Saturday, March 25, 2006

Central Park by Any Means Necessary

I could take back Central Park in one month.

The problem is that there’s a 6-mile loop-road around the park… But cars zoom around it. It’s finally closed to cars a lot of the time. But not say, from 3 to 7 pm. As a result, I bike around Central Park a lot less than I would like to.

The Central Park loop is one of only two places (the other being Prospect Park, which is a little closer to being car free) in the whole damn city that you can bike fast and without stopping. Is it really too much to ask for one place to bike without cars? And with cars in the park, there’s no legal way to bike straight through park in both directions (like east on 72nd St or west on the south side). Is it really too much to ask for to have a bike path through Central Park?

A car free Central Park is one of Transportation Alternatives’ big projects. Good for them. I support Transportation Alternatives. I send them some money. I read their newsletter. I went to one of their rallies to get cars out of the park. (But only because I thought Jane Jacobs was going to be there and say something. Turns out they just played some video greeting from her, the bastards.)

My wife and I even got the urge to bike to their office one time to have them take our picture for their calendar (we didn’t even make Mr. and Mrs. December).

I wish Transportation Alternatives all the luck in the world. They do make NYC a better place for biking and I’m sure that without them, a bike path never would have been built on the Queensboro bridge.

That being said, what a bunch of pansy-assed work-within-the-system pussies they are. There’s nothing wrong with a biker not wearing a helmet (they wouldn’t take our picture without one—the gave her that helmet to hold for the picture!). There’s nothing wrong with bikes (or pedestrians) running red lights. In fact, crossing against the light keeps the world safe from fascism. If it weren’t for cars, we wouldn’t have traffic lights. A bike won’t kill you if it hits you.

And how dumb of somebody at Transportation Alternatives to tell people during the transit strike to walk their bikes over the bridges. The proper answer was to tell pedestrians to stay off 2 feet of the bike path. Since bikes are going to get through, it would have been in everybody’s best interest to let them through in an organized fashion. Yeah, the bridges were crowded, all the more reason to show people how great it is to bike across the bridge. Bikes were the solution, not the problem. The problem was bikes having to zoom around pedestrians.

So what’s this got to do with Central Park? They’ve been working for years to get cars out of Central Park. It should be a no-brainer. But then getting rid of the lethal bumps on the Williamsburg Bridge was even more of a no-brainer and that took a year or two.

The basic problem is that New York’s Transportation Department has the wrong prime directive. Their goal should be to minimize vehicles on the street. Or maximize number of person trips (can you say “bus lanes”? To them, 3 SUVs moving is better than one full bus). Or to balance the needs of pedestrians and vehicles. Or to minimize deaths caused by cars. But no, the goal of the Transportation Department is to maximize the number of vehicles moving on city streets. Not as a means to anything productive. Just as an end in itself. Their mission in life is to increase traffic flow. Great. And if that means figuring out how to squeeze more cars in Central Park, so be it.

So now Transportation Alternatives has gathered 100,00 signatures and holds rallies and blah-de-blah-blah. But people don’t give a shit. I wish them luck. Keep up the good fight. Eventually they’ll probably succeed. Great. But I don’t have the patience for that.

Here’s how to get cars out of Central Park by the end of April: civil disobedience.

I have two plans. Either will work.

1) You and 20 of your bad-assed biker friends block of the entrance at 6th Ave at the start of the evening rush. Call the media first. You’ll get more press than Transportation Alternative has in years.

2) You and 20 of your not-so-bad-assed friends go for a bike ride. Hell, take your tall bikes. Fixed gears are great. Granny bikes? Love ’em! And then ride around the park during the evening rush hour. All you have to do is ride side-by-side, slowly, and not let cars pass. Best to bring a few little kids so somebody doesn’t run you all over. And you need a few signs so people know it’s a demonstration and not just a bunch of assholes on two wheels.

Somebody still probably has to get arrested. This really would be “parading without a permit.” But it’ll be great: you’ll be arrested for biking in the park! Repeat every day till cars are banned. Two weeks at the most. All the while people will buy you drinks and you’ll probably even get laid.

The news will love the story. The public doesn’t support cars in Central Park. They just don’t care. But once it becomes a issue, then the Mayor will make it so. Picture Bloomberg at a news conference whining, “Pee-ple, the park isn’t a highway! You got to understand, people want the park to play in. It’s got to be a safe for children. Cars don’t belong in Central Park.”

That’s all it would take. Do it.

Why don’t I do it? Well, I don’t have 20 friends. But if you do, you can be a hero. Just let me know. Maybe I’ll even lead the charge. The park is ours. By any means necessary.


jim nachlin said...

Alright, there are a couple small problems. And I'm with you on ambivalence about TA. Fuck wearing a helmet (though I do when I ride in the park, but not commuting) and fuck not running red lights. I got a ticket for running a light a month ago. Not five minutes later, I was running lights.

But about Central Park - one thing is, you don't want to block cars by riding slowly. That's exactly what they say you're doing now. Better to organize some rides and just take the lane. What's the difference? It's subtle.

You're supposed to ride in the bike lane when it's unobstructed. The CP one's never unobstruted. It's a jogging lane. So you have a right to use the "car" lane, or whatever you want to call the other lanes. So just get enough people to use it that you have safety in numbers.

As for blocking the entrance, same problem as riding slowly. Critical Mass shos that you can but heads with the police for a lot longer than seems sane or reasonable. You'll just attract a bunch of hardheaded protester types and hardheaded cops.

Was that coherent? I just drank a lot of coffee.

Fotaq said...

You’re right about reclaiming that lane, but that will only work as long as there are bikes in the lane. You need confrontation to keep cars permanently out of that lane.

I actually send a letter once to the all the Proper Authorities proposing the sensible compromise of restricting cars to just one lane. That would be a huge improvement. And slow down cars as well.

Sometime I want to get mad a joggers for taking the bike lane. But I then I have to remind myself, joggers aren’t the enemy. Cars are.

And the Central Park critical mass would have one huge advantage over blocking traffic in the streets: we’d be biking in the park.

And don’t forget there’s a 15mph speed limit for biking in the park. So you could get a ticket for that, too.

Anonymous said...

You wear a helmet in the park and not commuting? I do the opposite. As for red lights, I was ticketed a year and a half ago for going through three red lights in a row. Nothing would have happened had I not had my kid in a child seat. The female cop literally read me the riot act and threatened to arrest me for endangering the welfare of a child. The fact that there was no traffic at all at the time wasn't relevant. I lost the case and had to fork over $600. It was not pretty. I've since stopped running red lights with kids in tow. Alone, however, no problemo.
As for cars and the city, it's a cash cow. Between tolls, tickets and parking, it's millions each month. On the other hand, I often think that cars have only dominated NYC for a small portion of its history.

Fotaq said...

The city doesn't make any many from tolls. Only the state-run bridges and tunnels have tolls. And, in a fit of unrepentant hypocrisy, the state bastards won't let the city do the same.

But yes, the city does make a lot of money from tickets. But is it a net gain? I doubt it after you factor in all the money spent on roads, maintenance, police, and subsidized public parking (meters aren’t market rate). It’s not like road pay for themselves.