Alright. All the hoopla over New York's new ranking as America's Best City for Cycling by Bicycling Magazine is giving me a hangover. The kind where you wake up, ask yourself "Did that really happen?", and then heave because you might vomit.
When I first read the headline about being crowned as No. 1, I was right up there with premature celebrations. Then, I quickly thought to myself...it must be a hoax because there wasn't any chance we could have beaten the popularly advertised "America's Bicycle Capital" - Portland, Oregon.
Bicycling Magazine appears to have ranked us based on contributions made during the past two years in building new bike lanes and establishing our widely utilized bike-share system, Citi Bike. The magazine's editor, Bill Strickland, has been quoted by CBS for stating that our city has "a commitment to keep making progress" and also "shown the way for urban areas to go forward."
In other words, New York is getting a shiny gold star for effort.
As much as I'd like to be completely content about NYC's recognition - I'm not. We all know New York loves to be #1 and awesome. But even with Bicycling Magazine's famous name, the list doesn't carry much weight. Mostly because it certainly doesn't feel like we're #1. Streets are not always in the best conditions, riders don't get respect, and the bike lanes are limited to only certain areas within the outer boroughs. Ideally, our bike infrastructure should not neglect or prejudice those not living in Manhattan, Western Queens, or Western Brooklyn. Biking is for everyone, so bike lanes should not be a privilege based on neighborhood. It needs to be citywide, thus extending deeper throughout the five boroughs.
Given the short amount of time, much deserved credit goes to the DOT and the many advocacy groups, such as Transportation Alternatives, for the city's progress on its bike-friendliness. They are, indeed, doing a fantastic job and I know it's only a matter of time until more victories. It's noticeable there are more riders taking the streets. We just need more. A lot more. The case may be, it's one of those "if you build it, they will come" scenarios.
Let's remind ourselves - New Yorkers will continue to be New Yorkers. This idea of a bicycle utopia doesn't necessarily fall into our city's image. As much as we're an inventive and cultural city, we are also stuck with old habits of being brash, ill-tempered, crossing the street whenever/wherever we want, running red lights, flipping the bird, cutting people off, and etc. Trying to match the same etiquette as our Dutch friends will be no easy feat.
You test 8.4 million New Yorkers on bikes in a paradise city like Utrecht, Netherlands during rush hour and imagine what would happen. Do you really think we'd be as organized as this? I say...let's try to be.
-Bike Your City