data from the New York City Department of Transportation.
Noah Budnick, Transportation Alternatives' deputy director, says that the survey’s demographics were designed to provide an accurate picture of the city’s active electorate. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they intend to vote in the November mayoral election. Eighty-three percent have lived in the city for more than 20 years, and more than half were over the age of 50.
So this wasn’t a stereotypical crowd of "avid cyclists" by any stretch: 69 percent said they don’t ride bikes themselves. The proportion of car owners, 61 percent, was higher than the citywide rate of 46 percent.
Some other interesting data tidbits from the TA survey:
- One in three respondents had been injured in a traffic crash, or knew someone who had been injured or killed in a crash.
- Eighty-nine percent support existing speed cameras in school zones, and 86 percent would like to see the program expanded.
- Fifty-six percent think there will be more people biking in New York five years from now; 29 percent say "many more" people will be riding.
As Streetsblog points out, this is just the latest in a series of polls that shows a steady increase in support for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure across all sectors of the city’s population. Advocates for street safety are hoping that will translate into political leverage on their issues. A newly formed political action committee, StreetsPAC, made its first endorsements in the September primaries, including a nod for Democratic victor Bill de Blasio.
TA’s Budnick says his nonpartisan organization has sent these latest poll results to de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota, who are facing off in the general election for mayor in November, along with an invitation to meet and discuss the implications.
"As we take these results to the candidates, these are real voters," says Budnick. "No matter who gets elected, voters are starting to set their priorities for safer streets."