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Bike lanes turning good liberals into screaming reactionaries

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, March 31, 2011 21:59 EDT
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Okay, I’m way late on this, but this article in New York magazine about the battle over bike lanes is well worth reading in its entirety. The whole fight in infernally stupid. The arguments for bike lanes are safety, money savings, and the environment. The argument against them really amounts to, “Wah! No one told me that driving a car in New York-fucking-city would be a slow, frustrating way to get around! Kick punch!” Though the writer Matthew Shaer is much nicer to the anti-bike assholes than I am.

Besides linking it, I wanted to point to this paragraph and comment on it:

In the prevailing spin, the bike-lane fight has two sides: the blue-collar New Yorkers who have to drive to work and the coddled creative-class types who live close enough to commute on their Bianchis. But the class dynamics are actually far more complicated, and the allegiances often defy expectations. The bike-lane opponent, for instance, is just as likely to be a well-to-do Manhattanite, and his main gripe the deliveryman who just pedaled the wrong way down a freshly laid bike lane, in a rush to unload a wood-oven pizza (which, on another day, that Manhattanite himself might have ordered). Simple nimbyism can’t entirely account for the feud in Park Slope, home to Paul Steely White, executive director of the cycling and mass-transit advocacy­ group Transportation Alternatives, as well as pro-bikers like Naparstek and his Park Slope Neighbors co-founder Eric McClure. Meanwhile, Hainline, a Brown and Harvard grad worried about global warming, considers herself a progressive. The battle lines blur until it becomes almost impossible to guess which side someone’s going to come down on. “[The cyclists] think that we’re a bunch of old, crotchety rich people that don’t understand that they deserve to have a bike lane on our street,” says Hainline. “That’s not it at all.”

What’s funny about that quote is that Hainline is Louis Hainline, and she comes across as a crotchety old rich person who characterizes bicyclists as undeserving, and makes fun of them for trying, in their small way, to take responsibility for reducing pollution. She’s pretty much nuts by any measure when it comes to this issue, since she has set up cameras and is trying to “prove” that people don’t use the bike lane. She even tries to use the fact that only one bicyclist is out right after it snowed as some sort of proof that people don’t use the bike lane next to Prospect Park.

Anyway, I just want to say that there’s nothing surprising about this at all to me. I’m intimately familiar with the issue at hand here, which is a lot of people think of themselves as liberal and progressive, but can turn into screaming reactionaries the second that something inconveniences them or causes them to have to make small changes to their lives. And this is doubly true when it comes to local politics, which is why is was so funny this likely hoax/satire petition came out after a contentious and stupid battle over a black-owned nightclub/restaurant on the Park Slope side of Flatbush Avenue took place. Internet threads abound over food, green living, religion, and urban planning that make this principle abundantly clear. And that’s all that’s going on with these stupid bike lane wars. Most New Yorkers support the bike lanes, and it’s probably for the very simple reason that most New Yorkers aren’t obsessed with getting around the city in a way that minimizes their contact with the hoi polloi. It takes a significant sized ego to feel entitled, in a city this large and this dense, to be able to fly around in your car without having to accommodate people that are choosing cheaper, greener, but more populist forms of transportation. I’m usually not a hard ass about these sort of things, but some times I have to say that I expect more than lip service out of my fellow liberals, even the rich ones.

And don’t bellyache about disabled people. People who are car dependent for real and not by choice are the first to benefit from fewer cars on the road, which makes those who absolutely must take a car safer and makes their commutes faster. Invoking people without privilege to defend those who have it and are just being assholes is a low move.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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