Monday, December 22, 2008

Yo Ho Ho

I'll be gone for while. Back in a few weeks. Keep biking!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kosciuszko Bridge Environmental Impact

A while back my wife heard that a bridge between Queens and Brooklyn was being redesigned without bike or pedestrian access. Harrumph! She did what any concerned citizen would do: she wrote an angry email. She told them!

Then, a few minutes later, she realized she was thinking about the Pulaski Bridge (on McGuinness Blvd) when in fact the bridge that they where talking about was the Kosciuszko (the BQE). Oops. Sorry, she wrote. Never mind. Wrong bridge.

Then, a few days ago, delivered by Fed Ex ground, comes a box filled with a very heavy and very thick "Final Design Report/Final Environmental Impact Statement/Final Section 4(f) Evaluation" from the New York State Department of Transportation.
Almost 10 pounds of environmental impact! Oh, the irony is rich.

We have no idea why this was sent to us. God knows how much for printing and putting together. Plus $6 for shipping. Couldn't they have given the money to the subway instead? Was somebody so happy that anybody cared at all that they put us on their government mailing list?

Was it to punish my wife, the email writer, for being uppity? Now we have to figure out what the hell to do with the damn thing.

It's filled with color pull out charts, and, well, statements of environmental impact. For instance: "Existing vegetation could be disturbed by construction activities within the footprint of the alternatives and at any staging areas. However, the species present are those adapted to urban environments and human disturbance, and those species are likely to recolonize areas after construction." Phew.

The good news is that all but one of the new proposals do have a bike and pedestrian path included. The bad news is that one doesn't.

So the options, and I didn't even know I cared, include:

1) do nothing (no bike path);

2) keep the existing bridge and add another on the west side (this is the bad one without a bike/pedestrian path!);

3) keep the existing bridge and add another bridge on the east side;

4) build two new bridges, one on each side of the existing bridge, tear down the existing one, build two new bridges in the footprint of the existing one, then tear down one of the first two that was built;

5) build two new bridges, one on each side of the existing bridge, tear down the existing one, and build one new bridges in the footprint of the existing one;

6) build two new bridges, both on the east side of the existing bridge, tear down the existing one, and build one new bridge in the footprint of the existing one.

Yes, most of those above options end up with more than one bridge. That is the plan. You still with me?

And here's a bit of trivia. I didn't learn this from this mass of printed material, but rather the excellent Newtown Creek Cruise sponsored by the worthyNewtown Creek Alliance. Why is the Kosciuszko Bridge over Newtown Creek (and also the F train over Gowanus) so damn high?

To let tall ships pass under, of course. Yes, tall ships. Like the kind with big masts and many sails. Pirate ships! Let's discover America ships!

Well it turns out that even in the 1950s, when they built this bridge, there were still a few tall ships out there. And bridges had to be built to keep waterways navigational. Boy, was that money not spent wisely. I wonder if a tall ship ever went up this creek after they built the Kosciuszko Bridge.

Anyway, anything new they build will have clearance of 88.5 feet instead of the current 124.5 feet.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

San Fran can paint bike lanes again

From Streestblog:
Two-and-a-half years after a judge issued an injunction preventing the city from adding any new bicycle infrastructure to its streets, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and the San Francisco Planning Department have released a 1353-page Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the San Francisco Bicycle Plan.

At a cost of more than $1 million, the city has attempted to demonstrate in excruciating detail what would seem to be obvious: better bicycle amenities contribute to increased cycling and an improved environment.
See what happened is some asshole stopped all bike progress in S.F. by demanding an environmental review.

Now I'm no friend of this idiot... but come on, admit it: there is something a little funny about we liberal bicyclists being stopped by a demand for an environmental review. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bring on the clowns

I can't think of a better use for clowning. To be honest, I can't really think of *any* other use for clowning.

As reported in the Gothamist.

So today the clowns came out "to comically draw attention to the serious danger faced by cyclists without safe, protected bike lanes." Blasting Fat Boy Slim from a boom box, they distributed information in English and Yiddish to educate bike lane opponents about the importance of the new lane, which will eventually become part of a separate bike path connecting North and South Brooklyn. In a press release, bike lane clown Benjamin Shepard declared, "An injury to one bike lane, is an injury to all bike lanes. Enforced, protected bike lanes save cyclists lives, improve the landscape and make better use of public space for most of the community."

Get a light!

I'm happy to write this before I have real reason to. I didn't get hit. Nobody is hurt. I thought of this while biking past the ghost bike at McGuiness Blvd and Kent St for Liz Byrne.

I biked to Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn and was thinking how nice it is, once you get out of Queens, that you can bike the whole way, more or less, in a bike lane. So many hipsters on bikes. And none of them had lights. Outside the bar I was going to a large man complimented me on the lights on my bike. He was serious.

Turned out he was a MTA bus driver. As a professional driver, he just wanted to be able to see bikes. He couldn't figure out why bikers dress in all black. (Hey it's New York. But he pleaded, "just wear something I can see!" He was also keen on bikes not passing on the right when he's pulling into a bus stop... But that seems reasonable enough.)

Look, I'm not your mother. And personally I don't give a damn if you use a light or wear a helmet. But it just strikes me as crazy to not have a light at night. Even just a little red blinky light does wonders. Maybe the more bikes people can't see the more careful some drivers will be, thus increasing my chance of survival.

I like Blackburn Mars 3 or Planet Bike's Blinky 7 for the rear (those little and seemingly more popular button-sized lights really aren't worth shit) and a Streamlight Stinger on the front (not cheap, but well worth it), held on with one of these things (they last about a year before the velcro gives out...).

