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Category: New York City 2012

Biking beautiful in NYC: A photo essay

Biking beautiful in NYC: A photo essay

Amazing outfit - upper west side

The glasses, the bike, the outfit, the face. Love it all. (Seen on the Upper West Side.)
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

I’m working late on a Friday, I’m inspired by the Streets of Chrome photography exhibit I’m headed to tonight, and I hate to end the weekend on a serious note, so I figured I’d share a photo essay from my trip to New York City back in October. As many of you already know, I adored my time there. It was enthralling and inspirational.

I’ve shared a lot photos from that trip, but there are also quite a few that haven’t been on the Front Page yet. One of my fondest memories of the trip was simply observing New Yorkers in their natural habitat and watching street life unfold in front of me. The photos below are testament to the stylish, graceful, bold, diverse, and beautiful people of New York City. I hope love them as much as I do…

1
Broadway protected bike lane and plazas-15

2
NYC 9th Ave protected bike lane-5

3
NYC 9th Ave protected bike lane-7

4
Broadway protected bike lane and plazas-17

5
Clinton St at Delancey-3

6
Broadway protected bike lane and plazas-1

7
Brooklyn Bridge at night-2

8
Bikescapes nyc-24

9
Bikescapes nyc-23

10
Bikescapes nyc-22

11
Bikescapes nyc-18

12
Bikescapes nyc-12

13
Prospect Park-6

14
lowrider

15
Riding in the dark with Times Up

16
Two guys talking

17
Prospect Park-12

Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke.
18
NYC Bike traffic-2

19
Bikescapes nyc-14

Have a great weekend.

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The art of riding in New York City

The art of riding in New York City

Flushing St protected bike lane-1

Art infuses the bicycling experience
in New York City.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

As you might have noticed, there were many things I liked about riding through the streets of New York.

While their bike-specific infrastructure is nothing to ignore, one aspect of the New York City bicycling experience that might get easily overlooked by engineers and planners is its interestingness. Maybe it was just because I love public art. Or perhaps it was simply because I was a tourist with fresh eyes. Either way, I couldn’t help but notice all the paintings, murals and other interesting art as I rode around.

Some of what makes New York City street art so abundant is graffiti, but even the NYC DOT appreciates it enough that they actually have an official urban art program. The benefits of urban art — especially for bicycling — are obvious. For relatively little money, painted walls and infrastructure can create a more vibrant and welcoming space. When you’re trying to encourage people to use that space, it makes sense to make it as inviting as possible.

And it seems to me that public art has even more impact for people transporting themselves with human power. From the seat of a bicycle or from the vantage point of a sidewalk, people who are biking or walking are going slower and they have much better vision of their surroundings — both of which make it easier to appreciate public art.

For example, the barricades that create the protected bike lanes on Flushing Avenue were painted by artists Cara Lynch and Deanna Lee. They were funded through the NYC DOT’s Barrier Beautification program, which rotates exhibits every 11 months and pays artists up to $2,500…

Flushing St protected bike lane-4

Flushing St protected bike lane-7

Another project commissioned by the NYC DOT that caught my eye was a mural on the bicycle ramp approach of the Manhattan Bridge. The artist was Abby Goldstein…

People on Bikes - Manhattan Bridge-11

The NYC DOT also gets into the act of art with their public plazas. Here’s one adjacent to the bikeway on Broadway…

Broadway protected bike lane and plazas-37

And check out the art painted onto the ground at this public plaza on Pearl St. in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn…

Pearl St. Plaza in Dumbo-1

When the NYC DOT opened up their Greenpoint East River Ferry Terminal last year, they realized the road leading to it, India Street, was rundown and unwelcoming. A simple lane re-striping and the addition of a series of bold wall paintings changed all that…

Greenpoint Ferry-1

Greenpoint Ferry access

The DOT is far from the only source of public street art. 5Pointz is a legendary “graffiti mecca” in Long Island City. It’s a huge industrial building whose owner allows artists to paint sections of the exterior walls…

5 Points graffiti -1

5 Points graffiti -2

And the sidewalk next to 5Pointz is colorful too…

5 Points graffiti -6

And there were other, random murals and graffiti that caught my eye.

Mural in Dumbo, Brooklyn

Near DUMBO.
Mural on Navy St, Brooklyn

Near the Brooklyn Navy Yards.
Kent Ave-4

Kent Ave.
Pulaski Bridge art

At the northern end of the Pulaski Bridge in Long Island City.

I didn’t have look hard to find great public art on New York City’s bikeways. And there were also signs of bike everywhere I turned. Both of these phenomenon are signs of a healthy bike culture.

Brooklyn Bridge Park-2

— This story comes from my recently completed trip to New York City, which 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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Riding along with Molly Fair, a first-time bike commuter in New York

Riding along with Molly Fair, a first-time bike commuter in New York

Ride Along with Molly Fair-3

Molly Fair (right), was a bit unsure of what her first
bike commute into Manhattan would have in store.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)


29-year old Brooklyn resident Molly Fair was like many New Yorkers in the aftermath of Sandy. The shutdown of subways and buses left her stranded from her job. Fortunately for her, she had a bike; but that alone wouldn’t have been enough to get her to ride it to work. That’s because, like a lot of New Yorkers (and Portlanders for that matter), Molly felt unsafe riding in traffic.

But the impacts of Sandy, and the bike advocates that swung into action in its aftermath, turned out to be the nudge she needed to give it a try. And I happened to come along for the ride.

Molly is one of many people that hopped aboard a bike train in the days following the big storm. She found out about it on the Transportation Alternatives website and I met her, her boyfriend Jessie Goldstein, and TA volunteer (and our conductor) Chris McNally at Red Lantern Bike Shop on Myrtle Ave, which is conveniently located near the base of the Manhattan Bridge.

Ride Along with Molly Fair-1

TA volunteer and bike train leader Chris McNally (center) gets ready
to roll inside the Red Lantern bike shop cafe.

“I hate riding in Manahattan,” Molly shared before we rolled out, “during commute hours it’s especially crazy.” “I would rather not get stressed out before I even get to work,” she added.

