Friday, September 02, 2011

Bon Voyage!

I'm heading out of the country, perhaps for a while. There might be some "biking in foreign lands" posts, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Keep biking and see you in 2012.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Plan your route: Ride the City

I've had a link to this site for a while. But still, very few people know about the wonderful "Ride the City" bicycle route planner. There has been and will remain a link to this site in the right column of this blog. It's wonderful

Le me mention a few other things: 1) Google maps also gives bike directions. These directions are not bad.

2) Bike routes offered by Ride the City are consistently better than Google. How is that possible, you might ask? I do not know how; I do not know why; but Ride the City is better than google, at least for bike directions. Also, Ride the City gives you the wonderful choice between "direct," "safer," and "safe." The latter tries to keep you on bike lanes. Direct is the shortest possible distance. "Safer" tries to mini-max the two. Usually I go for some combo of Direct and Safer.

3) You'll be surprised at the new short cuts and routes you never thought of taking (the same thing happens with google-map subway directions, by the way).

Just last night, for instance, I learned of a new route from the Honeywell Ave Bridge at Northern Blvd to Greenpoint Ave and Brooklyn. It's a route I've taken dozens of times. And yet I had never thought of going right on Skillman Ave to 30th Street, to Star, to Van Damn, to the bridge. Not only was it shorter that my usual way, and it avoids a hill, and is nicer as it goes under rather than over the freeway.

Thank you, Ride the City!

They also offer bike routes for at least 30 other cities. I assume they're just a good. But I can only vouch for NYC.

Bike Commuting 101

At the Queens Library on Broadway. Aug 8, 6:30PM. Saturday at 11AM at the library at 21-45 31st Street. Here's the PDF flyer.

Here's my 101: Buy a bike with fenders and without quick release. Get a good lock or two. Bike. Everything else you can pick up as you go along.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Keeping Bike Lanes Free From Cars

As reported in the Guardian.

I particularly like the sneaker-and-sun-glass wearing white-jacket-on-black-t-shirt gold-chain fashion sense of the rich-asshole guy who got his car crushed (yes, I know it was all staged). He looks awfully like the guys I see hanging around cafes here in Astoria.

Monday, August 01, 2011

A great idea

Pop-up cafes in parking spots.

"But where will we store our cars for free, at the expense of all taxpayers?"

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cities and Bike Culture

About the Netherlands. From the NYT:
But while many Americans see their cars as an extension of their individual freedom, to some of us owning a car is a burden, and in a city a double burden. I find the recrafting of the city in order to lessen — or eliminate — the need for cars to be not just grudgingly acceptable, but, yes, an expansion of my individual freedom. So I say (in this case, at least): Go, social-planning technocrats! If only America’s cities could be so free.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thank you, Ray

He built the Queensplaza improvements. And the bike lane... in Queensplaza, the one that means we don't have to bike the wrong way up Queensplaza North, is finally OPEN!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Biking across Central Park

If you want biking sympathy from non-bike riders, throw this fact at them: you can't bike across Central Park. It always works. Most people are somewhat shocked.

This state of affairs may be starting to change, according to the Times.

I'd still like a way to bike through the park on the south side, since that's how I, well, roll.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I see England, I see France...

There are many why I like biking in Amsterdam:

Cars give you right of way; pedestrians give you right of way; there are nice bike paths; distances are short; you're considered normal; there are good, practical bikes; you casually meet friend biking in the other direction...

Man the list goes on and on.

But one of the reasons biking in Holland is nice is that women have no problem peddling with short skirts.

What? They do. You want me to say it? OK: I like seeing ladies' underpants as the peddle toward me! Is that so wrong?

It might be in New York.

Oh, Jasmijn Rijcken, you have a beautiful Dutch name (don't be fooled by the "ij," it's just a long i sound--her name is pronounced YasMINE RIken), and, you know what? You are awfully cute. In this one story you've done more to make biking cool in New York City than all the members of Transportation Alternatives put together! Please keep biking!

