NY Mag’s Take on the Bike Wars


From "Is New York Too New York for Bike Lanes?" in the latest issue of New York Magazine:

And so it has come to this: Bike lanes, not so long ago a symbol of a boldly progressive New York City, have sparked a bitter row on the hushed and leafy streets of brownstone Brooklyn—just one part of a biking backlash rippling across the five boroughs. Businesses citywide complain that by inconveniencing drivers, bike lanes hurt sales. At City Hall, a young Queens council member has floated the idea of requiring all adult cyclists to register with the city. Some Upper West Siders have jeered a new protected bike lane on Columbus Avenue. In Brooklyn, a proposed Lafayette Avenue lane in Fort Greene has been scrapped, perhaps indefinitely, joining a lane in South Williamsburg removed after protests from Hasidic residents upset by (among other things) female cyclists’ revealing outfits. On Staten Island, residents succeeded in reclaiming two lanes on Father Capodanno Boulevard, one of which has been converted into parking spaces.


Four years ago, bike lanes seemed like an elegant solution to New York’s ticking population time bomb. By 2030, the population of the city is expected to reach 9.1 million. There is absolutely no way all of those bodies are going to fit into the overcrowded, drastically underfunded subways and buses; if more opt to drive, the gridlock could be nightmarish. Why not give people the option to climb on their bikes? Why not offer them protected lanes and slower streets and flashing lights and reflective signs?

And yet, as we are all becoming increasingly aware, in crowded New York, space, and convenience, is finite. Any alteration is an exercise in redistribution—to give to Column A, you have to take away from Column B. Because the streets and sidewalks represent 80 percent of the public space in this dense city, they are far from mere utilitarian corridors. They are our shared front yard, turf to be guarded against any use that comes at our expense. In certain cases, such as in Park Slope, the street is not just a street but “a grand boulevard,” and its aesthetics are so perfect that any change can be seen as intolerable.

Read more from New York Magazine's feature on the bicycle wars of New York City, just the latest publication taking on the continuing battle between cyclists and anti-cyclists:

"Not Quite Copenhagen: Is New York Too New York For Bike Lanes?"

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