Ride Along with Molly Fair-2

Just three days after Sandy hit, Molly was ready to face her fears and New York’s vaunted new bikeways would be put to the test.

Leaving the shop in Brooklyn, we easily connected to a buffered bike lane on Flushing Ave. I had learned earlier in the week from a NYC DOT staffer that this section of Flushing is part of the 14 mile Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. In order to get the space for this buffered bike lane we enjoyed that morning, the DOT removed 300 auto parking spaces.

Flushing Ave buffered bike lane-2

As we rounded the corner and made our way to the Manhattan Bridge approach at Sands Street, we came upon what might be the best example of bike infrastructure I saw on my entire trip.

For two full blocks leading south from Navy Street to the Manhattan Bridge, the NYC DOT has built a center-running, separated-grade, two-way cycle track. For the first block it’s placed up on a mountable curb (which is rounded, so you can roll up or down it with ease). Where the cycle track crosses a street, there are bike-only signals.

Manhattan Bridge approach-3-1

Manhattan Bridge approach-6-1

As Sands approaches the bridge, the path then becomes its own bike highway in the middle of the road, separated from auto traffic by a full concrete median on both sides.

Manhattan Bridge approach-5

Ride Along with Molly Fair-4

Manhattan Bridge approach-7

At the next intersection, there’s another bike-only signal and a diagonal crossing that takes you right up onto the bridge path. Once up on the bridge, the path serves bike traffic well, although it’s a bit narrow. As New York City bike traffic goes up, this (and many other) key paths will be over-capacity.

Manhattan Bridge traffic-1

And it’s beautiful at night!

Manhattan Bridge at night

So far, Molly was doing great. But we still hadn’t reached Manhattan.

Once over the (relatively) long ride over the East River (it’s about a mile wider than the Willamette!) into Manhattan, we made our way to Allen St. What the DOT is doing on Allen is fantastic. What used to be a forgotten center median strip, has been transformed into a park-like environment with separate, dedicated paths for biking and walking. The DOT first claimed the road space by painting green, bollard-protected bike lanes, now they are going back and completing the full, capital project block-by-block. They are replacing the on-street protected bike lanes with dedicated, bike-only paths that wind through a gorgeous, park-like median.

Ride Along with Molly Fair-10

World Class transportation infrastructure-1

This facility on Allen is fantastic, but crossing Manhattan’s huge avenues can be a bit scary (especially since you’re way out there in the middle of the intersection). Thankfully, the crossings were actually easier thanks to Sandy. With all traffic signals still out due to the storm, we were personally shepherded across by traffic officers.

Ride Along with Molly Fair-12

The scramble across.
Ride Along with Molly Fair-11

Ride Along with Molly Fair-13

The post-Sandy bike crowds in Manhattan made the crossings much easier.

Once we successfully scrambled across the big streets like Delancey and Houston, we made our way onto the protected bike lanes on 1st Ave. This is another one of NYC DOT’s marquee projects. They took a major auto thoroughfare and implemented a transit-only lane on one side (they call it Select Bus Service) and a green, protected bike lane on the other. It’s beautiful on paper, but the reality can be a bit ugly; especially for a novice rider like Molly.

The bike lane is very frequently blocked by illegally parked cars and trucks, people routinely biking the wrong way (1st Ave is one-way), walkers, joggers, and then there are the “mixing zones” at every corner where bike operators must use caution and share the space momentarily while cars turn left. Each one of those hazards presents risks that could be enough to scare off timid riders.

NYC2012-1st Ave Protected bike lane-4

A common sight, especially on weekends.
NYC2012-1st Ave Protected bike lane-17

NYC2012-1st Ave Protected bike lane-16

A “mixing zone” in action.

As we made our way up 1st Ave, Molly was still riding calm and steady. She seemed to gain confidence with each obstacle we overcame and with each new spin of the cranks.

Ride Along with Molly Fair-14

We then headed west on 34th Street. That was a mistake. The street has no dedicated bike space and is only two lanes in each direction — with one of them being a busy, bus-only lane. And it was a slight uphill. I started to think that after such a pleasant ride, this last stretch would surely scare Molly off for good. Buses blared behind us, and cars came up fast when we tried to get out of the bus lane. We were in no man’s — or woman’s — land. Luckily, all four of us stayed strong and kept up a good pace.

Ride Along with Molly Fair-17

Manhattan Bridge at night

I was too stressed out to focus the camera!

With a bit of relief, we reached Molly’s destination at 5th Ave. I didn’t have to wonder how she felt. The hug she gave our leader Chris and the big smile on her face said it all.

Ride Along with Molly Fair-18

Ride Along with Molly Fair-19

It took us about 38 minutes to get from the Fort Greene area of Brooklyn to 34th St and 5th Ave in Manhattan, a distance of about five miles. That’s comparable to transit on a normal day and twice as long as a car (without traffic). And — most importantly — almost the entire route was on protected bikeways. It was a real-life testament to the work NYC DOT is doing to prioritize bicycle travel.

The circumstances of Sandy got a lot of New Yorkers onto their bikes for the first time. What Molly shows us is that with a supportive community and excellent, bike-specific infrastructure, there’s a good chance many of them will will keep riding.

— This story comes from my recently completed trip to New York City, which 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.

Riding along with Molly Fair, a first-time bike commuter in New York

Riding along with Molly Fair, a first-time bike commuter in New York

Ride Along with Molly Fair-3

Molly Fair (right), was a bit unsure of what her first
bike commute into Manhattan would have in store.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

29-year old Brooklyn resident Molly Fair was like many New Yorkers in the aftermath of Sandy. The shutdown of subways and buses left her stranded from her job. Fortunately for her, she had a bike; but that alone wouldn’t have been enough to get her to ride it to work. That’s because, like a lot of New Yorkers (and Portlanders for that matter), Molly felt unsafe riding in traffic.

But the impacts of Sandy, and the bike advocates that swung into action in its aftermath, turned out to be the nudge she needed to give it a try. And I happened to come along for the ride.

