Does Cycling Cause Gentrification?

For some reason, cycling seems to be a magnet for the absolutely dumbest ideas ever inflicted on humanity.

For some, cycling is super dangerous to non-cyclists despite the fact that we kill, at best (or at worst? because we don’t want to do this) non-cyclist a year. For others, cycling is the vanguard to a World GovernmentTM which will be run by the United Nations, an organization which the United States is a voluntary member and also a co-founder. Finally, some people believe that cycling is the chief cause of greenhouse gases, cause cyclists breath more–get it, which will put much, if not all, of humanity in peril.

Clearly, cycling is a force to be reconed with.

Now cyclist are being charge with yet another crime: gentrification.

First of all, what is gentrification:

“Gentrification is a shift in an urban community toward wealthier residents and/or businesses and increasing property values, sometimes at the expense of the poorer residents of the community.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentrification]

Why is gentrication bad? Rising rents causes people to have to flee from their community. This causes people to live further from where they work which means longer commutes. It breaks up communities which were often decades old which can reduce one’s social support network. In some cases, pricing people out of a community can cause them to have no place to live which results in homelessness.

Clearly gentrifcaiton is bad. However, I feel that this term is now being misused in order for someone to torpedo infrastructure products that they do not like. One of the reasons for this is because the term is used so selectively.

People who fear that make bicycle lanes as gentrification have two things mixed up. The first thing is the real problem of displaced people. The second fear is that of poor people having nice things.

If we say that we can’t allow poor people to have nice things because they will be taken advantage of, aren’t we depriving poor people of the very stepping stones that have kept more privilidged people out of poverty?

Thus, I have come up with some tests to determine whether an infrsatructure project is “gentrification.”

Gentrification is a change or amenity in a neighborhood which the poorest people can not use. Thus, when you build a new road or you widen a road or build a parking lot, you are gentrifying the neighborhood because the poorest person can not use these things.

Conversely when you put in a park, a new sidewalk, or a bicycle lane, these things are NOT gentrification because the poorest people will not only use them, but they will directly benefit by having access to excercise. Excercise leads to better health which will allows people to focus on bettering other parts of their lives. Thus, a bicycle lane isn’t increasing property values, but rather it’s allowing the existing residents a safe place to ride their bicycle.

But one might argue that bike lanes are found only in wealthier areas. While this is true now, this is changing. The number of bicycle lanes in the United States has exploded in the last decade. This means that ultimately there will be bicycle lanes everywhere, one day, just as there are paved roads in all the poorest of urban neighborhoods.

Asking to keep bicycle lanes out, in a neighborhood, to keep rent down is to ask residents to go without running water and electricity.

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