Solidarity with New York City cyclists

21 Jan

“‘Believe it or not,’ he said, ‘few issues today prompt more heated discussion than bike policy in New York City.'”  ————–

In November last year I came across a NY Times article about cycle lanes, and thus cycling, in NYC facing a “backlash” from some drivers, business owners, and pedestrians.

Apparently in the last four years NYC has had more than 250 miles of traffic lanes dedicated to bicycles and several laws intended to promote cycling have been passed. Most of this progress can be attributed to cycling advocates and the Transportation Alternatives (a bit like Transport for London but with bigger scope).

Other articles in November highlighted the issue, such as from the Village Voice, Gothamist, and NY Daily News. There have also been many articles before and since then, but November seemed to be primetime since the City Council held a hearing on Dec 9th to address balancing the needs of cyclists with those of other road users.

According to the aforementioned Village Voice article:

“New York’s backing of bicycling has come at a price. Specifically, the ire of angry drivers who think bike lanes impede traffic and slow them down and even residents who simply think bike lanes are ‘ugly.’…But according to the D.O.T.’s [Department of Transportation] own reports, new bike lanes increase pedestrian safety and reduce accidents. The installation of bike lanes requires narrowing parts of the road designated for cars, forcing motorists to drive more slowly, pay more attention, and culminating in “a traffic calming effect.” The debate has also prompted bike riders and pedestrians to submit demands, such as bike lanes to be extended all the way up to 125th Street, and to follow through on plans for pedestrian islands and protected bike lanes on Manhattan’s First and Second avenues.

Wow. Like London, NYC has seen similar growth in cycling numbers (109% in NYC since 2006 and 91 to 117% in London since 2000)[¹][² and ³], yet unlike London, there have been hundreds of miles of bike lanes concurrent with that increase (and I’m not counting Cycle Superhighways). Echoing the words of Chris Peck, the CTC’s policy co-ordinator, the growth of cycling should also see the growth of bike lanes and other cycling infrastructure, such as police that actually give a damn when you’ve been in an accident/had your bike stolen or safer and bigger bike lanes, not just more cycle parking stands.

My amazement with how fast NYC has embraced and grown with cycling culture obviously has a tinge of sadness — seeing the backlash happening from years of bike progress. When/if London gets a “cycling revolution” on par with NYC, or even Amsterdam or Copenhagen, I wonder if our city will encounter the same head-to-head issues that many NYC cyclists are facing. Not like there aren’t “bike wars” here. The Department for Transport-commissioned report into cycling safety and the attitudes of other road users towards cyclists entitled Safety, cycling and sharing the road: qualitative research with cyclists and other road users. Roadcc. who reported on this in September 2010 notes, “does not make for uplifting reading and will confirm what many cyclists already know to be the case, i.e. that some drivers view cyclists as inconveniences at best and a road-using underclass who shouldn’t be there at all, at worst…the report does paint such a depressing picture of the interface between cyclists and what it terms other road users (ORUs).”[]

It seems for both of us on either side of the pond there are some big obstacles to over come on our way to something like a CriticalMass style utopia. On a happier note, recently released statistics show that the controversial Prospect Park West bike lane has seen a dramatic increase in cyclist use and a fall in car speeds and accidents along that corridor.[]

Nonetheless, big ups to cyclists in NYC defending their right to a safe ride!

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Other relevant articles/blogs:

Bicycling, In crackdown on cyclists, history repeats itself

Gothamist, August 19th 2010, Anti-cyclist scaremongering at boiling point

Guardian, January 6th 2010, New York’s transportation chief is a latter-day Robin Hood

Bikesnobnyc, March 26th, 2009, [Spandex Cowboys and the 1970s!] Anti-veloism: Weird, Creepy Bike Hate

Roadcc, January 9th, 2009, Bike riders take over anti-cyclist group on Facebook

Streetsblog.org [See The Vicious Cycle of Anti-Cyclist Bias, March 5th 2008][and European Parking Policies Leave New York Behind, January 19th 2010]

Bikeblognyc

—————-

Williamsburg, Brooklyn specific:

Vosizneias, August 9th 2010, Williamsburg Anti-bike Vigilante is Gluing Locks

Williamsburg Bike Lane Wars Debate

The Daily Beast, December 14th, 2009, The Great New York City Bicycle Wars

New York Post, December 9th, 2009, Hipsters repaint bike lanes in brush off to Hasids

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