The Stinger is what the man complimented me on. It's a common police flashlight. Just make sure you aim into into the ground so you're not a schmuck blinking people with your lights. Unlike a blinky light, the Stinger actually lights the ground in front of you, which really does come in handy. The light runs for just over an hour, which is good enough for the longest night ride. An extra battery in nice to have, though. Especially if you ride both ways in the dark.

Some people, can take this to a bit of an extreme. Yikes.

Live to bike another day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gilighan Qabista is the best cab driver in NYC

Gil Avineri, aka Gilighan Qabista, is my favorite cab driver. That's because of his comments to the previous post:
Whenever I make a turn in my taxi, I always have a body count in mind of how many bicyclists I saw as I drove down that block, before I slowed down for the turn. I wave them on if it's a left turn or just sit there patiently with a right turn signal. In my opinion, bicycles always deserve the right of way because it's much more of an exertion for them to re accelerate than it is for motorists or pedestrians. That's just to name one reason. And I can't stand it when I see another cab cut off a bike. I always chase them down and give them a lecture. They are, after all, my fellow yellow comrades.
He really won me over when he started taking about bicyclists' momentum. He keeps a nice blog about, well, driving a taxi. He's also starting a blog geared toward fellow taxi cab drivers.

He also provides a link to other cab blogs. Some of very interesting. Like cabs are kissing.

The Qabista describes himself as a: "nomadic collage journalist currently driving a taxi in new york city in order to help younger sister through college and also to collect a solid grasp on human consciousness."

I'm a bit too old (and I'm under 40) to be able to handle his his myspace page. But maybe the kids out there can dig it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Urban Repair Squad

Make your own bike lanes! URS Rocks. Here's the whole manual. Please apply to Astoria and NYC.

These guys also have a blog.

Meanwhile I'm turning on the giant bat-light-like bike-light on my roof to encourage more action like this. Save us, Urban Repair Squad. We need you!

Biking in the snow?

I love it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bicyclist-Assulting Cop Indicted

Five months after the video of the assault, charges against the police officer are coming. Here's the report from Cop in the Hood. And the Times.

A week without biking

Somehow I lost one of my gloves on a ride home one night. Wasn't I wearing them? How do you lose a glove on your hand? I don't know... maybe I wasn't wearing them. No matter, now I only have one.

I'm not one for shopping. And I don't really know where to buy a nice pair of black biking gloves (Craft large, to be precise. They were very good gloves.) So I ordered a pair online and only then realized that I would be a while before I got them. In fact, I still don't have them. And I can't really bike long distances in 30-degree-weather with one freezing hand.

So I did like a normal New Yorker and took the subway to and from work and around down.

Oh, the subway. I sure do like knowing it's there. But I don't normally take it that much because I like biking. Here's my critique:

Advantage Subway: You can read. That's really nice. It's tough to read on a bike. And page turning can be a bitch.

Advantage Bike: Time consistency. When I leave on a bike. I can pretty much tell you exactly when I'm going to arrive anywhere in NYC without about 100 seconds. Subway is plus or minus 10 minutes during the day and 20 minutes at night.

Advantage Subway: You get to look at a surprising number of cute girls

Advantage Bike: You get exercise.

Advantage Subway: You get to or have to walk more. It's nice to walk around New York. You don't walk much when you bike everywhere.

Advantage Bike: You get to bike more.

Advantage Subway: I even had one rare wonderful late-night trip on the G back from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. The N wasn't crossing the river because of some problem with a subway, a fox, a chicken, and a bushel of grain. There must have a been a full moon because the endangered G pulled up just as we entered the subway. And And it must have been a blue moon because the damn thing was running through to Continental Ave like it never does. Before you know it, we were at Steinway and a little walk from home. I've always said, be nice to the G train and the G train will be nice to you.

Advantage Bike: It's free... at least once you have one.

Winner? Biking. But mostly just because biking is fun. I'm almost always happy on my bike. My pleasure on the subway is entirely dependent on what I have to read. And if I never biked I assume I'd get very fat.

Today was warm. So I biked to Manhattan. And for tomorrow, my wife found my old, torn-up last pair of gloves I must have been saving just for a situation like this.

Oh, I also can't find my earmuffs, either.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Great bike carries

A truly great bike carry requires a bike or rack designed to carry truly great things. A comment just pointed me to this guy. I don't know him from Adam, but I hope he's nice. How could a guy making bike racks not be nice?

Plus he has great struts... always the weak link in any heavy carry.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Better Bike Rack

John Seckler designed a better bike rack but the world didn't come beating a path to his door. He submitted his bike rack to NYC but it didn't make the cut. That's a shame. It's really the perfect bike rack... simple and can be attached to existing things like subway stops and parking meters and street lights.

I'm not certain about the shade of green he uses, but I could live with it. It's a great design, simple and functional.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Great bike carries

First there was this great picture on Elyse Sewell's excellent blog (yes, there really is at least one model out there with looks and brains... and she just happens to like travel, food, and bikes. Oh, deary me).
Imagine the planning session that preceded this expedition. If you have access to a good mental cholo (I mean, if there's a cholo in your head who can perform the dialog, not a fleshly cholo who is "mental" in the British sense), ask him to read it to you. That's the accent I'm imagining.

"How're we gonna get all this shit back to the place?"

"We could load up your trike."

Then the discovery that the pedals could not be reached!

"We're gonna need more guys."

You can't even see that the guy on the blue electric bike behind the company is also pushing from the back!

In the comments, Stickgirl gives this picture:"It was even better when the pigs started squealing and I realized they were still alive."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008