Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bike Lane Battles

There's a big war brewing, as is almost always the case with civic change, in New York. The city has created a couple hundred miles of bike lanes throughout all five boroughs the last few years. As usual, there are those for it and those against, in this case, those who promote a balanced transportation system and most bikers versus car first/only people.

R.A. from the Economist wrote this blog post in response to a John Cassidy blog post from the New Yorker. In essence, Cassidy wrote several reasons why bike lanes are bad. The big reason that isn't filled with flawed stats or subjective points of view is that the New York Department of Transportation is taking away space that used to be for cars and giving them to bikes.

From Cassidy:

Like many New Yorkers who don’t live in Manhattan, one of my favorite pastimes is to drive from Brooklyn, where I live, into the city for dinner and find a parking space once the 7 A.M.-7 P.M. parking restrictions have lapsed. Years ago, this was a challenge, but a manageable one. These days, especially downtown, it is virtually impossible. When the city introduces a bike lane on a given street, it removes dozens of parking places. All too often these days, I find myself driving endlessly up and down Hudson, or Sixth Avenue, or wherever, looking in vain for a legal spot—and for cyclists. What I see instead is motor traffic snarled on avenues that, thanks to bike lanes, have been reduced from four lanes to three, or three to two.

I encourage everyone to read the Economist post if merely for the fact that R.A. eloquently makes the economic argument for bikes in a way that I can't. From negative externalities of cars to subsidized roadways encouraging driving to positive externalities of cycling, R.A. uses a short but sweet post to debunk many of the myths the anti-everything but car "lobby" throws out there.

I will however comment on the pulled quote above. It seems that everything in politics today is based on whether it is worthwhile to me, not anything else like society or strangers. Cassidy says bike lanes are bad because it took away free parking from him on the most expensive land in the country and gave it to someone/thing else. It is of no direct value to me, therefore I am against it. This applies to all levels of government. Frankly, that makes me think we have taken a step backin the last half decade. In my opinion, we have moved from debating the merits and appropriate role of governmental programs, policies and regulations to one that makes blanket statements about governments effectiveness or need.

I personally also have to feel sorry for Mr. Cassidy. If he lives in Brooklyn, quality transit is everywhere, especially to Manhattan. Since he admits he drives constantly looking for a spot, it is obvious he is not saving any time over transit. I wonder what his hesitancy is for taking a trip on an urban rail system that carries over 8 million passenger trips a day. 

It also makes one wonder how easy it is to implement bike improvements in other parts of the country. If New York, which already is the most car-inconvenient city in the country, faces push back, how can a city like Dallas, where it is assumed to be a constitutional right for everything to be car-friendly, implement these types of improvements smoothly?

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