Bike Lanes Versus Car Lanes Research Paper

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Bike Lanes vs. Car Lanes

The objective of this study is to examine the issue of bike lanes vs. car lanes in New York City through the lens of urban sociology.

There is an ongoing battle in New York City between those who use bicycle lanes and those who drive cars. Chapter 1 of the work entitled "NYC Cycling" on integration of NYC's bicycle policy emphasizes the need for "integrated, rather than piecemeal, transportation planning." (Transportation Alternatives, 2009) Stated as well is the need for agencies to "work together" along with the bicycling community to bring about an improvement in conditions so that bicycling in New York City will increase. (Transportation Alternatives, 2009)

The work of Forester (1994) entitled "Bicycle Transportation: A Handbook for Cycling Transportation Engineers" reports that the first trouble occurring with bike lanes in New York City is the congestion that was caused and the demand for on-street parking, in combination to real estate costs and the costs associated with conversion of older buildings that are so high that the curbside truck and taxi and off street loading and unloading occurred in traffic lanes and bike lanes were placed in the "conventional position between the parked cars and the motor lanes." (Forester, 1994)

I. The First Troublesome Occurrence in NYC over Bike Lanes

An ordinance was enacted in New York City that made a requirement that vehicles with authorization to double park for loading and unloading purposes "continue to do so in the motor traffic lane and not in the bike lane." (Forester, 1994) This created an unsafe lane for the bikes since approximately 50% of the typical bike lane in Manhattan was not usable due to double-parking. The whole affairs resulted in a transit strike and a great deal of anger between cyclists, pedestrians, and cars. The result was support by activists and the police department in New York City and the benefit of bike lanes being proclaimed by the Transportation Alternatives and American Youth Hostels.
Sociologists analyze bike lanes through the lens of what is termed the 'critical mass' and how the formation of the critical mass at some point in time serves to create "new permutations of social space through collective mobility" and as well to "open new possibilities that are both affective and political" and as stated by Jeff Ferrel to put:

"…ourselves and our bicycles on the line, confronting automobile dominance, through direct action, we invent the impossible: an island of safety, calm, and conversation in the middle of a busy street. And in reflexive fashion, we inhabit this island with talk of Critical Mass rides in other cities, strategies for surviving encounters with motorists, sabotage in the workplace, anarchist history and other subversions." (Furness, 1994)

II. Bicycling Issues in NYC

It is reported that a bike lane that is "ambitious" in combination with a "greenway program" will serve to expand the interest and increase in cycling in New York City however, without safe bicycle parking facilities that growth will not be as rapid as it could potentially be with safe bike parking facilities. Also needed are bike lanes that are of a better design and that bring about a reduction in the number of bicycle accidents involving cyclists in New York City. These improvements are such that should accompany "public education and enforcement of traffic laws." (Transportation Alternatives, 2009) Additionally required is an agreement by New York City agencies such as the Department of Transportation in New York City to restructure transportation in terms of both its priorities and its practices. (Transportation Alternatives, 2009) The Bicycle Blueprint is stated to be much more than a set of policies geared toward bringing about an increase in bicycling in New York City, also presented in the blueprint is a "vision of New York City that is people-oriented and refuses to accept the cynical trade-off of short-term economic values for sustained human livability." (Transportation Alternatives, 2009) Also.....

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