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“Don’t get me wrong…”

July 17, 2011

Elisabeth Rosenthal, in a piece cross posted on Yale 360 and the Guardian Environment Network, wonders why American cities are “bicycle deserts” in comparison with their European counterparts.  She begins her piece describing a visit to Prospect Park West, “where a new bike path along the edge of Brooklyn’s largest park had angry residents worked up into a lather.”  (The lane’s controversy is always greater on the pages of newspapers and blogs than it is on the street; the hundreds of cyclists of all ages I saw on PPW this weekend seemed perfectly pleased with the lane.)

I expected to find a diversity of opinion about the bike path, which was created last year by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. I did not. Almost everyone I interviewed began with the following introduction: “Don’t get me wrong I love bikes, I ride all the time…” and then segued into a barrage of objections: The path was a hazard for old people and mothers with baby strollers crossing to enter the park. Riders pedaled too fast. They should just ride inside the park. The loss of a lane made parking worse and traffic slower. It made it harder to stop to drop kids at school. It was unsightly.

Who did Rosenthal speak to?  Norm Steisel and Marty Markowitz?  Saying that it was “created” by Bloomberg — and not, say, by a years-long, bottom-up, community process — is a stretch, although I hear Jim Walden might now use this article as evidence at Wednesday’s hearing.  (Note to Jim Walden: I’m joking.)

It’s an otherwise good piece on the challenges of growing cycling in the United States that unfortunately tries to use the PPW nontroversy as a framing device.

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