Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's November:.. It must be bikelash season

It never ceases to amaze that when the New York Times writes about a topic, all of a sudden, it's real. In case you haven't heard, the New York Times announced on Monday that because of the proliferation of bike lanes being installed, there's revolution of anti-everything-bicycling moving through the streets.

Hasn't there been an urban bicycle backlash for over a decade? Philadelphia certainly experienced it last fall after the Spruce-Pine bike lanes opened, the SEPTA Strike inspired lot of transit riders to try out cycling, and the very unfortunate deaths of two pedestrians made front page news. Remember the proposed ordinances and Stu Bykofsky? The point isn't that there are too many bike lanes or that cars are losing space on the street, it's that resources devoted to enforcement and education to help everyone readjust their attitudes and behaviors on how to comport themselves while driving, riding or walking haven't caught up with the demand. Yes, all communities that are changing their streetscape are experiencing some pushback, that's inevitable. But, it shouldn't be blown out of proportion, as noted by the wise Streetsblog post. It's worth reading the more balanced story about NYC run on the same day by the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, the real threat to the growth in bicycling is not cranky neighbors, it's next year's House majority party. In an alarming article that appeared last Friday, Streetsblog reporter Tanya Snyder reported that the House Transportation committee is considering the following terms for reauthorizing the federal transportation bill:

  • "Cut the fat" in order to "stabilize the Highway Trust Fund (because new taxes or revenue generators are off the table) by cutting transit funding by 40% and highway funding by 5%

  • Reduce the Surface Transportation Program and eliminate federal mandates to states about how they should spend their money – for example, the “inappropriate” mandate for bike-ped projects, which they believe should be up to state discretion.

  • Discontinue the discretionary grant programs like TIGER, saying the process hasn’t been "sufficiently transparent."

Ms. Snyder closed her article by saying "advocates will have to fight hard to preserve the gains made in the last two decades for transit, bicycling, and walkability." Get Ready!