Looking on the Bright Side
December 22nd, 2005

As the transit strike enters its third day, the New York Sun has commissioned a team of writers to find its silver lining:

Russell Berman talks to bike shops and advocates, and finds that the strike has led to a biker boom. Sales have spiked, and bike riding is up 500 percent, according to Transportation Alternatives. Yesterday, the Brooklyn Bridge had eight times as many bike riders as it normally sees this time of year.

All this exercise, writes Jeff Stier of the American Council on Science and Health, is doing New Yorkers well. “The point should not be lost: It’s not a bad idea to squeeze some heart-healthy activity into a harried day instead of just swiping a Metro-Card before and after work,” writes Stier, who walked to work Tuesday, rollerbladed on Wednesday, and is considering biking if the strike continues.

Harris Silver of pedestrian advocacy group Citystreets writes that the traffic restrictions have been successful — and that they should be continued in some form after the strike ends:

“Because this strike is teaching us that we are dependent on mass transit, not cars, to travel in and around Gotham, we now have the freedom to rethink our outmoded policies of giving every inch of public space for the exclusive use of private automobiles,” he writes.

Silver would like to see the city continue requiring carpooling to get into Manhattan, while helping establish ride sharing programs. Fifth Avenue can’t be kept closed forever, he writes, but the city should consider closing off one lane on each avenue for emergency vehicles, and then letting bikers and rollerbladers use it as a way to commute without battling automobile traffic.

Pushing such reforms, he believes, “could very well be the legacy opportunity that the Bloomberg administration is searching for.”

By on December 22, 2005, 10:11 am
In category: Transportation | 3 Comments »

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3 Responses to “Looking on the Bright Side”

  1. Adam Piontek Says:
    December 22nd, 2005 at 11:02 am

    I am not a member of TransAlt or Citystreets or any similar organization, nor do I own a bike, but this strike has opened my eyes. It seems within reach that we could have streets that encourage bicycling more. I would buy one – the main reason I don’t own one is I can’t use it for the daily commute, so it’s value is greatly diminished.

    However, two things stick in my mind when I read things like this:

    1) Although we do need more bike lanes, because the existing lanes and greenpath system are not enough for increased levels of bikers, we need to couple this with sufficient places for cycling commuters to park their bikes during the work day. That’s the real sticking point for me. I could use the greenways down the east side, but once I get to work downtown there’s nowhere good to put a bike all day. And the same goes for parking at home – most people have no room for a bike in their apartment, and there aren’t sufficient places to chain them up outside.

    2) For requiring carpooling in the city – as a resident, I’d love it – but what about tourists? A lot of city drivers aren’t just suburbinte workers, they’re tourists that many businesses rely on. Will they be required to park outside of Manhattan and take sightseeing tour buses into it? What’s the proposal for dealing with tourists?

  2. harris silver Says:
    December 27th, 2005 at 2:02 am

    As the writer of the oped I wanted to respond to Adam’s good comments.

    I agree with the adam that bicycle parking both at point of desitnation and origin is problem. I do think this is a solvable problem. One simple solutions would be for every garage in the city could to be required to designate 2 car spaces for bikes. This would hold approx 20 bikes. Rates could be set low by the city to encourage non motorized use. There are other possible solutions but this is the type of simple policy solutions that can help solve this.

    That said the more important problem to solve is to create a safe riding infrastructure for human and electric powered light modes. And this can be done by designating an emergency lane on all avenues that can be used by bikes, rollerblades, segways when not being used by emergency vehicles, which is most of the time. This is what I suggest in my column.

    I think my bigger insight with carpooling that adam may have missed was the suggestion to combine a hov requirement with modern communication devices and develop a dynamic ride sharing program. So people traveling by car can easily find each other. This is an offshoot of what me and Dan Sturges proposed as part of the Citystreets redesign of the New York City Taxi.

    harris silver

  3. Ero Says:
    December 27th, 2005 at 1:31 pm

    I bike to work during better weather pretty regularly, and I love it. I think that the main obstacle for most people is the traffic problem; it’s just very dangerous to bike in NYC, for the same reasons it’s dangerous to walk here. These conditions can & should be improved.

    Personally, I’d love to see very strict regulation of noncommercial traffic in lower Manhattan.

    Tourists don’t (and for God’s sake shouldn’t!) drive in Manhattan; they take cabs. The adventurous ones take the subways or walk. As a city, if we want to attract visitors, what better way than to make a pedestrian-friendly, beautiful metropolis?

    Let’s face it: cars don’t belong in Manhattan. If we want a city for the 21st century, we’d better deal with that fact soon. The infrastructure investments we make in roads have to be redirected at least in part to public transit and bike & pedestrian paths. Private car travel in NYC simply has no future.

    More bike lanes, more bike parking, congestion pricing (which is working well in other major cities), and what we’ll get for the investment is a lovelier, quieter, less polluted town, and a healthier populace. Wouldn’t that be better than a dozen stadiums?

    Just my opinion. I hope a lot of people had fun biking to work, and keep doing it once spring rolls around. In the meantime, everyone call 311 and ask for better bike lanes!

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