(And notice her bike has a nifty built-in headlight!)

Friday, June 10, 2011

If only!

Bike lane added to Second Ave. Subway:
Dana Muskowitz, spokesman for the Gotham Motorists Association, expressed bewilderment at the plan, stating “our city’s relentless promotion of a trivial hobby at the expense of drivers’ urgent needs has reached unacceptable heights. Seriously, is the Mayor in the pocket of the front-mounted basket industry?”

Wolfson acknowledged that the Second Avenue bike lane was likely to face criticism. “Bike lanes have become a third rail in the city’s politics. So isn't eighteen inches from a third rail the most natural place to put those lanes?” Continued Wolfson, “allowing underground cycling is an environmentally friendly way of moving traffic around the city, not to mention the potential to dramatically reduce the number of cyclists who are struck by lightning.”

Saturday, June 04, 2011


Progressing at a snail's pace, the Queensplaza bike line has got to open soon. Can they work any slower?

Anyway, it's looking pretty good. And it really does tackle the mess that soon will be was Queensplaza.

The Oldest Manhole Cover in Astoria

OK, I just made that up, but it may be true. I suspect this cover and the granite slab predate the dissolution of Long Island City in 1898. That's old!

Where is this gem? Hiding in plain sight at Trade Fair, at the corner of 30th and 30th.

I actually noticed the old stone first when water was poring into it during the rainy weeks. Only then did LIC jump out at me. I haven't noticed any others (not that I walk around staring at manhole covers or anything, ahem).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The First Late-Night NYC Subway Map

I love the subway. Hey, stop your bitching... it's great. I wouldn't swap it for any other subway in the world.

And yet, it sure can be frustrating, especially at night. Now before I start bitching, let me say we should be grateful. Our subway is one of the only systems in the world that runs 24 hours a day (can you name the three others?). Not even supposedly first-class cities like London or Paris let their citizens get home in railed style.

And yet, unlike every other city in the world, the MTA has never made a map of night service. This is a pretty big omission. Want to know how to get home? The official MTA party line is, "Overhead directional signs on platforms show... late night service." Well that's not much help! Especially given the horrible up-to-20-minute Zombie Wait (cue dripping water and rats). And God forbid you have to transfer. Or make an honest mistake because you trusted the day map! I pity the poor person waiting for the R late at night to take them to Queens.

And then there are oddities like the E train stopping at Steinway Street. Fine. The E train is a mighty fine train. But how in the world are you supposed to know, looking at The Map, that the E train ever stops at Steinway? So how would know to take the E Train? And, oh yeah, the R, M, Z, 3, C, 5, and Times Square Shuttle don't run at all (except for some lines, at the far end, which I learned while making the map). Seems important.

On the plus side, the other night I was at Court Street in Brooklyn and was overjoyed to see the N train pulling in. I guess it does so every night. But I didn't know. Because it's not on the map.

After that night I actually wrote the MTA and offered to make a map night for them. Not surprisingly, I sort of got the runaround. So I did my best with photoshop and what I could find on line. I know the MTA is kind of anal about things like this, but my intentions are pure and non-commercial. This is a public service. I did the best I could. And any errors are my own (do let me know if you find mistakes). I do not claim any rights to this map (nor should you). It's the MTA's, if they want it. But they had nothing to do with the production.

So here's my contribution in time and labor to our great city, the MTA, and all the late-night subway riders. Plus, honestly, it was kind of fun! Download a PDF here.

[update: turns out I wasn't first. But it is the first you can download in pdf form... or even see if you don't have one of them newfangled iPhones! Plus, unlike a few others, it's accurate. And it looks like the normal subway map.]

[Further updates: Version 4 is now up, correctly labeling all the A stops.]

Download a PDF here.

Update (January 29, 2012): All for naught. Or maybe I helped push them. Either way, there's now an official night map from the MTA and I'm happy to see it.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Cycle Cops: 1918

Washington, D.C., 1918. "District of Columbia parks -- park policemen."

