Saturday, July 28, 2012

New York - Manhattan  

New York is a lot bigger than it looks on the map, so my short stay there was only enough to catch a few glimpses of parts of the city.  It leaves a strong impression of so many big streets, so many people and so much traffic, yet so friendly and polite.  How is that possible?  It has chronic traffic jams, but despite any impatience there wasn't the aggression there is in Sydney traffic.  And the massive volume of traffic makes the bold reclamation of space on Broadway and elsewhere astounding and impressive.

The "don't block the box - fine and points" sign, top left, to no effect

Not during the next green bicycle & pedestrian phase, either

Amazing space reallocation to bike lanes and pedestrian areas
The extra pedestrian space is heavily used

Monitoring of taxi GPS data shows that travel speeds have actually increased since the road space changes

And, like every single other city I visited, it rained in NYC - to quell the heatwave

The bike lanes are also well used by pedestrians
Cars not allowed
But look out for (and yield to) pedestrians

Drivers were polite and keen to point out that they were looking out for me - I had plenty of friendly exchanges on the street.  Likewise the pedestrians - when I rang my bell to try to make my way through on the bike lane, a typical reaction was - "oh, so sorry, please forgive me".

These protected lanes, apart from the mild inconveniences of pedestrian usage and the cars blocking the intersections, are fantastic to use, and the new pedestrians plazas are such a great place to sit and watch the world.  Really impressive use of streetspace.

Some streets have bike lanes or buffered bike lanes.  The buffered bike lanes feel especially comfortable to use amidst the noisy din of traffic, though some seem particularly plagued with parked cars and trucks (I stopped to thank the police officer I saw booking a truck in the bike lane).  I also wasn't sure whether turning cars would always see and yield at intersections, but was pleasantly surprised every time.
Parking in the bike lane seemed standard practice on some streets

As I rode further, though, I had trouble finding streets with bike lanes and ended up, again and again, on busy roads competing with traffic.  Very tiring and stressful.

Overall, New York have done an amazing job so far of trying to retrofit a bicycle network into such a large city of so many busy roads.  To achieve sufficient network in a reasonable time, much of it is by necessity just simple painted space, not protected.  As such, the user profile will still be mainly young males rather than having broader appeal just yet.

Two unusual vehicles sharing the roads and bike lanes in New York were the food carts, with an electric motor to propel them while the owner walked alongside (but no brakes, it seemed) and, "The Interceptor".

Mobile Chilli Dog cart using the bike lane (the wrong way)


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