First, let’s shoot all the car drivers, or at least those who don’t tolerate cyclists.

I first began cycling as an adult 40 years ago when I would commute on an beat up coaster bike from my apartment in Arlington to my office on the Mall in D.C.  (I purposely used this old bike on the chance that it would be stolen, I wouldn’t be out much.)

Since then I’ve commuted in other cities and for the last 15 years have bike around Fairfax County, though I don’t commute, as my office is in my home.  The story never changes:  Too many drivers think they own the roads and are discourteous and dangerous, willing to sacrifice the lives of those in oncoming vehicles and cyclists, in their mad dash to be somewhere a few seconds earlier.

Many cities are trying to encourage cycling.  It helps the environment, decreases car traffic, and benefits the rider physically.  Except that they run a good chance of being slaughtered.

Now it appears New York drivers want to reverse this trend. They’re angry at New York for taking away a few feet of traffic lanes that they think belongs solely to them.  Most states have laws allowing cyclists to share the road, but drivers, like too many Americans these days, don’t want to share anything.

I grant you that cyclists are not without fault.  Too many, especially those who think of themselves as the physically elite riders, frequently break the law, running stop lights and signs.  They need to be ticketed.  But that’s no excuse for drivers who feel entitled to something we all pay taxes for: the roads.

Surging bike ridership has created a simmering cultural conflict between competing notions of urban transportation. Many New Yorkers object to bicycle lanes as sudden, drastic changes to their coveted concrete front yards.

“He’s taking away my rights as a driver,” Leslie Sicklick, 45, said of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Ms. Sicklick, a dog walker and substitute teacher, grew up driving with her father around the Lower East Side, where she still lives.

All about her “rights.”  The hell with what’s good for the city.

The Transportation Department has responded to criticism by pointing to accident data showing a correlation between new lanes and increased pedestrian safety. Fatal crashes have decreased on streets with new lanes, according to the department.

“The record speaks for itself: Injuries have dropped, dramatically, for everyone on streets where bike lanes have been installed,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, the transportation commissioner.

The department pointed to the support lanes have found from community boards across the city, many of which have explicitly requested new bike lanes — along Prospect Park West, for example — in part because of safety concerns.

Meanwhile, and not surprising, some politicians are hostile to cyclists.  But none more wacko that this Coloradoan.

Outside the city, bikes have begun creeping into political battles this year. The Republican nominee for governor of Colorado, Dan Maes, wondered during the primary whether bicycles were part of a plot to ruin cities.

A plot to ruin cities.  Oy vey.

Posted in: Bicycling.
Last Modified: November 23, 2010