From the NY Times:
Idealism and New York Reality Collide in the Bike Lane
Ahh, the bike lane. Another common-sense initiative to turn New York into a little Copenhagen. If only the city bred people as courteous as Danes. If only we had a culture defined by a friendly homogeneity of purpose, a place where content commuters shared the street with neighbors, friends and distant cousins.
What we have instead are men and women clad in miracle-fabric athletic gear and yellow “Live Strong” bracelets imagining themselves breaking out in the final stretch of the Tour de France. What we have are yoga devotees, blissed out in their iPod bubbles, oblivious to the floating world of traffic signals. What we have are mothers and fathers with a child in the baby seat, talking on the phone, if not texting, while riding south on Avenue of the Americas and swearing at pedestrians in the crosswalk.
And we also have delivery people — some recently arrived from places where, if traffic signals exist at all, they are ignored without consequence — turning the wrong way down one-way streets, until, without sign or warning, they cut across traffic to stop at their destination.
The bike lane is one of those ideas predicated on the notion that at heart people are sensible and sociable, instead of irresponsible and self-absorbed. To add insult to injury, these yellow strips and ridiculous green lanes are largely ignored by drivers of every kind of vehicle, from careening cabs and zigzagging behemoth S.U.V.’s stopping abruptly to drop off a fare or snag a parking place, to the big rigs that block entire lanes and the 10- to 24-foot moving trucks rented to drivers with freshly minted and not always authentic licenses.
Yet, bike lanes continue to proliferate, and with them comes another interest group with its own profound sense of entitlement, which is to say it is suffering from the delusion it has the right to ride through our streets as if the city has settled into the easy rhythms of East Hampton or Washington, Conn., or any sleepy town you can name.
The bike lane — like the streets the mayor and his friends have turned into faux piazzas and yes, even the celebrated High Line — is an insult to those of us whose notion of New York City still includes dark corners and hard surfaces. These changes, applied with the superficiality of decals or appliqué, signify a new city, a lowercase city, where blocks are crowded with gelato and yogurt shops, traditional Neapolitan pizza restaurants and cupcake bakeries, where we can all pretend life is beautiful all the time.
Robert Sawyer, a freelance brand strategist who lives in SoHo, is an award-winning poet and the author of “Kiss & Sell: Writing for Advertising.”