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New York’s Next Generation of Vehicular Cyclists

3:36 PM EDT on September 30, 2010

This video critique of the new bike lane on First Avenue has been making the rounds, and it must give some comfort to John Forester and the vehicular cycling school. Vehicular cyclists reject all forms of bicycle-specific infrastructure and believe all cycling should be done in traffic. In this vid they can see a young cyclist claim that a bike lane protected from traffic has made the street "slower and more dangerous" than it was before.

The age range of the complainers here seems a little limited -- I'm not sure anyone is younger than 18 or older than 30. New Yorkers whose knees might be a little creaky, or who are worried about getting sideswiped by a speeding cabbie, probably don't mind dodging wayward pedestrians so much. I know I don't.

Felix Salmon had a more enthusiastic take on the vid than I do, but I like his conclusion:

It’s going to be very interesting to see how fast cyclists cope with an influx of slower cyclists in Manhattan, as bike lanes continue to get built and average bike speeds continue to decline. I love to zoom down avenues at high speed, but I also love being safe. Maybe that means I’m just going to have to start going a little slower.

Salmon calls the slower cyclists drawn to the new lanes "hobbyists." That seems like the wrong word. Maybe newer cyclists aren't making 10-mile commutes, but there are plenty of other kinds of utilitarian trips besides getting to work. The most useful way to think about what the new lanes are accomplishing comes from (sorry for the anticlimax, folks) Portland:

strong_and_fearless

This graphic was developed by the Portland Bureau of Transportation, and it's helped to guide their highly successful strategy for building bicycle mode-share (read how they came up with the categories in this PDF).

Back to the video... Narrator Rachel Brown starts off describing how it took her four years to start cycling regularly in New York, and how painted bike lanes helped her feel comfortable at first. I suppose that puts her in the "enthused and confident" category. Fast cyclists should have the option to ride in traffic instead of the new bike lanes, by all means. But if New York is going to make bicycling for transportation available to everyone who wants to do it, we need protected lanes like the ones on First and Second Avenue to get all those "interested but concerned" potential riders over the hump.

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