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Thursday, May 30, 2013

9th Avenue in NYC
How the “Bikelash” quieted down in New York and other cities. A rider on the 9th Avenue bike lane in New York City. (Image: NYC DOT)
Former New York mayor Ed Koch envisioned bicycles as vehicles for the future, and in 1980 created experimental bike lanes on 6th and 7th Avenues in Manhattan where riders were protected from speeding traffic by asphalt barriers. It was unlike anything most Americans had ever seen—and some people roared their disapproval. Within weeks, the bike lanes were gone.
Twenty-seven years later New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan saw the growing ranks of bicyclists on the streets as a key component of 21stCentury transportation, and began building protected bike lanes in Manhattan and Brooklyn. They had studied the success of similar projects in Copenhagen and the Netherlands, noting how to make projects more efficient and aesthetically pleasing.
These “green lanes” and pedestrian plazas were an immediate hit but ignited a noisy reaction from a small group of well-connected people unhappy about projects in their neighborhoods, including Bloomberg’s former transportation commissioner. Lawsuits were filed while New York Post and Daily News columnists thundered about the inconvenience to motorists and supposed dangers to pedestrians. New Yorkmagazine declared the situation a “Bikelash” on its cover. 


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