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Change is not a Four-Letter Word

November 8, 2011

Something funny happens when a bike lane goes from a proposal to reality: the hysteria surrounding it tends to change.  From Memphis, Tennessee comes this encouraging story of local business owners supporting a bike lane they once opposed.  The bike lane is in the very early stages and is still being striped, but even the owner of a small mailing company is beginning to change his tune:

No, Weber doesn’t foresee cycling customers bringing large packages for him to ship from his shop at 1910 Madison.

But the 54-year-old can envision more customers biking in with thumb drives to print documents, or to rent time on his computers.

More broadly, Weber can see a day when Madison Avenue is so much more appealing that it draws more customers for every business, from restaurants to professional offices.

This from a man who earlier this year warned that dedicated bike lanes might put him out of business.

Weber has the right idea and the fact that he owns a mailing company speaks volumes about the need to change or die.  He could continue to focus on 20th century needs, like stamps and cardboard boxes, and watch his business wither away, or he can start shifting his business to compete in an electronic age.  A city, too, can stick with the status quo, using old models of what “worked” in the past, or it can adapt and get out ahead of the curve.

New York City has long been a haven for artists, educators, business people, fashion designers, writers, musicians, actors, techies, and countless others whose very jobs are synonymous with innovation and brave new ideas.  Change is part of the DNA of every New Yorker, and you can see it in every immigrant community, with the creep of gentrification, with every new skyscraper, and even in a new storefront that used to be a different new storefront not too long ago.

That’s why it’s simultaneously distressing and funny to see how confused and hysterical the old guard can be when it comes to something as basic as a bike lane.  The city that never sleeps has never been afraid of change.  Why should it be afraid of thermoplastic?

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