May 29, 2009

Taking Back The Streets of Midtown


Starting Monday, May 25th, the Department of Traffic blocked off traffic on two stretches of Broadway in Midtown. It's part of a pilot program that creates a pedestrian mall for five blocks in Times Square and two blocks at Herald Square.

As someone who worked in Times Square for four years, I can't begin to tell you how much that extra room is needed. Just being able to bypass the tourists will be a vast quality of life improvement. Beyond that, having more outdoor space to sit in the sun and eat lunch in is greatly appreciated.

_MG_7215 - Version 2

On Sunday I was in the area and got to see the DOT workers repainting the road. It's exciting to see where the city is going with these pedestrian and bike-friendly programs. It started with more bike lanes popping up all over town, which has been very helpful to me as a nascent bike-rider. Then last year, the Summer Streets programs opened up miles of
road to bicyclists and runners and strolling pedestrians every Saturday in August.

Apparently, this is all the work of Janette Sadik-Khan, the Transportation Commissioner. I won't bother to paraphrase the more extensive New York Magazine article, which goes more in-depth into the commissioners plans as well as her opponents around the city.

I, for one, support the idea that since pedestrians vastly outnumber drivers, we should probably get more space. But that probably makes me as much a 'radical' as she is.

_MG_7332 - Version 2

Depending on how the pilot program fares, the spaces will be made permanent and the areas will be redesigned to cater to the new use. For now, orange barriers like these will keep the streets safe for pedestrians.

The unfortunate part of the entire arrangement is that most New Yorkers, myself included will still rush through these areas due to the complete saturation of tourists. But at least we'll be able to get by faster.

May 15, 2009

Bike Month

_MG_0236 - Version 2

I haven't been on my bike in a few months but May is Bike Month and has dozens of events around New York for those on two wheels to take advantage of. Those of us too chicken to go out in the crap weather will have to keep wishing for a drier end of the month.

And for those wondering, the Tour de Brooklyn is on Sunday, June 7th.

December 4, 2008

Paris: VeLib

IMG_6694, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Nearly everything in central Paris seems pretty close to everything else, but isn't quite. The Metro seems to stop every 5 blocks or so, but rarely in quite the right direction for where I want to go, so we usually end up walking.

The walking often adds up though, and what seems like a quick walk around the corner ends up being a whole day on our feet.

Enter VeLib, the free bike rentals that are ALL over the city. Everywhere we go there is a VeLib 'station,' a dock of 10-30 bikes and a machine to purchase a rental from. The best part is that it's free for the first half hour which is about as long as we'd ever need them to get from point A to point B.

The downside: We've never managed to get them to work. For whatever reason, they just won't accept any card that we've tried to use. We've been trying for the entire time we've been here with no success. Unfortunately there seems to be no support for them to speak of. The website has just about the worst English translation I've ever seen, so it's no help at all.

So, our 'great' disappointment of our honeymoon is that we weren't able to ride around on our little bikes to go shopping or to get to a museum. All things considered, not that big a deal.

August 8, 2008

Photo of the Day: Kick

IMG_9841 - Version 2, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

X Games 14, Los Angeles. 2008.

August 2, 2008

Biking LA

IMG_7467, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Amazingly, I've seen more than a few people on bicycles here in Los Angeles. Each time I've pondered how unpleasant an experience that must be. I'm not even comfortable riding around Manhattan.

Riding in place where everything is a half hour drive away, boulevards have 8 lanes and no sidewalks and the temperature is invariably in the 80's seems ridiculously dangerous.

Apparently, that's pretty accurate. This morning I glanced at the Wall Street Journal in the hotel lobby and found a piece discussing the difficulties biking Angelenos face. It gets pretty ugly. The most severe hazard seems to be belligerent drivers, which isn't particularly surprising.

Last month, a pissed off driver slammed his brakes ahead of a couple of riders, sending them to the hospital. It's a toss up whether this story is more disturbing because the driver had been in a similar accident a few months earlier or that he's a physician, who knows exactly the type of damage that sort of behavior could lead to.

Predictably, this incident rallied the biking community, but it seems to have also begun a long-needed conversation about sharing the road.

Hopefully it all works out, but I won't be renting a bicycle out here any time soon.

June 29, 2008

Photo of the Day: The Bike Man

IMG_9261, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Tammi's friend Clarence is a bike activist who shoots online videos about bicycling in the city. He's the one who did the video on bicycle security I mentioned a while back.

