Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jacksonville Then and Now

This time from Jacksonville, Florida. It looks like the Hamrock Hotel is a pretty upscale place, with all them nice new Ford motorcars out front!


The only old building left is vacant, abandoned, and falling apart. And as usual, business and buildings have been replaced with parking lots and vacant lots. There's one big new building. But no reason to be on the city street anymore. Just four lanes of traffic to drive by quickly and lots of parking. One-hundred years of American progress.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow Tires

Make snow tires with zip-ties? I haven't tried this, but it's not a bad idea, cheap and easy to remove.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Change is Bad

I like then-and-now shots of life in America.

This one of downtown Poughkeepsie, NY, isn't as dramatic or depressing a change as was Newburgh, but is it really to much to ask for things to be better today than they were 99 years ago? Apparently, when it comes to our downtowns, the answer is yes.
Then:
Now:
Then there were businesses and streetcars and pretty brick streets with wide sidewalks (and people using them). Then they narrowed the sidewalk, removed the nice street lights, paved over the bricks and streetcar tracks, and replaced handsome buildings with ugly buildings. Now the street is wide and smooth enough to accommodate parked cars, parked right in front of vacant store fronts.

My point isn't that change is bad (though it often is), but that we can choose how we want our cities to look and live. And a lot of bad choices have been made. All in the name of "progress."

The old picture is nice enough that it's worth going to the Shorpy website to see the full-sized image.

Friday, December 17, 2010

10 reasons why you shouldn't drive

Because it's not ethical. Don't take my word. Take the word of bicyclist Randy Cohen, the New York Times's Ethicist. After you click through, you're looking for The Ethicist from 12/17/10.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

New Yorkers For Urban Cars, United

New Yorkers For Urban Cars, United!

"Moses was Right!"


NY FUC-U knows that New York's car-hating bike-loving liberals are destroying our freedom and way of life. This war on real New Yorkers must stop. Yesterday they closed Broadway; today they want bike lanes; tomorrow they want your car! And the worst part is they won't even drive it. They goofballs will probably just decorate it and turn it into some goddamned pocket park!

I, a fat stooge in a suit, have had enough! I am tired of liberals and poor people (would they be poor if they weren't liberal? Ask yourself that!) who are too stupid to buy a car like normal people do.

It's not enough to stop their so-called progress. No we must think bigger to develop the kind of city we must one: one where cars rule, pedestrians wait at red lights, and parking is free for everybody!

Certainly we need more room for cars. This is especially important today, as cars are much bigger than they were when the city was build in 1776:

1) Let us put the road back in Washington Square Park. Moses was right. The traffic has nowhere to go! This impertinent housewife inspired "experiment" in closing a park to cars has seen more than 50 years of failure. Clearly NY FUC-U are correct in demanding car access returns to Washington Square Park.

2) NY FUC-U wants to see the elimination of bike lanes. This would result in an additional 3 feet of space in existing lanes for unexpected serving. We could save lives by designing our road so drivers can text and drink coffee. Think of the children. Where bike lanes cannot be eliminated, the lanes should be merged with bus lanes and privatized.

3) Bikes should be required to bike in the opposite direction of traffic. This way bikes going the wrong way would be less troublesome.

4) Reopen Broadway to cars. While it would be best to do this without telling the people enjoying this public space, some street furniture should be removed to avoid damaging paint jobs. What is the point of so-called "public" space if cars can't drive through it? If we don't reopen Broadway, we send a message to all New Yorkers than life is possible without cars filling every bit of public space. It is a slippery slope, indeed!

5) Restart the Lower Manhattan Expressway with money being wasted on the 2nd Avenue Subway. This plan, still vital to the success of New York City, would put a beautiful 10-lane expressway through Greenwich Village, SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown and the Lower East Side. Cars need to get from the Holland Tunnel to the Manhattan Bridge.

6) A redesigned Central Park. NY FUC-U wants to see the most efficient mixed use Central Park. Ever wonder why so many poor people live north of the park? Because the money can't get to them. Clearly cars also need to go through Central Park faster. To achieve this goal, NY FUC-U demands consideration of our plan to extend Sixth and Seventh Avenue from 59th Street to Harlem, perhaps with pedestrian overpasses. (See pic on right of the new "People's Park®") Queens Blvd, which is too perfect to change, would serve as a perfect roll model for North Sixth and Seventh Avenues.

7) Everyone agrees the biggest problem of Central Park, except for bicycles, is that it's too wide. The most valuable real estate in the city is not on the tax rolls. The park could be even more "green" with a nice field of grass between 6th and 7th Avenues? How much damn grass do you need? Probably less if you weren't smoking it all the time.

8) You can't stop progress. We already have the space, we're just not using it! Central Park should be developed by big-box stores. Minor public subsidies could pay for needed infrastructure improvement, such as free parking.

Not only is there plenty of room for parking, but this is a way to bring real minimum-wage retail jobs back into the city. Currently poor people have to drive to North Bergen, New Jersey for the best bargains at New York's nearest Walmart. Central Park is a much more convenient. NY FUC-U recognizes the class issues inherent in redeveloping Central Park. Poor people need to shop for the cheapest possible goods at all times. Rich people and hipsters enjoy the park because they have the money to spend time doing nothing.


Get a job, you bums!

It is time for the rich to give something to the poor. And nobody says giving like Walmart.

God Bless and Merry Christmas,
New Yorkers For Urban Cars, United

p.s. Of course we have a facebook page. Won't you "like"?

New Yorkers for Urban Cars, United!

Tired of being in inconsequential third-rate blogger, I have decided to switch sides and through my lot in with the winning team: those wise people who understand how essential cars, fast streets, and parking is to enjoyable urban life. I hereby announce the creation of my own shadowy organization (I vehemently deny all rumors about the Saudi origins of our endowment. What slander!).

