Letters

letters | headwind in the bicycle debate

Anti-cycling bias an old, sad story

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Joan Vennochi tries to seem even-handed in “Don’t mix bikes and politics” (op-ed, Dec. 26) but words such as “jaywalking pedestrians add to the chaos — and so do bikers” reveal her auto-centric bias. This is an old fight. Cyclists and wagon drivers battled it out in the 1880s and 1890s (wagon drivers thought they owned the roads). And the streets were crowded and chaotic then, too. The cyclists’ “Good Roads” campaign to improve the surface of roadways literally paved the way for the triumph of the car, and we have been paying the price ever since.

For a century, public policy enhanced the auto at the expense of every other mode of transportation. Think: the loss of ferries to Chelsea and East Boston, supplanted by bridges and tunnels for cars, off-limits to cyclists. Think: the imposition of bottlenecks on the Emerald Necklace, such as the Jamaicaway-Route 9 overpass. Think: bridle paths that could have gone to cyclists or pedestrians, but instead were paved over for car parking. Think: tax breaks and subsidies for autos and the infrastructures enabling them.

Only in the 1970s did cyclists begin to fight back, and the struggle continues. Of course this is not to excuse bad behavior or a sense of entitlement among motorists, pedestrians, or cyclists. Vennochi mentions the confrontation, captured on video, between the cyclist lawfully in the Commonwealth Avenue bike lane and the motorist crowding him. The video reveals not just the nasty (but only verbal) spat, it also reveals that the bike lane was not completely plowed, or adequately marked, adding to the potential for conflict and danger. Why not? More of the same bias? Where is Vennochi in all of this? And where will the new mayor be in recognizing what even-handedly sharing the road really means?

Lorenz Finison

Needham

Lorenz Finison is the author of “Boston’s Cycling Craze, 1880-1900: A Story of Race, Sport, and Society,” to be published in June.