How to beat a backlash against bikes: Lessons from Minneapolis

Posted on Apr 4, 2011 by Jay Walljasper

Are we witnessing the start of a national backlash against bikes?

Until recently, everyone seemed to love biking. Cities from Long Beach to Omaha to Greenville, South Carolina, implemented ambitious plans to build new biking facilities. The federal transportation bills of 1991, 1998 and 2005 continually expanded funding to improve biking and walking conditions across the U.S, enjoying widespread support in Congress and from Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

But now bikes are coming under fire from certain quarters. New York’s extensive network of new bike lanes, which doubled the number of bicyclists in the city and reduced traffic accidents to their lowest level in a century, is now the center of intense controversy. Anthony D. Weiner, a Democratic Congressman from Queens who’s eyeing a run for mayor in 2013, vows that if elected, he’ll tear out bike lanes across the city.

Even in Portland, long a bike bastion, the city council is feeling heat after passing a $600 million measure to triple the city’s network of bikeways over the next 20 years. Some critics think that’s too much money for bikes when the economy is still struggling.

And on Capitol Hill, some members of the House of Representatives think that cutting bike and pedestrian programs back to zero will make a difference in shrinking the budget deficits.

What’s happening?