In Street Fights, chapter 8 Janette Sadik-Khan suggests that everyone loves to hate bicyclists. What are the key points that she makes in that chapter?
Sadik-Khan opens up the Chapter with a hearing on what should be the celebration of Brooklyn’s extension of bike lanes across the area. She explains, “The hearing and its testimony was a major battle in the fight for New York City’s streets and a challenge to an idea about what city streets are and who they are for.” This describes the purpose of the chapter, there is a tension between the population of bicyclists in NYC verses the population of non-bicyclists, or car drivers and pedestrians etc.
She explains argues for the side of bicyclists, stating that the reader could be forgiven for believing that there are way more important things to worry about than the fact that lanes are being built for bicyclists, God forbid. This leads to her sarcasm throughout the chapter, referring to bikers as “ridiculous” and as “Mad Max marauders.” She describes the bikers this way to provide a certain type of language to her readers and set up the facts and explain the irony involved in the ridiculous feud between cyclists and drivers.
She talks about the “War on Cars,” and explains that drivers think they are entitled to the road and think of bicyclists as the enemy. She then compares pedestrians and bicyclists, mentioning that a pedestrian is killed every two or three days in NYC, but bikers are still the ones under scrutiny. At this point, Sadik-Khan steers back to her main point that there is an extreme attack on bikers by both pedestrians and drivers. A point she makes is that pedestrians are just too aware of cars, but not aware enough of bikers. So why are pedestrians after bikers? She even says that a pedestrian killed by a bicyclist is rare, but a biker getting injured and killed by a vehicle doesn’t seem to get as much sympathy.
Instead of blaming bicyclists, Sadik-Khan suggests the blame should be on the infrastructure of the roads. This means that it is important to consider bike infrastructure programs that can update the streets for safer bike transportation, rather than focusing on vehicle transportation. She uses an example from the 1960s in Copenhagen, a time where there was a rise in traffic deaths that led to numerous bike lanes and bike parking facilities being built. Compared to other cities around the world, we are behind in building bike infrastructure. The author visited Copenhagen and decided to try to implement their biking strategy of having a bike lane in between the curb side and parked cars.
This supports Sadik-Khan’s idea that it’s time to be a part of the big plan to implement biking infrastructure, especially because of the success it has across the world along with the safety and cost benefits. The new design was placed in Chelsea, NY, and received controversy, by no surprise. After getting the city on board, the bike lane was developed in 2007. However, the bike war prevailed with one case in Manhattan’s Grand Street, similar to the design of Ninth Avenue in Chelsea. These people believed that drivers were given less space than before, and caused a huge outbreak in the community.
Sadik-Khan gets the message across that as long as there is a “war” between bicyclists, pedestrians and car drivers, there will always be a hill to climb when infrastructure is being built to support bicyclists. An example of this is a road called Prospect West, an area in Brooklyn that has issues with speeding cars. A solution to this problem could also help out the biking community, a growing population. This to-be two-way protected path gained an audience, specifically from a radio show host. The author shows the importance of the media and how it has a big affect on controversial issues. She believes that the whole world is against her, especially after a biker even attacked her on his show about something that could solve the problem of speeding. Not too long after, there were rumors of an increase in accidents that were a result of the newly built bike lanes, when statistically, there was a decrease.
In the end, Sadik-Khan makes her point is saying that bicyclists are people too. They are fighting for their own safety with their voice. It’s true that they made a big difference just by creating the infrastructure they did, one step closer to having the cities completely filled with bike lanes. Although they may be brought down, they will always be carried back up.