As far as I know, he's also the only person I know with a wikipedia entry. Street Films the organization he works for, promotes safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians. A couple weeks ago, they filmed the Transportation Alternatives' Commuter Challenge, a race between a driver, a bicyclist and a straphanger. to Union Square.

June 17, 2008

SF: Bicycle Observations

IMG_4754, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Among the many things that I'm currently swooning about San Francisco over is how bicycle-friendly it seems to be. I'd never have thought it. If there's any place I would naturally avoid bicycling it would be a place with as many steep hills as San Francisco. But given the few things we saw, it seems to cater to the two-wheeled very well.

First there were these signs that Tammi and I saw all around the Financial District, which I can't begin to imagine in Wall Street.

We also came across the most amazing bicycle parking inside the BART station at Mission and 16th. It looked like it could park between 50 and 100 bicycles. To top it off, there's a well along the side of the stairway going into the station designed specifically for riders to roll their bikes down.

May 26, 2008

The Tour: The Navy Yard

IMG_9365, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

As mentioned, the Tour de Brooklyn took us through the 'exclusive' Navy Yard. TransAlt managed to get us in to ride through the facility, which is generally closed to the public.

Loving giant dilapidated monstrosities, I was pretty psyched, but shortly after taking this shot, was told that photography wasn't allowed, so I couldn't get into the good stuff.


The Tour de Brooklyn 2008

IMG_9304, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Yesterday, Tammi, her nephew Glenn and I rode in the Tour de Brooklyn, a 18 mile ride starting in DUMBO and running through Brooklyn Heights, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Bushwick, Williamsburg, down the waterfront through the Navy Yards (more on that in a bit) and back to DUMBO, ending in Walt Whitman Park near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Between the ride to and from the event and the tour itself, we rode nearly 30 miles. Shockingly, I'm not too sore from the whole thing. The ride was great for the most part. I got to see neighborhoods I'd never really been to before and make geographical connections between areas, which is one of my favorite things about riding.

Continue reading "The Tour de Brooklyn 2008" »

May 6, 2008

Down the Rabbit Hole

IMG_6570, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Just a week ago, I went on about how I wasn't going to be one of the bike cultists. Since then, I've ridden around Brooklyn a few times, railed against drivers who block the bike lane, planned out future rides, traded notes with other bike riders on routes, gear and websites and spent an afternoon wishing I was riding instead of walking.

It's really amazing how it all happens. Last week, I mentioned to a co-worker that I had just gotten my bike and he told me that he also got a bike in the last week. The next day I'm getting, "So, I hear you got a bike..." It creeped me out at first, but I find myself really enjoying having people to trade notes and maybe ride with some time.

So, I've started to give in to it. I've been hitting folks up for advice and doing my best to learn my way around. I've definitely gotten more comfortable riding in traffic than I thought I would have by now. I'm not sure how soon I think I'll be ready to deal with taxis in midtown - that still scares the hell out of me - but the idea of riding in Manhattan is no longer the scariest thing I can imagine.

Weirder for me is actively thinking on a summer day, "what I really would like to do is get on the bike and ride to xyz." I'm not so sure how to deal with that yet.

More to come...

April 30, 2008

Bicycle Security

Bicycles, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Having just dropped a couple hundred bucks on a brand new bike, I'm obviously hoping to avoid it looking like this any time soon.

The more enthusiastic members of the bike cult tell you never ever to lock up your bike. This is ridiculous to me, since that effectively means you can only ride to places where you've got your bike at all times. This my make perfect sense to some folks, that's not why I got my bike.

So, I'm trying to learn about locks and such. Coincidentally, Clarence Eckerson, a friend of Tammi's and a bike rights advocate filmed a piece for StreetFilms about properly securing your bike. Tammi posted it on her blog, here.

It's pretty useful, but I'm a bit put off by the attitude that anyone who doesn't know what they're telling you is an idiot. It's common in a lot of areas, especially computers. I'm sure I've done it many times, but it's still obnoxious.

Also, for anyone annoyed by my use of the term 'Bike Cult,' please note that one of the people in this film is from something called

April 28, 2008

My First Brooklyn Bike Ride

Yesterday, after buying my new bike out in Red Hook, Tammi and I rode around Brooklyn and then back home. Tammi was my 'wingman,' following behind me on her rollerblades. I was really nervous at first, but managed to get home without incident. I wasn't sure that I'd be riding much when I first decided to get the bike, now I'm planning my next ride for later this week.

I'm heavily resisting joining the bike cult. I will be locking up my bike outside occasionally, I won't be going to any critical mass rallies any time soon.

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