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Signs we are winning

In the five years I have been writing here I have seen huge strides made worldwide towards bicycle friendliness.

Of course there is still an “Us vs. Them” attitude on both sides, but even this is breaking down. “Us” being the bicycle lobby, and “Them” being those who feel they are losing certain freedoms by encouraging more cyclists on the road. If you are on the other side the “Us and Them” are reversed.

For the most part what these changes mean is that people have to drive a little slower, and watch where they are going. Is that so terrible? To oppose it is such a short sighted attitude.

Every person riding a bike to work means one less car on the road, and less congestion. With less congestion everyone can drive slower and still get to their destination in the same amount of time, or even quicker; plus there is the added bonus of using less gasoline.

This also translates to less people killed on our roads, not just cyclists and pedestrians, but motorists too. Logical arguments like this are the reason the bicycle lobby is winning.

You can only argue against logic for so long, then gradually as more and more people see the reasoning, those remaining who continue fight change, begin to look stupid.

Those fighting change are starting to use disclaimers in their arguments to lessen the appearance of looking stupid. Do you remember how attitudes and commentary on it changed over the years following the Civil Rights movement. 

Bigots used to begin racist statements with a preceding disclaimer? “I have nothing against black people, or Jews, (Insert whatever minority being discussed at the time.) some of my best friends are black people, or Jews.”

By stating that some of your best friends are part of the minority you are about to malign, it somehow seemed to make it okay.  Bigots went from openly slandering minorities, to adding a disclaimer, until they lost the argument completely and it is no longer socially acceptable to say anything even mildly racist.

I have just read an anti-cycling rant in “The New Yorker” blog,titled “Battle of the Bike Lanes,” by John Cassidy. Third paragraph down is the disclaimer, “I don’t have anything against bikes.”

The writer then goes on at great length to explain that as a student he rode a bike everywhere. He then goes on to state:

“Today, of course, bicycling is almost universally regarded as a serious, eco-friendly mode of transport, and cyclists want it easy. From San Francisco to London, local governments are introducing bike lanes, bike parks, bike-rental schemes, and other policies designed to encourage two-wheel motion."

Then comes the final disclaimer before the argument against... "I support this but..."

"Generally speaking, I don’t have a problem with this movement: indeed, I support it. But the way it has been implemented, particularly in New York, irks me to no end. I view the Bloomberg bike-lane policy as a classic case of regulatory capture by a small faddist minority intent on foisting its bipedalist views on a disinterested or actively reluctant populace.”

Reading between the lines, I can see John Cassidy is losing the argument, or rather he has no real argument. What he is saying is that cycling is a good thing in London, or San Francisco, but not in New York City where he lives. Rather like saying “I have nothing against Jews or black people, as long as they don’t move into my neighborhood.

This whole article could be condensed to a single eight word sentence. "I am being inconvenienced and it annoys me."

What tells me the cycling movement continues to gain ground? It is not just that I read of an ever increasing number of cities across the world are installing bike lanes, and embracing cycling.

It is reading between the lines of the anti-cycling articles. They are losing the argument; or rather they are fast approaching the point where they no longer have an argument.



Reader Comments (9)

I hope you're right! The Guardian ran an article yesterday saying that what happens in New York will have worldwide implications for bike lanes:


If New York can't do it -- with its highly pedestrianized city, perhaps unique in the U.S. -- what hope is there for Los Angeles and other similar car-soaked places?

March 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrent

There is a comment on the New Yorker article from someone who calls himself HAMTECH87, it goes as follows:

"As a motorist, I have to say that I LIKE the changes to New York's streets. The bike lanes, pedestrian refuges, narrower roadways, and left turning lanes for cars: these changes have brought sanity to what was a crazy, dangerous, free-for-all. The old super-wide avenues were where cars accelerated towards red lights, weaved in-and-out of lanes, and straddled lanes to gain tiny "advantages" over other cars. All these crazy behaviors were barely survivable for those inside their cars, but were deadly for many pedestrians. Why can't car drivers see that the city is so much better off?"

What a refreshing change to read a plea for sanity from someone other than a cyclist.

March 10, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

There's a powerful economic argument for bicycle infrastructure, it's the Generalized Fourth Power Law, a rule of thumb for estimating the damaged caused by truck loads.

The damage to a roadway is a fourth-power function of weight. If it costs 1ยข/yr. to maintain a certain piece of roadway for regular use by a 200lb bicycle + rider, then as rule of thumb it will cost about $1600 for a 2 ton car or $40,000 for an 8 ton truck. (This greatly simplifies the argument, so feel free to knock a zero or two off the car numbers if you're feeling unctious. It won't matter much.) And this assumes all these vehicles are travelling the same speed!

Keep these numbers in mind any time someone is called upon to justify the "costs" of bike transportation infrastructure. Compared to the costs of maintaining just the roadway (nevermind parking, licensing, traffic control, losses due to collisions, toxic emissions, etc.), bike infrastructure isn't even a rounding error; it's essentially free.

March 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Souders

The whole thing seems odd and out of place in the New Yorker. Mr. Cassidy's rant feels staged and phony and the picture of him that accompanies the post makes him look more constipated than curmudgeonly. His rebuttal to the flood of public condemnation of his moronic ramblings is awkward and pathetic. Were the editors all out riding their bikes the day this drivel slipped in under the wire? And if I am not mistaken, the final line of his rebuttal implies that to be a Republican in New York is to be anti-cyclist. It all has a certain aroma of Tea about it...

March 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTJC

Ezra Klein gets it in the Washington Post. If you love driving, buy your neighbor a bike.

March 10, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

My contribution is to ride as responsibly as I can until there is no more "Us" or "Them". As a cop, this is the one last piece of idealism I cling to.

Yeah, I know...

March 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarge

Despite the anti-bike online comments that seem to proliferate every bicycle related story that runs in the Seattle Times (where I live), I think things have been changing for the better as well.

Communities and cities are realizing bike lanes are a good thing for all - even motorists. More people on bikes, less cars in the way for those who will never pedal a bike. However, there are still those that feel adding more lanes will somehow end congestion. It might, but only for a short while. Those folks would also be the same people to complain when the new freeway off-ramp will run though their neighborhood.

As gas prices once again creep over $4 a gallon, combined with the crappy economy - will push the idea of bike commuting ahead a bit more.

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

I think you're right Dave. I'm glad you have pointed it out because it's good news.

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermander

Winning is when the majority realizes, finally accepts and doesn't fight against changes that benefit the quiet majority while respecting the rights of a politically weak minority. What do we have?

The pendulum is swinging the right direction but needs to go much further. Not just bike paths but changes in laws are needed asap.

March 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack

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