LeBron James To City: Build More Bike Lanes

NBA legend LeBron James will help underwrite bike-share memberships for kids. Photo: Dave Colon
NBA legend LeBron James will help underwrite bike-share memberships for kids. Photo: Dave Colon

City & State NY is hosting a full day New York in Transit summit on Jan. 30 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. This summit will bring together experts to assess the current state of New York’s transportation systems, break down recent legislative actions, and look towards the future of all things coming and going in New York. Join Keynote Speaker Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the NYC Department of Transportation, along with agency leaders, elected officials, and advocates. Use the code STREETSBLOG for a 25-percent discount when you RSVP here!

To the GOAT, it’s a slam dunk.

Three-time NBA champion and four-time NBA MVP LeBron James told Streetsblog that bike lanes are important for protecting children’s lives, an opinion so good we’ll pre-emptively excuse whatever it is he and the Lakers do to the Knicks on Wednesday night.

James endorsed the proven life-saving street redesigns when asked by this reporter if the city should focus on expanding protected bike lanes to low-income neighborhoods of color, areas of the city that have seen disproportionate amounts of traffic violence, most likely because the areas don’t have their fair share of protected bike lanes.

“Safety is always first, and the city has to understand that bike lanes are very important for kids’ safety and for adults as well,” James said on Tuesday afternoon, after he reminisced about being a regular cyclist when he was growing up in Akron, Ohio.

James, now 35, made his remarks at a surprise appearance at the West 135th Street YMCA in Harlem to announce a Lyft program called LyftUp, which will provide free one-year bike share memberships for kids between 16 and 20, starting with Citi Bike and soon in Chicago’s Divvy bike share system and the Bay Area’s BayWheels system.

Currently, City Hall does not subsidize the Citi Bike system, which is a vital part of the public transportation network, with as many as 90,000 rides on nice days. The city does not even help underwrite Lyft’s Reduced Fare FairBike Share program, which gives reduced-priced memberships to NYCHA residents. But James did not address that inequity on Tuesday.

“A bike opened doors, allowed me to get to safe places after school, and gave me access to opportunities I never would have known,” James told a gym full of teenagers who absolutely lost it when the Lakers forward walked in the door.

James’s comments came one day after Rep. Adriano Espaillat told an audience that bike lanes were a symbol of gentrification on par with Starbucks and high-end sushi, a remark he then struggled to defend in a chat with Streetsblog.

King James is signed to the Lakers until the end of the 2021-22 season, but judging from his comments, New York officials could help the Knicks (or Nets, we guess) sign him as a free agent — if the next mayor start building those bike lanes.

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