Tag Archive: bicycle backlash

Growing pains in our nation’s capital

We’ve written about “bicycle backlash” before here on — the continued friction between motorists and the growing ranks of cyclists on city streets. Some of this is happening in cities that have seen recent surges in bike infrastructure and the people using that infrastructure, including our own Washington D.C.

Over the past couple of weeks, there’s been an acrimonious back-and-forth in the Washington Post consisting of editorial columns, one of which resulting in a two-wheeled protest in front of the newspaper’s offices. Here’s a good roundup from another WP columnist so you can catch up on all the action:

The great bicyclist-driver clash of Washington is so on.

Bottom line: Everyone is right. And wrong. Too many cyclists ride the streets and sidewalks like they’re above the law and own the place. Too many drivers haul around town in a ton of metal, oblivious that a careless right turn can kill someone.
As Rodney King once asked: Can we all get along?

Apparently not.

Read the rest by visiting the Washington Post page here.

New Yorkers react to the upcoming bike share scheme

As you may have heard, Citi Bike is launching Memorial Day weekend in New York City with 10000 bikes and 600 stations.

Our friends at BreakThru Radio shared a link to the following video, where they try to capture the general “on the street” feel for what bike share will lend to the city. Reactions range from unbridled enthusiasm all the way to near-vehement hate of cyclists. Here, take a look for yourself:

One of the surprising reactions was about the loss of on-street motor vehicle parking, one of the common complaints when any bicycle infrastructure is proposed. In the above video, almost everyone had a vaguely “good riddance” attitude toward parking!

Any New Yorkers out there in readerdom who want to chime in? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Chicago Bike Backlash?

OK… I’m only just now getting caught up with the world around me… seems I was operating in a ‘bubble’ when this article first broke. And ignorance was bliss… but my mom called and had questions about my reaction to the latest bike news – that the mayor plans to implement bike tolls and fees and licenses…. making Chicago truly the most expensive city! (not nickel and dimed – but rather dollared to poverty) Someone’s gotta pay for painting those bike lanes… right? STOP!

First – let’s get to the article that started it all…. published by columnist John Kass for the Chicago Tribune: “Introducing bike tolls and the Rahm-PASS and the follow-up Taxing bikers: The wheels begin to spin“. (sadly you must be a subscriber to view)

So, here are the highlights before we continue. It starts with:

Here’s what could be coming for the bike-to-work crowd:

•City bike tolls and city bike vehicle stickers, which could bring in millions upon millions of much-needed revenue to City Hall, allowing the cash-strapped government to add new police to its woefully undermanned force.

•City stop-sign cameras to automatically ticket bicyclists who cruise past the signs without stopping, infuriating those of us in cars.

•Hefty city bike parking fees, like the city parking meter fees, easily enforced as bikers “park” in city bike racks. No sticker = big tickets. And if you don’t pay, there’s always the bike boot.

•And my personal favorite: the Rahm-PASS. Fixed to the bike’s handlebars, the Rahm-PASS transponder would be like the I-PASS for cars on state tollways. Cyclists would cruise underneath strategically situated girders over street corners with heavy bike traffic, and they would bypass (or Rahm-PASS) the bike tollbooths run by grumpy political workers.

It concludes with the following allegation:

Call me what you will, Mr. Joe Bike Guy, but the facts are that the city is spending $4.7 million on 34 miles of bike lanes this year — and could spend tens of millions on some 450 miles of new bikeways planned by 2020.

The follow-up article features a series of questions supposedly submitted by readers and Kass’ responses, including:

I’ve been walking to work from the train for seven years. I don’t need one hand to count the number of bicyclists that have stopped for a red light at a crosswalk out of the hundreds I’ve seen. We need to ban bicycles so the streets are safe for pedestrians. Save us, Rahmfather! Paul G.

Dear Paul — We don’t want to ban bicycles. We just want to tax the heck out of them, because A) bike riders during rush hour are annoying, and B) they’re an untapped revenue source, and our politicians have needs too.

In response to this article, a couple of journalists were quick to write responses, including Chuck Sudo of and Whet Moser of Chicago Magazine’s Staff Blog.

Moser’s article points out:

“Minneapolis has a more active bike-commuter culture than Chicago, and the state tried something like this, but abandoned it for obvious reasons: ‘The administrative costs were more than the revenue generated,’ according to that state’s Department of Transportation.”
and “Los Angeles tried it recently, too, at least until police chief William Bratton—of zero-tolerance broken-windows fame—said it was a bad idea”

I especially like the last two paragraphs by Moser’s Chicago mag piece:

“There are legitimate discussions to be had about whether separate bike lanes actually make for more and safer cycling. There’s an even better one to be had about cyclist education and enforcement—in an excellent post, Brent Cohrs discusses a point I’ve made before, that driver education in America essentially ignores cycling to the detriment of cyclists and drivers. Compare that to the Netherlands, where bicycle road tests are mandatory.

That doesn’t seem to have cut down on cycling there, as education makes people more confident, and if my experience is any guide, Americans are less likely to bike because of fear and inexperience. Marginalizing the entire form of transportation does little more than scare newbies off the streets, leaving them to the minority of aggro bikers.”

On a side note, I’ll be taking the League Cycling Instructor class this fall specifically so that I can learn to teach others how to ride a bike and how to do so safely.

