Tuesday, June 19, 2007

For Tom

by Ken Houghton

Cities build new bike paths

If you look at the data from high enough up, you can see nothing:
While some municipalities see a surge in bicycling, national figures for 2005 show the same number bike to work as did in 1990.

If you look at the data through the eyes of the politicians, you see data without context:
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called for 200 miles of bike paths throughout the city by 2009.

And buried in the 15th 'graf is the lede:
If cities make biking easier and safer, proponents say, more residents will do it.

I biked in NYC for over ten years, and lived to tell the tale. But I stopped biking to work after the second or third theft. (The daily attempts to run me off the road at Columbus Circle or on Riverside Drive weren't helping, either.)

The legacy of Robert Moses is that there is no safe bicycling area in NYC. The "bike lanes" added during the Koch administration are a joke (and were made even more so when Steady Eddie declared them a failure three months into their use—February of a harsh, heavy snows winter). So this presents some hope:
Another measure of the move to biking is the growth of Thunderhead Alliance – a coalition of state and local bike and pedestrian organizations that help strengthen local advocacy groups. They have grown from 12 member organizations in 1996 to 128 coalitions in 49 states. The alliance's Complete the Streets Campaign has helped win legislation in 23 cities and nine states, which requires that streets be designed to be safe and accessible for all users. [links added]

This is one of the times that I wish NYC were more like Madison.

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From time to time, I think about biking to work on the bike path along the Hudson, but my experience of extreme congestion even on the weekends, plus my awareness of drivers who have obliviously plowed into riders on that path keep me on the subway. Well, that and the fact that my office building insists that people use the service elevator for bikes and that elevator shuts down at 4:00.

What I find maddening about pleasure rides on the Hudson bike path is the number of pedestrians who cluster on it even when well- marked pedestrian paths are available.
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