The bike lane controversy in New York City is puzzling to me. For those of you not familiar with the brouhaha, here is a quick summary: the city Transportation Commissioner is a huge proponent of bicycles as an alternative mode of transpiration. As such, she has pushed through the installation of bike lanes in Manhattan and Brooklyn, leaving behind a trail of vociferous unhappy New Yorkers. Some people are against them because they think they are ugly; others don’t like the reduced street parking, and yet others think they are not safe for pedestrians.
Proponents of the bike lanes argue that bicycles are environmentally friendly addition to our smog chocked streets and that bike lanes makes biking safer for everyone. The controversy has left the City government trying to convince people bike lanes are good for them (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/nyregion/30bike.html).
Sometimes I think people just like to argue. Regardless which side of the issue you are, I think it’s amazing that we can even have such a conversation. Ultimately, whether we have access to bikes and bike lanes really makes no difference: life will go on. We are blessed with a good public transportation system and we live in a rich country where car ownership is accessible and gas is relatively cheap. Ours is a lifestyle of multiple choices.
By contrast, for millions of people in developing countries having access to reliable transpiration can mean the difference between a life of abject poverty and the ability to earn one’s sustenance. For New Yorkers, bikes are a nice way to get around; maybe a cause or a lifestyle. But for someone in a town like Rivas, a bicycle is an absolute necessity.
There, bikes provide cheap and reliable transportation that doesn’t require paved roads or fuel. They are a simple, affordable solution to the complex problem of providing people mobility so that they can get to school or to work.
As we sit here in our corner of the developed world and argue whether bike lanes are aesthetically pleasing and whether the bicycle speed limit in Central Park should be enforced, many more people on this planet struggle to get their hands on a bike for their survival. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and reflect how lucky we are.