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Cyclists steamed over cuts - Hold on bicycle lanes doesn’t sit well with many advocates

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Apparently no one can speed away from the city’s fiscal crunch — no matter how fast their sleek new two-wheeler is.

Bicycle enthusiasts from downtown Brooklyn to Williamsburg and Greenpoint are pedaling mad over the City Council’s recommendation to put the brakes on an ambitious project to increase the city’s bicycle network — at least for a year or so.

The network, which is part of the Mayor’s PlanNYC and is run by the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), will bring more bicycle lanes to Brooklyn neighborhoods, as well as the rest of the city.

Upon announcing her plan to trim the budget, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn explained that reducing funding for bike infrastructure would save the city over $10 million -- $4.8 million in fiscal year 2009 and $5.5 million in fiscal year 2010.

The DOT has already received $9.6 million in fiscal year 2008, $9.6 million for fiscal year 2009, $11.1 million for fiscal year 2010 and $12.5 million in fiscal year 2012 — all for creating bike lanes and paths and making the city more bicycle friendly.

Slashing funding for the city’s ever growing bike network was one of dozens of cuts Quinn and the City Council’s Budget Negotiating Team, which includes Brooklyn Heights City Councilmember David Yassky, announced last week.

Other money saving strategies that will hopefully stop the city from slipping into a $4 billion deficit hole next year include eliminating the NYPD Police Cadet Corp program, which provides college students interested in law enforcement internships and summer jobs with the NYPD, slow down school openings and special Department of Education projects and cut chunks of cash away from the PlanNYC Brownfields fund and the NYC and Company Tourism Fund and the city’s 311 budget.

“As we navigate our way through the financial crisis, we must compensate for budget shortfalls with an aggressive but sensible approach to spending reductions,” Quinn said as she explained the proposed cuts adding that these changes “show that the Council is willing to make tough choices in the face of financial adversity, that we are willing to do more with less if that means acting in the best interest of our city.”

“But they also show that we will find innovative solutions and reductions, so that we can continue longstanding priorities, like keeping money in the classroom where it belongs,” she said.

“Throughout the city, New Yorkers are tightening their belts as we adjust to these difficult economic times and City government must do the same,” Yassky explained. “Before we ask New Yorkers to shoulder the burden of more taxes, City government must do everything feasible to reduce its own costs.”

Bicycling advocates lambasted the cuts, claiming that going ahead with their plans would cost the city more money down the line.

The cuts would not only put bicyclists and other street users at risk, but would endanger the overall financial stability of the city’s transportation network.

According to the bicyclist advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, bike lanes not only protect bicyclists, but also calm traffic in the neighborhoods they’re implanted.

With the MTA planning to cut service and increase their fares, bicycle lanes could “provide much-needed flexibility for thousands of commuters each day, and will become an increasingly important piece of our public transportation picture,” they said.

 “This is no time to be penny-wise, pound-foolish,” Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives declared. “It makes no sense to trim from modest biking and walking budgets when the financial sustainability of our transportation system depends on growing these trips.”

Bike advocates added that since 80 percent of the bike network budget is federal dollars, the city might not get the money back if they thumb their noses at it now.

“For every dollar that is cut from bike funding, four dollars of matching federal funding are at risk,” a spokesperson from Transportation Alternatives said. “Moreover, every mile not driven in New York City saves money otherwise spent on road maintenance and costly car infrastruc­ture.”

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