The official launch of New York CIty’s bike share program is approaching quickly and, as expected, opponents are becoming more and more vocal about all the problems that might occur. The New York Times reports, “Bike share was easy for New York City to love in the abstract…But with the program two weeks away, many New Yorkers have turned against bike share.” In the case of the bike share, New Yorkers are aggravated for a host of reasons including, though not limited to, the fact that the bike share stands are not exactly what you’d call aesthetically pleasing. And while it’s true that these bike stands are obtrusive and have quickly become a popular places for dogs to pee, it is also true (an incontrovertible fact, really) that people hate change. Even though New York might have a reputation as a city that is constantly evolving, New Yorkers are no more predisposed to adapting new things at a more rapid rate than people in other places are.
In fact, New Yorkers might even be less inclined to adapt significant changes. I mean, I still complain constantly about the fact that the traffic signals have a man and a hand instead of the WALK/DON’T WALK of my childhood. But I digress! My feelings on the bike share are of the wait-and-see variety. Am I a little skeptical that New York can handle hundreds of cycling day-trippers on clunky bikes that weigh as much as a golf cart riding all over the city? Sure. But I’ve also seen how efficiently the program works in Paris of all places, and I have to say, that if Paris can do this, so can we. And, frankly, Paris is an infinitely more beautiful city than New York, so we don’t really have the grounds to complain about the aesthetic blight of the bike share, not if Parisians can deal with it. And anyway, there have been many instances in New York City’s history when a big public works project was announced, only to encounter widespread opposition. Here are five times in our city’s history when a project moved forward without an overwhelming amount of public approval, and ended up changing New York—for better or for worse.