Bikelane Backlash

A friend of mine writes:
What do you make of the city council bike lane hearings with DOT? I find it deeply disheartening that facts hold no sway. Some bonhead council member can say to Janette: you never consulted the community, and she'll patiently give the dates of all the times she did consult the community, and the council member will simply repeat his ludicrous assertion, unswayed by fact. I'm reconsidering this whole democracy thing.
Generally, I stick my fingers in my ears and go "laa laaaa laaa laaaa laaaa" until it goes away. It reminds me of Republicans. Simply ignore the facts and keep repeating what you want people to believe. Eventually, many of them will.

My other thoughts are:

1) We got a few very good years out of Janette Sadik-Khan. Honestly, that might be all we get for the next decade. But the city is still better off for it (once the Queensplaza bike path is finished and we can keep that gate on the Manhattan side open, I'll be content for a while).

2) Democracy does not bring bike lanes. Benevolent dictators do. It is why I love Bloomberg.

3) I'm afraid of real backlash from the next mayor. I don't want somebody running in opposition to bike lanes winning the election.

4) To rectify #3, I propose somebody start a serious organization dedicated to paving through the middle of Central Park to extend 6th Ave from 59th St to Harlem. Pedestrian overpasses will be built so people can continue to enjoy the park as before. And make sure to use whatever arguments people against bike lanes are using.

The goal is to create serious backlash to this proposal (a lot like Moses, Jane Jacobs, and Washington Square Park in 1958). If "populist" politicians want something to rally against, we need to give them something other than bike lanes.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Ed Koch Bridge?

First the Triborough, and now the Queensboro?! Before they rename these bridges, shouldn't there be angry public meetings with cranky old men shaking their fists?

I like Koch, but should any bridge to Queensplaza and Long Island City really have a name so similar to crotch?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Slight Improvement on Triborough/RFK Bridge

The smallest of the four sets of stairs has been ramped. It was that little annoying one that left you about 50 feet from the next staircase, not far enough enough to bike to just far enough to be kind of annoying to walk. The other three sets of stairs are still there and not going anywhere.

Other than that, the bridge seemed in good shape. I took both sides of the bridge to and from Manhattan and they were both clear and free of homeless squatters.

Maybe I should set the bar higher.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It doesn't matter how tight you tie them

I see pictures like this from the Daily News and I notice one thing: the shoes.

If you're hit by a car going too fast, the shoes will fly off your feet and be left basically where you are hit. Think of how much pressure you can apply and not get your shoes off your feet. It's impossible if you don't untie them, right? It freaks me out.

"The car was going really fast down 93rd St., much faster than normal." So what's the moral? Not don't jaywalk... don't friggin speed!

Spend government on bikes

The Boston Herald reports:
Some people might be critical of federal tax money being spent on projects like building bike cages and canopies. But Miller says no one questions when the T spends millions to build parking garages for cars.
Very good point.

A lesser good point is that this money prevents soggy bike seats. People (use your best Bloomberg voice here), there's no excuse for soggy bike seats! Get a better (and often cheaper) seat.

Creative Bike Locking

Practical? Not so much. But very creative.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Yikes!

"NYPD busts crazed, half-naked man in Queensboro Bridge attack on cyclist." The story in the Daily News. At 6:45 AM. This is why I only ride over the bridge at night, when it's safe.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Biking under the influence

From one of my favorite comics strips, Monty:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Do Not Recycle!

Not that we want to be, but you know we'll never be like Brooklyn when you see signs like this.
And it's my beloved Tradefair on 30th Ave. I wonder if they'll bust me when I sneak a bag in the store. It could get exciting!

Maybe their wall of shame is filled with hipster eco shoplifters. I haven't looked in a while.

Something to consider:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

East Good Bread! (please)

Astorians, allow me to be blunt: you have shitty taste in bread. Or maybe you have good taste, but bread in Astoria sucks.

There was a great french bakery on Broadway. It closed because people complained it was more expensive than the bad bakeries. Duh... because they take time to make bread right and use butter in their pastries.

I usually buy my bread from [eyes to ground in slight shame] Panera. Their sourdough is pretty good, which is more than I can say about any other bakery here. Hell, they have sourdough. And I also like the bagels from Brooklyn Bagels (though they're a bit too big). Other than that it's pita, reheated frozen Portuguese rolls from Tradefair, and the occasional no-knead home-baked bread.

Well now there's new great cafe in town, cute and tasty, with home-cooked Moroccan food. You can get French baguettes with bite and taste from Balthazar, the french bakery in Manhattan. And they cost just $2! Real croissants, too. Just $1.75 for plain and or $2.25 for chocolate or almond.

But you might not know from the outside. Here it is:


So now you know.

So go there, make the sweet guy happy. And keep him in business we can all buy good bread.

Harissa 34-05 30th Ave. (formerly and still maybe owned by Angel's Steak--Angel, buddy, you had a nice place, but maybe you shouldn't put steak in the name if you don't actually sell, er, steak!).

In a very sad farewell, Greek House foods closed (the little place between the vegetable stands on 30th Ave). That was my Greek store. He was my man, and always gave me good feta. Luckily, there are still other Greek places (and objectively, Mediterranean may be better Greek store. But they don't know who am I. I don't know their whole family from working in the store). I just hope he retired by choice and not necessity.

Also a sad goodbye to Marino and Sons fish store. Since 1932 says they sign. Plus I feel guilty because just the day before I saw them closed, I thought, "30th Ave could actually do with one less fish store." But I didn't think it would come true! Plus, Marino was probably the best of the lot (though they're all pretty good).

And here's a picture of the new Roosevelt Island trams. They're testing them now. They can run independently of each other. Plus they have more glass to see out of.

And just so you don't think I actually get up to ride at 8AM on a Sunday morning, please note I had been up all night. And I still am. [Rock!]

Thursday, October 14, 2010

As big as a car

I love this. And was kind of thinking of this the other day while on a bus. I had 35 fellow passengers (kind of empty for the M60). I then tried to count 35 people in cars that drove by. It's not easy, but it's about two city blocks of cars.