Molly is one of many people that hopped aboard a bike train in the days following the big storm. She found out about it on the Transportation Alternatives website and I met her, her boyfriend Jessie Goldstein, and TA volunteer (and our conductor) Chris McNally at Red Lantern Bike Shop on Myrtle Ave, which is conveniently located near the base of the Manhattan Bridge. (Note: NYC Biketrain was co-founded by Kimberly Kinchen after she watched a Streetsfilm about Portland’s bike trains.)

Ride Along with Molly Fair-1

TA volunteer and bike train leader Chris McNally (center) gets ready
to roll inside the Red Lantern bike shop cafe.

“I hate riding in Manahattan,” Molly shared before we rolled out, “during commute hours it’s especially crazy.” “I would rather not get stressed out before I even get to work,” she added.

Ride Along with Molly Fair-2

Just three days after Sandy hit, Molly was ready to face her fears and New York’s vaunted new bikeways would be put to the test.

Leaving the shop in Brooklyn, we easily connected to a buffered bike lane on Flushing Ave. I had learned earlier in the week from a NYC DOT staffer that this section of Flushing is part of the 14 mile Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. In order to get the space for this buffered bike lane we enjoyed that morning, the DOT removed 300 auto parking spaces.

Flushing Ave buffered bike lane-2

As we rounded the corner and made our way to the Manhattan Bridge approach at Sands Street, we came upon what might be the best example of bike infrastructure I saw on my entire trip.

For two full blocks leading south from Navy Street to the Manhattan Bridge, the NYC DOT has built a center-running, separated-grade, two-way cycle track. For the first block it’s placed up on a mountable curb (which is rounded, so you can roll up or down it with ease). Where the cycle track crosses a street, there are bike-only signals.

Manhattan Bridge approach-3-1

Manhattan Bridge approach-6-1

As Sands approaches the bridge, the path then becomes its own bike highway in the middle of the road, separated from auto traffic by a full concrete median on both sides.

Manhattan Bridge approach-5

Ride Along with Molly Fair-4

Manhattan Bridge approach-7

At the next intersection, there’s another bike-only signal and a diagonal crossing that takes you right up onto the bridge path. Once up on the bridge, the path serves bike traffic well, although it’s a bit narrow. As New York City bike traffic goes up, this (and many other) key paths will be over-capacity.

Manhattan Bridge traffic-1

And it’s beautiful at night!

Manhattan Bridge at night

So far, Molly was doing great. But we still hadn’t reached Manhattan.

Rolling over the East River into Manhattan, we made our way to Allen St. What the DOT is doing on Allen is fantastic. What used to be a forgotten center median strip, has been transformed into a park-like environment with separate, dedicated paths for biking and walking. The DOT first claimed the road space by painting green, bollard-protected bike lanes, now they are going back and completing the full, capital project block-by-block. They are replacing the on-street protected bike lanes with dedicated, bike-only paths that wind through a gorgeous, park-like median.

Ride Along with Molly Fair-10

World Class transportation infrastructure-1

This facility on Allen is fantastic, but crossing Manhattan’s huge avenues can be a bit scary (especially since you’re way out there in the middle of the intersection). Thankfully, the crossings were actually easier thanks to Sandy. With all traffic signals still out due to the storm, we were personally shepherded across by traffic officers.

Ride Along with Molly Fair-12

The scramble across.
Ride Along with Molly Fair-11

Ride Along with Molly Fair-13

The post-Sandy bike crowds in Manhattan made the crossings much easier.

Once we successfully scrambled across the big streets like Delancey and Houston, we made our way onto the protected bike lanes on 1st Ave. This is another one of NYC DOT’s marquee projects. They took a major auto thoroughfare and implemented a transit-only lane on one side (they call it Select Bus Service) and a green, protected bike lane on the other. It’s beautiful on paper, but the reality can be a bit ugly; especially for a novice rider like Molly.

The bike lane is very frequently blocked by illegally parked cars and trucks, people routinely biking the wrong way (1st Ave is one-way), walkers, joggers, and then there are the “mixing zones” at every corner where bike operators must use caution and share the space momentarily while cars turn left. Each one of those hazards presents risks that could be enough to scare off timid riders.

NYC2012-1st Ave Protected bike lane-4

A common sight, especially on weekends.
NYC2012-1st Ave Protected bike lane-17

NYC2012-1st Ave Protected bike lane-16

A “mixing zone” in action.

As we made our way up 1st Ave, Molly was still riding calm and steady. She seemed to gain confidence with each obstacle we overcame and with each new spin of the cranks.

Ride Along with Molly Fair-14

We then headed west on 34th Street. That was a mistake. The street has no dedicated bike space and is only two lanes in each direction — with one of them being a busy, bus-only lane. And it was a slight uphill. I started to think that after such a pleasant ride, this last stretch would surely scare Molly off for good. Buses blared behind us, and cars came up fast when we tried to get out of the bus lane. We were in no man’s — or woman’s — land. Luckily, all four of us stayed strong and kept up a good pace.

Ride Along with Molly Fair-17

Ride Along with Molly Fair-16

I was too stressed out to focus the camera!

With a bit of relief, we reached Molly’s destination at 5th Ave. I didn’t have to wonder how she felt. The hug she gave our leader Chris and the big smile on her face said it all.

Ride Along with Molly Fair-18

Ride Along with Molly Fair-19

It took us about 38 minutes to get from the Fort Greene area of Brooklyn to 34th St and 5th Ave in Manhattan, a distance of about five miles. That’s comparable to transit on a normal day and twice as long as a car (without traffic). And — most importantly — almost the entire route was on protected bikeways. It was a real-life testament to the work NYC DOT is doing to prioritize bicycle travel.

The circumstances of Sandy got a lot of New Yorkers onto their bikes for the first time. What Molly shows us is that with a supportive community and excellent, bike-specific infrastructure, there’s a good chance many of them will will keep riding.

— This story comes from my recently completed trip to New York City, which 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.

Mark Gorton and the ‘American streets renaissance’

Mark Gorton and the ‘American streets renaissance’

Mark Gorton-1

Livable streets activist Mark Gorton stands near the protected bike lane on Columbus Ave., just a few blocks from his home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)


Livable streets activist and financier Mark Gorton is tired of business as usual when it comes to transportation reform. Simply put, he feels the way American cities design their streets with cars as a top priority is “insane” and that settling for incremental change is not acceptable given the dramatic — and negative — impacts car overuse has on our lives.

