Is the anger in D.C. toward bicyclists misdirected? This weekâs Â Washington City Paper cover story explores the issue. Here are five points in the article that stand out:
Bike lanes are inaccurately characterized as a âwelcome mat â Â for rich, white gentrifiers. Yet some of the locals in Ward 3,which includes Tenleytown, dislike bike lanes as much as people Â in Ward 7, Fairlawn . So people of all races and classes can find common ground in their discomfort with bike lanes: âIf anti-bike-lane sentiment were really about race or class, itâs unlikely that a white guy from Ward 3 and a black guy from Ward 7 would sound nearly exactly the same when they talk about the topic.â Reporter Alex Baca suggests the feeling comes from old-timers who see the bike lanes as a symbol of change.
Bikes are seen as oppositional to cars. Cars symbolize powerful things like freedom and the âAmericanâ way. Bicyclists are then tarred with an extremely negative brush: âAnyone with access to a Bruce Springsteen album knows there are deep veins of American culture where four wheels signify freedom, adulthood, and maybe even America itself. Those who shun automobiles, by extension, shun all of those things. Like grown-ups playing kickball or attending Twitter-fed snowball fights, such a rejection of traditional adulthood seems like the realm of the privileged.â
Itâs the mediaâs fault. Quick, whatâs an easy way to encapsulate complicated social dynamics, change, race, class and everything else that might cause tension in a city? Bike lanes! âDavid Alpert, editor of the blog Greater Greater Washington, suggests the brouhaha was propped up by media outlets looking for a quick way to frame last yearâs mayorâs race. âI think to some extent it became an easy shorthand for people writing about race relations and about divisions in D.C.,â he says.â
D.C. is not special. People love to compare the District to New York City, which isnât rushing to embrace bike lanes, either. âLook at New York, where transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has been vilified in Park Slope (where brownstones sell for nearly $2 million) and Staten Island (a stronghold of the white ethnic middle class) alike for installing lanes.â
A key reason why some residents are against bike lanes has nothing to do with race or class: They simply werenât consulted first. A lack of outreach or communication from city government resulted in resentment: âBike lanes in D.C. seem to come with an extra emotional charge, a legacy of the way they were installedârapidly, and without much notice to or input from the people nearbyâunder Fenty and his transportation czar, Gabe Klein.â