The city that never sleeps

I love New York.  Go to New York to get lost in the crowd, or be found by 10,000,000 other souls.

Like Frank Sinatra, I like to wake up in the city that never sleeps, especially to go for a run around 7:30 in the morning. Sundays are particularly quiet on the roads, which I share mainly with taxis, black cars and police cars.  Dog walkers wrangle their charges around the various poles and obstacles.  Shop keepers scrub the sidewalks outside of their establishments. The city gradually awakens to a new day.

Despite its reputation as a city plugged by cars, New York has a vibrant cycling community.  Its Citibike program is one of the largest in the world.  If there isn’t room to put the Citibikes on a sidewalk, then a portion of a side street is co-opted for the installation.

New York has also taken an easy, intelligent approach to bike lanes.  The lanes are clearly marked next to the curb in green paint.  Cars park on the outside of the bike lane, and a buffer zone of a few feet between them prevents the cyclists from being ‘doored’.  No hard curbs are necessary.  No street parking is lost.  In the winter,  parking is forbidden so that their garbage-trucks-turned-snow-plows can clear the roads unimpeded.

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No wonder the Citibike program is a success. There is a place to ride a bike in relative safety.

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This is so simple.  New York has the advantage of many one-way streets. The above photos were taken on 1st Avenue, which runs north.  2nd Avenue runs south, and has a similar bike lane.

Former Mayor Bloomberg has an interesting approach to bike lanes.  He put them in as a test, then conveniently forgot to have them removed.  In the meantime, the hue and cry about losing business, increased traffic congestion and problems with parking became muted and moot as the neighbourhood adjusted.  Judging by the number of bicycles chained to the various posts and signs all over Manhattan, these lanes are an unqualified success.

Rob Ford declared that the war on the car was over when he took office. Since that time, he has become a side show, a laughing stock and proven himself a buffoon.  New York is a world-class city, not because of its size, but because of the vision of its citizens and leaders.  Thomas Paine, the writer of the pamphlet entitled “Common Sense” that many credit with fueling the American Revolution, famously said, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way”.  New Yorkers take this to heart.  They get things done here.   There may be layers of bureaucracy attached, but they get it done.  Toronto lacks leadership, and it will be some time before the populace has an opportunity to find it.

Imagine taking Yonge Street south of Bloor and making it a one-way street, with a dedicated bike lane based on New York’s model.  Take Church Street, and do the same, except in the opposite direction. It works in New York.  Why not Toronto?

I’m sure you’re asking yourself why I’m pontificating about bike lanes in an automotive blog.  Aside from the low impact of the bicycle on greenhouse gases, the fitness aspect and making the city more livable, I can view this in purely selfish terms.  Anything that gets people out of their vehicles and riding bikes is a good thing.  It gives me more room on the road for my car.

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