Coverage from New York City
made possible by:

Spurred by success in New York City, he’s now setting sights on main streets across the country. His new effort is tentatively named the American Streets Renaissance and he’s traveling the country encouraging advocates and anyone who will listen that it’s time to “Re-think the automobile.”

So who is this guy and why should you care?

Gorton and the community of activism he’s funded and fostered, have played key roles in the proliferation of protected bike lanes and public plazas throughout New York City, a place where — as I found out myself last week — innovative street design is all but institutionalized. Now Gorton wants to expand his influence beyond the Big Apple; and given his track record, I wouldn’t bet against him.

If you haven’t heard about Mark Gorton, you’re excused. He’s been far from front-and-center in the bike and transportation advocacy world. He made his name (and his fortune) as the software whiz behind the Limewire music sharing service (which earned him a copyright lawsuit which he settled for $105 million last year) and now owns a suite of companies powered by software he’s helped develop. When it comes to livable streets activism, his most important investment has been the New York City Streets Renaissance (NYCSR) campaign. In 2005, just as blogging was taking hold as a legitimate source of news, Gorton-backed Streetsblog (which launched in New York City in 2005 and has since spawned Streetfilms and blog editions in Los Angeles, San Francisco and DC). Gorton has also been a major funder of Transportation Alternatives, New York City’s largest active transportation non-profit.

Gorton has a rare mix of Ivy League intelligence, an activist’s passion, entrepreneurial acumen, and most importantly, the ability to put his money where his mouth is.

I had planned to meet Gorton on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for an interview on Monday, October 29th; but with Sandy quickly approaching and evacuations being ordered, we decided a phone interview would be more prudent (I did end up meeting Gorton a few days later in person to get photographs).

Even on the phone, it didn’t take Gorton long to get fired up. “We have to stop this insanity,” he said, in a refreshingly direct way.

Mark Gorton

When Gorton and the community of activists he supported went to work back in 2003, they faced a very tall order. “[Mayor] Bloomberg was saying things like, ‘We like traffic, it’s a sign of economic progress’,” he recalled, “It was like, ‘There’s a lot of traffic, what are you going to do about it? It’s always been that way.'” To the policymakers at City Hall and DOT, questioning that status quo of streets where cars, trucks and taxis reigned supreme, Gorton said, “Was like saying New York shouldn’t have tall buildings.”

“The fact is, people are dying, people’s lives are being shortened… Now it’s time for planners and officials to start owning the health and safety of citizens. It’s about not letting these people get away with it anymore.”

When Gorton first got involved with Transportation Alternatives, they only had three employees (they now have over 30), but they were winning enough issues — like access to East River bridges and the West Side Greenway — that Gorton said he was inspired to join up and help them out. “The strategy back then was incremental change on the margins, with the assumption that the world would always be dominated by cars… Even Transportation Alternatives is a self-marginalizing name…. The mindset was, ‘Just let us have something. Please?!'”

With the NYSCR campaign, the goal was two-fold. First, Gorton said they needed to illustrate the problem, and then they had to offer solutions. “If you think the status quo is right, it’s pretty hard to change, so step one was getting people to understand that the status quo was not right, that there were better ways to do things, and that things have been stupid for long enough.”

To get things rolling, Gorton and his team developed a package of messages, held several high-profile events, and got well-known Manhattanites to host an exhibition of livable streets designs. “We were raising consciousness, rallying the troops, getting people excited,” he recalled. Once Streetsblog was humming along, it became a “beacon” Gorton said. “A lot of people knew cars were oppressive and that traffic wasn’t safe, but you felt like a freak at Community Board meetings for saying so. Streetsblog said, ‘You’re not alone, here are the resources you need to do something about it.’ People got activated.”

A few years later, Streetsblog and Gorton’s Street Renaissance campaign had educated and activated a significant number of New Yorkers. Suddenly, livable streets had found a strong voice in the local transportation dialogue (and that’s saying a lot in such a major city like New York).

Gorton fondly recalled how the tone changed at some of those Community Board meetings when heated transportation issues would arise. “You should have heard how articulate people in the community were… You could just tell how empowered people are with this message. It’s been a real force in the city.”

Many people lay all the credit for New York’s sweeping street transformations on NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Mayor Bloomberg. Gorton feels they’ve been fortunate to have that pair in power, but adds, “We created the political environment were it was possible for them to do all that stuff.” (Note: Gorton’s efforts stand on the shoulders of years of important work by activists like Times Up! and others that also laid crucial groundwork for change.)

Key to their success, Gorton says, was not being afraid to, “shock the sensibilities.” As if speaking to a group of old-school, highway-centric, transportation power brokers, Gorton exclaimed, “You’re ruining our country! You’re wasting our money! You should stop being so cavalier about it.”

City transportation officials (and even some professional bike advocates) live in fear of being perceived as too “anti-car.” Even Janette Sadik-Khan, he ways, is “holding back” out of fear of a backlash. But Gorton pulls no punches when it comes to framing the narrative about car overuse. “They’re a plague on the city,” he says matter-of-factly. During his keynote speech at the recent Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference, Gorton raised eyebrows when he said there should be a nationwide moratorium on expanding and/or building highways. (Even in progressive Portland, both Metro and the City of Portland have recently green-lighted major highway expansion projects.)

Gorton says after his speech at Pro Walk/Pro Bike, a bike advocate came up to him to say they enjoyed his talk, but that saying we shouldn’t build any more highways is just over the top. “Afterwards, I was thinking, why can’t I say that? Why, as a bike advocate do you feel like you have to lie on behalf of the auto industry? I think we’ve just been conditioned for so long that now it’s somehow crazy to suggest things like this.”

So you’re not you worried about people dismissing you as too radical? Too crazy? I asked him. “This is not crazy!” he replied, “Everyone else is crazy; endangering the lives of your children every day is crazy.”

“The fact is, people are dying, people’s lives are being shortened,” he continued, “Why aren’t people impatient? Why aren’t they holding people accountable? Now it’s time for planners and officials to start owning the health and safety of citizens. It’s about not letting these people get away with it anymore.”

