Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is the Metro Editor for WNYC News. She has previously served as Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Since we posted our article on Friday about an expected lawsuit over the bike lane on Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, I've gotten a lot of questions about WHY some residents of Prospect Park West are opposed to the bike lane.
Their argument: it causes automobile congestion, it changes the historic character of the boulevard, and it's confusing to pedestrians. It's a version of a sentiment that we've heard from opponents of bike lanes around the city -- in fact around the nation.
There's also the issue of the pace of change -- some 300 miles of bike lanes have been installed since 2007. There are few cities that have so rapidly redrawn their landscapes as New York City has.
But I also wonder if there isn't an element of the following: it can be disorienting to have our immediate physical environment disrupted. In the post-9/11 fog of the fall of 2001, this article from the New York Times made a lasting impression. Since our hunter-gather days, it suggested:
"Thinking about paths and landscapes was shifted mostly into the subconscious, leaving the rest of the brain free for the hard work of earning a living.
"People still think that way, according to psychologists. Each person makes his or her own little map of the world, with some places colored red for danger or excitement, others warmly tinted with hues of home and safety. That knowledge is then filed away in the back-office of the mind and off we go, commuting to our jobs, and doing lots of other familiar tasks as well, pretty much on autopilot."
Could the same phenomenon be at work with bike lane construction?
By the way, here's a somewhat easier to read version (than the version we posted over the weekend) of the legal letter sent to the city Department of Transportation by bike lane opponents sent in late December.
And, in case you missed it, the New York Post reported over the weekend that Senator Charles Schumer has been personally lobbying city council members on this.