News & Politics

Bike Lanes on City Streets Coming ‘Soon’: 1970


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
September 24, 1970, Vol. XV, No. 39

Cyclists in The City: Ride On!
By Clark Whelton

A thousand bicyclists left Central Park last Wednesday morning and headed down Fifth Avenue to demonstrate that New York would be a better city if more citizens pedaled to work. True to his political instincts, John Lindsay sprinted away to a flashy lead and then dropped out to fly to Washington. Clean air commissioner Jerome Kretchmer took the remnants of the procession down Broadway to Battery Park.

A few of the bikers were actually riding to work. Protected by a cordon of scooterized cops, they threaded their way through the early morning truck traffic and provided sidewalk cynics with something new to disbelieve in. Although the bike-to-work movement is a good idea, it’s not going to catch on easily in a city dedicated to doing things the hard way. One woman on a Raleigh said she’d ride to work more often if she had a place to leave her bike. I told her I took mine up on the elevator.

“You must work for a liberal company.”

“Who do you work for?” I asked.

“The city.”

In Battery Park the handful of remaining bikers waited for something to happen and then went home. As we rode uptown, Jerry Kretchmer said his administration was in favor of bike lanes in city streets and that something would be done about them soon. Another good idea, but what bikers really need in order to muscle their way into contention for a slice of city turf is a deadly reputation. If bicyclists could knock down a few pedestrians and send them to Bellevue with multiple fractures or cut off a bus and run it into a bridge abutment, we’d get some respect. But cyclists speak softly and carry a big lock. When Kretchmer stopped for a red light at Murray Street, a woman pedaled up behind him and began to chew him out for not keeping to the left and blocking automobile traffic. Kretchmer leveled his mustache at her and said: “Don’t be so moral.” He was only kidding, of course.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]


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