In March, 2014, I slipped a paragraph about New York City’s 21st Century renaissance into my Seattle Met feature story about our mayor’s new policy director.
At the beginning of his term, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray brought on a Mayor Michael Bloomberg expat as policy director.
Flabbergasted by NYC’s rebirth as a 21st Century city, I was expecting big things.
Back in the early 2000s, I got sad every time I flew in and out of NYC. Glancing out the airplane window at the skyline on my trips to NYC , I’d always get a poignant pang, thinking that—perhaps like Paris and the Eiffel Tower—NYC, once the magnetic center of the modern universe, was now stuck in another time. The Empire State Building looked so old.
But shit. Just a few years later, sometime during the Bloomberg administration, New York City suddenly changed from Edward Hopper’s Gotham to The Hunger Games’ Capitol.
Here’s what I wrote in the Seattle Met article:
Cities are now laboratories of a go-it-alone urbanism that weds traditional city functions—collecting garbage, fixing potholes, and keeping the lights on—with larger, traditionally federal issues such as economic equity, education, health care, transportation, and even climate change.
And New York, once stuck in the amber of its own defining black-and-white iconography of the past, has emerged after the Bloomberg years as an example of the new urbanism. Just 10 years ago, New York City seemed like a newsreel amalgam of Babe Ruth baseball games, 1930s skyscrapers, rattling subway cars, Duke Ellington nightclubs, and doo-wop street corners, enhanced with a slight Technicolor “update,” starring: Studio 54 jump suits, Sugar Hill Gang graffiti, and a Sex and the City dating scene. But now, the High Line has displaced the Empire State Building as the go-to attraction and a pedestrian mall has taken over Times Square. New York City is a green metropolis.
The stupefying transformation took place because Bloomberg did things his own way, building 350 miles of bike lanes with little regard for neighborhood opposition, making big hires without soliciting advice from the community, and even telling people they couldn’t drink soda.
And today, there’s this. A defining, 2017 future-city moment from NYC. Listen to these stats on bike commuting from today’s New York Times report titled “More New Yorkers Opting for Life in the Bike Lane“:
Today there are more than 450,000 daily bike trips in the city, up from 170,000 in 2005, an increase that has outpaced population and employment growth, according to city officials.
The bike-sharing system in New York has signed up 130,000 riders for annual memberships, up from nearly 100,000 last year.
“You’re turning Manhattan upside down and inside out to accommodate a handful of bicyclists and activists,” he said. “Ride your bikes, enjoy your life, but leave the rest of us alone.”
Polly Trottenberg, the city’s transportation commissioner, said that while her agency was sensitive to such concerns and had tried to minimize disruptions, expanding the biking infrastructure was vital to keeping pace with the soaring population. “We can’t continue to accommodate a lot of the growth with cars,” she said. “We need to turn to the most efficient modes, that is, transit, cycling and walking. Our street capacity is fixed.”
New York is part of a booming bike movement across the country, as cities recognize the importance of biking to their transportation systems, invest in bike infrastructure and improve the safety of bike routes, said Matthew J. Roe, a program director for the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
More than a hundred cities have created protected lanes that place buffers between bicycles and cars, like ones lined with self-watering planters in Seattle. In New York City, bike lanes have been created between curbs and parking spots — a model that has been widely copied elsewhere.
[I was excited about this too….
There were 46,057 commuters who primarily biked to work in 2015, or more than double the 16,468 in 2005.
On Hoyt Street, the bicycle crowd squeezes into a one-way bike lane that is nearly as wide as the car lane beside it. On a recent evening, 442 bikes — compared with 331 cars — passed by in one hour, more than three times the 141 bikes counted in the same hour in 2011, according to city data. Two years ago, cars still dominated.
Some nearby residents said they were glad to see so much more biking in the city, even though it has brought more congestion and noise to their doorsteps.
“Rush hour is bad here,” said Jim Kerby, 63, a real estate broker, who often rides a Citi Bike to work. “But it would be so much worse if the bikers were in cars.”