Dear Dot: Why Aren’t Cities Embracing Bicycle Infrastructure?

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Dear Dot,

I’ve heard that bike transit could really help fight climate change but New York City sometimes feels very anti-bike (and dangerous!). Why aren’t cities embracing bicycle infrastructure?

–Kyle, Brooklyn

The short answer: While more cities are building cycling infrastructure (thanks Inflation Reduction Act!), there’s a lot more that needs to be done. We can help by getting involved in local cycling advocacy groups (Bike Mayors, People for Bikes, and others), and pushing our towns and cities to create safer routes for cyclists and pedestrians. Let’s not rest until cyclists are treated with the same consideration as motorists. 

Dear Kyle,

Ever since Dot first sat astride a red-and-silver two-wheeler, I have been hooked on biking. I have cycled through a number of bikes: my sparkly purple two-wheeler with high handlebars and a banana seat; my Raleigh Record 10-speed; my Fuji Team racing bike; and the mountain bike my husband gave me as a wedding gift (since stolen and replaced. Three times). 

I have cycled Northern Italy and the Dalmatian coast. I have navigated the streets of Nice, France; Toronto, Canada; Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts; and more. 

Up next for Dot? An e-bike!

This Dot loves cycling, and when cycling is used to replace fossil-fuel-powered transport, it can put a dent in the warming of our planet. It could also reduce the amount of pollution we breathe and the level of noise we are subjected to; plus it contributes to improved mental and physical health (and therefore reduced healthcare costs). 

With all this good, Kyle, you ask a fair question: Why aren’t our cities building more robust and safer infrastructure? 

Enter the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which Dot urges you all to read because — mother of pearl! — there’s some good stuff in there for those of us who want to install heat pumps, or buy an electric vehicle, or purchase new energy-efficient appliances. The IRA, according to the folks at People for Bikes, an advocacy group, includes an expanded 30C tax credit for businesses to install micromobility charging stations, specifically for two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles, such as electric bicycles, tricycles, and scooters. 

People for Bikes tells us there are also Neighborhood Access and Equity Grants, “a new $3 billion program intended to supplement the $1 billion Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program established by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).” Both programs are designed for communities divided by highways to create or expand infrastructure encouraging mobility — such as bike lanes, Kyle!  

None of this matters, of course, if companies and communities don’t take advantage of what’s offered. But, lots of communities — including New York City where you write from — are building better bike infrastructure. And that’s because of people like you and me, Kyle, who keep agitating for change. 

Want to see what’s happening around bike infrastructure in NYC and elsewhere? People for Bikes is on the case (again) with a map. Click on one of the little circles and see what’s underway, what’s planned, and what’s proposed. You can even see how your city stacks up against others in the U.S.

While Dot really wanted to speak with those on the ground (on wheels!), I didn’t hear back in time to respond to your letter. Perhaps all these cycling advocates are too busy pushing for policy.

But suffice to say, Kyle, while there will undoubtedly be parts of any city in which cycling infrastructure is sadly lacking, change is afoot (awheel?). 

We must not rest until each and every cyclist, from our youngest to least youngest, can safely navigate their routes on two wheels. This means ensuring that our local politicians hear from us and getting involved in local cycling advocacy groups. If your city has a bike mayor, get involved! If it doesn’t, well, what are you waiting for? Your people await your leadership.

One final thing, Kyle. While The Brown Bike Girl (aka Courtney), NYC’s unofficial bike mayor, wasn’t available to chat, her Instagram offers up a lot of great sustainable cycling tips. Most recently, she reminded all of us that while cycling might be the mode of transport for environmental heroes, cycling clothes are environmental villains. She urges us to repair our polyester (and microplastics-shedding) jerseys and shorts, repurpose as cold-weather layers those that can’t be fixed, and wash in cold water with your chosen method to capture microplastics.

Mayorly,

Dot

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