With the end of an era looming, New York will soon be asked to decide who can fill the very large shoes of Mike Bloomberg.
By most accounts, the Mayor has done a great job moving New York on towards whatever big cities of the future will look like. And no changes have been more dramatic than the embrace of cycling.
Unlike previous eras of change in New York, where humans had to get out of the way for the magical new future world of automobiles (wheeeee!), the Bloomberg zeitgeist has tilted the other way. Inch by inch, the urban wilderness of Manhattan and the other boroughs has being reclaimed for human-powered travel on foot or bike.
Saturday morning, in Summer Streets, New York’s version of Portland’s Sunday Parkways, Park Avenue was closed to cars from the Brooklyn Bridge all the way up to 72nd Street. With a connecting link to Central Park, a full 15 mile car free loop came alive for the day. It was inspiring to look down miles of urban avenue and see nothing but thousands of humans on the move. Maybe this is what the future looks like.
Of course, day to day, major New York arteries are still optimized for cars. But it’s not a stretch to imagine continuing big changes ahead with strong leadership. If you had told New Yorkers back in 2002 what the bike infrastructure in New York would look like today, no one would have believed you. So what if today we imagine a New York in 2020 where half of major arteries like Madison, Broadway, 7th Avenue etc. are turned over to bikes? This type of change could happen very quickly, and New York would shoot to the top of world bike cities just as fast.
Along with infrastructure, the launch of New York’s bike sharing program has been another key step. Today, New Yorkers of all types (and loads of tourists) can be seen all over town on the sturdy blue cruisers – most without helmets. This is a good sign and a hint of the mass adoption of bikes that could happen here once the cars are restricted to their own gridlocked thoroughfares.
You don’t think of Mayor Bloomberg as a fitness enthusiast himself, but he has done a lot to make the New York of the future a healthier, safer place.