New York Bike Lanes Create Controversy

Mar 10, 2011
Outside Magazine

Broadway bike line by compujeramey on Flickr

Bike lanes are popping up everywhere, including Manhattan and even Times Square. Felix Salmon of Reuters notes how "the number of cyclists in New York has been growing just as fast as the city can create new lanes for them." But as more cyclists flock to the city, it seems that more and more people grow upset.

John Cassidy of The New Yorker recently blogged, or ranted, about the bike lanes in New York. "Part of my beef, then," he wrote, "is undoubtedly an emotional reaction to the bike lobby’s effort to poach on our territory." He then questions whether adding bike lanes to the city helps for economical purposes when compared to the costs of motorists and pedestrians to put the biking policies into place. Cassidy continues to explain how he can no longer find parking spaces on streets that now have bike lanes.

Other bloggers weigh in on this economic standpoint, like Ryan Avent of The Economist, who states that cars cause traffic, send harmful pollutants into the air, and take up much more space than bikes. Avent ends with a note that "if drivers paid for all the costs they impose on others, there would be fewer drivers complaining about bike lanes and more people using them."

Cassidy isn't the only one taking a stance—some residents in a Brooklyn neighborhood are suing the city over a bike lane on Prospect Park West.  According to a recent New York Times article, the group filing the lawsuit believes they were mislead about the benefits of the bike lane. However, since the bike lane has been put in place, speeding has dropped, along with crashes and injuries, and ridership has increased dramatically.

But with every complaint for a city project comes some support. On Wednesday, Janette Sadik-Khan, New York City's transportation commissioner, stood up in front of hundreds of people during the National Bike Summit. She addressed the bike lane project as a whole, as well as the Prospect Park West controversy, and referenced the safety improvements that the lanes have helped create.

Check out Tom Vanderbilt's article, "Rage Against Your Machine," from the March issue of Outside about the fight between drivers and cyclists.

--Mattie Schuler

Filed To: Biking

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