From Shorpy.

Happy Opening Day!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bike Under the Train

This would be way cool... if not exactly entirely necessary.

The Randall’s Island Connector, part of the South Bronx Greenway, would run underneath an Amtrak trestle and create a new link to bike or walk between the South Bronx and Manhattan.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Astoria is Ugly

But that doesn't mean we don't love it!

Check out this new tumbler blog.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Why does the right wing hate trains?

Why, indeed? An interesting question proffered by The Week.

Why is driving your vehicle such a good thing? Isn’t it better to not drive your vehicle. And why have we taken over the job of trucks and warehouses? That is, we used to have trucks to bring goods close to us. Now we buy mini trucks and drive out to far away stores and do their job of storing the things I will need later in my own house.

And why is it better to alertly drive so I can come home to read or watch video, instead of read and watch video the minute the journey begins?

Of course it’s nicer to drink and ride than drink less and drive.

And whenever people talk about the freedom of the open road, they always forget about traffic.

And to the person who says it’s easier to drop kids off at daycare, do errands and get to work, I say great. Would you like me off the road so you can do that faster?

I like how the article ends with "why liberals love trains." Not surprisingly, as a train lover, I've thought about this a bit.

I think it's not that liberals love trains as much as urbanites appreciate them (and urbanites are more liberal). Cars mess up our city and we need an alternative. A car society doesn't work, not with the density we have in New York.

But more sociologically, urbanites and liberals consider public interaction to be potentially good. Suburbanites and conservatives consider strangers a threat. I never choose a crowded subway car over an empty car (and actually make a bit of an effort to avoid busy subway cars... hell, I ride a bike), but interactions with strangers do keep life interesting.

I also like trains because they make me happy. Some people think cars are cool. Others say that about rocket ships. I like trains. Not a very good basis for policy decision, but they're a lot cheaper than manned space flight.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A Craaazy Idea: Walk

The other day I did something crazy. I walked to work. Nothing against biking (though I kind of get out of the habit during all the snow), but I thought I'd walk.

I'm not about to start a blog called Astoria Walk, but let you tell you something: Walking ain't bad. This was a five-mile walk. I went through Roosevelt Island (36th Ave, by the way) and took the new tram (which I guess makes it more like a 4.5 mile walk). And going through Roosevelt Island is nicer than Queensplaza. And the tram is nicer than the long bridge (especially with all those kids on bikes just whizzing by!). Then I crossed Manhattan.

It took 90 minutes at a brisk pace. My legs are sore (which they never are from biking). But here's the sad part: when I take the subway, the trip takes 30 minutes. That means the subway trip's average speed is only about 10mph. I've already accepted that the subway is no faster than biking. But somehow it seems worse (for the subway) that walking only takes three times as long. That is crazy.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Car plows through bikes

In Brazil. I wonder what will happen to the driver in another country.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Vallone is Right (for once)

Don't change the name of the Queensboro Bridge to the Koch Bridge. It sounds nasty. Or, as Peter Vallone, Jr. says:

“Mayor Ed Koch is truly a great man and deserving of an honor like this,” Mr. Vallone wrote, “but renaming a landmark so closely linked to our borough’s culture and history is not appropriate. The city would not rename the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Queensboro Bridge should be treated equally.”

"...Cause that's where I'm from!"

Representing my home borough (even though I'm not from here... and the line I'm quoting is actually talking about Brooklyn). Click through to read the text.

The real reason Astoria might be so great is that, as I just found out, the best food cart in NYC may be here... and I haven't even tried it... and yet I barely miss it. I eat just fine.

(by Dustin Glick)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Subversive New Yorkers

It's not just people who ride bikes who are suspicious. Check out this incredible 1919 map of "seditious" New York City ethnicities.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bangkok Smile Bike

You've always wanted to go to Thailand, right? Perhaps you just needed an incitement and paying for Thai "girlfriend" just isn't your thing. How about free bikes in Bangkok? I'm posting this information because Astoria Bike is a big fan of Bangkok. Along with four handed massages and delicious Thai food, you can also bike a bit in what is generally not a bike friendly city.

