Saturday, March 12, 2011

More on NYC and Bike Lanes and Mindsets

With my last post on NYC biking being both brief and somewhat uninformed, I thought it prudent to reference the NYT's recent piece (3-6-11) on Janette Sadik-Khan, NYC's controversial transportation chief. She's doubled the number of bike lanes since taking office, up to a total of 561 lane miles by 2009. Apparently her unilateral decision-making and ill communication methods (allegedly insufficient in number and short on describing bike lane rationale) have made her expansion of bike lanes and pedestrian areas a very angering development for some borough leaders. Is this really a surprise? No. It is the sad state of affairs. It’s the status quo that, covertly/subconsciously, resists cycling. In NYC I imagine there is another layer too, which is the city’s collective neurosis that gets tweaked every time individuals must fight veritable wars only for some meager change for their neighborhoods. 

But it’s not just some tense New Yorkers who hit the ceiling about bicyclists and their agenda. Tom Vanderbilt recently wrote in Outside Magazine that, "To cycle in America today is to engage in an almost political act...".  I’d have to agree. Bikes are progressive in their tacit eshewment of gasoline, in turn ruffling those who prefer status quo. Bicyclists also symbolize a level of energetic self-efficacy that some sedentary types might resent. Jeff Lockwood reflects this in Issue #9 of Bicycle Times when he contrasts cyclists versus drivers, “there’s a distinct lack of respect for each other’s choice of transportation…[and] there remains a strong sense of entitlement within each group.” I’m not sure how entitled I feel, but I’m certainly convinced that the green, quiet and mind-body benefits of cycling are a far more intelligent approach to travel than to continue to assume that driving is the only way.


Alan Vanneman said...


If you take a bike to New York, better take a gun as well. Just sayin'.

Ben said...

Or if pedaling through Prospect Park, perhaps an attorney in a sidecar, toting a video camera!

She Rides a Bike said...

I've been following the Prospect Park bike lane controversy for some time. Don't live in NYC so I don't know how well public notification and comment has been but even here in AZ I've known about the bike lane expansion for a number of years. I've worked for 2 city governments and from my perspective it doesn't matter how well opportunities for public comment are publicized or how many are offered, public forum are usually poorly attended, comment cards are often left blank and some group opposing what ever effort is being proposed will insist they had no opportunity to give feedback.

With respect to entitlement, I simply feel entitled to exercising transportation options. I have to be responsible and accountable for exercising them wisely. I disagree pretty strongly with another blogger who seemed to insist bicyclists are entitled to separate and rather subjective rules of the road. Not a great attitude for winning the acceptance of drivers.

Ben said...

Quite true that cyclists hurt their reputation, and political prospects, badly when they curb hop into traffic, zip along sidewalks or commit similar acts of velo-anarchism. I think bike lanes work in certain situations, which perhaps I should describe in a subsequent blog post! Thanks for your comment!