Today, biking in New York City is extremely dangerous. Although there are some bike lanes to try easing some of the hazards, they are not always respected. This is especially the case with Class III lanes, which are roads that are meant to house both cyclists and vehicles. These are usually just marked by signage. The problem with these roads is that because the signs are so discrete, drivers are often not aware that they should be sharing the road and instead barrel down the road, utterly oblivious to what lies ahead. As a result, there is an incredibly high rate of crashes and fatalities towards cyclists in the city. In 2017 alone, 27 cyclists passed away, and over 4,000 were severely injured in accidents.
It’s not like no one is trying to fix the problem; in fact, when Mayor Bill de Blasio entered office in 2014, he aimed to bring all traffic fatalities to zero through his Vision Zero initiative. This worked to an extent: between 2011 and 2015, there were 13 cyclist fatalities per 100 million cycling trips, compared to the 44 between 1996 and 2000. Although this is a vast improvement, it’s still not good enough. But things are changing in Manhattan.
As of 2019, there is a new project implemented by speaker Corey Johnson that is designed to better protect cyclists through the building of more bike lanes. The idea is to put in an extra 250 miles of pathways throughout the city, which has unfortunately led to some opposition. Some concerns include increased traffic because of the reduced number of lanes as well as a general dislike of cyclist culture. In all fairness, New York’s cyclists are notorious for running red lights, cycling recklessly, and traveling without using turn signals.
Seven million New Yorkers don’t own cars, and they are still not happy to help cyclists get around safely. Bike lanes tend to face struggles such as lawsuits and resistance from community boards because of having parking spaces removed. There is also concern for the impact on local residents and businesses. Furthermore, the municipal Department of Transportation would have to move quickly to add workers and equipment to carry out an increased amount of construction projects at once. This resistance and more has De Blasio insisting that although the project was approved, the construction will wait until he is out of office.
There has been an outcry for New York to become more like Amsterdam in as much as in the Dutch capital, everyone travels by bicycle. Significant complaints have been made regarding this idea, justified by the fact that the United States is very much a car culture. But on the other hand, New York is different. Less than half of Manhattan households own cars, and less than thirty percent travel to work by motor vehicle. Cars only get moved about once a month for street cleaning, which is part of why there is such a protest to parking spots being taken over by bike lanes.
But the thing of it is, this project is happening whether drivers like it or not, so it is preferable to get with the program and start cycling as to not be affected by these issues. New York suffers from the worst parking in the country as well as some of the worst traffic jams, both of which can be avoided by jumping on a bike and commuting in an eco-friendly manner.