In Bicycling, Design

New York City’s bicycle network, which has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years under Mayor Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn, has caused increasing debate both for and against the lanes, culminating at a recent City Council meeting where Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz sang a self-written song about bicycle lanes to the tune of a popular selection from “The Sound of Music”: “These are a few of my favorite lanes.”

In a recent edition of the New York Times’ “Room for Debate” discussion forum, the city’s ambitious cycling network plan is discussed.

  • Alex Marshall thinks that the legal relationship between pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers must be changed in order to get more cyclists using those new bike lanes and out onto city streets in general. “If drivers knew their insurance companies would raise their rates or cancel their policies if they hit a cyclist or pedestrian, they would be more cautious when turning onto a crosswalk or opening a car door. Right now, more people don’t bicycle because it’s simply still too dangerous, even with bike lanes. From my studies of the Netherlands and other bike-saturated places, it is the proper arrangement of these legal lines that is even more important than the painted lines on the streets marking a bike lane.”
  • Felix Salmon urges patience before the public jumps to criticize the young bicycle infrastructure: “Did these people really think that New York would become Copenhagen overnight? The fact is that changing the fast-paced culture of New York is going to take time. As more people start making use of bike lanes, the average speed of cyclists is going to slow down, cycling is going to become safer, and both drivers and pedestrians are going to be more aware of the cyclists with whom they are increasingly sharing precious macadam. We just need to have a bit of patience.”
  • Robert Sullivan concludes that since using logic — such as pointing out that bicycle injuries have declined since the bike lanes were built — doesn’t seem to work with the bike lane critics,  he takes a sarcastic approach and pretend to agree with the bike lane detractors: “We need to get those jerks off of bikes and put back in automobiles where they belong.”
  • Sam Staley is the most negative of the debaters, arguing that bike networks represent concentrated, subsidized benefits for a small portion of the commuting public: “Getting bike acceptance levels up to those of models like Amsterdam and Copenhagen takes more than striping lanes. It takes a focused anti-car policy that dramatically increases the costs of using automobiles.”
  • Caroline Samponaro provides some basic numbers that highlight the success of the city’s bike lanes: “Since the city added 250 miles of bike lanes in the last four years, New Yorkers have voted with their pedals. During that same four-year period, daily cycling counts have more than doubled. It’s this growth — cycling is up 109 percent since 2006 — that lets us know how effectively bike lanes make for more bicyclists.”

What do you think? In Mercer and Ocean counties, where should bike lanes be built to maximize bike usage, particularly for commuting purposes?

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