When push comes to shove, people who drive cars are greedy. And the bigger the car, the greedier the person.
The Austrian civil engineer Hermann Knoflacher developed the Gehzeug, or walkmobile, in 1975 to allow a pedestrian to approximate the amount of space taken by a motorist. It is ideal for protesting against the primacy given to automobiles in the city, or just taking a walk in traffic.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Helmets

From the Wall Street Journal:
A new helmet law reduces bicycle deaths among the affected age group by about 19%. It doesn't affect older riders. Since serious bicycle accidents are rare, however, the absolute numbers are still small, about eight fewer deaths a year among kids 5 to 15 than would otherwise occur in the states with helmet laws. "It's not a ton of lives when you compare it to something like wearing your seat belt," says Prof. Stehr.

One reason for the drop is, of course, that more kids wear helmets when they get into accidents. But another is that many give up cycling altogether. Using surveys of parents, the professors find that about 650,000 fewer children ride bikes each year after helmet laws go into effect. That's about 81,000 fewer riders for every life saved. Helmets may save lives, but the dork factor also takes its toll.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Queenplaza Bike Lanes

The bike lanes through Queensplaza from Queens Blvd are starting to take shape. Very exciting!

I'm still not clear how exactly you're supposed to exit the bridge and head east. But I'll assume they're doing something logical and not leaving the long bike-the-wrong-way-against-traffic section heading east off the bridge.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Road Trip!

It's not hard to take a weekend bike trip. Mind you, I never had. But I did. And the recipe is simple: hop on your bike and ride.

Of course it helps to have maps but you don't even have to know where you're going. You don't need a fancy bike. You don't need fancy equipment. You don't need special. It does help if you can afford a cheap hotel room. You'll pass hotels everywhere. Even one that (gasp) may not have websites. Sure it can be nice to book a room in advance (we did on night one, because we could use miles and get it for free). And we have friends in Cold Spring. So we had a place to stay there. But there's a great freedom in biking and not having to be somewhere. See a nice place? Stop and stay. That's what we did in Peekskill.

My wife and I put some stuff in our our city bikes and left. The bike I used was heavy and has two speeds. Does it matter that my bike was slow? No. It kept us on on a more equal pace and what's wrong with biking slow? We didn't actually have to get anywhere. And on the steep hills, we walked.

We headed north. Up over the Triboro/RFK and through The Bronx and Van Cortland park. And onto the North and South County Bike path. It's not the greatest bike path in the world (it's next to a freeway, the Saw Mill River Parkway much of the way). But it's nice enough and level as it's built on a railroad right of way. And it goes a long way! All the way from Van Cortland to Putnam County.

Now the route we went wasn't too ambitious. A night in Tarrytown, Peekskill, and Cold Spring. We went to Dia: Beacon and ended up having lunch in (grim) Newburgh. From there it was a beautiful ferry ride across the Hudson and an 80 minute train ride to 125th St.

If you're counting, it was a six-county odyssey. About 85 miles in four days. The longest ride was the first day, about 35 miles. We left after the crack of dawn, at 1pm.

Honestly, it would probably be better to start up in Beacon and bike from there, where traffic is a bit less. But there's something great about just leaving your house and going. And the bike path is there. It does go a long way. Give it a try.

I learned a lot about the area I didn't know. I saw some of our drinking water at the source. It was pretty. I got good exercise and got to eat a lot. We got no flats, didn't get wet, and had no accidents. It was fun.

And if worst comes to worst you just hop on a train and come home.

Welcome to the Bronx!


Beacon Falls


South Bear Mountain Pass (there was pushing on the uphill)


Our Drinking Water


The ferry at Newburgh


On the ferry. We biked over that two-mile-long bridge in the background.


From the ferry, grim Newburgh fading into the distance.


Crossing the Hudson


Our good bikes coming home


A rainbow from the train

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Hose Bike

A garden hose as a tire?! Brilliant?

No. Crazy.

For real? I don't know. Can it go? I doubt it. And the metal ends would be hell to bike over. Ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Astoria Bike's Guide to Queens' Streets

“In Queens, to find locations best...”

[Sound of needle dropping and record scratching. Replaced with proper Queens beat.]
Roads, drives, streets and lanes.
Most have numbers,
But some have names!

Queens is manic,
And the grid’s no good.
So you gotta not panic,
To find our hood.

Streets and avenues run opposite ’hattan,
And the ave’s go up as you walk to Staten.
But before you go and pop champagne,
You gotta learn this: street place lane.

[Chorus]

Between the avenues, come roads then drives,
But one more thing, or you won’t arrive.
The dash don’t matter, but it’s like the cross street.
Very nice if you're walking with tired flatfeet.
But you still gotta take this from Butler: "Even numbers you will meet/Upon the west and south of street."

Feel free to make up your own. Winner gets everlasting borough-wide fame!

Still lost?

In the Times, J. David Goodman says I quote E.P. Butler's rhyming verse affectionately.

I mention this only in order to quote an article in the Times that quotes me quoting an article in the Times. Meta reference in the house! Now if they reference this, I promise to reference that, and which point The Rapture could be upon us. It is written.

But I digress.

Do I feel affection toward E.P. Butler? Sort of. I really do want his verse in needlepoint on my wall.

But this does not negate the fact that I consider Monsieur Butler an absolute idiot.

His verse? Great... until you think about it. The words that rhyme -- best/west, plain/lane, meet/street -- don't actually help you remember anything! No wonder it never caught on.

The key to understanding the streets of Queens is to know that avenues, roads, and drives are grouped together and run east and west. Streets, places, and lanes are similarly grouped and run north and south. It helps to remember that that avenues and streets run in the opposite direction as in Manhattan. And also opposite Manhattan, our numbers get bigger going south.

I mean, really now. Somebody picked this system? This is absurd. And when you read about it, it's called the "Philadelphia System." Except I've been to Philadelphia. And I can't help but notice that our system is nothing like theirs.

It's as if our leading citizens put on the top hats and went on junkets to examine all the great cities of America. They came back, met at a beefsteak, and debated the pros and cons of each city's system. But instead of choosing something that makes sense (Baltimore, Chicago, even Philadelphia!) they got drunk and slapped together the world's worst system.

