3/9/11

Ezra Klein on Biking

The typical argument about how cycling helps drivers:
The question, for drivers, is one of survival: How do you persuade the maximum number of New Yorkers not to drive?
The answer seems obvious: You give them other options. Bike lanes are one such option. Washington is friendly enough to bikers that, in even halfway decent weather, I tend to ride my bike into work. If biking weren’t possible, perhaps I’d purchase a parking spot downtown and drive my car. But far from that solution being a victory for other drivers, it’d be an awful defeat: The worst thing for a Beltway motorist is another Beltway motorist. On the rare occasions when I do drive to work, I am grateful for every single Washingtonian who decided to make a different choice.
I see the Bloomberg administration’s aggressive pursuit of bike lanes and related alternatives as an almost radically pro-car position. If driving is to remain half as pleasant as Cassidy wants it to, it will only be because most New Yorkers decide against purchasing cars. And they’re only going to do that if the other options seem attractive. Early in Cassidy’s piece, he recalls his bike trips of yore, where “part of the thrill was avoiding cabs and other vehicles” and the danger left him “shaking.” That’s fine for a hobbyist, but not for a commuter. If the walk is too long, biking is too dangerous and the subways and buses are inconvenient, then cars are the final answer. That means a world in which the roads are more clogged and Cassidy spends more time in traffic. I’ve seen that future and it’s called Los Angeles. New Yorkers should want no part of it.
 First of all, way to go Washington. It is pretty bike friendly and I think that Bikeshare is making it more so. Second of all, when arguments like this are advanced, you always get the "well, not everyone can bike to work, ergo biking is dumb and investing in bike lanes is stupid because not everyone can use them." By the same logic, investing in highways way out to Loudon County is dumb because the Arlington bike commuter can't use them. No piece of infrastructure is going to be equally valuable to all members of a community. Moreover, you don't need everyone to bike to work in order to reduce congestion. No bike advocate is asking anyone to make a 25 mile bike commute. But, let's say your coworker only lives 3 miles away from the office. Wouldn't you rather have her bike to work rather than put another car between you and where you're trying to go? Doesn't that just make sense?

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