Saturday, 7 January 2012

"Communities of color like East Harlem have needed these bike lanes too. - my constituents want to bike to work and for recreation, too" - not just wealthier Manhattan residents

An unusually pointed post this morning. I wanted to highlight just how far London is falling behind New York. And just how New York's politicians now 'get' bicycling in a way that London's Mayor and our local politicians don't.

The video below shows the state of things in New York.

I travel to New York a lot. Every time I go, there's more bike lane. And it's real. Not like in London. The video below shows the sort of thinking, the sort of pride in its achievements that London deserves.

And when you've had a chance to see what's happening in New York, just compare that with this video - an interview with Kulveer Ranger, the man tasked by the Mayor of London with looking after bicycling. It is a snivelling defence of debating-hall politics that talks about great things happening in cycling while failing to actually demonstrate anything good on the ground. I gave a detailed critique of this interview in a blog post here earlier this week. Watching Ranger again, after seeing the excitement and enthusiasm of New York's genuine bicycle revolution, I realised just how pitiful this interview is. Ranger keeps talking about 'the cyclist' as if she's some mythical being from another planet.

'It can be road design' that needs looking at says Ranger. But he seems to think people just 'need a better understanding of how to be more aware of each other'. To 'reinforce safety, we wanted to define where other road users could expect cyclists to be', he says. Compare and contrast with New York. They also talk about creating a 'defined place' on the street for cycling. But they add 'buffers' or 'a physical barrier' where they can - ie they intervene and put space between bikes and motor vehicles. Better for everyone and something the Mayor is opposed to doing in London (see this quote from 2010). Watch the bit in New York about 'class one' bike lanes. Can you even imagine London implementing something like this? Tragically, I can't. And here's the Mayor saying exactly that: "road space restrictions on London’s roads preclude the possibility of segregated provision for cyclists" Rubbish. There's plenty of space. All those hatches down the middle of London's wide main roads for starters could be used to open up the roads for safe cycling.

What's lacking is Boris Johnson's political will not road space restrictions. 

The amazing thing that's happening in New York is that politicians of all backgrounds are getting behind bicycling.

Over in East Harlem last week, Melissa Mark-Viverito - councilwoman who represents parts of Harlem and the South Bronx wrote this in the NY Daily News:

"The addition of protected bike lanes — which have barriers to make riding safer for cyclists and drivers alike — is nothing short of a social and environmental justice issue. Until recently, nearly all of the proposed locations for these lanes were in primarily white and higher-income neighborhoods — from the East Village to Chelsea to the upper East Side to Park Slope.

But all along, communities of color like El Barrio/East Harlem have needed these lanes too. Despite the stereotype that bikes are mainly used by wealthier Manhattan residents and Brooklynites, my constituents want to bike to work and for recreation, too. They ought to be able to do so safely. And even those who don’t currently do so ought to be encouraged."

London politicians - read this and think just how out of date you all are. Most of you, at least.