Most New Yorkers support bike lanes

High profile opposition captures media spotlight; misleads as partisan issue

According to the New York City’s transportation commissioner the rate of bicycling in the Big Apple has doubled since 2007, and more riders require more bike lanes. As with many issues in New York City there are always those opposed, and the opposition has captured the spotlight.

According to a new poll that was conducted by Quinnipiac University some 54 percent of city residents approve of more bike lanes, whilst 39 percent actually think they are a bad idea.

“Most New Yorkers like bike lanes,” says Noah S. Budnick, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, a group that is trying to reclaim New York City's streets from the automobile, and to advocate for bicycling, walking and public transit as the best transportation alternatives. “I don’t know anyone who’s pro-crash or wants to see more injuries and deaths on our roads. Streets with bike lanes in New York City are 40 percent safer than those without.”

So the question is who would be opposed to bike lanes and more importantly why? The most common answer is that those who tend to drive, and don’t ride bikes are the ones against the lanes. The bike lanes have taken more space that had been devoted to traffic and/or parking, thus resulting in slower traffic – the irony is that slower traffic is actually safer for those riding a bike.

Media spotlight

Some media reports have also suggested that this opinion on bike lanes was drawn on party lines, with Democrats favoring bike lanes and Republicans opposed, but closer inspection shows this isn’t really such a partisan issue.

A recent lawsuit filed by a group with close ties to the wife of Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, accuses the Transportation Department of misleading residents about the benefits of a bike lane on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn. Additionally, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, also a Democrat, has said the bike lane reduces room for cars to park while making it more difficult for drivers to see pedestrians.

The question here is whether these are even justified concerns. New York City is a crowded city with little space to widen streets, so any talk of reallocation is of valid concern — not so says Budnick. “New York’s surface transportation system hasn’t changed in over 50 years. If you ran a business like that you’d be broke. This is the 21st Century, and that means replacing the 1950s car-based model with a modern system that makes the most efficient use of our limited public space. People want to live here, they want to do business here and they don’t want to sit in traffic or own a car.”

He adds that in a dense, busy city like New York, the goal should be to move people and goods safely and efficiently. He says it is, as the ridership suggests, increasingly a cycling city.

“Biking is the fast growing mode of transportation in the city,” says Budnick. “This is all a good thing because the city’s population is projected to increase by 1million in the next twenty years, which means it’s an absolute imperative for us to make even more efficient use of our streets.”

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