April 10, 2011

NYC’s backlash against the bicycle

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:19

Stephen Smith does a quick analysis of the reaction to P.J. O’Rourke’s anti-bike article in the Wall Street Journal last weekend:

Could it be that the bike lobby actually has alienated the rest of America (and even New York), playing into stereotypes (Stuff White People Like #61) of spandex-wearing, pasty-legged effete liberals who think that the bicycle is a reasonable tool for, say, intra-Brooklyn house moves? No, says Streetsblog — it must be some sort of advertiser-driven conspiracy. (Does The New Yorker even have an auto section? How many car ads are there in the latest issue?) This article is of course absurd, but I think it’s a symptom of the way that many bike advocates lionize their preferred mode of transit, perhaps unknowingly prioritizing it above even other non-automobile modes.

Don’t get me wrong — I have no problem with bikes, and even bike lanes. I’ve seen the stats on the Prospect Park West lane, about how it’s improved safety without slowing down auto commutes, and I don’t doubt it for a second. But as much as we wish it weren’t so, political capital is an exhaustible resource, and only so many reforms can be made before voters and citizens start to punish the politicians making them. Janette Sadik-Khan is, realistically, only allowed to anger so many people by changes to the status quo — every bike lane she stripes is a Select Bus Service route that won’t be implemented, a Haitian dollar van driver who will be fined and imprisoned, an outer-borough resident who won’t be able to catch a cab because of the medallion system. The fundamental problem, in my opinion, is that bike lanes are very culturally-loaded, and the anger they produce — which translates directly into other projects being shot down — is out of proportion with their benefits.

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