The NYT has a nice piece about the city’s transportation commissioner. She’s been helping reshape New York’s cycling infrastructure in a way that has seen the number of miles of bike lanes double. This is not just slapping down painted lines (although there is some of that) but the creation of segregated lanes on major commuter routes throughout the city.

What is even more remarkable is all of this is being done in a hostile political environment.

Biking, it seems, is an uphill ride, due largely to mathematics and a sort of Catch-22: with only a small percentage of Americans using bicycles as their primary method of transportation, there’s no huge public outcry for — or immediate political benefit to — remaking city streets so that they’re a little less friendly to cars and a lot more hospitable to bikes.

But without that hospitality, primarily in the form of better bike lanes and more bike racks, biking isn’t convenient and attractive enough to win all that many converts and thus a political constituency.

So if a city believes that biking is part of a better future, it must sometimes muscle through a reluctant, rocky present. That’s precisely what Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan have done, in a fine example of the way the mayor’s frequent imperiousness and imperviousness to criticism can work to the city’s long-term advantage.

 

Its that last sentence though that bothers me. We have a mayor in Toronto who is exactly of that ilk. Imperious. If Bloomberg is an enlightened despot, he’s still despotic. We need less of that thank you.

Actually I’m bothered as well by the assertion that making streets more bike friendly is immediately “less friendly” for automobiles. One of the things bike infrastructure studies have revealed over the years is that the increase in bike traffic actually ends up reducing congestion in critical and noticable ways. This actually ends up benefiting drivers in ways that they may not immediately appreciate. The message of the article is a bit like telling everyone that the NYC bike revolution is a bitter pill, but the medicine is good for them. Yeah – that’s helpful.

Janette Sadik-Khan, Bicycle Visionary – NYTimes.com

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