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On Bicycles

Bicycles, and in particular, the question of how much they should be favored, is one of the most contentious transportation topics in New York City. So, Gray Panthers NYC tackling the issue of bicycles in New York City…what can possibly go wrong?


We would be remiss if we ignored or glossed over the fact that many pedestrians are left feeling vulnerable by cyclists who break the rules of the road they are supposed to follow. And, in particular, many older persons feel particularly vulnerable as a result of such rule breaking.


And yet, at the same time, the environmental crisis is the number one crisis of our time. It is a crisis that demands that we urgently encourage things that reduce our carbon footprint. That includes mass transit, walking, and yes, cycling. Because of that, for all the safety concerns, we need to find a way to make cycling work, for both pedestrians and cyclists.


But how?


One of them is a controversial suggestion: more bicycle lanes. Bicycle lanes are a hot and divisive topic, but the proof is in the statistics. The New York City Department of Transportation found that installing protected bicycle lanes significantly reduces bicyclist injury while increasing bicycle use. Furthermore, scholarship seems to suggest that protected bicycle lanes make the road safer for all road users, including pedestrians. Supporting bicycle lanes therefore, in a way, supports two forms of greener transportation, in cycling and walking.


The other of them is that we need to take a serious look at what other cities are doing right. We’ve heard that some cities have better-behaved cyclists than what is sometimes witnessed in New York City (for example, Barcelona, Spain). Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, policymakers should take a look at what those other cities are doing right, and replicate as much of that as we can so that we can get better cyclist behaviors in New York City, behaviors that will help keep older persons walking as pedestrians safe.


Even with these two actions, there may be growing pains along the way, due to the fact that our streets were built for cars, and we are trying to fit bicycles into structures built for cars. But, for the sake of our planet, we need to find a way to make bicycles work, for both bicyclists and pedestrians. We need to find a way for it to not be cyclists versus pedestrians, but instead cyclists and pedestrians.


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