Yesterday I posted a quote from Soraya Mackhrandilall, who led the effort to remove a Citi Bike station from in front of her building at 83-89 Barrow Street, on the the southeast corner of Barrow and Hudson.
Mackhrandilall, like many bike share opponents before her, based her complaints on historic accuracy and aesthetics, saying that the station wasn’t appropriate for the neighborhood. “This is a residential street, and it looked like Times Square,” Mackhrandilall complained to DNAinfo.
I happen to work a few blocks from this location and popped over there yesterday during lunch to check out this street for myself.
83-89 Barrow Street’s entrance is the first door on the right, in between the potted plants. The bike share station in question used to be in the parking lane just to the left of this phone booth. Curiously, the bright blue ad for a liquor company on the phone booth’s side hasn’t provoked comparisons to Times Square. And since payphones these days are rarely used for anything other than advertising, one has to wonder why local residents aren’t complaining to the Post about the wasted sidewalk space and visual pollution.
Then there’s the issue of the view.
Now that the bike share station is gone, SUVs like this (above) await residents as they walk out of 83-89 Barrow’s front door. If car parking is restored to the southeast corner of Barrow, the view will soon look more like this:
As I’ve pointed out before, almost every criticism about bike share can be leveled at automobiles as well. Yet you can be sure no one on Barrow Street is contacting CB2 about this 21st Century blight on their 19th Cenutry neighborhood.
Then there’s the question of where the station was relocated. It now sits on the northwest corner of Barrow and Hudson, in front of the garden of the Church of St. Luke in the Fields.
Although St. Luke’s in the Fields has undergone extensive renovations since the 1950s, much of the building and property dates to the Monroe administration, an era not exactly known for automobiles or even bicycle sharing.
In a reverse 99 Bank Street, the station was moved from blacktop to cobblestones, which opponents of all things bike are usually happy to tell you trump all other road surfaces in the historic accuracy department. Plus, all of the typical concerns over how cobblestones affect the safety of cyclists and pedestrians by forcing people on bikes onto the sidewalk don’t seem to exist now that the station isn’t in front of anyone’s apartment building. (Right before I took this photo, a cyclist did, in fact, turn off of Hudson and onto the sidewalk to go west navigating peacefully around two unfazed pedestrians, an incident you won’t read about in the Post.)
In the end, the positive message to take from the relocation of this particular station is that it proves that the Department of Transportation is listening and has the freedom to be flexible. I also think putting the station on this side of the street means that Citi Bike users can check out and return a bike within feet the Hudson Street bike lane. But it’s also a great example of how NIMBYs, for all of their concern over history and safety, rarely extend that concern farther than their own corner.
This will go into my collection of quotes from people who aren’t against bike share but who are actually against bike share.
[Soraya] Mackhrandilall said she was never against the bike share itself, only the placement of the stations. Now that her building’s dock has been moved, she said, she supports the program.
“Now I can say, ‘Use the bikes,’ because I’m for bikes,” she said. “I still don’t like the color of the bikes. It doesn’t fit the neighborhood, but we have to pick our battles.”
As long as Mackhrandilall can’t see the stations and bikes, she’s in favor of bike share.
As hard as it may be to believe, the Prospect Park West Bike lane will soon be three years old! To celebrate, please join families of all shapes and sizes for a 3rd Anniversary Family Ride on Sunday, June 2nd from 11 AM to 2 PM.
More details to come, but there will be contests, prizes, food, and lots more. The 2011 ride was a lot of fun and this one promises to be even better now that the lane is a true fixture of the neighborhood. Please bring the kids and add your two wheels of support to the best bike lane in Brooklyn!
Narrative.ly has a feature by Daniel London titled “Cycles of Fashion” that’s an informative look at the rise and fall of the bicycle craze of the late 19th century. This passage will certainly resonate for anyone who follows the debate over cyclist behavior, the language of the tabloids, and, yes, the extreme sanctimony of some cycling advocates:
“Scorching,” or riding extremely fast, was seen as not only dangerous, but a sign of low-class loutishness. The New York Times reported that ”with the cheapening in the cost of bicycle riding in the public streets has come the abuse of that privilege by thousands of ignorant and loaferish individuals… irresponsible and reckless young men to whom a stable keeper would not entrust a saddle horse, and who are not fit to ride anything but a rail.” Several dozen cycling schools and innumerable etiquette guides were produced which would help the wheeled bourgeoisie not only learn to ride, but “ride right.”
The bicycle was a private vehicle in public space, and hence a topic of moral and political import. Opponents of the bicycle claimed that the wheel undermined morality (amongst other things, by enabling young women to venture great distances without supervision), caused noise and interfered with traffic. Conversely, bicyclists claimed that “the more ignorant, uncultured, and generally illiterate and ‘countrified’ the man is, the more bitter is his hatred of the bicycle”—and lobbied for bike-friendly legislation, paved roads and additional bicycle lanes. (Sound familiar?)
This is just a small sample of the bike traffic I saw on the Manhattan Bridge this morning. To put the video in context, I shot this after 9:00 as I rode home. The bike volume for the morning had likely peaked sometime between 8 and 9 AM.
Small set of pictures here.
Hope you had a great ride this morning.
Tom Vanderbilt has a great take on the heated reaction to bike share we’ve seen in New York lately, relating it to one of the many changes this city has seen during its esteemed history.
Insofar as they alter entrenched travel patterns, change urban landscapes, and carry people into parts of town where they previously hadn’t been carried, new transit systems by their very nature tend to be magnets for opposition. (And here it should be noted that Citi Bike is perhaps the least disruptive transit system that has ever been adopted by New York City, at least in terms of its construction and operation.) In its earliest phase, the debate over Citi Bike appeared to echo the debate over another profound change to New York City’s streetscape a half-century ago: the installation of on-street parking meters. At the time, critics declaimed them as “unconstitutional.” Lawsuits were mounted. The warnings were dire. There would be vandalism! People would try to cheat the system! The meters would only make traffic worse! Today, of course, parking meters are universally viewed as simply an irrefutable cost of driving a car in a crowded city, and the only real debate left is over how much to charge per 15 minutes.
His description of how Citi Bike fits into the taxonomy of social change is particularly astute. It’s been interesting to see New York move from the “controversial” and “progressive” stages during the PPW-era bikelash to today’s “obivious” stage with bike share.
We’ll probably backtrack a little into silliness the minute some poor schlub doesn’t read the pricing structure and gets hit with a $200 multi-hour bike share ride — “Bike Snare!” as the Post will title the story — but the inevitability of such a moment proves that Citi Bike is already an established part of the New York City landscape before it has even launched. To paraphrase Tom, the only real debate left is be over how much to charge per 45 minutes.
This Sunday, May 19th, WE Bike NYC is hosting an event in Carroll Park to introduce bike-curious moms (and dads, too!) to bicycling with kids. Volunteers and representatives from various shops, including Rolling Orange, Red Lantern, and Bikesmith, will be there with everything from Dutch bakfiets and longtails to trailers and basic bike seats to demonstrate the best way for families of all sizes to get around by bike. Oh, and apparently there will be ice cream from Uncle Louie G. You know, for the kids.
As a proud biking papa, I can personally attest that taking your child around by bike is one of life’s greatest pleasures, opening up the city in ways no stroller can. Many thanks to WE Bike for putting this event together.