But none of this is Butler's fault. He was trying to help. And perhaps he had a similar fondness for the bottle.

For all of my affection toward Butler, his verse could just as well be this:
Verse Affords Means to Get Totally Lost
--
Astoria Bike's Rhyming System Helps Nobody.


In Queens, to find locations best
Streets and place and drives run west;
But ways to north or east 'tis plain
Are avenues, roads or lanes.
While dashes in numbers you will meet
Upon each and every goddamn street!
And then you'll really need a drink.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Get lost?

Don't forget this ditty from the Dec 3, 1926 New York Times:

Verse Affords Means to Get About Queens
--
E. P. Butler's Rhyming System Guides All Folks When Street Plans Twist 'Em.


I want to get this framed in needlepoint. I don't why; I just do.
In Queens, to find locations best
Avenues, roads and drives run west;
But ways to north or south ’tis plain
Are street or place or even lane.
While even numbers you meet
Upon the west and south of street.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Jersey Farm Stand in Astoria

On that least rural and worst of streets to bike down, there's a Jersey farm stand in Astoria!

He's there Saturday and Monday. It's on 21st Street, west side, between 30th Road and 30th Drive (next block from the post office).

 
Good stuff. Good produce. Give him business.

Why I should leave the house more

Of all the places for heaven on earth, people rarely think of Queens.

I was just about to get to work when a friend called and said to meet him in the park for a picnic. So off we went to meet him and his son. My friend, a Steinway-Street restaurant owner, is a well traveled man. And his favorite place in the world? Astoria.

"It is heaven," he said. "Where else do you find the whole world in a few blocks? And everybody getting along."

He may have a point.

We got left-wing art:

 


 


Right-wing art:

 


And then in the park, a man approached looking suspiciously like Buzz Lightyear on a bike.
 




Turns out the man was carrying a plane. A small plane, but one that indeed flies. A model plane? Well, yes, but cooler. FPV-flying, I learned, means first-person-view flying. There's a camera on front and he puts on goggles and flies from the plane's perspective.

There's also a second camera to record. He was trying out a new hi-def camera. Hopefully there will be a video of it soon.

 


"Like a predator drone?" I asked.

"No," he said, "Because they can fly on their own. Without me, this crashes."

Contact! (For take off, there are no wheels)


I'll be damned if it didn't fly around Roosevelt Island, buzz a tug boat, and make a soft and successful landing (especially when you consider there are no wheels).

Then on the way home we passed a Jersey farm stand on the most un-rural of streets (21st Street) and bought some peaches, corn, and tomatoes. (see next post)

And this was just today. Last week we even our very own alligator on the loose just two short blocks from my home.



I really should leave the house more.

I probably would if it weren't for the loose gators!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stop with the honking

I hate honking cars. Probably more than most people. I mean, have you thrown eggs at honking cars? And that's only after getting pissed off, putting on pants, leaving my house, and talking to the offending driver. And they still honk?! Usually, when the eggs flew, they were honking at the garbage trucks. That's a long time to be honking! (I haven't chucked an egg ever since I moved to a quieter block).

I've thought about solutions: what if you only gave drivers three honks per ride? Or fixed horns so you have to be moving? But all these could endanger safety at some point. And they involve complicated electronic tinkering.

I was just going through a Transportation Alternatives email discussion and came across this brilliant idea (I'd be happy to give credit, but don't want to without permission):
Make car horns punishingly loud inside cars as well as outside. That way people will still use them for safety but not for mere aggression.
Now why didn't I think of that? So simple. So brilliant. And it would be so effective. If you're willing to listen to your own horn, lay on it. In the meantime, stop thinking about only yourself, you selfish self-obsessed driving schmuck! Now how can we make it happen?

Friday, August 20, 2010

The two-speed kickback hub is back!

Indeed, after a 30 to 40-year hiatus, the kickback hub is back! I have an old Bendix 2-speed kickback hub on one of my bikes.

I love it. It's really the perfect hub for a simple tooling-around-the-city bike. The only problem with mine is that it is four pounds. I assume the new version is much lighter.

The way it works is that every time you back-peddle it switches between low and high. And it has a coaster brake. You can switch gears without braking but you cannot brake without shifting. It kind of sounds like a pain in the ass, but it's not.

Why is this this good? First of all because two-speeds is perfect for 80 percent of your biking needs. Second, basically I use the low gear for starting (sometimes) and for going uphill. I use the higher gear for everything else. And how many other two speed bikes do you know? This gear has no cables, no handles, no derailleur, nothing external, no nothing that needs maintenance or can break. It's the perfect city hub.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bikes don't hurt people. Cars Do.

Ben Fried over at Streetsblog has the data.

In New York, about 10,000 pedestrians are injured in motor vehicle crashes per year. About 50 in bike collisions.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Biking Google Maps

A story by Lionel Beehner in the Times.

I still say Ride the City is much better. But I assume Google maps in catching up every day.

Monday, August 09, 2010

HOT Pepper

The generally unremarkable Indian (or Bangladeshi or Pakistani) Bodega on 31st Street just north of the 30 Ave Subway Stop (east side of street) -- which does, finally sell beer -- has some of the ab-so-lute-ly most fucking hot peppers in the world on sale. They're laid out on a Hindi newspaper by the register. Two for a dollar. "They better be hot," said, I, with attitude. My fucking God! I can eat the hottest hot pepper (please don't doubt me on that). And I bit the teeniest little tip of one of these. They are fucking HOT!

Buy them while you can.

[Update: The crack research staff here at Astoria Bike has identified this pepper as a Bhut Jolokia.]

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Bike Lanes Update

The DOT has confirmed that there will be no bike lanes above 29th
Street on Hoyt/Astoria Blvd. The proposed bike lanes in the Astoria
Triangle Redesign were eliminated due to CB1 opposition.

However, given this change, the DOT has decided to widen the parking lanes
where the bike lanes were supposed to be, so as to give cyclists more room
on the shoulder between parked cars and moving vehicles.

