#34. WORLD-LEADING. Last year, a row (and a legal case) broke out in New York about a cycle lane on an affluent street in the city. Not only did the story make the front page of the New York Times, journalists in Britain, too, waved their broadsheets at the flames. Bike blogger Matt Seaton concluded his article:
“New York City justly sees itself as the world's greatest city: here, in some sense, people live the way everyone would live if they had the chance. How New York – the city that still has a uniquely low level of car ownership and use – manages its transport planning in the 21st century matters for the whole world: it is the template. If cycling is pushed back into the margins of that future, rather than promoted, along with efficient mass public transit and safe, pleasant pedestrianism, as a key part of that future, the consequences will be grave and grim.”
That all sounds very reasonable, if a little blustery, I thought… at first sight. Then this comment below the article made me think twice:
“I live in Brooklyn and feel the need to speak up. While I wholeheartedly agree with the article's final sentence you have to live here to experience the absolute lack of common sense that is used by the city when planning bike lanes.
Instead of introducing them into less busy streets (that still make good route one directional sense for cyclists) bike lanes are often introduced into each local areas' main traffic arteries.
This leads to more bottle necking, traffic jams, aggressive driving and engine idling pollution in communities that had not experienced these urban blights prior to the bike lanes.
I live on Dekalb Avenue in Fort Greene - a busy road, especially during school runs etc and a very popular and busy bus route. Despite this, the traffic moved smoothly a great deal of the time. Since introducing the bike lanes it has become a cluster f***. Running parallel to Dekalb is far quieter street that would have been perfect for a bike lane.
... The law suit has not come about because of peoples' mistrust of the bike and love of the automobile but because we're getting royally pissed off at idiotic decision making.”
Could it be that New York needs a 'New York Cycle Map' similar to Simon Parker’s London Cycle Map?
Parker’s map identifies a series of long straight cycle routes connecting all areas of the capital, but it does so while predominantly using the generally quieter backstreets which comprise the London Cycle Network. This proposal offers an alternative to the confrontational policy of focusing cycle development on main roads. Trying to provide space for trucks and buses and bikes all in one place tends to have the effect of leaving all groups dissatisfied. And a few piecemeal developments on a handful of main roads is hardly going to reassure would-be cyclists that they can ride safely throughout the city.
By implementing a London Cycle Map with spots of paint and signs to make navigating on the capital’s cycling backstreets easier and safer, we wouldn’t just be leading the way for cyclists in London; we’d be leading the way for metropolises all over the world, New York included.
Instead of moaning about ‘grave and grim’ consequences elsewhere, why don’t we create a beacon of inspiration on our own doorstep?