The New York City Bike Lane Backlash is Completely Irrational

The New Yorker's John Cassidy says the bike lanes on Brooklyn's 8-lane Fourth Avenue are causing intolerable traffic congestion. Except there are no bike lanes on Fourth Avenue.

We’re approaching a new level of anti-bike mania in New York City. Sentiment is so totally divorced from reality, not even the New Yorker’s vaunted fact-checking apparatus can rein in the mistruths and idiocies.

Exhibit A: John Cassidy’s “Battle of the Bike Lanes.” Here, Cassidy has done us the great favor of producing what may one day be regarded as a seminal document of New York City’s bike lane backlash era.

In the year 2025, when my teenaged children ask, “Why did New Yorkers fight so much about bike lanes when I was a baby?” I will tell them to read this. And since teenagers in the year 2025 will be biking all over the place but won’t be reading anything more than 140 character bursts of text, I’ve put together this paragraph-by-paragraph bullet-pointed interpretation of Cassidy’s first-person essay:

  • I know that the “bike lobby” will attack me for writing this — not because what I have written is imbecilic, uninformed and factually incorrect — but because they have no sense of humor.
  • All I know about the Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes law suit is what I read in Michael Grynbaum articles.
  • I don’t have anything against bikes. I just hate the infrastructure that makes biking possible.
  • Biking in New York City was more thrilling in the old days when cyclists were killed by taxis and other vehicles with greater frequency. Now cyclists seem to want it easy.
  • I support the movement to improve bike infrastructure. I just don’t like it when the movement succeeds in getting city government to build bike infrastructure.
  • I acknowledge that this is the rant of a bitter, angry motorist.
  • I have owned six, enormous cars in New York City. They’ve averaged somewhere around 11 miles per gallon.
  • Thanks to my cars, I’ve visited virtually every neighborhood in the city. I never could have done that via subway or bike, or… really? I could have?
  • Street space should not be set aside for bike lanes. It should be set aside for free parking for my Jaguar XJ6.
  • I will now take an utterly gratuitous swipe at the Park Slope Food Coop. Let’s gin up some pageviews.
  • I take great enjoyment in my driving, except for the 90% of the time that I am stuck in traffic, searching for parking and growing ever more bitter as cyclists whiz past my immobilized gas guzzler.
  • I acknowledge that this is all just an emotional reaction. What I am writing makes no sense whatsoever. I am an economist.
  • Now that the city has striped 200 miles of bike lanes on its 15,000+ miles of roadway, we have clearly reached the point of diminishing returns for bikes and bike lanes. As for cars and car lanes — sky’s the limit. As an economist, I see no end to the number of cars and car lanes we can cram in to New York City.
  • Every New Yorker should be able to drive his Jaguar into Greenwich Village for dinner, as is my pastime, and find convenient, free parking on a public street near the restaurant.
  • All of the snarled traffic on Hudson Street and Sixth Avenue near the Holland Tunnel is the fault of bike lanes and cyclists.
  • The horrible traffic congestion on Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue is the fault of the bike lanes on Fourth Avenue. (Editor’s note: In fact, there are no bike lanes on Fourth Avenue.)
  • Let the movement to restore Iris Weinshall to the DOT throne start here. Like me, Iris Weinshall was a great friend to cyclists. It says so on her Wikipedia page. Forget the fact that her Bike Program Director quit his job in disgust and she is suing the city to get rid of the bike lane on the street where she lives with her husband U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer.
  • See how much more modest and humorous I am than those Bike Lobby Jacobins?
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  1. Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:59 am | Permalink

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  2. Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Now a days people are turning more towards cycling.Bike lanes are necessary which make easier for bicycles and vehicles to share the road. Bike lanes also cut down on conflicts between cyclists and motorists, making streets safer for everyone and thus its motivates people for more cycling than using motorbikes and cars..

  3. Doug
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Correction, he has owned 7 cars since 1989, about one every three years.

  4. Peter
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    My favorite part is his description of his car as my current heap and an old Jaguar XJ6, which he needs because he has two young children who need ferrying hither and thither. I’m afraid that’s where I lost any sympathy I had left for him.

  5. Kate
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Brilliant! Perfect distillation. Thank you for making me laugh after I wanted to cry.

  6. Kate's buddy
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    I can’t wait for his “I was just joking…..” tweet. That would be so funny.

  7. Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    This is a brilliant, hilarious dissection of his article. Please forward it to the New Yorker. They need to publish it.

  8. Balzar
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone called him a moron yet? Its ok, I’ll do it.


  9. oboe
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    You forgot to mention “Bicyclists have a sense of entitlement that is implacable.”

    Ooops! The irony surge just blew out my keyboard controller.

