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C200: Bike Dispatch From NYC

2011 March 24
by Sarah Goodyear

< New York City; photo: Kyle Gradinger/BCGP >

Imagine if city streets were designed not for cars, but for people.

Imagine that when a car struck a person, the driver was held accountable.

Imagine that bicycling was treated as a legitimate form of transportation, so common as to be not really worth remarking upon.

That’s the vision of a growing number of people in the United States today. And it is gaining ground.

In New York City, where I live and where I grew up, hundreds of miles of new bike lanes have been added to the city’s streets in the last few years. Bicycling for transportation is now not just for mad young things willing to tangle with taxis —and yes, I was one of those once, commuting by bike in the 1980s when people thought it was absolutely insane. It was.

More and more you see people of all ages and sizes out pedaling New York’s streets. There has been backlash—a lawsuit backed by powerful political interests is challenging one lane in particular. But there has also been a steadily growing base of support for the rights of people, not motor vehicles, to reclaim primacy on our streets.

It’s not just New York. Los Angeles has released a master plan that calls for the creation of 1,600 miles of bike lanes over several years. Chicago’s mayor-elect, Rahm Emanuel, wants to expand that city’s bicycling network. Communities around the country are passing complete streets ordinances, mandating street design that accommodates and protects the most vulnerable road users – people on foot, people on bikes, the elderly, children.

It’s getting easier every day to imagine a different kind of America—one built around people, instead of cars.


Sarah Goodyear is cities editor at Grist. She has worked as a writer and editor at Streetsblog, Time Out New York, and lots of other places. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.