If you write off Gorton as just an anti-car firebrand, you’d be missing the complete picture. He feels that cars are an important and necessary invention, but they’re simply better suited to the countryside. “The automobile is a rural technology that has been misapplied to cities,” reads a slide in one of the presentations he’s been giving throughout the country. “They are a spatially inappropriate technology for a dense city.”

To back up his rhetoric, Gorton has some very compelling stats. For instance, today, 370,000 fewer people enter New York City’s central business district each weekday than in 1948; but there are now 450,000 more cars entering the CBD than in 1948. These numbers form the basis of one of Gorton’s key arguments; that the shift to the private automobile has destroyed transportation capacity. He shares this graphic to back it up (click to enlarge):

While he has a bevvy of stats and figures to make his case, Gorton’s primary argument is that the overuse of cars has dramatically curtailed the ability for human life to flourish in cities. Sidewalks, plazas, and parks — which used to be the hallmark of great cities (including New York) — have been chipped away at in order to make more space to move more automobiles at ever-increasing speeds. (And, contrary to popular myth, Gorton says more cars in a city is not tied to increased economic growth.)

Slide from Gorton’s presentation. (Photo: Aaron Donovan/StartsandFits.com)

In order to reverse this trend and reclaim urban space, Gorton is calling for a “total transformation” of urban streets. His presentations outline solutions like timed street closings (like Sunday Parkways), parking reform, congestion pricing, better transit, complete bicycle networks, and more. He also says advocates need to “step up their game” in order to push for these changes. “This is part of the whole point of a renaissance. To go bigger than before, to stop being patient with the stupidity. People need to be a little fed up with this acceptance of this status quo.”

“What gets me worked up is that my kids can’t go anywhere to play alone, that our streets have crushed their independence… That we’ve destroyed our human living environment.”

Gorton looks at the lack of progress on the national level as one reason he thinks a new approach is needed (the only silver lining to MAP-21, national bike organizations said, was that it could have been much worse). “There’s a lot of people that have been working on federal transportation reform for a while… and it hasn’t been going really well. If you look at the national policy, it’s just backwards. I think there’s a lot of receptiveness to coming up with a new strategy now. A lot of people look at this new bill and say, this is unacceptable.”

To get things moving in the right direction, Gorton will focus on messaging. He’s a believer that the way we talk about transportation issues matters. “I don’t like to talk about ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability’. Those terms are so nebulous. That’s not what gets me worked up,” he said. “What gets me worked up is that my kids can’t go anywhere to play alone, that our streets have crushed their independence… That we’ve destroyed our human living environment.”

To Gorton, the battle being waged in cities is far from a “war on cars.” In fact, he’d rather not use the term “war” because he feels there area lot of people who aren’t comfortable with that type of rhetoric. “But,” he’s quick to add, “the fact is there’s a war on people, on childhood mobility… And the auto industry is winning that war. If you you want to talk death, victims, casualties, you have to look at who’s the aggressor. I don’t have a problem using strong language when it comes to the safety of our neighborhoods.”

In addition to human terms, Gorton says the key to moving the needle is to talk about transportation reform in fiscal terms. “If you want to win over Tea Party Republicans — or even mayor and governors trying to balance budgets — highway infrastructure is a 20-cent on the dollar return, that’s just a waste of money. That’s how you bankrupt the country. In a world where money isn’t flowing like it used to, you have to cut back.”

Changes to increase capacity on our roadways and make them more accessible to biking don’t have to come with big, expensive capital projects. “A lot of this stuff could be simply policy changes,” he says. “On the Upper West Side, for example, you could say there’s no parking on every side street on weekends and there’s no through traffic. You could implement that within two weeks.”

Mark Gorton-2

What about suburbs and outlying neighborhoods? Do they get to enjoy the fruits of this street renaissance? Gorton, who grew up in the suburbs, said he’s working on that issue. He said cars would still have a role in the suburban context, but that large roads offer a lot of room for things like bike boulevards. Another thing he’d push for in suburbs are changes to zoning rules.

In the end, Gorton believes the time is now for a stronger transportation reform movement. “People are ready for this,” he repeated during our conversation. Even if all the large, mainstream advocacy groups feel his style is too radical, Gorton believes there’s still a strong enough movement out there that he’ll be able to succeed.

It comes to a sense of urgency to shift the status quo; but it doesn’t have to mean a gloves-off approach. “I’m happy to engage people,” said Gorton, “but I’m getting less and less tolerant of accepting their mistakes. They’re hurting our country. It’s not O.K.”

“I don’t want to wait for my kids to grow up to make these changes.”

Learn more about Gorton and download his presentations at RethinkTheAuto.org.

Mark Gorton and the ‘American streets renaissance’

Mark Gorton and the ‘American streets renaissance’

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Livable streets activist Mark Gorton stands near the protected bike lane on Columbus Ave., just a few blocks from his home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)


Livable streets activist and financier Mark Gorton is tired of business as usual when it comes to transportation reform. Simply put, he feels the way American cities design their streets with cars as a top priority is “insane” and that settling for incremental change is not acceptable given the dramatic — and negative — impacts car overuse has on our lives.

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Spurred by success in New York City, he’s now setting sights on main streets across the country. His new effort is tentatively named the American Streets Renaissance and he’s traveling the country encouraging advocates and anyone who will listen that it’s time to “Re-think the automobile.”

So who is this guy and why should you care?

Gorton and the community of activism he’s funded and fostered, have played key roles in the proliferation of protected bike lanes and public plazas throughout New York City, a place where — as I found out myself last week — innovative street design is all but institutionalized. Now Gorton wants to expand his influence beyond the Big Apple; and given his track record, I wouldn’t bet against him.

If you haven’t heard about Mark Gorton, you’re excused. He’s been far from front-and-center in the bike and transportation advocacy world. He made his name (and his fortune) as the software whiz behind the Limewire music sharing service (which earned him a copyright lawsuit which he settled for $105 million last year) and now owns a suite of companies powered by software he’s helped develop. When it comes to livable streets activism, his most important investment has been the New York City Streets Renaissance (NYCSR) campaign. In 2005, just as blogging was taking hold as a legitimate source of news, Gorton-backed Streetsblog (which launched in New York City in 2005 and has since spawned Streetfilms and blog editions in Los Angeles, San Francisco and DC). Gorton has also been a major funder of Transportation Alternatives, New York City’s largest active transportation non-profit.