  10. Noah
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    “Biking in New York City was more thrilling in the old days when cyclists were killed by taxis and other vehicles with greater frequency. Now cyclists seem to want it easy.”

    This made me chuckle.

  11. derek
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    What cassidy doesn’t understand is that it is NOT the bike lanes causing all the the traffic congestion but rather the existinece of all the shops and restaurants: if we got rid of them, there would be no congestion and he could park his car wherever he felt like. Same with all those apartment building in NYC: look at all that wasted space that could be used for parking lots. Let’s just tear them all down and viola, no parking problem: he could park anywhere he liked. What a moron he is!!

  12. Silence
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Oh those Bourgeois Bohemians.

    Too bad we can’t look them in an arena with all the tea party people.

    Two egotist groups devouring each other in a glorious feast.

    With both sides gone maybe this country could actually start running a logically based democracy.

    Heaven forbid society in the 21st century is egalitarian and based on common sense for the present world we live in.

  13. Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Pure genius.

    Blogged and shared on Facebook.

    Man does that guy come off as a smug, entitled prick! He’s like the George Will of Greenwich Village.

  14. Debussy Fields
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I had somefin trully brillz to type here while I was crossing the st but a bicycle yelled and now my txt is rooned! Arrest dat bike! And its ryder!

  15. jooltman
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Great summation. What I find most amusing is Cassidy’s unabashed entitlement issues around his car. Even the folks suing the City to remove the PPW bike lane know to cage their argument in aesthetic and procedural objections. Cassidy is like a babe in the woods, with his vehicular id flapping out for all to see.

  16. culprit
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Iris Weinshal Schumer was the WORST DOT commish EVER. didn’t do a damn thing. Nice patronage job, Chuck.

  17. Detroit
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    What’s so sad is that people like Mr. Cassidy have been utilizing this logic for a very, very long time and have done irreparable damage to our cities. How has this “economist” not learned from Robert Moses and others cramming expressways through vibrant neighborhoods?

    What is great is the reaction. So many blogs (from the Economist to NYtimes) have come out basically laughing at this “economist.”

    Cassidy, of course, simply chalks this up to bikers being snotty jerks.

    Great summary.

    -a non biker.

  18. Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    If only transportation funding were allocated according to the % of people commuting by mode. In NYC, 55% would go to public transportation, 10-12% would go to bike/ped, and 29% would go to cars & parking. For some reason, I don’t think this is currently the case.

    Data from:

  19. Steve
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    One note: blogs at the New Yorker are not fact-checked; the “vaunted fact-checking apparatus” only works on the print magazine, as far as I know.

  20. P F Gray
    Posted March 10, 2011 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    Everyone makes mistakes, and this is the biggest one I’ve seen in print from Cassidy. Great job with this site (6th item from the bottom is perfect), and comments on the original blog are outstanding. I’m a bicycle commuter (given reasonably decent weather and roads), but have a car, too. Plus I’m an economist, and up till now, a fan of Cassidy’s writing. He did a great job with How Markets Fail. But he deserves to be dragged over the coals on this one.

  21. Fred
    Posted March 10, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Nanny State, Nanny State!!! Where’s ones sense of adventure? Stop Government—anarchists unite. Let’s form a million factions and sort it out with blood in the streets. Quality of life—I’m a warrior—all I want is nicotine, trans fat, and a gas guzzling vibrator stuck in traffic. It’s the value of the commons—I win, you all pay. What’s John Stoss-hole’s opinion on this?

    p.s. can you develop the same kind of synopsis for the Federalist Papers? Please include the concepts of liberalism, egalitarianism, and plurality. Also, highlight their importance in our present society and in the formation of our country and its constitution, (or is this all a states right issue).

  22. Posted March 10, 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    re: Bicyclists and Humor

    Please see my piece in todyas; Ny Daily News. Wis hpeoollwoud lac tually read it til the end..

  23. Josh
    Posted March 10, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    I biked in the old days in NYC. In many ways it was a lot less dangerous. No SUVS, no cell phones, no tinted glass so you can see what drivers were actually doing in their vehicles — snorting cocaine, masturbating, eating their lunch, putting on make up, shaving, whatever — and thus know what to watch out for. So I’m pleased that we have this separation called “protected” bike lanes. It’s like two evolving species parting ways. At one time I recognized the drivers in the glaze of the window. No more. Nor do I trust their driving anymore, or feel the least bit consoled by their apologies of “I didn’t see her” after they kill you .

    So for my daughter’s sake and the lives of innocent young people who might be unfamiliar with the old days, but who are now confronted with a deadlier, faster, and more unpredictable enemy — I welcome what Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan has done.

    I really think, in a deeply disturbing visceral, primordial way, the anti-bike lane backlash is due to our interrupting of a killing frenzy that allows motorists to kill with impunity.