by Sabrina Michelena
Whether New York should expand its protected bike lanes throughout the city has recently become a major issue. New York City is set to build 250 miles of protected bike lanes around the city, due to the recent rise of cyclist and pedestrian deaths. According to The Department of Transportation, “So far this year there have been 25 cyclist deaths, the highest number in 20 years, and pedestrian and cyclist fatalities have risen by 24%.” This rise in fatalities is because of unsafe streets without bike lanes, causing cyclists to struggle to ride in the same lane as cars, which can lead to injuries and possibly deaths. Part of the plan to build these new bike lanes is to encourage people to reduce their carbon footprint by biking instead of driving. But the main reason for the plan is so current cyclists can ride safely and the rate of cyclist deaths drops.
Although many agree to build more bike lanes to encourage others to reduce their carbon footprints, there is a large number of people who disagree with the plan. According to the article, “After Spike in Deaths, New York to Get 250 Miles of Protected Bike Lanes” by Emma G. Fitzsimmons, “Bike lanes have often faced fierce opposition, including lawsuits and resistance from community boards that balk at having parking spaces removed and worry about the impact on local residents and businesses.” It’s true that if there are more protected bike lanes around areas with lots of businesses, people will not be able to double-park (which is illegal but nevertheless a common practice amongst drivers) and go get a quick bagel. This might result in businesses losing customers since fewer people will be able to double-park to grab a quick coffee on their way to work. Although, they could always just install a basket on their bike and still get a coffee on their way to work. But most people prefer the more comfortable option, which are cars. As a matter of fact, the Community Board 10 in Brooklyn, which represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Fort Hamilton, voted against the bike lane expansion in those neighborhoods. However, the elected officials that represent the area told the Department of Transportation to install them anyway.
Barbara Smith, a teacher at East Side Community High School, and one of the coaches for the Eastside Cycling Team, expressed her thoughts on the expansion of bike lanes. She said, “[Cycling] is a sustainable mode of transportation and it also improves the health of the population...we should limit car usage in the city.” She also considers the mode of transportation to have more advantages than disadvantages. Barbara is known to ride her bike to and from work almost every day and often deals with terribly-constructed bike lanes. Dealing with these catastrophic conditions is a regular part of a cyclist’s life and that is unacceptable.
Ben Wides, another teacher at East Side Community High School, is also a cyclist. He believes that protected bike lanes are best and more safe to use. He believes that unprotected bike lanes are “a little sketchy” and expresses his concern by stating, “I especially don’t like riding it with my kids, but sometimes I have to.”
He agreed with the idea of expanding protected bike lanes, stating, “Bike lanes are important because they save lives, pure and simple. They also make it easier to choose biking over driving, which is good for the environment and reducing congestion.” However, he does agree with the fact that expansion of protected bike lanes decreases parking spaces. Since many drivers tend to follow the popular trend of double-parking, Ben believes that laws should strongly enforce and fine the drivers that double-park so cyclists can ride more safely.
Due to dangerously-built streets and a lack of bike lanes, there has been a rise in cyclist and pedestrian deaths. The city has a plan to build 250 new bike lanes, even though many don’t agree with it. We must persuade those not in favor so everyone can be safe. There needs to be a change and it needs to happen now.