The Battle Over Bike Lanes Needs a Mindset Shift

Mom-and-pop shops are usually pretty quick at spotting situations that benefit their bottom line (which often has narrow, fragile profit margins). So why the blind spot here? Maybe it’s because horror stories get attention — and some Traders are scolded when bike lanes come into play.

I spoke to Cindy Hughes, a co-owner of Fast Phil’s hair salon in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She said business plummeted at least 40 percent when the city removed nearby parking lots to create a bike lane. The majority of her customers drive (she’s kept track), many are from nearby towns. Very few have switched to bicycling, and even those almost certainly won’t ride during Boston’s snowy winters. While Hughes supports bike lanes – “cyclists deserve to be safe” – she sees losing parking spaces as an existential risk. “Look, 90 percent of my customers drive,” she told me. “For our business, the bike lanes are much worse than Covid.”

For other the Pushback is cultural, says Henry Grabar, a writer for Slate whose book on parking, Paved Paradise, will be published in May next year. Grabar emphasizes that small business owners are often drivers who commute by car from other parts of the city. They are also often longtime locals. “They’re usually people who have deep roots in the city and have been hanging out here before the neighborhood became what it is today,” he adds. Driving around the city in a car is so normal for them that cycling seems strange and unusual – despite the Covid surge when bike sales skyrocketed by 75 per cent.

And there is a negativity bias. “People who are having trouble finding a parking space always talk about it,” Grabar notes. “But people who just walk in — or bike in — aren’t going to talk about it.” So shopkeepers will understandably feel that parking is a runaway problem, while the increase in pedestrians or cyclists may go unnoticed.

Psychology is trump! Who knew right? The snarling divide between shopkeepers and bike lane advocates appears to have been resolved with our larger culture wars over climate change. If we’ve learned anything about culture wars, it’s that data doesn’t do much to change opinions.

When Janette Sadik-Khan was New York City Department of Transportation chief in the early 2000s, she oversaw the installation of bike lanes — and received a backlash from residents and business owners, who angrily claimed there weren’t enough cyclists to support the installation of lanes to justify . Now, she wryly notes, the lanes are so busy that opponents claim the problem is the opposite: there are too many cyclists getting in the way of cars. As she puts it, “The status quo is a drug from hell.”

Maybe bike lanes will always be packed until finally enough of the publicity about climate change is in a real lather — and it seems ruthless Not got her.

After all, crises have the ability to open people’s eyes to opportunities. During Covid, restaurants and cafes lost so much business that cities across the country allowed them to build curbside seating areas where people could safely sit outside. It reduced parking significantly – but because, well, crisis, shopkeepers saw no way around it. Diners loved the outdoor seating so much, cities are making it permanent: A study in New York City of several streets closed during Covid found shopkeepers are earning more than before and diners are loving the outdoor lifestyle. If data doesn’t change minds, customers might. The Battle Over Bike Lanes Needs a Mindset Shift

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