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“Something stunningly logical”

May 12, 2011

Don’t miss this great Metropolis Magazine article by Karrie Jacobs, “Anatomy of a Takedown,” published today.  It’s largely about the steady drumbeat of bad press that’s been targeted at Janette Sadik-Khan and its disconnect from the reality, but uses Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes and Prospect Park West as a prism through which much of the larger “controversy” is filtered.

Writing about the March 10 Community Board 6 meeting, Jacobs offers one of the best descriptions of NBBL I’ve read yet.  It is not their age that defined them at that meeting, she writes, since “supporters and opponents didn’t break down neatly along demographic lines.”  What set them apart was their insularity:

In a way, they were as culturally isolated from the rest of Park Slope as the Hasidim are from hipster Williamsburg. It was less the issues they raised—the potential hazard that a two-way bike lane presents to pedestrians, the inconvenience for drivers—but that they had just woken up to the fact that Prospect Park West is part of a larger city and that the city is changing.

Karrie Jacobs describes her own bike ride to check out the epicenter of New York’s bike lane battles:

On the first tolerably warm Saturday following all this uproar, I rode my three-speed from Soho to Prospect Park, a trip that can now be made almost entirely by bike lane.  And as I pedaled along Prospect Park West, being careful to brake for pedestrians, I came to the realization that the lawsuit was not filed because Sadik-Khan and her department had built a bad bike lane, one so flawed that it needed to be expunged. No, the plaintiffs sued because the Prospect Park West bike lane is a great one, with plenty of space for two-way bike traffic and enough of a cushion next to the parked cars to prevent bikers from getting “doored” and drivers from stepping into the path of oncoming bikes.

Yes, the article includes the requisite mention of the Food Co-Op, but the entire piece is snark-free, as evidenced elsewhere by Jacobs’ embrace of the frightening specter of New York becoming a little more European.

When you’re on it, it feels like the kind of bike lane you might find in a city where cycling is a pleasure, like Portland, Oregon, or—yes, Marty—Amsterdam. I was impressed by the magnitude of the change. If I were in charge of New York, I’d give Sadik-Khan a ticker-tape parade, because she’s truly made change happen. Instead, her reward is a takedown.

While it’s true that New York “will never be Amsterdam, never be Copenhagen,” it’s also true that New York will never be Houston or Atlanta.  In the face of a sensationalist media that wants to roll back the progress this city has made in the last decade, Jacobs’ writing is a refreshing breath of air.

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