The bike lanes from 29th street to Shore Blvd on Hoyt South, and from 29th
Street to Astoria Park, and from Hoyt to 20th Ave along 21st street have all
been kept and will be painted this summer. I believe some portions have
already been painted.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Free Bikes

In Astoria. Posted on Craig's List on Wednesday afternoon. In front of 21-28 29th St.:

Come and pick up two free bikes in front of 2128 29th street. Both are rather old but in working condition. One is a men's bike the other is a woman's bike with a basket. We are moving and just want to get rid of them before we leave. Come anytime to get them, they are parked in front of the building.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Pulp Fiction redo

This other video from Amsterdam Public Transport is also pretty damn good.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Granny Rap

Plenty to do in Amsterdam... thanks to GVB, Amsterdam public transportation.

But I'm posting this because it may be the slickest ad ever for public transportation (with the old Detroit People Mover song as a close second).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bruce Ratner, dictator

I was reading the paper today and came across this picture.



"Gee," I thought, "that guy sure looks familiar!"

"Why," I shouted, "that guy looks just like Bashar al-Assad!"

I turned to look at my fridge magnet of Bashar Assad. (What? doesn't everybody have a fridge magnet of their favorite middle-eastern dictator?) And there he is, in all his I'm-in-over-his-head benevolence.


So it turns out the first picture isn't the Syrian President but rather Bruce Ratner. He just waiting for the crowd to show up so he can raise his hand in glorious I-abused-the-power-of-the-law-to-steal-your-property malevolence.

Now I don't mean to besmirch the reputation of Bashar Assad with this comparison because I like Syria a lot more than the Atlantic Yards project.

Ratner? What can I say? I hate what he's done but I have a tough time getting too worked up because, well, it's not in my backyard. But boy, Freddy's was a good bar. And if I lived closer, I'd be hot as hell! But I live in Astoria and can't see the evilness of Ratner's plan because an ugly Pistilli building is blocking my view.

But I'd take Bashar over Bruce any day. Why here's a picture of the Assad family when Bashar was a kid (that's Bashar on the lower left wearing the first of many ill-fitting suits).


Bashar, who was himself an ophthalmologist before duty called, scored big when he married a babe. She's got brains, too.


(Asma has 38,228 fans on facebook. Poor Bashar has just 62).

But Astoria Bike's deciding factor for Bashar over Bruce? Bashar al-Assad rides a bike with his son on the back.

You ever seen Ratner on two wheels? I didn't think so.

And if you're ever in Aleppo, I know the best bike store.

An Astoria Welcome to the Q Train?

Would anybody be interested in officially welcoming the Q train to Astoria? It might be fun.

The Q runs to Ditmars starting the 27th. I know it's been there a few times for a visit, but now it's ours for real (The W is already dead to me).

One of the dirty secrets of the subway cuts and that we in Astoria actually benefit! M and Q train beat V and W any day (unless you work in lower Manhattan).

So what would be better than welcoming the Q train in style?!

I'm not quite certain what I have in mind. Ideally a brass band and a speech from the mayor. But since neither will probably happen... how about a 8 people and maybe a camera person from NY1 (or at least pictures for transportation alternatives). We could dress fine, applaud like geeks, and roll out a red carpet for the driver or conductor (maybe give each of them a $10 gift certificate the good pizza down below). Give a real Astoria welcome to the Q train! Any music would be great.

Now this could be for the *first* Q train on Sunday, the 27th. But I don't play that early game. So I'm thinking any Q train on Monday would do. Plus, I have a friend, Ali from Kabab Cafe who might be able say a few special words as a dignitary. And Monday is his day off.

Brilliant? Well, let's not go that far. But it could be fun. And I'll buy a round of drinks.

Comment with ideas or if you might want to participate.

New Subway Map

I rode the train yesterday and like the new subway map! At least ascetically. All the bus boxes gone (nobody uses those, right?). Soothing colors (or "recession color," as my partner-in-victimhood said, disparagingly).

And the M train is orange and goes to Queens... Craaaazy!!!

But here's what's weird... the MTA has no night map.

What if you're a tourist. Or a native New Yorker and want to get home at midnight. You look at the map. You pick a route. You transfer to the R. And then you wait for an hour before realizing your train is never going to come because it doesn't run at night.

Now we're blessed to be one of the two subway systems in the world (can you name the other?) to run 24/7. Seriously. There are only two subways in the world that don't close down.

But the New York Subway ain't great at night. It runs less frequently than the other (every 20 minutes compared to every 15). And some lines don't run at all. That wouldn't be a big deal except the map doesn't tell you!

"See signs above platform or look online" is their advice. Not too useful if you're on the damn train!

Why do we have no "owl service" map? Can't I make one.

That was my offer I proposed to the MTA in an email.

Customer (Astoria Bike) - 06/21/2010 03:45 AM Is there an MTA subway map for night service? If so, could you please send it to me? If not, could I make one with photoshop and send it to you? Please send me a jpg (or similar) file of the map if possible.


This is their annoying response.

Recently you requested personal assistance from our on-line support center. Below is a summary of your request and our response.

Subject
---------------------------------------------------------------
night map


Discussion Thread
---------------------------------------------------------------
Response (Andrea Popp) - 06/21/2010 02:43 PM This is in response to your recent e-mail to New York City Transit requesting a night map for the subway.

We appreciate your interest in New York City Transit. Please note, we do not offer a night map for the subway or buses. For scheduling information, we recommend you view the individual line maps, available on our website: http://www.mta.info/nyct/service/index.html

We hope this information is helpful and thank you for having taken the time to contact us.

Andrea Popp
Staff Analyst II

Question Reference #100621-000008
---------------------------------------------------------------
Product Level 1: NYC Transit Subway
Category Level 1: Information Request
Date Created: 06/21/2010 03:45 AM
Last Updated: 06/21/2010 02:43 PM
Status: Closed

So I want to make a night map. There should be one. (There would still a limbo between 10 and midnight or so.) But why is it too much to ask for a simple map of what runs between midnight at 6 AM? Or at least why won't they let some nerd like me make one for them?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stupid fucker stole my rack!

