Friday, August 8, 2008

Summer break

Like fellow blogger Inwoodite, I'm taking a summer break from the blog. I haven't been completely idle, however. A group of us are working on a package of bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly improvements to present to Community Board 12 (representing Inwood and Washington Heights) in September. Want in on the action? Contact us via Inwood Livable Streets.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A plaza at Staff Street

I received the following email this morning from the Campaign for New York's Future (excerpt):

"One goal of New York City's sustainability plan is to put every New Yorker within a ten minute walk from park or open space. Now, the NYC Department of Transportation is working with community partners to launch the NYC Plaza Program to help accomplish this goal, and they want your input!

"The program aims to transform underused streets into vibrant, social public spaces throughout the city.

After racking my brains for a few minutes, I went to the online form and composed this message:

"I would like to see a public plaza installed on Staff Street in Inwood, Manhattan. Staff Street is a one-block connector between Riverside Drive and Dyckman Street. It is currently an ill-paved parking lot on a hill that also provides access for cyclists from the Hudson River Greenway terminus at Riverside Drive and the bike path on Dyckman Street. Most drivers do not use this as a through street, preferring to use the adjacent Henshaw Street instead. Families will often picnic on the grass beside the lot.

"I propose closing Staff Street to automobile traffic and parking, adding a southbound lane to the northbound bicycle lane to provide a two-way Greenway connector, and using the ample remaining space to install pedestrian amenities (seats, planters, etc.).

"Thank you for your time and attention."

Do you have any ideas for public plazas in Inwood? Share them here, and send them to DoT.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ride to Montauk disaster

Sadly, the Ride to Montauk ended up being a complete disaster.

The volunteer staff didn't manage to get all the 66 and 30 milers processed in time for the 7:30 a.m. train to Mastic-Shirley, so many of us missed the train. That put us two hours behind schedule. Then, when we arrived in Mastic, we waited for another hour for the bikes to show up, while half the people got bussed to another rest stop. Three of us who managed to get our bikes started the route. At the start, we accidentally went 6 miles out of our way, but figured out how to get back en route. We really enjoyed the first 17 miles, but then the SAG team picked us up to drive us to Montauk, because there wasn't enough time for us to get to the finish line by 6 p.m. (since so much time had been lost between train and bike fiascos). At that point, two of us bailed, seeing there was no point in being driven to Montauk just to return to Manhattan (and likely miss all the food and lose our bikes again), and took the Hampton Jitney home. I rode home from 86th St and 3rd Ave to Broadway and 207th, so at least I got another 7 miles in.

Thankfully, the organizer is doing the right thing and offering everyone both a refund and free ride next year.

My breaking of the 60-mile limit will have to wait for another time.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Riding to Montauk Saturday!

In a moment of weakness yesterday, I let my buddies on convince me to sign up for the Ride to Montauk. It's a group ride with 145, 100, 66, and 30 mile routes all ending in scenic Montauk, Long Island. The 66-mile route will be my longest ride yet attempted, so wish me luck!

A-train yet again passed over

According to today's New York Times, the MTA will provide additional service on 9 subway lines to ease crowding starting in July. The affected lines are the 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, B, J, M, N, Q, W and the shuttle between Times Square and Grand Central Terminal.

The Times states that "the changes include having the B and W trains run until 11 p.m. on weekdays, an hour and a half later than they currently run. And the No. 3 train, which currently shuts down from midnight to 5 a.m., would run during those hours between Times Square and 148th Street. "

Alas, the A-train continues to suffer from limited express service ending daily at 10:30 p.m. and on-going construction late nights and weekends that seriously inconveniences all individuals traveling north of 168th St.

Transit riders slapped in the face

(Image source: Machetera)

Well, I'm having my fifteen minutes of fame on the Streetsblog home page as the featured "Word on the street." Those words are: "All transit riders here have been collectively slapped in the face."

No, there hasn't been an outbreak of hand-to-face violence on New York City subway cars. Rather, our dysfunctional and corrupt state legislature has once again denied home rule to NYC on a local matter of vital importance: enforcement of car-free bus lanes.

Buses in NYC, beyond fighting traffic congestion like other automobiles, are slowed down even further by frequent stops and slow boarding: passengers can only enter through the front door and must pay for their ride on board. Starting in July, the city will begin an experiment with Bus Rapid Transit (on the Bx12 route), a system that attempts to provide the efficiences of a subway system above ground. Passengers pay at the stop before boarding and may enter and exit at all doors. Buses have dedicated lanes and priority rights-of-way at traffic signals.

A key way of ensuring cars and other vehicles don't use the bus lanes is through bus-mounted cameras that photograph the license plates of any vehicles improperly using the lane. Unfortunately, using these cameras requires approval of the NYS legislature, which on Tuesday killed the legislation in committee by a 14-11 vote, due to the opposition of state transportation committee chair David Gantt (Assembly, D-Rochester). Gantt's opposition was supposedly on civil liberties grounds, although he approved red-light camera enforcement in other counties in order to benefit a specific vendor. Gantt is a sadly typical example of the graft and corruption rampant in the NYS legislature. Here are my various comments about it on Streetsblog:

at 1:14 p.m.
I'm outraged.

Once again another livable streets initative for New York City has been stymied because of our corrupt and dysfunctional state legislature in Albany. I feel all transit riders here have been collectively slapped in the face.

New York City has been deprived of home rule on so many fronts, ranging from rent regulation to congestion pricing to bus lane enforcement. It's time for us to secede.

at 2:50 p.m.
Gantt is corrupt, corrupt, corrupt. Here's an another very recent example of his cronyism:

Bill moving driver-safety courses to Net draws fire

"A bill by Rochester Assemblyman David Gantt to move all driver-safety courses to the Internet is drawing fire from groups that run the courses, fearing that the move would increase the cost of the classes and could benefit a lobbyist close to Gantt.

"...the narrow language in the bill could...favor giving the Web-development contract to an Albany-area company, CMA Consulting Services Inc., whose lobbyist, Robert Scott Gaddy, is a former Gantt aide.

"The allegations are the second time in recent days that Gantt's close relationship with Gaddy has come under fire. Just last week, industry officials who want to install red-light cameras at intersections in Upstate New York complained that Gantt's bill on the issue is so narrowly worded that only CMA could get the work."

at 3:10 p.m.
Thank you, Mr. Gantt, for protecting my civil liberties! Oh, wait, you voted *against* legalizing same-sex marriage in New York State last year.

Friday, June 13, 2008

New Inwood Livable Streets group forming

Streetsblog is sporting a whole new look, and as part of it, they've made it easier than ever to form online working groups for various livable streets initiatives.

If you're interested in helping make Inwood a more pleasant place to live in and visit for pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit riders, please join the new Inwood Livable Streets group!

Some of the issues we'll be looking at are:

  • Adding to the riverfront Greenway in Inwood
  • Creating a protected cycle lane on Dyckman to link the Hudson and Harlem River Greenways
  • Providing bicycle access to select areas in Inwood Hill Park that do not receive heavy pedestrian traffic and would benefit from "eyes on the street"
  • Creating a protected cycle lane along Fordham Road to link Inwood with Pelham Bay Park
  • Other initiatives to improve our streets: more pedestrian-centric designs, traffic calming, tree planting, green spaces
Feel free to propose your own ideas for neighborhood improvement.