Gorton has a rare mix of Ivy League intelligence, an activist’s passion, entrepreneurial acumen, and most importantly, the ability to put his money where his mouth is.

I had planned to meet Gorton on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for an interview on Monday, October 29th; but with Sandy quickly approaching and evacuations being ordered, we decided a phone interview would be more prudent (I did end up meeting Gorton a few days later in person to get photographs).

Even on the phone, it didn’t take Gorton long to get fired up. “We have to stop this insanity,” he said, in a refreshingly direct way.

Mark Gorton

When Gorton and the community of activists he supported went to work back in 2003, they faced a very tall order. “[Mayor] Bloomberg was saying things like, ‘We like traffic, it’s a sign of economic progress’,” he recalled, “It was like, ‘There’s a lot of traffic, what are you going to do about it? It’s always been that way.'” To the policymakers at City Hall and DOT, questioning that status quo of streets where cars, trucks and taxis reigned supreme, Gorton said, “Was like saying New York shouldn’t have tall buildings.”

“The fact is, people are dying, people’s lives are being shortened… Now it’s time for planners and officials to start owning the health and safety of citizens. It’s about not letting these people get away with it anymore.”

When Gorton first got involved with Transportation Alternatives, they only had three employees (they now have over 30), but they were winning enough issues — like access to East River bridges and the West Side Greenway — that Gorton said he was inspired to join up and help them out. “The strategy back then was incremental change on the margins, with the assumption that the world would always be dominated by cars… Even Transportation Alternatives is a self-marginalizing name…. The mindset was, ‘Just let us have something. Please?!'”

With the NYSCR campaign, the goal was two-fold. First, Gorton said they needed to illustrate the problem, and then they had to offer solutions. “If you think the status quo is right, it’s pretty hard to change, so step one was getting people to understand that the status quo was not right, that there were better ways to do things, and that things have been stupid for long enough.”

To get things rolling, Gorton and his team developed a package of messages, held several high-profile events, and got well-known Manhattanites to host an exhibition of livable streets designs. “We were raising consciousness, rallying the troops, getting people excited,” he recalled. Once Streetsblog was humming along, it became a “beacon” Gorton said. “A lot of people knew cars were oppressive and that traffic wasn’t safe, but you felt like a freak at Community Board meetings for saying so. Streetsblog said, ‘You’re not alone, here are the resources you need to do something about it.’ People got activated.”

A few years later, Streetsblog and Gorton’s Street Renaissance campaign had educated and activated a significant number of New Yorkers. Suddenly, livable streets had found a strong voice in the local transportation dialogue (and that’s saying a lot in such a major city like New York).

Gorton fondly recalled how the tone changed at some of those Community Board meetings when heated transportation issues would arise. “You should have heard how articulate people in the community were… You could just tell how empowered people are with this message. It’s been a real force in the city.”

Many people lay all the credit for New York’s sweeping street transformations on NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Mayor Bloomberg. Gorton feels they’ve been fortunate to have that pair in power, but adds, “We created the political environment were it was possible for them to do all that stuff.” (Note: Gorton’s efforts stand on the shoulders of years of important work by activists like Times Up! and others that also laid crucial groundwork for change.)

Key to their success, Gorton says, was not being afraid to, “shock the sensibilities.” As if speaking to a group of old-school, highway-centric, transportation power brokers, Gorton exclaimed, “You’re ruining our country! You’re wasting our money! You should stop being so cavalier about it.”

City transportation officials (and even some professional bike advocates) live in fear of being perceived as too “anti-car.” Even Janette Sadik-Khan, he says, is “holding back” out of fear of a backlash. But Gorton pulls no punches when it comes to framing the narrative about car overuse. “They’re a plague on the city,” he says matter-of-factly. During his keynote speech at the recent Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference, Gorton raised eyebrows when he said there should be a nationwide moratorium on expanding and/or building highways. (Even in progressive Portland, both Metro and the City of Portland have recently green-lighted major highway expansion projects.)

Gorton says after his speech at Pro Walk/Pro Bike, a bike advocate came up to him to say they enjoyed his talk, but that saying we shouldn’t build any more highways is just over the top. “Afterwards, I was thinking, why can’t I say that? Why, as a bike advocate do you feel like you have to lie on behalf of the auto industry? I think we’ve just been conditioned for so long that now it’s somehow crazy to suggest things like this.”

So you’re not you worried about people dismissing you as too radical? Too crazy? I asked him. “This is not crazy!” he replied, “Everyone else is crazy; endangering the lives of your children every day is crazy.”

“The fact is, people are dying, people’s lives are being shortened,” he continued, “Why aren’t people impatient? Why aren’t they holding people accountable? Now it’s time for planners and officials to start owning the health and safety of citizens. It’s about not letting these people get away with it anymore.”

If you write off Gorton as just an anti-car firebrand, you’d be missing the complete picture. He feels that cars are an important and necessary invention, but they’re simply better suited to the countryside. “The automobile is a rural technology that has been misapplied to cities,” reads a slide in one of the presentations he’s been giving throughout the country. “They are a spatially inappropriate technology for a dense city.”

To back up his rhetoric, Gorton has some very compelling stats. For instance, today, 370,000 fewer people enter New York City’s central business district each weekday than in 1948; but there are now 450,000 more cars entering the CBD than in 1948. These numbers form the basis of one of Gorton’s key arguments; that the shift to the private automobile has destroyed transportation capacity. He shares this graphic to back it up (click to enlarge):

While he has a bevvy of stats and figures to make his case, Gorton’s primary argument is that the overuse of cars has dramatically curtailed the ability for human life to flourish in cities. Sidewalks, plazas, and parks — which used to be the hallmark of great cities (including New York) — have been chipped away at in order to make more space to move more automobiles at ever-increasing speeds. (And, contrary to popular myth, Gorton says more cars in a city is not tied to increased economic growth.)