I have a bike parked outside. It's been parked outside for, well, about 13 years.

"How can you leave a bike parked outside?" people exclaim with shock. I don't know. It's easy. Convenient. And people leave cars parked outside all the time. Look, it's not a fancy bike. And I do have the seat locked. But hell, I don't even have the rear wheel locked (though it's coaster brake and not quick release). Though I might start now.

We went outside today and discovered that some fucker had stolen both rear racks off both our bikes. Now this is annoying and kind of pissy. My partner in victimhood pointed out, "Hell, if you prorate it out over the years, it's not so bad."

Indeed. My rack probably costs $20 and hers $30. And, if you can say as much, the fucker was nice not to steal more... I suppose.

But here's where it gets weird--and I'm only writing this assuming that the rear rack thief of Astoria doesn't read this blog--we first noticed something amiss because our bike bags (an essential part of any city bike you almost never see here) were on the ground, next to our bikes.

Now my bike bag was new. Sure the fucker didn't know this. But that baby is outrageously expensive. And imported. Like $80. So thank you for not taking it. Not worth taking? You really are a stupid shit. And thank you for not taking my bike bell from Egypt, and not taking my front wheel with Dura Ace hub (I'm not trying to prove anything with the ol' fancy hub on cheap bike action... I just happened to have that hub), and thank you for not taking my rear wheel with a Bendix 2-speed kick-back hub. And thank you for not slashing my tires. Shit man, almost everything on that bike is worth more than the rear rack! My spokes are worth more than a rear rack.

And here's the crazy shit... the fucker had to slice my bike bags to steal my rack because I chained my bag to my rear rack. I didn't want anybody stealing my bags. And the fucker probably thought I had chained the rear rack.

The bastard was armed with at least an allen wrench and a blade. It was a relatively neat and professional job. He wanted rear racks and got two. But good God... for two fucking rear racks?! Are you crazy? There's so much better on these bikes to steal. And now I have to get my bag sewed up.

Anyway, if you see a rear rack for sale with a length of bike chain attached to it (which used to be holding my bag), let me know. I'll beat the crap out of him if he comes around my house again.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Communists Born in the USA and Dire Straits

I was in the hardware store under the tracks by 36th Avenue the other day. The one where the owner or main worker is a middle-aged, liberal, dog loving, some'er teeth, former punk kind of guy (only in New York!).

Dire Straits "Walk of life" was on the radio and I mentioned how I loved that song when it came out... and how today he sounds more like a Bruce Springsteen wannabe.

Then we started talking about Springsteen. It took me years before I liked Springsteen (till hearing "Nebraska," to be precise). Right about then a very clean-cut older guy came in and overheard our conversation. I noticed, as he interrupted, that his belt holding up his shorts and tucked in shirt was perfectly straight around the circumference of his big belly:

"Springsteen, Born in the USA. You ever hear the lyrics?"

No, and, er, that's not what we were talking about.

"'Put a rifle in my hands/Sent me off to Vietnam/To go and kill the yellow man.' How about that? Yellow man!"

Silence. (though those are interesting lyrics)

"You know what it is about Vietnam?"

No. But I bet you're going to tell me.

"We could have won that war!"

Really?

"Yeah, we could have won that war if it weren't for... communists and their sympathizers. Sympathizers born right here in the USA!"

You know, I thought we lost 50,000 men over there because it was a fight we kept fighting even though we couldn't win. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you lose. Especially in another country's civil war.

But what do I know? I was barely alive. Maybe the problem wasn't conditions over there but people over here who were against the war. Maybe we just needed more troops and few more years to really beat those bastards.

Kind of like the war on drugs. Or Iraq. To think that liberal ol' me may be responsible for brave young soldiers running over IEDs and not the draft-dodging politicians who sent them there in the first place. (Don't judge patriotism by service! Judge it by flag pins in the lapel!]

It's always easier to blame others than admit you were wrong.

But I said nothing. This guy was already on mindless autopilot mode. Standing in front of an ACLU sticker shouting about communists and their sympathizers ruining this country.

I took my box of garbage bags and continued biking home.

Monday, June 07, 2010

7-Stop Shopping or Why I ♥ Astoria

It really is a beautiful day in the neighborhood. I went to mail some letters and did the mail-drop double-check before dropping them in the mailbox at 30th Ave. No stamps. So I turned around and walked three steps and (1) bought two stamps from the newsstand.

Then I (2) bought wine at the liquor store, (3) ground coffee at Dunkin Donuts, (4) a slice of (bad) pizza, (5) vegetables from one vegetable stand, (6) cheese from the Greek House, and (7) different vegetables and eggs at the other vegetable stand. All in about 20 minutes and without really thinking about it. And I ran into a neighbor on the way. When has seven-stop shopping ever been so convenient?

Or perhaps I'm thinking about it wrong. Maybe the three-block stretch between 30th and 33rd Street is actually one stop! Maybe I live right next to the world's best Wallmart. Grand Avenue Wallmart. Why it even has its own subway stop.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Man Driving SUV attacks bikes in San Fran

A horrible story from the West Coast:
Witnesses said the SUV came speeding south on the street, hit the first bicyclist head on, and then hit the second less than a block away at 24th Street.

The driver roared east about a mile to the corner of 23rd and Pennsylvania streets, where he hit the third cyclist. Then he sped several blocks north to Potrero Hill, where he hit his last victim at the corner of Missouri and 17th streets and slammed to a stop against a light pole.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

City Bikes

Worth a link. Lots of good city bike designs.

Kids bike wanted, for a month

Anybody out there have a kids' bike to lend? Friends from Australia are visiting for a while and looking for a bike for their seven-year-old girl (about 4'2" tall). You can see my friends here. No, the the odd stinky guy, the nice people.

