Bike Lanes Create Livable Cities
Updated: Sep 17, 2020
Pedaling along the Prospect Park West bike lane, I can’t help but feel thankful for the level of security that I feel every morning. Over this past year, riding my bike has become an essential part of my identity. It provides me with a freedom that I have seldom felt before, all while making my commute easy and enjoyable. However, I know not everyone has this privilege. Only about 40% of the bike lanes in New York City are protected, and this number needs to change. Nationwide, it’s even more of an issue. By the summer of 2018, a mere 550 protected bike lanes existed in all 50 states. I will say it once, and I will say it again: bike infrastructure is an essential part of creating livable cities.
Every day, more and more people are picking up their bikes, scooters, and skateboards, and getting outside. Micromobility is the future, and it is on a sky-high trajectory. Bike and scooter share companies are popping up all over the world, and in New York alone, there are over 450,000 bicycle trips per day, “an increase that has outpaced population and employment growth” (Hu, Winnie. “More New Yorkers Opting for Life in the Bike Lane.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 July 2017). It is time that we work hard to promote sustainable forms of transportation.
In the 1930s, the inception of automobiles brought a new interest group to the table: automakers. They were able to shift the national consciousness and make infrastructure suitable for cars an important issue. With this awareness, the U.S. Interstate Highway System was constructed, and the automobile took the country by storm. To this day, the same industry that has caused irreversible damage to the environment is alive and kicking. If the automobile industry can upend our roads in such a drastic way, why can’t we do the same for sustainable transport?
I believe that this issue should be approached the same way big auto approached their issue, with a grand scheme. The national consciousness needs to be reframed, by promoting eco-friendly transport through the construction of protected bike lanes all over the country. Cycling around the city will no longer be viewed as a dangerous alternative to driving, rather a quick and convenient way to get around, all while staying active and helping the planet. In the past, bike infrastructure has been approached reactively, with a couple of lanes being thrown up each time a biker dies at the hands of an irresponsible motorist. We need to approach this proactively, by making this issue a national priority, ensuring a safer world for cyclists everywhere.
The intersection between my passion for biking and my passion for the environment is something that’s very important to me. In New York, things have been looking up. The mayor has just signed a bill that will put 250 miles of protected bike lanes into place. We’re still a long way from breaking the car culture in NYC and other urban centers, but we have to start somewhere.