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“Maybe all the acrimony is just a growing pain.”

August 24, 2011

The Washington City Paper has a great article by Alex Baca on the cultural, economic and political issues surrounding bike lanes.  It’s a must-read for anyone interested in New York’s bike lane growing pains and breaks down some of the commonly held misconceptions about people’s reasons for opposing — and supporting — bike lanes.

“I think it’s probably fairly predictable in being that whoever feels threatened, you’re taking stuff away from. If you’re taking away parking, or a travel lane, or a street corner, or an old rail corridor, whoever feels they’re losing something is going to get bent out of shape,” [Andy Clarke, the president of the League of American Bicyclists] says. “You’ve got high-class opponents and areas where people have complained about bike lanes going through poor neighborhoods. I don’t think race or class or income is the issue. I think it’s fear of the unknown and fearing losing something that you’ve had is the most common denominator.”

Life in the District used to be marked, in part, by the ability to reside in a suburbanesque neighborhood near the denser areas—but not so near that it felt like really living in a city. Part of that meant being able to drive downtown for work—or to shop or go to dinner—and not having to worry about where to park when you got home again. The newcomers who want bike lanes aren’t moving to the same D.C.

Nothing in the fight to make streets safer and more livable is as simple as the convenient rich-versus-poor, old-versus young, or cars-versus-bikes narratives the Brooklyn Paper, Marcia Kramer, and Marty Markowitz like to serve up to their audiences.  They may generate page views or make headlines, but they miss the forest for the trees.  Bike lanes generate passion because they force us to reevaluate just what, and who, our streets are for.

“We’ve got to that point in those cities where we want to be proactive about people cycling and that public space is more valuable than giving you a parking space for perpetuity. I think that’s good,” Clarke says. “It’s uncomfortable to go through it, but it’s part of the evolution and process that shows communities are serious about increasing cycling….It will be uncomfortable for a little while, but people will be look back on that and say, ‘What were we so worked up about? How can I get bike lanes on my street?’”

One Comment
  1. BKLYNer permalink
    August 24, 2011 8:39 am

    Dear Gersh Kuntzman,

    See this article in the City Paper? This is what it looks like when a local paper cares about its community and is actually a part of its community. This is what it looks like when editors and journalists are working to facilitate thoughtful, intelligent, productive conversation within a community rather than just fomenting conflict and racking up pageviews. Gersh: The Brooklyn Paper used to be like this. What happened? Was it the Murdoch purchase? Are you bored with your job and ready to move on? Do tell.

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