Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Critical Mass Transportation

Last night Whitney asked me the best way to get from Brooklyn Heights to LGA. She was thinking train wise, but the truth is that a car is best way. So to with JFK, and moderately less so with Newark.

For that we have Robert Moses to thank. Great builder of parks, he assumed the best way to get around a city would be by automobile, hence direct rail connections between airports and the train stations weren't so interesting. Though JFK now has the airtrain, you still have to schlep out to the end of the A, E or J/Z lines, which alone can take over an hour as the trains go local.

Furthermore, Moses believed that trucks got in the way of cars and thus made traffic difficult. His solution: Parkways for cars, expressways for all. The result is the gridlock we find in all major urban centers. It is now recognized that the trucks happen to be the efficient and necessary axels on the road (especially for Mahattan businesses) and cars are the bad cholesterol.

Which is a long way of introducing the topic at hand: Critical Mass.
Critical Mass is a monthly celebration of bicycles and other nonpolluting means of transportation, exercising our right to the road. Critical Mass is a movement, not an organization; no two riders participate for exactly the same reason. New York City's first Critical Mass was in 1993.
Critical Mass is turning 12 this year, with Friday as the first ride of the year. Though I haven't participated, I've been jonesing for a two-wheeler lately.

Unfortunately, New York City sued Critical Mass on March 23, 2005:
New York City filed a lawsuit this week, seeking to prevent TIME'S UP! from promoting or advertising events that the city alleges to be illegal. The lawsuit also states that TIME'S UP! and the general public cannot participate in riding or gathering at the Critical Mass bike ride. It claims that any event whatsoever with 20 or more persons requires a permit.
So while folks become anxious of higher gas prices, they still hold on to driving there SUV's for short trips ( I'm talking to you Ma!) NYC takes another step backwards and refuses to acknowledge that bicycles are traffic and far more desirable for this narrow island and that cars just jam up its fair canyons.

I highly recommend reading Robert Caro's biography of Robert Moses for a great insight of why our cities and highways are made the way they are. Or check out Les Freres Corbusier's Boozy for a more theatrical take.


Anonymous Whitney said...

Thanks for posting this, Sammo.

As bikers, we support manufacturers of bicycles and bike accessories, and coffee shop proprietors everywhere. It is too easy to attribute NYC's attack on bicyclists to a systemic undermining of a benevolent but pervasive subculture, and too difficult to assess it as anything but insidious.

Why is the attack not on SUV-drivers who run over bicyclists, guzzle gas, clog the streets, and take up way too much parking?

If you've ever experienced a Critical Mass bike ride, you'd know it is one of the most joyfully exhuberant, inspiring and lovely moments one can share with other humans. It is a quiet flood of unencapsulated and gleeful people through normally honking, frenzied and aggravated streets. Shame on the short-sighted and misguided agenda guiding NYC's pursuit of its termination.

Wednesday, 27 April, 2005  

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