Thursday, August 18, 2011

City Paper article on cycling in the District

Sometimes a Bike is Just a Bike: On the symbolism—and politics—of bicycling in D.C. is a good article in the City Paper on stereotypes that have developed about cyclists in the District; "So how did this most egalitarian mode of transportation come to signify for so many D.C. residents a very specific caricature: the rich, white, gentrifying newcomer?"

It's a long article but worth reading. There are good quotes form Greg Billing of WABA, Andy Clarke of LAB, and David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington. From David:
But the idea that bike lanes are the exclusive domain of the city’s younger, whiter class is too simple a story. Like any stereotype, it has holes when you examine it closely; head out onto Beach Drive when it’s closed to cars on the weekends, for instance, and you won’t come back thinking the only people who are serious about bikes in the District are white. David Alpert, editor of the blog Greater Greater Washington, suggests the brouhaha was propped up by media outlets looking for a quick way to frame last year’s mayor’s race. “I think to some extent it became an easy shorthand for people writing about race relations and about divisions in D.C.,” he says.
Here's Greg on work being done by WABA in Anacostia:
WABA, in partnership with DDOT, has begun education outreach east of the Anacostia River to teach riding, repair, and rules of the road. The organization will hold a total of nine clinics in an area that’s home to some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods—neighborhoods that could stand to benefit the most from access to and knowledge of a cheaper mode of transportation. The clinics regularly see about 30 people, and the series wraps up next Sunday.

“It’s been very successful,” says Billing. “Most of the responses we’ve gotten have been, ‘Wow, thank you so much; this is a blessing. We want to bike to school; we want to bike to work. I couldn’t afford to do this without you here.’ It’s just been incredible, the support we’ve received.” Many areas, especially east of the river, don’t have easy access to bike shops, and the clinics help make cycling seem more within reach. “Taking a step back a little bit, the fact that bike lanes became such a heated issue during the election meant that it’s an actual issue now,” Billing says. “Before, bikes used to be a very fringe discussion.”
and from Andy:
“We’ve got to that point in those cities where we want to be proactive about people cycling and that public space is more valuable than giving you a parking space for perpetuity. I think that’s good,” Clarke says. “It’s uncomfortable to go through it, but it’s part of the evolution and process that shows communities are serious about increasing cycling....It will be uncomfortable for a little while, but people will be look back on that and say, ‘What were we so worked up about? How can I get bike lanes on my street?’”

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