Sudo’s Chicagoist article also points out:

“What [Tribune columnist] Kass failed to mention were the funding sources for the bike lanes. Thanks to Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Peter Scales, we have those: tax increment financing; state and federal transportation dollars; and CDOT’s own general obligation funds. None of that is money that could have gone to hiring more cops.”

He also points out that Rahm is following his predecessor’s – Mayor Richard M. Daley’s – precedent of being a champion of bikes and bike lanes and infrastructure in Chicago.

There’s already chatter among the Chicago bicycling community via the online community The Chainlink. As commenters (and cyclists around Chicago) are quick to point out – this article by Kass is just a “joke” and no actual plan is in place for any of his proposed measures to have bike tolls or mandatory bike stickers or bike parking fees.

Joke or not, Chicago’s local bicycle advocacy organization – Active Transportation Alliance – wrote a letter to the editor in response to Kass’ column – to set the facts straight:

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey, 24 percent of Midwesterners ride a bike at least once a week; and 71 percent of Americans would like to bicycle more, but fewer than half feel that their community is designed for making biking safe. Most Chicagoans avoid riding on city streets for fear of their safety. We need safer streets for biking in order to access jobs and basic services in our communities. Biking also provides a rare opportunity for healthy physical activity in our busy daily routines.

The 100 miles of protected bike lanes that Mayor Emanuel is adding will enable thousands more Chicagoans to get out of cars and onto bikes and, by giving bikes their own space, will make streets more orderly and safer for everyone. But 100 miles is less than two percent of our street network, and cars still get to use streets with protected bike lanes.

For about the same cost as just one mile of freeway, Chicago can build an entire city-wide network of protected bike lanes. This could provide safe and easy access to a healthy, affordable and convenient form of transportation that our neighborhoods need. It’s a wise investment for Chicagoans and our neighborhoods.

My question is – does Kass really believe the rhetoric he writes or is his column a journalistic ruse to generate controversy and talk for days?

I’ll have you know I thoroughly enjoyed my bike commute riding primarily on roads with bike lanes to and from work on Friday, and I took photos along the way to highlight Life in the Chicago Bike Lanes, including a view of a federally funded roadway project and peeks at a few cars that should be ticketed for being in “my” lane…

Federally funded Clark Street project

Bike Lane re-striped along Clark Street during street resurfacing

car parked in the bike lane (bike backlash?) - no ticket???

Cyclists forced to merge into two-lane traffic to avoid cab in the bike lane

Clearly the battle for the road surface continues and there is a perceived “backlash” here in Chicago. We’ve written about backlash before in a number of articles. It seems that once a city really starts getting a lot of infrastructure in place, and people using those facilities, the backlash begins. Is it jealousy from other road users (those stuck in traffic jams as we cycle commuters happily zoom by)? We’d sure love to hear your thoughts about what you think is the motivation behind these backlash attacks against bike/ped infrastructure.

All is not rosy in the Big Apple…

We’ve covered a few positive NYC-area articles in the recent past…the Alta Bike Share program to be unveiled sometime this year, and the upcoming Bike Expo New York in the spring. We’ve also touched on the “bicycle backlash” as bike lanes and infrastructure gets installed on the streets of the Five Boroughs.

Looks like there’s more backlash coming…James Vacca, chairman of the City Council Transportation Committee, has some tough new rules and crackdowns for cyclists on NYC streets:

Vacca says, “We’ve got to make it clear that when you use a bicycle you have to go the right way on a one way street, you have to obey red lights, you have to stay off sidewalks. You have to consider motorists and pedestrians. You have to consider all users of public space in the city.”

You can read the full rundown of proposed legislation and find links to two interviews with Vacca by clicking here. Many of the legislative proposals target delivery cyclists…but it is unclear if that includes bike couriers. Obviously, ALL cyclists stand to be affected in some way by these proposals. Some of the proposals make sense, but as various news articles and bike advocates suggest, perhaps a similar focus should be committed to cracking down on vehicular scofflaws instead of blindly targeting only the two-wheelers.

If you’re an NYC resident, we’d love to hear what you think about these proposals and the perceived “backlash” as the city steadily becomes more bike-friendly.

Bicycle Backlash in NYC

My, my, my…the bicyclists in New York City have it rough. Over the past few years, bicycle use has EXPLODED in the city. With that tremendous growth comes the seemingly-inevitable backlash (dubbed by some pundits in NYC tabloids as the “Bikelash”), something we’ve talked about here on in the past.

As new bike lanes sprouted along New York’s streets, there was an effort by some residents of Prospect Park (and other neighborhoods in Brooklyn) to have those lanes removed. Luckily, a State Supreme Court judge ruled against the residents’ lawsuit this past week.

And, as more cyclists took to the streets, the NYPD made a concerted effort to crack down on two-wheeled scofflaws, which didn’t always pan out well for them (or for law-abiding cyclists, either). Bike Snob NYC has written quite a bit about the crackdown, and you may have read about the woman allegedly stopped by police for wearing a short skirt.

Well, now there appears to be a growing debate between pedestrians and cyclists about conflicts on bridges in the Big Apple. BreakThru Radio made a short video documenting some of this clash, and they asked us to share it with you:

Should Bikes Be Banned From The Bridges? – BTR Pulse [ep39] from BreakThru Radio TV on Vimeo.

And, to offer a sobering counterpoint to this perceived backlash, an article recently appeared in bike industry magazine Bicycle Retailer that examines more closely the “bikelash” and the media hype surrounding it. It’s worth a read, so click here to check out that article.