Bike Lane: Cycling in American Cities


Published in The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion, 2017.
First published online by urbanNext.

Things are looking optimistic for cyclists in American cities. To start, their population is growing: the number of bicycle commuters increased by more than 60 percent in the first decade of the 21st century.1 Concurrently, municipal governments are investing on an unprecedented scale in bicycle infrastructure. It’s no longer shocking to hear the mayors of major American cities, such as Memphis or Washington, deliver impassioned speeches about the virtues of bike lanes. Chicago alone is planning 645 miles of on-street bikeways by 2020.2 Many of these efforts are informed by quasi-economics, with sources such as urbanist Richard Florida and Bloomberg Businessweek proclaiming that bike-friendly cities attract pools of well-educated millennial labor.3 Others point to bike lanes as a way to combat rising obesity rates and create healthier urban publics. Additionally, growing awareness of impending ecological crises is pushing (some) cities to prove their sustainability chops with high-profile “green initiatives,” e.g., bike-sharing programs and bike-lane networks.

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Entry [Footnotes]
1. “Biking to Work Increases 60 Percent Over Last Decade, Census Bureau Shows.” United States Census Bureau Newsroom. May 8, 2014, accessed July 23, 2014.
2. “Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020.” City of Chicago Department of Transportation. Accessed July 2014.
3. Niquette, Mark. “Protected Bike Lanes Double in U.S. Cities’ Bid for Youth.” Bloomberg Businessweek. July 10, 2014, accessed July 2014.
Florida, Richard. “Bike Lane Critics Are Wrong: Why New York Needs to Make Way for Cyclists.” New York Daily News. November 28, 2010, accessed July 2014.
4. The country’s highest bicycle-commuting rate—in Portland, Oregon—is still only about 6 percent of commuters (see Census study listed above).
5. The protestors’ construction, however, was quickly dismantled. According to the city, it was not up to code and actually posed safety risks to bicyclists.
Goodyear, Sarah. “Are Guerilla Bike Lanes a Good Idea?” The Atlantic City Lab. September 25, 2013, accessed July 2014.
6. The bicycle lane controversy is not the only headline-grabbing incident concerning Brooklyn’s Hasidic community and the immodest dress of outsiders—primarily non-Hasidic women. In 2013, for example, New York City sued a handful of Hasidic-run Williamsburg stores for posting signs reading: “No shorts, no barefoot, no sleeveless, no low cut neckline allowed in this store.”
Nussbaum Cohen, Debra. “New York City Suing Ultra-Orthodox for Posting Modesty Guidelines in Stores.” Haaretz. February 15, 2013, accessed July 2014.
Additionally, for brief but informative descriptions on the Va’ad Hatznius (modesty police) of the Satmar Hasidic sect in Williamsburg, look to “Inside Hasidic Modesty Patrols,” written by Rukhl Schaechter for The Jewish Daily Forward (December 26, 2012) and “Modesty in Ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn Is Enforced by Secret Squads” by Joseph Berger for The New York Times (January 29, 2013).
7. Hasidic activist Isaac Abraham contests Weisser’s statement. He told filmmaker Maria Snoek, “There was one stupid moron—who is absolutely an imbecile—that made a statement in public that the problem is with the dress code of the women [bicycling]. If you look at the guy who said this, [he] should really be in the zoo. I have no better words for this guy.” Abraham stresses that the problems with the Bedford bike lane are safety related.
Hasids and Hipsters, a Battle on Bikes, written and directed by Maria Snoek. New York: Elenchos Film, 2011.
8. Not all of Bedford Avenue, however, lacks a bike lane. The stretch of bike lane south of Flushing Avenue was never destroyed.

Entry [Sources]
Glazek, Christopher. “Hasids vs. Hipsters.” n+1. February 14, 2011, accessed July 2014.
Idov, Michael. “Clash of the Bearded Ones.” New York Magazine. April 11, 2010, accessed July 2014.
Olshan, Jeremy. “Hipsters Repaint Bike Lanes in Brush Off to Hasids.” New York Post. December 8, 2009, accessed July 2014.

Editorial Text [Footnotes]
1. Buehler, Ralph, and John Pucher. “Cycling to Work in 90 Large American Cities: New Evidence on the Role of Bike Paths and Lanes.” Transportation 39, no. 2 (2012): 409-432.

Road Content: Bicycle “Scorchers” on the Lower East Side [Footnotes]
1. London, Daniel. “Cycles of Fashion.” Narratively. May 14, 2013, accessed August 2014.
2. McShane, Clay. Down the Asphalt Path: The Automobile and the American City. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994, p. 118.

Road Content: The Revolution of 1987 [Sources]
Schwartz, Samuel I. “Rolling Thunder.” New York Times. November 5, 2006, accessed August 2014.
Finder, Alan. “New York to Ban Bicycles on 3 Major Avenues.” New York Times. July 23, 1987, accessed August 2014.
Komanoff, Charles. “The Bicycle Uprising: Remembering the Midtown Bike Ban 25 Years Later.” Streetsblog NYC. August 7, 2012, accessed August 2014.
Fried, Ben. “Ed Koch, 1973: ‘Must Be Included’ in NYC Transpo System.” Streetsblog NYC. February 1, 2013, accessed August 2014.
Cranor, David. “Ed Koch, Force Behind Creation and Removal of First Green Lanes, Passes Away.” People for Bikes. February 5, 2013, accessed August 2014.