Thursday, December 22, 2005

Transit Strike 2005

Last day of the transit strike. It doesn’t really affect me too much, since I bike everywhere. But it’s kind of a pain when, say, you have to get your wife to the hospital. There wasn’t really any problem in Manhattan. There were plenty of cabs. But getting to and from the City was close to impossible, at least during the day, except by foot and bike.

There’s a kind of street-festival atmosphere crossing the bridges. I got to ride on the other (South) side of the Queensboro Bridge. A nice new view and there’s no ugly fence there (and they’ve just put up a nasty chain-link fence on the bike-path side for no good reason other than to ruin the view). It’s just annoying that pedestrians have no respect at all for the bike lane.

Bikes need so little space. And since we will get by, it would be better for everyone involved if people could say, just stay off two feet of the bike path.

Disaster relief.

Giving out hot chocolate.

It was nice of them to cone-off a bike lane coming off the Queensboro Bridge. This is one of the annoying parts of my normal bike ride home, because you’re forced to go against traffic for a short block. Even though the street is lightly traveled and there is plenty of room to say, cone-off a lane for bike.

Even more annoying there is a permanently closed lane they could use as a bike lane. Instead they block it off with Jersey Barriers (on the other side), keeping bikes out of a never-used lane and into oncoming traffic.

And then, quicker than I can say “Union” and you can say “Power,” they removed the cones so that the lane could revert to it’s normal function: space for illegally parked cars.

There are so many things the city could do to making biking better. Things that would cost nothing and have no downside. But they don’t. It’s very frustrating. The entrances around bridges are key, because every biker from an outer-borough has to use them.

The basic problem is the crappy Department of Transportation has the wrong prime directive: maximize number of cars on the road. Rather than say, trying to reduce the number of cars on the road. The fact that they still allow cars on the roads in the major parks, and it took them over a year to remove dangerous bumps on the Williamsburg Bridge bike path, doesn’t give me much hope or enthusiasm to fight City Hall.

It also doesn’t help that the good people at Transportation Alternatives are much more focused on Brooklyn to Manhattan access (I suppose because a lot of them live there). Don’t get me wrong, most things are getting better for bikes in New York City. It’s just a glacier’s pace. And there’s so much that could be done so easily.

But I took the South side, because it’s normally a (crazy) traffic lane. A new view.

South side path.

Sun over UN.

Roosevelt Island and Queens.

They also opened 5th Ave. to traffic today. Yesterday bikes and pedestrians had the whole street to ourselves. It was great. The right lane was for emergency vehicles.

Some cops shooed you off to battle with cars. Other didn’t care. There were no emergency vehicles. And if there were, I would have gotten out of the way. Bikes, unlike cars, can pull over and out of the way. It is not, or should not be: “same road, same rules.” Different vehicles, different rules. Rules that make sense for large and deadly multi-ton motorized vehicles, really don’t always make sense and shouldn’t be applied to bikes and pedestrians.

There was a long line for the just starting Q60 bus. A very long block-and-a-half line that went around the corner.

Some may wonder why Queens buses end at 2nd Avenue—where there are no transportation connection—when 3rd Avenue is so close, and there is a Lexington Avenue subway entrance there. Well, gentle reader, 50 years ago the Steinway Street Car ended here, at the 2nd Avenue Elevated. Never mind that neither exists anymore. The bus the replaced the streetcar still dumps people off where there used to be a El Train. And in 50 years, nobody has thought to reroute the bus to somewhere logical and convenient. It amazing how many buses still follow the routes of long-dead streetcars. Even when it no longer makes any sense. But you can’t fight City Hall.

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