For the past year or so, The Observer, along with the rest of the press corps, has been chronicling the city’s, and the press corps’, reaction to our burgeoning bicycle culture. The Post, obviously, has been highly critical, to say the least, if not downright damnatory. The News has, understandably, followed suit. Even The Times has been playing against type, turning its back on its pinko-brownstone readership to criticize everything from a–gasp–European-style bike share program to streets czarina JSK (rhymes with DSK!).
With all this skepticism about what is basically a child’s toy, never did we expect to read the most clear-eyed and concise defense of biking yet in the (ever-so-much-so-these-days) conservative Wall Street Journal. Granted the praise comes from a wry sports columnist, but the fact remains: Jason Gay declares the Bike Wars over, and he may just be right.
Bikes are New York fringe? Email your friends. Ask how many of them own bikes. Then ask how many of them own cars. If more of them say they own cars, look out the window. You live in Connecticut.
The revival of urban cycling in this country follows a fairly predictable pattern: nervousness and ridicule, followed by the realization that the truth never matches the fear-mongering. The supposed choice between bikes and everyone else is a bogus choice. More bikes in a city doesn’t merely benefit riders; it reduces congestion, saves money, improves quality of life, elevates the experience. No one returns from a city and says, “Oh, it was great—except for all the biking.”
Whether the bicycle backlash is truly over remains to be seen. Yesterday, arguments in the lawsuit against the Prospect Park West bike lane were postponed yet again until July 20. Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes, the anti-lane group backed by Iris Weinshal, the former DOT commish and Chuck Schumer’s wife, as well as officials at Brooklyn College, the botanic garden and a former deputy mayor, want time for depositions and discovery. As Streetsblog notes, this is a rare administrative challenge the group is undertaking, but if it succeeds, it “could turn into another round of media spectacle for the case.”
We might be in for a long, hot summer after all.