Any helpful hints for biking and kids in NYC? That is just not my cup of tea.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bike Snob, the Book

I bought and read the Bike Snob's Book. It's pretty outstanding. Laugh out loud funny at times. Weiss just knows a good turn of the phrase. And unlike his generally excellent blog, the book is never too wordy.

Plus it's a beautifully produced book. Really beautiful. And a bargain, too. Plus being a good read... What else could you ask for?

I might write more about the book later, but for now let's just leave it with the fact that I had high expectations and was still very pleasantly surprised!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Rough ride

I had a rough ride to work today. Along with facing a rough and painful dust storm around windy Queensplaza (what is it about that area in when it's windy?), I managed to scare an old lady on the bridge and hit the side-view mirror of a pick-up truck.

I felt worse about the lady, even though only the mirror was my fault. Biking down into Manhattan on the narrow part I see an bike coming up on the left and an old lady walking up on the right. I wasn't even going full speed. The bike, who had seen me, veers to the center. I quickly veer away, toward the lady. I wasn't going to hit her, but I did turn in her direction, scare the shit out of her, and made her jump about a foot in the air. I stopped, turned around, and said, "sorry." What else could I do?

Before that I'm on 35th Ave and there's a pick-up truck stopped at light, a little too far to the right. But there's enough room for me to sneak through, so I do. I hear something on me hit the mirror. I'm still not sure how I hit it. Something on my bag. And it didn't sound good. Every muscle in my body is telling me to keep going and not turn back.

But that wouldn't be the right thing. So I stop. I turn around. And I come back sheepishly. The driver, a latino guy, is completely calm. I expect the mirror to be in pieces and me out some horrible amount of money.

The mirror is bent out of position but looks OK. I say I'm sorry and the guy just waves me away. So I bend the mirror back toward the right direction. Then I notice part of the mirror, a very small part, is broken off (nothing is cracked). I point out the broken bit. The guy just nods and gives me a don't worry about it look. Thank you, sir.

Let's hope I get home uneventfully.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Exciting!

And makes me happy I voted for Janette... I mean Mike.

The plans for 34th St. as reported in the Times.

I'd like to go on the record right now as saying their prediction of an "up to 35 percent" increase in crosstown bus speed as a vast underestimate (so they can gloat later). Mr. Astoria Bike predicts, if the plan goes ahead as described--dedicated bus lanes, ticket buying options (not as good as pre-pay), and light timing--the increase will be more than 50%. Currently the schedule lists an over 30-minute journey during rush hour and 20-minutes at night. It's less than 2 miles! There's no reason a bus couldn't do this in 10 minutes (which is only an average speed of 12 miles an hour... But it sure beats the 4 miles an hour it's going at now).

This will benefit, as Janette says, "the majority of the people who are actually using the street." According to the city, only 1 in 10 people travel 34th Street by car or taxi.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Queensboro Bridge, Manhattan Side

Horrible bridge access is the weak link for any Queens to Manhattan commute. Improvements here would be the best way to positively impact and improve the commute for a large number of riders. Best of all, it can be done with very little money and no (God forbid) hindrance to motorists. It just takes will.

[I wrote about Queensplaza and the Queens side of the Queensboro Bridge here.]

1) From the Queensboro bridge heading west.

So simple. Just leave as is and do not close the obstruction fence again.

A bike lane should be painted the middle of 60th St, between the bridge exit and 2nd Avenue. This lane could be on the left (south) side of street or just the left of the buses at the bus stop. Plenty of unused street space there for this. No car traffic disruption. Cost: a few lines of paint.
Notice the "free parking" on the sidewalk.

If there's space for illegal parking, there's space for a bike lane!

2) From the Queensboro bridge heading south. Continue on the bridge bike path east past the u-turn half-way toward 1st Ave. Then make right (south) cutting under the bridge in what is current some public works parking/storage.

Notice more free parking.

From the south side of the bridge (59th St), paint a lane for bikes to go to west to 2nd Ave. There is currently plenty of unused real estate there that could be used for that.
It's like the bike is already there! ...If stripped white paint meant bike lane. (And crossing the traffic entering the bridge there is never hard.)

The goals/advantages are to 1) avoid pedestrians on 1st Ave and 2) avoid the traffic mix/mess heading on to the bridge at 2nd Ave.

If the tunnel path under the bridge can't happen, then make a legal path going south on 1st Ave under the bridge. Continue west on 59th St to 2nd Ave. Ideally this bike path would be between the bridge and the pedestrian sidewalk to avoid conflict with pedestrians.

Currently, the left (west) lane of traffic under the bridge is unused because of the left-turn-only lane at 59th St. The sidewalk could be moved to this lane with the bike lane replacing the sidewalk.
It's already a bike lane, of sorts.

This could also serve as access to the bridge coming from the west. But see next point for alternative.

3) Heading to the bridge from the west, heading east on 59th St.

Stay left as if you were going to go over the bridge. Cross 2nd Ave and wait in a to-be-created holding pen in front of old trolley-line entrance pagoda in the middle of all the traffic. Again this is putting to good use a currently (rather large) are being put to absolutely no use.

Imagine waiting bikes here.

Then when the light changes, simply cross over to E 60th St and head to the entrance.

4) 59th St between 3rd and 2nd Avenues is already very narrow for three lanes of traffic. But bikes do and have to travel on it. Why not make it official and give bikes a super narrow 2 foot bike lane? It would be better than nothing.

It could even be a crypto-bike lane. This is what I call the little "path" at Queensplaza just after you veer right from Northern Blvd heading to the bridge. It is made (in this case unintentionally) by a slight rise in the pavement.

Notice the cryto-bike lane on right. Without even really noticing it, cars naturally stay away from the right few feet of the lane. It's actually much more observed by cars than a line of paint would ever be. And it's the perfect amount of space for a bike to go buy. And it's all done down-low and on the Q.T.

The same could be done on 59th Street.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Our Queensboro Bridge (Manhattan Side)

I'm kind of afraid to write about this less somebody "corrects" the situation. But on the Manhattan side of the Queensboro Bridge, it's been great ever since the barrier blocking the pedestrian and bike exit has been nudged to the side.

