Monday, October 11, 2010

Vincent Gray and DC bike lanes

What does presumed mayor-to-be Vincent Gray think about bike lanes?

At his first town hall meeting recently he was asked about transportation-related issues. According to the Greater Greater Washington website:

He said we need more bike lanes, but that they should be planned in concert with affected residents. The [pro-Gray] crowd hardly reacted to Gray's transportation plans, but it erupted in applause when he said that people shouldn't wake up to find parking spaces on their street replaced by a bike lane without prior knowledge. [full article here]

Hard to know what to make of this loaded comment. Will every bike lane require a community meeting? Does 'prior knowledge' mean notification, or community approval block-by-block? Are 'affected residents' just those who live along a proposed lane? How about those affected positively by using it? And I can't imagine bike lanes somehow replacing neighborhood parking, so I have to assume that was just an applause line, hitting what is obviously a raw nerve in people who feel ignored in the city's hard push for progressive changes. But if that's Gray's idea of a crowd-pleaser, I'm a little worried. Or maybe he only means the community will get some say in certain cases, like if their parking is to be infringed? (In that case, it would actually be a shrewdly finessed comment, pleasing his base with a scenario that would never rarely actually happen.)

Gray has also called the new bike lanes down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue "ludicrous".

On the other hand, this article gives some hope (amid mixed signals) that Gray will continue at least some of the new urbanism progress of his predecessor.

The jury is still out, but personally I really do want to give the guy a chance, and bike lanes are hardly the most important issue facing the city. But as it reflects his broader sensibility, all of this makes me (and plenty of others) a little nervous about losing momentum on the livable city front.

I've been hearing that Gray is a good guy - sensible, intelligent, and actually progressive in many ways (he's no Marion Barry to be sure). I have a hard time believing Gray wants to go backwards, or could even if he wanted to.

Probably he's decided that you can't (and shouldn't, in his view) continue the District's recent changes indefinitely if the majority population feels, rightly or wrongly, like 'progress' is being rammed down their throats.

Perhaps a more diplomatic, inclusive touch means you can get 90 percent of the same things done, but without the backlash. That's what I'm guessing, hope I'm right. That could be a good thing, everybody on board. Or it could mean slowdown-by-consensus in a city that - despite its world-class aspirations - still has provincial tendencies at times.

1 comment:

  1. Making a city bike friendly (and human friendly) requires leadership. My hero on this front is Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogota.
    He stood up for the humans on this one.