Monday, May 27, 2013

Citibike Rocks

The missus and I got our key fobs on Friday, just in the nick of time, and rode around today. There is something a bit silly about paying to take a subway to ride a free bike when we've got a few two-wheelers sitting around right here at home... but anyway...

The bikes are great. They're not speedster road bikes, but they ride and handle well. Everything is well tuned (as you might expect, on Day One). Though one bike we first picked up had a weird very high-pitched annoying sound, perhaps from the dynamo. We swapped it for another. You can easily pick them up and drop them off, just as promised. All the bike stations are not in operation yet, and the map app wasn't working today, but those kinks will get worked out.

What was strange is that normally when you bike in the city you feel invisible. You're in the middle of people and everybody just ignores you. But no, not on a Citibike! You can't help but be an ambassador of good will as people stop and ask questions. Or they point and talk to their friends about the bike as you roll by. Not only that, but from these people you can't help but feel good will towards bikes in NYC. That was a strange feeling!

We picked up our bikes around 57th and Lex. For a brief while, going down a dedicated bike lane on 2nd Ave looking at 6 bikes in front of me (two were Citibikes, the rest normal bikes--there were a lot of bikes out today), I felt like I was in Amsterdam.

We rode down to Saigon Bakery for some delicious banh mi (swapping bikes once on the way just to try it out). Then we rode up to Union Square and checked out a few things (did you know Andrew Worhol's factory, where he got shot, was on the 6th floor of the Decker Building overlooking the Square? I sure didn't). Then we picked up a $66(!) gallon of maple syrup and took the subway home. It couldn't have been better (unless there were some bikes in Astoria).

Here's Citibike's Day One Recap.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Lynne Serpe for City Council District 22

The good news is that our next City Council Representative will be an improvement because it won't be Peter Vallone Jr. That's great news. But it doesn't mean we'll have a good person in City Hall. Much less a good person who actually cares about bikes, pedestrians, and mass transit. And with no incumbent in this election, this is the best chance we'll ever have. It's now or never. And it matter because, among things, your city council representative picks members of the community board.

Lynne Serpe came up to me on a street corner a few years ago and said, "I like your bike." So of course I voted for her (yes, I'm that easy). But honestly, in that election, she didn't get too many other votes. That's why she needs to get the word out. And that's why she needs money. Your money. Because like it or not, money counts.

So help Lynne Serpe kick off her new campaign on Wednesday, June 5. And give her money.

Bikes and Peds

I understand pedestrians don't want to get run over by bikes. In truth most bikes don't want to hit pedestrians. So it's a disservice--even dangerous--to simply have crosswalks cut through bike paths with nothing telling the pedestrian to look for bikes.

The city generally just tells bikes to yield to pedestrians. I'm not against this. But what does it mean? Do I stop if there's a pedestrian who might jump in front of me? And bikes do have something called momentum. It's just easier for a pedestrian to stop for a second and go than stop and wait for a bike to stop and then go. Wouldn't it be in everybody's interest to inform peds when bikes (or cars) might be zooming by? Why not at least least inform people there is a bike lane they're crossing? (This is particularly a problem on Queens Plaza North and the Hudson River Greenway.) And how about a few more of these signs on bike paths.

I've only seen one, and now I can't even remember where I took this picture. You see, because it's a bike lane. Instead there are more signs saying "shared path." But if a bike lane is a shared path, isn't it really just saying it's a sidewalk on which bikes can ride? And you can't ride a bike down a sidewalk if there are two pedestrians strolling side by side who may or may not be in the right. 

The other day, after a tour of the Steinway factory (yes, you can and should take a tour of the Steinway Piano factory), I finally made it to SingleCut Brewery (19-33 37th St.). Nice place.

I just wish I liked their beer (and I do like beer). Maybe they just use too much hops. Or maybe they just use some kind of hops I don't like? I don't know, but I don't like any of their beers. Regardless, I wish them well. Coming back through Astoria Park, there's a nice new recreational bike path there. Not good for commuters... But nice for going through the park, I suppose. But then there's this sign:

Now I don't know anybody who reads these things bottom to top. It's not the way our eyes work. It's also not the way the English language works. The shame is that "ahead peds to yield" means something quite different from what I think this sign is trying to tell me. But when I doubt I always believe my lying eyes.

In other news, bike share starts tomorrow and I can't wait!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Read a book

Why? Because it's good for you. Builds character. Be real cool and read it in actual book form. Be super real cool and do so while riding your bike. Here's the book: In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist. It's by Pete Jordan. You may know him from Dishwasher fame. I actually tracked the guy down in Amsterdam. Yes... I, Mr. Astoria Bike, have met and like Pete Jordan (is that a crime?). If you like cities and bike (and if you don't, why are you reading this?), you will like reading about a Yankee in King Willem-Alexander's court (though, to be fair, it was Queen Beatrix's court when Jordan was writing, but whatever...). Amsterdam is a great bike city. I've biked there, in fact. In fact, I have a bike there (poor, dusty thing). In the City of Bikes will make you love cities even more. As a review on Amazon says, it's the book David Byrne wish he wrote. I couldn't agree more.

The Pedestrian–Cyclist Armistice

Slate has all the answers. If I could add just one more for pedestrians: don't cross against the light without looking for bikes. Green means go, even for bikes.

Friday, May 17, 2013

An Astoria Bookshop!

Finally... A real book store in Astoria! Astoria Bookshop will be opening its doors at 31-27 31st Street. I can't wait. For those who don't know, Astoria had a bookstore until 2011. But Seaburn Books was a horrible bookstore (not withstanding the fact that Sam, the owner, is a swell guy). There was very little stock, and much of said stock was stoop-sale quality. Books couldn't be found because they weren't even sorted. Nor was there any bookstore culture. Just piles and piles of overpriced crap. It wasn't a great business model ("So, Sam, after you looked in vain for 15 minutes for a book you should know whether you have or not, you want me to place an order and come back in a four days and then pay much more than if I just ordered on Amazon, got the book sooner, and didn't have to make a second trip back to this cluttered mess? No thanks.") Once I went into Seaburn and suggested perhaps they could highlight local Astoria writers. Sam thought it was a great idea... and, as always, nothing happened. It was probably good that Seaburn closed. Not because we need another frozen yogurt store (indeed, that is what is now at the location) but because it's better to have it known that Astoria has no bookstore rather than have people think that market niche was filled, and not thriving. So now, yes indeed, Astoria will have a bookstore! A real bookstore. With books... Culture... Even alphabetization! I'm giddy just thinking about it. [And coming soon, perhaps just a block away: Astoria Coffee Shop. Try a sample. I'm drinking me some of Dennis's brew right now!]