Pedestrians no longer have to climb over a dirty metal barrier. And bicyclists going west no longer have to go four blocks out of the way, bothering pedestrians and riding on a brief but dangerous stint on 1st Avenue.

The impact on cars? None. Zero. They line up for the red light on 1st Ave just like they always have. I'd still like to talk to the idiot who decided that all bikes and pedestrians from Queens needs to exit on 1st Avenue.

Now how to we get it to stay this way? We probably have a little while, as the rehab of the tram won't be done any time soon.

And while we're at, I have a few great ideas as to how to make 2nd Ave and the bridge exit leagues better for bikes with no major expense and zero impact on cars. Why does nobody ever ask me?

Talking Traffic

There's a good interview in Streetsblog:
It would make me feel warm and fuzzy if Kelly said that bike safety was a top priority. But that wouldn't do anything to change the car-centered attitude of the rank-and-file.
...
sometimes what is needed for traffic violations is simple mind-numbing zero-tolerance enforcement. It's grunt work.
...
even if I could wave a magic police wand I wouldn't stop jaywalking in New York City. It's beneficial to urban life here. But you wouldn't know that if you've never walked the streets.
...
In a crash with a car, why is it that a bike or pedestrian has to be 100 percent right to not be at fault, but all a car has to do is stay at the scene and not be drunk?...I mean, most drivers don't want to kill you. They just drive stupidly until they do.
Well said.

Three Cheers for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes

He's actually charging a driver for killing a bicyclist.

Usually to get away with manslaughter all a driver has to do is stay at the scene and not be drunk. By the normal rules, the bicyclist would be blamed for biking without a bell.

Friday, March 12, 2010

NYC and helmets

Helmets are such a touchy subject among bicyclists. I suppose it's like recycling. I do it. It can't hurt. It might help. But in the long run and in the big picture, it really doesn't mater what you or I do. Seriously. And unlike recycling, where ever little bit matters (a very little bit), there is no benefit to wearing a helmet if you don't crash. Seriously. Every time I arrive home safely, I think, "gee, I guess I didn't need that!" But of course you never know. Some people think it's good wear a helmet even if you don't crash. That's weird. And weird bike shit does turn people off who otherwise might be normal bike riders.

And then I see people with helmets on their head and the straps aren't attached. Or people with helmets so loose you know it would fly off in a crash. And if you aren't wearing a helmet for the small chance you will crash and hit your head, why are you wearing a helmet?

Or people who ride at night with a helmet and no light. If the choice really is between a helmet and a light, go for the light! The goal, people is to not crash.

But I do have a helmet. And if I'm riding a fast bike and/or leaving Queens, I wear it. If I'm riding my slow bike to the Trade Fair, I don't. I wish we lived in a city were there lots of bicyclists and none of us ever wore helmets. But I also know that if I were to fall or crash (which I do think is more likely when I do wear my helmet), I would damn well hope I was wearing a helmet. So I do. Much of the time.

Anyway, this all comes to mind because I got the "NYCycles" newsletter from NYC, and I have to say, I was really impressed at their semi-official position on helmets. It's well said and worth a read. I couldn't have said it better myself. Kudos to the author:
A debate has long raged in the cycling community - do helmets make cyclists safer or does the extra burden of wearing one discourage cycling? Here in New York, helmets are required for cyclists 13 years old or younger... and strongly encouraged for all adults. Helmets can't prevent a crash but studies show they can mean the difference between life and death if you have one.

DOT makes an effort to make bike helmets accessible to all New Yorkers, and has distributed over 23,000 free NYC Helmets over the past four years.
...
Always wear a helmet whenever you ride, and always buckle the chin strap. ... Make sure the straps are snug
...
Replace your helmet after any crash and whenever you see signs of damage.
To get the NYC DOT bike newsletter, click here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Anatomy of a non-fall

I like biking in snow. Think of all the cool things you've done on a bike... lost to the wind. But in snow, there's proof of your actions.


I was biking home last night and went to turn off the road at my house. My front wheel skidded and I caught myself (I wasn't going very fast). No big deal. But then I noticed that the snow held a detailed story of this one second! I wish I had taken the picture before the car came by, but I like how you can see the skid (where the track gets wider), see where my left foot goes down one, two, three times. My right foot first hits the coaster break, causing a small skid on the real wheel (pushing the snow up past the track of the front wheel) and then goes down on the street sliding a bit.

Because I'm now standing, the bike track gets narrower because there's not much weight on my bike. Then I gain my balance and continue on my way.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Broadway to stay open to pedestrians!

Half of me says, with a heavy dose of sarcasm, "What a surprise!" The other half of me breaths a huge sigh of relief and says, "Thanks fucking God!"

Thank you, Mike! I was worried, but it's OK. (and I especially liked how the other day you said, "People will say, 'Ay yi yi, I wish I had listed to that guy!'").

The story in the Times.

Here's Mike looking a bit "Right-Stuff" like.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The 40 Year Old Biker

So I just saw "The 40 Year Old Virgin" (so, I'm a little behind the times).

Very funny movie. I laughed. I cried...

I cried because I've seen such an anti-bike movie in my life.

Not only is biking for losers and nerds, it epitomizes loser and nerd!

And then, because of course the hero is a decent guy, they give him a new bike and it's the dumbest modern mountain bike in world. Perfectly nonsensical for biking on the streets of LA (plus, it probably wasn't easy for him to get used to not having those rear-view mirrors). I guess the switch to dumb mountain bike was supposed to make him just a little less nerdy. And for that he gave up a perfectly nice city bike.

They don't generally show smoking in a good light in movies anymore. Isn't it time we stamp out negative portrayals of riding a bike?


Then last night I was out drinking at Sparrow and Club 21 (man, I have never seen a place so packed with Czech pheromones!). A friend of a friend couldn't believe I was getting around on bike. I felt like a 40-year-old virgin. And the worst part is that I had to wait in the cold for him to arrive and tell me this. Of course I got there first because he was driving.