By Peter Geoghegan : theguardian – excerpt
Hostility to cyclists and bike lanes often seems to be a proxy for wider anger at gentrification. But does this urban phenomenon really arrive on two wheels – or is new cycle infrastructure a sign the street has already transformed?
In 1996, San Francisco’s department of parking and traffic published a draft of what was to be the city’s first bicycle-specific transport plan. Almost immediately, cyclists in the city noticed something amiss: there were no bike lanes planned for Valencia Street, a popular route through the largely Latino Mission neighbourhood. Opposition to the plan grew so intense that the following year, a crackdown against pro-cycling protesters ended in a riot.
Two decades on, Valencia Street is one of San Francisco’s more desirable addresses. Luxury apartments and fashionable bare-brick cafes sit cheek by jowl with colourful political murals and tiny bodegas.
And Valencia is now a cycling hub too. Indeed, the street became the first in the city to replace car lanes with bicycle paths.
Rightly or wrongly, gentrification is often seen as a process that arrives on two wheels. From Red Hook in Brooklyn to London Fields, fixed-gear bike-wielding young professionals have flocked to former industrial lots and waterfronts.
But does cycling really contribute to gentrification? John Stehlin, a geographer at the University of California, Berkeley who has studied San Francisco’s cycling politics, says the relationship is complex. “Cycling feeds into wider urban changes, including gentrification, but it does not cause gentrification. A bicycle lane gets put on a street that is already undergoing change.”…(more)
Forcing change on a society that objects to that change is the gentrifying element. Leave people alone to make their own decisions and they will do the right thing. Force people to change in a manner they object to and at a pace they do not like and you will have a fight on your hands.