Slide from Gorton’s presentation. (Photo: Aaron Donovan/StartsandFits.com)

In order to reverse this trend and reclaim urban space, Gorton is calling for a “total transformation” of urban streets. His presentations outline solutions like timed street closings (like Sunday Parkways), parking reform, congestion pricing, better transit, complete bicycle networks, and more. He also says advocates need to “step up their game” in order to push for these changes. “This is part of the whole point of a renaissance. To go bigger than before, to stop being patient with the stupidity. People need to be a little fed up with this acceptance of this status quo.”

“What gets me worked up is that my kids can’t go anywhere to play alone, that our streets have crushed their independence… That we’ve destroyed our human living environment.”

Gorton looks at the lack of progress on the national level as one reason he thinks a new approach is needed (the only silver lining to MAP-21, national bike organizations said, was that it could have been much worse). “There’s a lot of people that have been working on federal transportation reform for a while… and it hasn’t been going really well. If you look at the national policy, it’s just backwards. I think there’s a lot of receptiveness to coming up with a new strategy now. A lot of people look at this new bill and say, this is unacceptable.”

To get things moving in the right direction, Gorton will focus on messaging. He’s a believer that the way we talk about transportation issues matters. “I don’t like to talk about ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability’. Those terms are so nebulous. That’s not what gets me worked up,” he said. “What gets me worked up is that my kids can’t go anywhere to play alone, that our streets have crushed their independence… That we’ve destroyed our human living environment.”

To Gorton, the battle being waged in cities is far from a “war on cars.” In fact, he’d rather not use the term “war” because he feels there area lot of people who aren’t comfortable with that type of rhetoric. “But,” he’s quick to add, “the fact is there’s a war on people, on childhood mobility… And the auto industry is winning that war. If you you want to talk death, victims, casualties, you have to look at who’s the aggressor. I don’t have a problem using strong language when it comes to the safety of our neighborhoods.”

In addition to human terms, Gorton says the key to moving the needle is to talk about transportation reform in fiscal terms. “If you want to win over Tea Party Republicans — or even mayor and governors trying to balance budgets — highway infrastructure is a 20-cent on the dollar return, that’s just a waste of money. That’s how you bankrupt the country. In a world where money isn’t flowing like it used to, you have to cut back.”

Changes to increase capacity on our roadways and make them more accessible to biking don’t have to come with big, expensive capital projects. “A lot of this stuff could be simply policy changes,” he says. “On the Upper West Side, for example, you could say there’s no parking on every side street on weekends and there’s no through traffic. You could implement that within two weeks.”

Mark Gorton-2

What about suburbs and outlying neighborhoods? Do they get to enjoy the fruits of this street renaissance? Gorton, who grew up in the suburbs, said he’s working on that issue. He said cars would still have a role in the suburban context, but that large roads offer a lot of room for things like bike boulevards. Another thing he’d push for in suburbs are changes to zoning rules.

In the end, Gorton believes the time is now for a stronger transportation reform movement. “People are ready for this,” he repeated during our conversation. Even if all the large, mainstream advocacy groups feel his style is too radical, Gorton believes there’s still a strong enough movement out there that he’ll be able to succeed.

It comes to a sense of urgency to shift the status quo; but it doesn’t have to mean a gloves-off approach. “I’m happy to engage people,” said Gorton, “but I’m getting less and less tolerant of accepting their mistakes. They’re hurting our country. It’s not O.K.”

“I don’t want to wait for my kids to grow up to make these changes.”

Learn more about Gorton and download his presentations at RethinkTheAuto.org.

Tales from a post-Sandy bus commute

Tales from a post-Sandy bus commute

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

Coverage from New York City
made possible by:

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.

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

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And I think people waiting in line noticed…

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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.

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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!

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

Commuting in the Manhattan blackout

Commuting in the Manhattan blackout

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New York bike commuters dared dark streets while biking the blackout in Lower Manhattan.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Coverage from New York City
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On Thursday night, when almost all of Lower Manhattan was still without electricity, I walked around the darkness to see how bike commuters were handling the conditions. Back on Tuesday I documented the blackout in the financial district on the southern tip of Manhattan. But since that was just one night after the storm and most people hadn’t yet returned to work, bike traffic was minimal.

By the time people began commuting again two days later, the NYPD and MTA were in full force on major thoroughfares trying to keep traffic safe while dealing with the daily exodus of tens of thousands of people. Bowery Street, which has been turned into a bus rapid transit corridor while subways limp back to life, was shrouded in total darkness. To give bike riders, walkers, and bus, car, and taxi operators some sense of awareness, NYPD officers had lit flares at every intersection. This disaster has obviously strained the NYPD, but they managed to go deep enough into their org chart to find officers to capably direct traffic at nearly every major intersection. Amid the potential chaos, these workers definitely earned their keep. Their mere presence offered a sense of relief, security, and order on the streets.

While packed buses roared down Bowery in platoons of 7-8 at a time; people on bikes made their way in the margins. I was aghast at how many of them rode in complete darkness. For some reason, I found that bike riders in New York use front and rear lights at a much lower percentage than we do in Portland. I don’t like riding at night without lights in regular conditions. In a blackout? In Lower Manhattan? I would rather walk.

In addition to the people who were riding home, I also noticed several groups of friends, who had met up specifically to “ride the blackout.” They swooped and swerved through the streets, enjoying the eerie, rare calm and lack of traffic signals.

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By the time I get home to Portland (at the airport now), the electricity will be back on for much of Lower Manhattan; but I won’t soon forget what it was like with the lights out. Next time you’re commuting home at night, just imagine what it would be like without any streetlights, no signals, and no lights from homes or businesses.

— 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.

While Sandy recovery continues, signs of hope on two wheels

While Sandy recovery continues, signs of hope on two wheels

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East Village residents happily hop onto a free bike-powered charging station provided by activist group Times Up.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Coverage from New York City
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While scenes of distress are beginning to show in some parts of New York City (lines for gas, chaotic traffic, fights at bus stations, empty food store shelves), there are also signs of hope. And bike activists are behind many of them. From organized programs deployed by advocacy groups; to citizen volunteers armed with bikes, the power of the Internet and big hearts — two-wheeled aid is going strong here.

