More bike lane drama

The New Yorker’s John Cassidy set off yet another round of bike lane hate, this one gaining renewed traction via the clout of its author and his publication. He writes:

Like many New Yorkers who don’t live in Manhattan, one of my favorite pastimes is to drive from Brooklyn, where I live, into the city for dinner and find a parking space once the 7 A.M.-7 P.M. parking restrictions have lapsed. Years ago, this was a challenge, but a manageable one. These days, especially downtown, it is virtually impossible. When the city introduces a bike lane on a given street, it removes dozens of parking places. All too often these days, I find myself driving endlessly up and down Hudson, or Sixth Avenue, or wherever, looking in vain for a legal spot—and for cyclists. What I see instead is motor traffic snarled on avenues that, thanks to bike lanes, have been reduced from four lanes to three, or three to two. As of old, I sometimes almost run into a delivery boy riding the wrong way down the street, but even the delivery boys don’t seem to use the bike lanes for this purpose. (Perhaps they, too, are frightened of incurring the righteous rage of the helmeted.)

O.K. So is two primary issues are:

A: Bikes and their related amenities slow down me and my car.

B: Bikers are reckless, self-righteous and backed by the all powerful pro-cycling lobby. (That last part isn’t mentioned above; but is in the full post.)

Here’s what I don’t get: Lots of stuff slows down traffic in the city and takes up parking spots. That’s why driving in a densely populated area with small streets sucks. Buses slow down traffic. Trash trucks. Pedestrians. In Philly, year 2011, horse-drawn carriages still get in the way.

It’s hard to find parking because there are more cars looking for spots than there are spots. That will always be the case, even without bikes or bike lanes. Perhaps bikes contribute to this inconvenience, but the purpose of bike lanes is to encourage biking, and it works. More bike lanes = more people on bikes. More people on bikes = more parking spaces and less congestion, since research shows that if there’s a street with a bike lane next to a street without a bike lane, cyclists will choose the one with the lane.

Talk about the righteous rage of the helmeted—what does that make Cassidy?

The way I see it, the whole issue of cyclists versus motorists is just a massive chicken-or-the-egg situation. Cyclists are “righteous” because cycling in the city is dangerous, and most of us bike for reasons of convenience and expense, not politics. Motorists are pissed at cyclists because lots of us don’t obey the rules of the road (sorry motorists, you’ve got your fair share of outlaws too)—and they see any state-led encouragement of cycling as a boon to an activity that slows them down and pisses them off.

Cyclists are utterly defenseless on the road, which is why they get “righteously” defensive when bike lanes are under attack. We don’t ask for much.

Further reading: New York Times, EconomistWashington Post and the NYC bike snob.