This information doesn't actually seem to be out their anywhere on the world wide internets. So hopefully when people google "bike bangkok bicycle free bikes smile bikes green bangkok"... they'll find this information. It's current as of January, 2011:
Biking in Bangkok is generally not common nor for the faint of heart. But there is a safe and tourist-friendly option: Bangkok Smile Bike. The program began in 2009 under the name Bangkok Green bikes, but was discontinued before restarting in 2010 under its current name. Free bikes are provided at 12 locations in the city for visitors to ride along two bike routes, one on each side of the river. At a very leisurely pace well suited for seeing the city, each route takes little more than one hour.

Bike lanes are provided for the length of the routes—sometimes on the street and sometimes on the sidewalk—but, Bangkok being Bangkok, these lanes are not respected as dedicated bike lanes. Frequent obstructions should be expected from cars, pedestrians, vendors, markets, and, after 3pm on school days, multitudes of uniformed school children. It is more polite to bike around Thai people walking in the bike path than to ring the bell and expect people to move out of your way. Inevitable, because of crowded vending areas and blocked bike lanes, some riding will be with traffic in city street. As a result, some comfort with city biking (and biking on the left side of the street) is advisable. But the streets on the route, at least by Bangkok standards, are generally manageble both in terms of traffic levels and speed.

To take a free bike, a passport or official looking photo ID is required (but not held). Bikes may be returned to any Smile Bike location along the route. Maps are also provided free of charge and mark the route and major sites along the way. As of January, 2010, hours of operation are Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm (though you may be asked to return the bikes by 5pm) and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 8pm.

The bikes—small one-speed bicycles with hand brakes, bell, and a front basket—are generally in good condition. Beware, however, that the seat cannot be raised above a certain level and the bikes will not be comfortable for tall people. Locks may be available on request, but riders are asked not to stray from the well-marked bike route. Bike helmets are not provided, but with the slow pace, the danger is not much greater than walking along the same streets and sidewalks. Surprisingly, perhaps because of the rarity of bikes in Bangkok, bicyclists are given more courtesy from drivers than might be expected. And thumbs-up from tuk-tuk drivers are a frequent and pleasant surprise.

East of the river, the route forms a continuous circle and bikes can be picked up at Smile Bike locations on Snati Chai Prakarn Park, Saranrom Park, near the river at Chang Wang Luang Pier and Chang Wagna Pier, and Din So Road by Bangkok City Hall, south of the Democracy Monument.

West of the river, the route is mostly (but not perfectly) well marked and more of the ride will take place in the street. There is also a staircase or two to traverse, but the ride west of the river is extremely interesting as goes through non-tourist parts of Bangkok. Some of the side trips (marked on the map but not on the pavement) are particularly interesting. The route is one-way and starts at Somdej Phra Pinklao Road at Phra Pinklao Bridge across the river from the Bangkok Tourism Division office. They may run out of bikes late in the day. The second Smile Bike location west of the river is accessible by ferry, near the Thonbury Railway Station Pier and the old Thonbury Train Station (not to be confused with the actual Thonbury Train Station, AKA: Bangkoknoi, which is about 800 meters inland from the pier, and passed on the route). The bike route ends to the south at Wat Phichayayatikaram Worawihara. The penultimate west-side Smile Bike location is at the Memorial Bridge, which can pleasantly be walked over.
Here are pics from the west-side ride (wwwest siiide!):

Love your lane

Time's Up is having a Valentine's Day shindig. Why not? You got better plans?

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Newburgh Then and Now

A while back the wife and I took a little road trip.

Here's a "then" picture. I think of Water at 2nd, looking north.

And now:

As usual, those pesky old buildings have been replaced with beautiful grass and weeds. Charm has given way to cars. Such is progress.