Down on the Lower East Side, volunteers with Times Up are making a lot of friends with their free bike energy charging station. Set up at 10th and Avenue C, in front of a building known as “C-Squat” whose ground floor will soon open as the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MORUS), the charging station has quickly become a magnet for East Village residents. Flyers posted around the blocks announce “Free Cell Phone Charging and Food” and word has quickly spread through the neighborhood.

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George Pingeon is a Times Up volunteer who has made a name for himself for his ability to harness pedal power into electricity. A bike tour guide by day, one of his accomplishments is the Energy Bike Project, a fleet of 14 custom fabricated bike stands that helped power the Occupy Wall Street movement. Now he’s putting them to use on a sidewalk in the East Village that was submerged under five feet of water just a few days ago (I saw the proof via cell phone images shared by a guy named Tony who wanted to know which news outlet might buy them from him). People in this part of town still have no electricity, no running water, and food is in short supply.

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George Pingeon.
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On the left is the ultra-capacitor, on the right is the inverter, and the watt meter display is in the middle.
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Even before Pingeon got set up this morning, people were eager for it to get working: “Are you guys doing the bike charging thing again?” “Are you in line?” “Who’s first in line?”. As the energy station got set up, Herson Cabreras and a group of friends walked up. “How did you do this? We need these down on East Broadway! There’s a church… People are walking around all crazy. We’ve got bikes; but there’s nothing down there.” he kept saying.

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Herson Cabreras negotiating with George Pingeon to lease one of the bike energy stands for a church and residents of East Broadway.
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Cabreras said people were wandering the streets looking for power and he was intent on either buying a bike generator system or making one himself. Once he realized they weren’t for sale, he whipped out a paper and pen and started peppering Pingeon with questions. “Is that your inverter? Because I’ve got one of those already. What else do I need? Where I can buy this stuff.” Pingeon patiently and clearly explained how the system worked and I have no doubt Mr. Cabreras is busy putting one together as I type this.

Once the system was up and running, people from the neighborhood stepped up onto Pingeon’s Burley tandem and started pedaling. The relief of being able to power up their phones, combined with the endorphins and camaraderie brought on by the physical activity, quickly produced smiles on the riders and the spirit on the sidewalk lifted. When I stopped by the station last night, C-Squat resident Bill Cashman said people from the neighborhood never stopped to talk with him or anyone that lives in his building. But Sandy changed that. “It was an island before,” said Cashman, about his building. This morning, those same people filled the sidewalk and everyone chatted as the phones got charged. “It’s awesome,” he added, “we’re getting to meet our neighbors.”

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Times Up isn’t just creating power by bike, they’re creating community.

Check out this short video I made of the energy bikes in action (learn how the energy bikes work at Times-Up.org).

A few blocks south, the Recycle A Bicycle shop is open for business. Employees Patrick Tomemy and Brendan Brogan stand on the porch, offering to help anyone who needs it. Their showroom is dark; but they’re helping out a steady stream of customers. They sell used bikes, so the price is right for folks just looking for anything to get around (there’s still no subway service in Lower Manhattan). One guy who picked up a nice, geared cruiser, stopped to look at the bike before pedaling off and exclaimed, “I got a bike! I got a bike! This walking is killing me!”

Inside, Tomemy helped a customer install a new saddle on a man’s bike that had been stolen the night before. Using a flashlight, he ventured into the back of the store and emerged with the new seat. Before I left, Tomemy had one request of me. “If you see any other shops open down here, please call us and let us know. We are running out of stuff and want to tell people where else they can go.”

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Patrick Tomemy stands at the door, while co-worker Brendan Brogan helps a customer.
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With no electricity, Patrick Tomemy helps a customer via flashlight.
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Advocacy group Transportation Alternatives is also making it easier to cope for people on bikes. Each morning since Sandy they’ve set up bike commuter help stations on the bridges, offering free coffee, advice, and moral support. The storm has brought out a lot of first-time riders, so helping make their ride as enjoyable as possible is the goal. Tomorrow they’ll set up a commuter info station in Times Square.

TA bike commuter station-1

TA and other citizen activists are also organizing bike trains from shops throughout the city. These trains offered guided rides and the safety of riding in a group. I joined one from Brooklyn into Manhattan this morning and will share that experience in a separate post.

Bike-loving New Yorkers are also using the web to make riding as easy as possible. The #bikenyc hashtag on Twitter is full of help and advice from a variety of sources. Volunteer Kim Burgas has swung into action quickly to create a new website, Bikeapolis.us where she’s collecting resources and information.

And sometimes it’s just individuals who are using their bikes to help others. I met one gentleman on the Manhattan Bridge who had an Xtracycle bin full of vegetables. He was carting them around to those in need.

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The post-Sandy recovery is not easy on those who live here. Some areas are expected to be without power through the end of next week. There are gigantic trees still toppled over in many neighborhoods, the flooding damage is far from being fixed, the air is getting colder, and tempers and supplies are getting shorter. Yet against that backdrop, It’s been amazing to see how the bicycle has performed so valiantly; both in getting people where they need to go, and in bringing people what they need. It’s the only vehicle I can think of that offers efficiency, resilience, and hope.

— 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.

People on Bikes: Williamsburg Bridge, Manhattan

People on Bikes: Williamsburg Bridge, Manhattan

(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Welcome to the latest installment of People on Bikes. Our last one showed the fantastic people riding into Brooklyn via the Manhattan Bridge. That was before Sandy came to town. In the spirit of reminding the world that biking is alive and thriving here in New York City, I now present a post-Sandy People on Bikes.

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This morning I sat on a park bench in the middle of Delancey Street watching people stream down the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan. I saw an amazing cross-section of New Yorkers. Many of them looked like seasoned bike riders, but many others looked like perhaps they had just grabbed whatever two-wheeled vehicle they could find just to get into work (the subway is still not running in Lower Manhattan and bus service is spotty).

What stands out for me as I look through the entire set is that these folks have style. They look good! (#47 is one of my favorites). And there’s really no one in “bike clothes” — and thankfully, not one neon yellow jacket!

Have a look…

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Like People on Bikes? Check out past editions here.