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Kübler-Ross for NIMBYs

June 12, 2012

“Our take? Deal with it. This bike plan represents a tectonic shift in the city’s approach to transportation and it’s too big a lift for every body to get to put his or her two cents in about every location.” – Brownstoner

I was initially a little hard on Brownstoner for amplifying this Gersh-Kuntzman-created nontroversy.  Whereas Brooklyn Heights actually does have a few well-organized residents fighting proposed bike share locations, Fort Greene so far has… a guy named Wyatt Cheek.  So I tip my helmet to Brownstoner for giving its readers a little tough love.

Compared to the Prospect Park West Bike Lane saga, which at times felt like it would continue into Chelsea Clinton’s second mayoral term, these minor bikelash flareups seem to be ending almost as soon as they begin.  Perhaps we even have NBBL to thank for helping us accelerate the pace this time around.  Bike share will destroy a neighborhood’s historic character?  Been there, done that.  More bike riding will lead to “pedestrian perdition”?  That is so 2011.

This recent spate of silliness reminds me of my favorite episode of The Simpsons, “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish,” in which Homer eats a poisonous fugu fish at a sushi restaurant and is subsequently told by Dr. Hibbert that he has less than twenty-four hours to live.  In response, Homer cycles through all five of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief in about twenty seconds.  It’s a hilarious moment, but it also serves as a clever plot device: it allows the story of how Homer spends his supposed last day on Earth to really take off.

Perhaps this city’s controversy-driven media and parking-obsessed NIMBYs are in the midst of their own Homer-like stages of grief.  By my estimation, we’ve already made it through the first three:

  1. Denial: “The bike-share program…has already been plagued by questions of its viability.”
  2. Anger: “I don’t think there have been enough meetings to call people out and discuss real specifics.”
  3. Bargaining: “Stanton urged the city to relocate proposed docks on Henry Street at Joralemon and Middagh streets and put them on the wide sidewalk on the south side of Tillary Street at Cadman Plaza.”

We’re not quite at the depression stage yet, but it will come.  I once spoke to a NBBLer who told me that she was so upset by Prospect Park West’s reconfiguration that she had thought about selling her apartment, so I’m sure more than a few Brooklyn Heights residents will be kept up at night by thoughts of vagrants sleeping on bikes or drug deals going down behind station kiosks.  An idle bike share station is the tabloid writer’s playground, so be prepared for a flurry of articles in the fallow period between the first station’s installation and the full system’s launch.

As for acceptance, it’s coming, too.  One need only learn from the recent history of Washington, DC — “Remember when a few people opposed bikeshare?” — and Boston — “Bike-sharing program is on a roll” — to understand that as soon as Citi Bike opens for business it will really take off.

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