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.


  1. Great article!

    I tweeted Kulveer Ranger after being impressed by New York's bike provisions in August 2011 and had a response stating that London was far superior otherwise New York wouldn't be asking TfL for advice. I truly wish that London would stop pretending that the current scheme has any value and be humble enough to learn from where schemes have been implemented with success - such as New York. Sure space on narrow roads requires more courage and ingenuity to provide an adequate solution but tackling junctions and roundabouts doesn't. I was very impressed in NYC that I was rarely abandoned at larger junctions - unlike in London. As a frequent visitor to Germany I appreciate where planners have truly understood the problems of integrated traffic for roads and designed accordingly for all users. It is this critical lack of thought and understanding that I find so baffling when I cycle in the UK as you stumble upon disjointed, badly designed and dangerous cycle paths that fail to cover the more difficult areas such as junctions.

    Looking to New York is great but we could still learn a lot from Europe ;)

  2. I am glad to see the progress made in NY, if only because UK politicians seem incapable to accept new ideas until they have been validated by uncle Sam. Frustrating for continentals like me, but at least things might get moving on the cycle lane front!

  3. Gareth said: "I tweeted Kulveer Ranger after being impressed by New York's bike provisions in August 2011 and had a response stating that London was far superior otherwise New York wouldn't be asking TfL for advice."

    Next time, ask Kulveer if the New Yorkers actually follow TfL's advice and specs, or do they do something different? Because there's all these physically protected lanes in the NY, but not in London...

  4. Thanks for the post.

    Some of those NY designs were rather well thought out, placing "sharrows" out of the door zone is a very sensible move (and addresses a constant failure of the on-road LCN markings). Hopefully NY is working towards a city where they don't need "sharrows" and giving space and respect to vulnerable road users is the norm.

    CC license as well!