Bike Politics Across the United States

By Jenee Malloy, Graduate Assistant, NYU Rudin Center for Transportation

As bicycle infrastructure expands across the country, local residents and politicians are heavily debating the presence of bikes in their cities. Bike politics come in many forms: politicians prevent new infrastructure. Local residents hold protests and create makeshift bike lanes to express their views on the matter. From lawsuits to neighborhood marches, both politicians and residents go to great lengths to declare their stance on bicycles in cities across the U.S. Here are some highlights of current local bike debates:


  • Following the death of a 4-year-old pedestrian, a bike lane was installed on 26th and 28th street as a traffic calming technique. Republican City Council candidate David Schorn marched down the new 26th street bike lane alongside protesters to express disapproval of the new infrastructure. City Council Member Lisa Bender, an advocate for safer streets, attended a bike lane party following the protest along with other cycling advocates. Schorn and Bender compete for the Ward 10 seat on the Minneapolis City Council in November.

New York City

  • At a September town hall meeting, Mayor Bill de Blasio faced backlash from both sides of the bike debate. The mayor sympathized with anti-bike attendees who felt the city’s policies encouraged dangerous cycling behavior. De Blasio agreed, commenting that as he continues to aim for a more bikeable city, traffic law violations have increased. However, cyclists argued that DOT street improvements only become priorities after tragedies. De Blasio disagreed, referencing the city’s work with Vision Zero and the expansion of Citi Bike.


  • Mayor Mike Duggan proposed a $125 million street revitalization plan, including wider sidewalks, landscaping and bike lanes. Duggan faces criticism from local residents who feel the city is prioritizing bikes over other community needs, like children lacking computer access. State Senator Coleman Young also criticized the mayor over recent road investment projects, claiming that Duggan’s efforts came too late in his term as Mayor. Young and Duggan compete for the mayoral position in the November 2017 election.


  • Mayor Catherine Pugh ordered the removal of the Potomac Street cycle track following pushback from residents concerned about emergency vehicle access to their streets. Plans to rip out the cycle track and start over were announced, causing advocacy group Bikemore to sue the city and halt demolition. Judge Althea M. Handy issued a restraining order to stop demolition, making the Potomac Street cycle track the first bike lane directly protected by legal action.


  • Local cycling advocates push for road improvements in Dallas to make streets safer for cyclists.The city spent three hours and $300 removing an unauthorized, makeshift bike lane installed by local activists. Data from North Central Texas Council of Governments show 4,000 accidents involving cyclists or pedestrians, with 281 fatalities in Dallas County between 2011 and 2105.


  • After a six-year debate and three weeks of construction, Philadelphia installed its first one-way parking-protected bike lane on West Chestnut Street in August. City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell received pushback from neighbors of the bike lane, prompting her to give the project 90 days before deciding whether to remove it. The time limit raised concern amongst project managers and supporters, who considered the new project to be a permanent one.

San Francisco

  • Bike advocates in California grew frustrated with a lack of protection from dangerous drivers on Valencia Street and decided to take matters into their own hands with a people-protected bike lane. City Hall took notice. Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Jeff Sheehy urged SFMTA to study protected bike lanes for Valencia. Supervisor Sheehy joined the second people protected bike lane protest in September, on Valencia at 18th, where a resident cyclist was hit earlier that month.


Photo by Flo Karr on Unsplash



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Minneapolis Politicians Attend Protest March Comparing Bikes to Nazis

Detroit Council Supports $125M Revitalization Plan

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Groups Make DIY Bike Lanes to Show US cities What Could Be

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Another Crash on Valencia