Tales from a post-Sandy bus commute

Tales from a post-Sandy bus commute

Bikes next to bus line

Huge lines formed for subway replacement buses, while bike traffic streamed by.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Coverage from New York City
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Having a bike while I was in New York was a lifesaver. Thanks to BikePortland reader Jacob Mason, I had a reliable road bike that took me all over the city without ever missing a beat. But on Friday after I returned the bike, I found myself on foot, facing the reality of hauling myself and my bags from Brooklyn all the way up to West Harlem.

The subway I needed wasn’t running, and neither was regular bus service. My best option was to try one of the new shuttle bus lines the MTA and DOT had set up to respond to the transit emergency. For transit geeks, what they did on such short order was truly amazing. The essentially created a bus rapid transit line in 24 hours. They took a major arterial (Flatbush Ave), reallocated the lanes with traffic cones, and gave buses dedicated lane access all the way across the bridge and into Manhattan.

emergency bus rapid transit on Flatbush

Voila! Bus rapid transit (as seen from the 27th floor of Avalon Fort Greene housing tower at Flatbush Ave and Myrtle).
NYC bus commute

Buses only.

The only problem, from a rider’s perspective, is that the line to catch one of these buses was monumental. Imagine a line with 7-8 people standing shoulder-to-shoulder (in the cold) the width of an entire city sidewalk. Now imagine that line wrapping around two blocks. And that’s only what it was like at 10:30 AM, which was far off the morning commute peak.

The good news was that morale improved once folks realized the line was moving at regular intervals. The bad news was that once the line reached Jay Ave, people on bikes streamed by! They were so carefree and untethered! I swear the people on bikes were smirking as they rolled by, which created quite a contrast to the dour countenances in the bus line.

NYC bus commute

And I think people waiting in line noticed…

NYC bus commute

The bus ride itself wasn’t that bad. Yes, we were packed in like sad sardines, and it only went to 54th Street (my final destination was 139th); but at least it was a ride. And it was free.

NYC bus commute

My bike is never this crowded.

As I stood at the front of the bus, snapping photos of people on bikes passing us in traffic, the closing argument on biking after Sandy became clear: When disaster strikes, ride a bike!

Bikescapes nyc-6

The lanes were wide open for people on bikes (photographed from inside a bus).
NYC bus commute

— This post is part of my ongoing New York City coverage. I’m here for a week to cover the NACTO Designing Cities conference and the city’s bike culture in general. This special reporting trip was made possible by Planet Bike, Lancaster Engineering, and by readers like you. Thank you! You can find all my New York City coverage here.

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