15 November 2013

The Invasion Of The Parking Snatchers

I don't read the Washington Times very often.  On the few occasions in which I've done so, it seemed like the New York Post transplanted to the banks of the Potomac.

I've spent enough time in organizations and involved in movements to know that sometimes their most ardent supporters can be their worst enemies.  I've seen too many single-minded activists and pure-and-simple zealots alienate people who could have just as easily been their allies.  

It's almost surreal to see both what I described in the previous two paragraphs come together, as it did in a piece published yesterday.

The WT article was entitled "Residential Parking Sacrificed to Bicycle Lanes: Bike 'Wars'?".  Those of us who live in communities with bike lanes and share programs have heard or read some variation on it by now:  It's like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with those alien cyclists and their strange vehicles "taking over" residential and business areas and wresting parking spaces from innocent, bewildered home and business owners.

I almost didn't read the WT article.  I'm glad for whatever influenced me to venture beyond the title and through the first three-quarters or so of the article.  Up to that point, I could have substituted the name of any number of New York City neighborhoods for Alexandria and the story would have been, essentially,the same as the ones we see in the Post (New York, not Washington).

I knew something was up, though, when after quoting someone who whined that cyclists "take over," the author of the article wrote, "Another common argument against cyclists and bicycle commuters is that they make up less than two percent of the American population."

Now, I know we're powerful and persistent (and, I daresay, smart), but I don't recall many examples of two percent of the population taking over the other 98 percent.  I also don't recall any group that's insignificant enough to dismiss yet powerful enough to "take over".  

Oh, but it gets even better.  A few sentences later, the author tells is that, on a given day, the number of cyclists who use a certain street exceeds the number of drivers who park in the spaces that would be eliminated for a planned bike lane.  In other words, those spaces are empty more than they're not.  And, as one study pointed out, the majority of the vehicles in those spaces are those of visitors, or they're service vehicles.

Hmm... Maybe if the anti-bike folks continue to make such fallacious arguments, we won't need to be so ardent or strident.  

That said, as I've mentioned in other posts, I'm not 100 percent for more bike lanes. I'm not against them; I just don't think they alone (or in conjunction with bike-share program) will make a community friendlier or safer for cyclists.  I still think it's far more important to have drivers--whether of personal vehicles, city buses or long-haul trucks--who also ride bikes, even if only on occasion. Especially such drivers who are also planners and policy-makers.

As for the WT article I mentioned:  I never would let my students get away with the lapses in logic I found in it.

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