The New Second City?
Here’s Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel talking about his reasons for supporting a robust bicycle lane network, including a new protected lane right through the middle of the Loop:
“Two facts in the last year,” he said. “Coincidence? I think not. One, the city of Chicago moved from tenth to fifth of most bike-friendly cities in the country in one year… In the same year the city of Chicago moved from fifteenth to tenth worldwide in startup economy… You cannot be for a startup, high-tech economy and not be pro-bike.”
“Now I think it’s self-evident that I am a competitive, let alone an impatient person,” Emanuel quipped. “So when my staff gave me this headline from Portland, it did bring a smile. The editorial from a magazine in Portland read, ‘Talk in Portland, Action in Chicago,’ as it reflected on Dearborn Street. The Seattle Bike Blog wrote, ‘Seattle can’t wait longer. We’re suddenly in a place where we’re envious of Chicago bike lanes.’ So I want them to be envious because I expect not only to take all of their bikers but I also want all the jobs that come with this.”
“There was actually a lot more to it,” says Villaraigosa. “There was Copenhagen and Mexico City. And there were a lot of players involved.”
The mayor was in Denmark in 2009 to speak at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit.
“Everywhere I look in Copenhagen, everybody’s on bikes,” he said. “They were even riding in the rain in 10 degrees! That assessment of the L.A. County Bike Coalition was right: We didn’t have biking on our list. That changed after Copenhagen.”
Even the potential future leaders of L.A. aren’t afraid to mention their support for a more bike-friendly City of Angels.
It’s not just the leaders of the nation’s largest cities that are getting on board with bike lanes. Here’s Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. of Memphis:
“I am living proof that there is life after putting down bike lanes in a hostile environment,” he said.
Still, the mayor added, the effort has been worth it because it sends the message that Memphis is a city open to change.
“It’s one of the greatest things we’ve done,” Wharton said.
Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee also wants in on the biking action. His city recently received a grant to help with the planning and installation of a bike share system.
“For the city of Milwaukee to continue to grow and be a destination for families, events and employers, we need programs like BikeShare that allow more people to enjoy our amazing city on bikes.”
These mayors get it. Bike lanes, bike share programs, and safe streets are what the cities of the 21st Century need if they’re to remain competitive and attract well paying jobs, families, tourists, and business travelers as well as the tax revenues that come with them.
Compare these forward-thinking mayors with Bill de Blasio or Christine Quinn. They’ve made no secret of their distaste for bike lanes, polling be damned. Bill de Blasio, in a craven ploy for tabloid love, even went so far as to call Janette Sadik-Khan a radical, essentially declaring his opposition to innovation.
So here are the questions I have for de Blasio, Quinn, and any other mayoral candidate who thinks getting behind safe streets is a losing political issue: How many jobs are you willing to lose to Chicago and Los Angeles? How many families are you willing to see settle in Milwaukee? How many tourist dollars are you willing to send to Memphis? And it’s not just those cities. Portland is snatching up tech jobs as fast as it can. Austin is exploring a bike share system and becoming more family friendly by the day. Atlanta is starting to get serious about bikes. And, of course, there’s San Francisco.
I simply can’t imagine another area in which New York leads the world — fashion, finance, sports, or the arts — where our mayor would cede the Big Apple’s status at the top of the heap. Are Quinn and de Blasio okay with New York becoming the new Second City?