In New York City, an intense battle over new bike lanes has erupted into a fierce cultural war. But New York Press reminds us that this isn’t the first time a new mode of transportation has opened a schism in the city’s social fabric. Aaron Napartek, who founded the bike advocacy site Streetsblog, writes:
Some critics of the time called the automobile “a pagan idol demanding sacrifice,” according to Norton, and street mobs sometimes set upon reckless motorists who’d hit pedestrians.
Now, the body count in today’s bike lane wars is admittedly no comparison. But the tenor of the rhetoric is often just as shrill. “Bike lanes have gone from simple strips of pavement festooned with green and white paint to sponges for a sea of latent cultural and economic anxieties,” writes New York magazine in a dispatch from the front lines, “Is New York too New York for bike lanes?”
Naparstek is ultimately hopeful about the outcome in Gotham: “Minds will change and the Great Bike Backlash will soon come to an end. … We’re just waiting for the culture to catch up to the infrastructure.”
UPDATE 8/9/2011: A new poll shows two out of three New Yorkers support the new bike lanes, the New York Observer reports—but only 27 percent believe more lanes should be added.