Monday, October 12, 2009

Someone who understands the bike lane fallacy

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.”


Anonymous said...

Manhattan is only two or three miles wide jammed with as much shops etc as possible. Its everyman, car, pedestrian and biker for himself. You would have to be a glutton for punishment to bike in Manhattan everyday. I can enjoy this article, but dont forget that any commuter, police, and pedestrian walks and drives etc where they should not and through red lights. Its always been that way here.

I welcome more bikers and all the above commuters to obey the law more. Everyone is in a hurry I guess.
Now scapegoat bikers for all your problems.

Anonymous said...

New Yorkers are one of the most rude and self-entitled people I have ever seen and this goes for the "diverse members of the population" as well. I'm glad that I've never had the pleasure of driving or biking in Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the people who moved here from ohio, iowa, etc. etc. in the last 12 years are the rude/self-entitled ones. Real New Yorkers who were born here or have lived most of their lives are just bitter and/or sarcastic furious towards the one's you're talking about. Unfortunately, these people are now part of the New York experience so I have a healthy FU here for all of em!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The real New Yorkers not from Ohio and Iowa are just as rude as the people your claiming are part of the New York experience now.

I Never Never hear a word back when I say excuse me or sorry to move around someone except from the elderly in this city. Maybe your referring to the upper crust rich east coast transplants from up and down the coast.

ur doing it rong said...

Bike lanes would be fine if people actually used them. I'd say 40% of the bikers don't, and those are the ones trying to ebat the traffic and run the lights.

I know cuz prior to bike lanes I was an asshole bike rider. Now that I reverse commute to Queens and almost kill one everyday on delancey when I do ride a bike I do so sensibly and in the lane.

This can work if we had some kind of enforcement. I always say "it'd be really handy if I could just drive north on B'way" but I have to head down to 6th ave to do so, so should the cyclists.

ur doing it rong said...

I should add that throwing the lanes down without community board approval is unacceptable.