By Angie Argabrite, Friday, January 27, 2012, at 9:01 am.
Biking: a boon to the environment or urban nuisance on wheels? It depends on whom you ask. Turns out that the growing number of bicyclists in cities around the world are subject to a bit of a backlash—call it a “backpedal.” And nowhere are the complaints more loudly heard than in New York City (natch). In the Big Apple, bikers have been called a “faddist minority” and an “entitled, imperial cabal.” (Come on, NYC anti-bicyclists, tell us what you really think.) But Manhattan isn’t the only city with cycling conflict. Among the carpers’ complaints are the two-wheelers’ sudden ubiquity, their threat to walkers, the cost and confusion of bike lanes—and their propensity to breeze through red lights. To be fair to riders, the anger may be partly inspired by the gentrification these cyclists seem to symbolize, as young, educated and active people infiltrate U.S. cities like Philadelphia, Boston, D.C. and Chicago—where cycling has soared in popularity in the past decade. London and Cambridge have seen serious boosts in cycle use as well; the Dutch now take 28 percent of their trips by bicycle; and in Australia, cycling’s popularity has grown every year for the past four. But reckless cyclists aren’t helping this group win popularity contests, either—more than 4,000 New Yorkers were hospitalized after being hit by a bike from 2007 to 2010, and a new U.K. report reveals that cyclist deaths are up 7 percent (though there’s no word on how many collisions were the cyclists’ fault). New York’s City Council Transportation Committee has announced tough new policies for cyclists—holding them to many of the same rules as car drivers. And recently Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn made a case for cutting public funding for bike paths, while House Majority Leader Eric Cantor proposed spending cuts for a bike-sharing program in D.C. Clearly, this calls for a marketing campaign to be rolled out—who’s got Ed Begley Jr. on speed dial?