Over the last four years, the streets of New York City have undergone a transformation: More than 250 miles of traffic lanes dedicated for bicycles have been created, and several laws intended to promote cycling have been passed.
The efforts by the Bloomberg administration have placed the city at the forefront of a national trend to make bicycling viable and safe even in the most urban of settings. Yet over the last year, a backlash has taken hold.
Bowing to vocal opposition from drivers and elected officials, the city last week began removing a 2.35-mile painted bike lane along Father Capodanno Boulevard on Staten Island. In Manhattan, a community board held a special hearing this month for business owners to vent about problems posed by a new protected bicycle lane on Columbus Avenue — in particular, the removal of parking spaces and the difficulty of getting truck deliveries.
In Brooklyn, new bicycle lanes have led to unusual scenes of friction. Along Prospect Park West, opponents protested last month alongside supporters of the lanes. And last year, painted paths along Bedford and Kent Avenues in Williamsburg caused disagreement between cyclists and Hasidim. The lane on Bedford Avenue was later removed.
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The City Council will hold a hearing on bicycling on Dec. 9 to address balancing the needs of cyclists with those of other road users, said Councilman James Vacca, the chairman of the Transportation Committee. The hearing will also look at how well the Transportation Department has worked with community boards to review large-scale road changes.
Police and transportation officials, meanwhile, have begun a crackdown on bicycle-related traffic violations amid complaints from some pedestrians.
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“It’s easy to focus on some of the conflict and friction,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group that has seen its influence grow under the Bloomberg administration. “But that’s always going to happen when you’re changing the geometry of something as dear as the asphalt. It takes some adjustment, and we’re definitely in that adjustment phase.”