My Daily Scourge

By Keith Kloor | March 14, 2011 8:13 am

This NYT story of green nimbyism in some of the most liberal locales doesn’t surprise me. Self interest often transcends noble principles.

But the issue of bike lanes, which is one of the examples in the piece, is a complicated one for me. Let me first say that I’m a fan of bike lanes and I support them. But I’ve also come to loathe the behavior of many bicyclists.

Here’s why.¬†I live in a Brooklyn neighborhood not far from the one featured in the NYT story, and we’ve had a popular bike lane for years. It runs along a side road that also shares space with a bus route. This particular bike lane is quite busy with bikers during the morning rush hour because it links up with another bike lane on a main avenue that then provides pretty much a straight shot to the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, which is the destination of the daily biker horde.

Everyday when I walk my two small children to school I cross the exact street where these two bike lanes intersect. And everyday I have to be on high alert for bicyclists that don’t stop at the red light when I’m crossing with my two little ones. Some stop at the red, but many others weave around pedestrians, barely braking. It makes me nuts. I have to admit that I’ve stifled the occasional urge to stick out my arm like a clothesline when some of these speedsters ignore the red light and zip past me and my kids.

Some bike lane proponents have counseled patience:

The fact is that changing the fast-paced culture of New York is going to take time. As more people start making use of bike lanes, the average speed of cyclists is going to slow down, cycling is going to become safer, and both drivers and pedestrians are going to be more aware of the cyclists with whom they are increasingly sharing precious macadam. We just need to have a bit of patience.

I have not seen evidence of that in my neighborhood and my patience has worn thin.

I still support bike lanes but I reserve the right to curse out those bicyclists that endanger the lives of my two boys during their daily walk to school.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: bike lanes, nimbyism, transportation
  • RichieP

    My sympathies – here in the UK we have similar problems in that cyclists (a substantial proportion) appear to believe that they’re not subject either to road regualtions or to behaving in any courteous or safe way to pedestrians, or, God forbid, to other road users either. Cyclists here operate without lights at night, even when on a regular road, shoot red lights, ride on pavements (sidewalks) into pedestrians and generally behave as if they alone have inalienable rights to behave in any way they wish, merely because they’re behaving ‘ecologically’ or some such rubbish..

  • Steven Sullivan

    Roger that. I’m pro-bike but bikers need to follow traffic laws. (Here in Manhattan the bane is delivery bikers moreso than commuters, IME)
    As for nimybism, I was annoyed in that NYT story by the way supposedly ‘liberal’ homeowners were lumped together with ‘business owners’ as an opposition group.

  • Sashka

    Noble principles were never meant to be applied to themselves.

    I have to admit that I’ve stifled the occasional urge to stick out my arm

    Nothing to be ashamed of, Keith. I wouldn’t hesitate beating living crap out of anybody who is willing endangering my kids. Bring something long and heavy and use it well. Unlike the infamous Times Square cop you won’t lose your job over it.

    On a more moderate note, how about requesting a police presence in the morning right after they are done with doughnuts?

  • Jonathan Gilligan

    To put risks from reckless bicycles into perspective, take a look at the New York Pedestrian and Bicycle Action Plan released last summer (or read the coverage in the Times): The bottom line: properly designed bike lanes don’t only help bicycles; they also reduce pedestrian fatalities significantly. The Times story quotes former traffic commish Sam Schwartz saying, “Far fewer people have been injured; far fewer people have been hit by cars; far fewer cars have been involved in fatal accidents” since redesigned bike lanes were installed.
    That said, as a full-time bicycle commuter I also really want to see vigorous enforcement of traffic laws for bicycles everywhere. Cyclists who flout the laws make it more dangerous for the rest of us who obey them.

  • Jack Hughes

    Yup. When I started commuting by bike 10 years ago I was surprised that fellow-cyclists were so high on the list of road hazards.

  • Tom Gray

    Store owners in Berkeley objected to bus raid transit because of its effect on the life on the streets, Ottawa Canada has a full BRT system. It is called the Transitway. Currently it is being replaced by a light rail system One of the prime motivations of using light rail and an associated tunnel is because of the damage that BRT has caused on downtown streets in Ottawa. Rideau Street is the natural main street of Ottawa. it was changed in a bus only “bus mall” ¬†to act as a terminal for the BRT system. It has never recovered from this. The bus mall idea was abandoned because of the damage that it caused to life in the area but by then it was too late for the area to recover
    The Berkeley merchants need only look to Ottawa to find evidence to support their position. For years Ottawa was regarded as the poster child for the BRT idea. it is now being abandoned even there.

  • Pascvaks

    Many Parents Buying¬†the NEW 20′ Bicycle Pike!
    Get Your Bicycle Pike Today!  Great for protecting Children against Lawbreaking Bicyclists Around the World!

    “pike,¬†medieval infantry weapon, a long spear with a heavy wooden shaft 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 metres) long, tipped by a small leaf-shaped steel point. The ancient Macedonian sarissa was similar. The use of the pike among the Swiss foot soldiers in the 14th century contributed to the decline of the feudal knights. It disappeared from land warfare with the introduction of the bayonet, though it was retained in shortened form as a naval boarding weapon through the 19th century. A variety of pike is used by the picador in bullfighting.”
    (Sarc Off)

    There’s a reasonable answer to everything, usually.

  • Simon Hopkinson

    How long to market, do you think?

  • NewYorkJ

    As a biker myself, I agree there are aggressive bikers who take liberties with basic traffic rules, and police should treat them the same as motorists regarding penalties.  Although extremely rare, and far more rare than pedestrian deaths by automobiles, very aggressive bikers can kill too. 

    It doesn’t help that¬†cyclists are¬†fairly quiet and¬†more difficult to see than cars.¬† Pedestrians might step in front of one jaywalking without knowing it.¬† That’s happened to me.

    Oddly enough, the only time I got pulled over while biking was years ago slowly rolling through a stop sign at 2 mph while making a right turn with no cars or pedestrians at the intersection (as was easily observed when slowing down to 2 mph).  Ponch gave me a stern lecture and a warning.

    The bikers you notice are the bad ones.¬†¬†Animosity towards bikers is often in part due to motorists¬†believing roads are for automobiles, and don’t like the inconvenience of looking out for bikers, so they¬†find a few aggressive bikers to justify their views.¬†¬†I was once riding on a fairly dangerous narrow curvy road with no bike lanes (never again).¬† Some driver flew around the corner well beyond the posted speed limit of 25 mph, just missed me, and had the nerve to honk at me, as if it was my fault for inconveniencing him.¬† As Jonathan says,¬†properly-designed bike lanes can help.¬†


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


See More

Collapse bottom bar