Category Archives: biking

Do you have a backup plan?

I started a new job this week, and I’ve been commuting about an hour and a half via subway to my job. As a survivor of the 2003 Northeast Blackout, I can’t help but wonder how I will go about getting home in case of another blackout or subway outages. I work about 16 miles from home. Walking would take about 5 hours on a good day, so what should I do?

us_overflight 2003 blackout

My first plan is to stay put at my office. It might be the safest place to be, especially since I have snacks in my desk. If this is not possible for whatever reason, then I will try to get buses home, which might take up to 5 hours, too. The masses of people trying to get home would block streets and bridges, but at least I would be able to make it home if I absolutely had to.

During the Northeast Blackout of 2003, I was fortunate enough to pair up with some people in my office who found a rental car with a 1/4 tank of gas and made it home to Jamaica, Queens. However, I may not be as lucky this time as I work in Brooklyn and live in Harlem. Most of my neighbors don’t have cars and none of my coworkers live near me.

What’s your plan if the transit system shuts down or some emergency prevents you from getting home car-free?

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World Carfree Day – September 22

carfree

World Carfree Day is September 22. Do you have any special plans? If so, add your event online at: World Carfree Day And join the World Carfree Day Page on Facebook!

World Carfree Day is an annual celebration of cities and public life, free from the noise, stress and pollution of cars. Each year on September 22, people around the world organize events of all sizes to showcase alternatives to the automobile. World Carfree Network invites organisations and individuals everywhere to join!

Every September 22, people from around the world get together in the streets, intersections, and neighbourhood blocks to remind the world that we don’t have to accept our car-dominated society. 2009 should be no different.

Transit Conflicts in Harlem

As promised, I got a few photos of transit conflicts in Harlem. (Update: I define conflicts as either structural or aestethic issues and pedestrian-bicyclist-motorized vehicle conflicts.), I will be going out again this week to take more photos. I think this set is very representative of the types of transit issues that happen in Harlem on a daily basis.

Transit Conflicts

Let me know if there’s a particular thing you’d like to see or whether you agree or disagree on some of these conflicts.

10 Tips to Getting Started Living Car Free

Gingerbread Man Rides the Subway
Image by Seth W.

So, you’ve made the decision – or seriously considering Living Car Free. It can be liberating and feel like imprisonment at the same time. These 10 tips will help you get started. If you think of more things, let us know in the comments!

  1. Commit to being car free. If you aren’t ready to give up your car, try being car free once a week. Then every few weeks add another day. Use transit for pleasure trips or commuting. Have reasons for becoming car free – are you conscious about the costs of car ownership, the environment or just want to try something new? Knowing why you are doing something makes it easier to commit.
  2. Get some maps and schedules. Find transit maps, websites that can help you build transit directions and ask car free friends for suggestions on the best ways to travel in your area. Make up schedules for going to work, play, entertainment, school, etc. Print these directions, schedules and information out, or keep in a Moleskine or other notebook.
  3. Remember the weekends and holidays. Most transit operators change the schedules on the weekends and holidays, so make sure to make travel schedules around these anticipated changes to the schedule. There’s NOTHING like showing up for your bus on a Saturday or holiday and waiting for an hour because you forgot to take into account weekend or holiday schedules!
  4. Buy a monthly transit pass. Make the investment in a monthly transit pass. It is a discounted pass that typically allows you unlimited transit trips on your preferred method. Check your transit agency’s website for information on costs, when and where to buy and how to purchase. No one likes to give away money, so this will be an additional incentive to make trips on transit.
  5. Pack your bags carefully. Being car free, you can’t drag along everything you had in your car with you on your daily transit trips. Even if you have a backpack, you will find the heavier it is, the less motivated you are to walk up two flights of stairs out of a subway station or ride your bike 5 miles to work. Get rid of the things you really don’t need – just stick to the basics.
  6. Consider your social life. In some cities, transit stops running at late night hours, which can put a damper on your social life. Make sure you have contingency plans for when you go out on the town with your friends. Also consider how you will get to a friend’s home for Superbowl Sunday or just to hang out after work.
  7. Come up with a contingency plan. In case of emergency, how will you get home? I was unprepared for having to find an alternative way home from work when the 2004 Northeast blackout happened. The subways weren’t running and no one had cars. What would you do? Sleep in the park? Walk home? Wait at a transit terminal? Hitchhike?
  8. Be flexible. Sometimes, the bus will be late. Or a sick passenger will be on the train. Plan for minor delays and have plans in place at work or school for days when you are late. Leave extra early if you have a major meeting or test. Learn alternate routes to/from your destination – if the trains are down, what buses could you use? Or vice versa.
  9. Learn transit etiquette. How do other riders behave? What are your transit system’s rules of conduct for passengers? Check out my post “Stop being a JERK on Public Transit!” for more dos and don’ts for transit. Some of the major don’ts are preventing passengers from getting off before you get on, eating or drinking, or smoking.
  10. Prepare for the weather. Now that you are no longer protected by two tons of steel, you will need to be prepared for the weather. Keep an extra change of clothes at work, think about wearing sneakers instead of nice dress shoes on your commute, always carry an umbrella, think about buying some rainboots or a raincoat – you get the hint.

Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Exploring Harlem via Alternative Transit

75px-NYCS-bull-trans-1.svgI recently moved to HarlemManhattanville to be exact – and I have been exploring my neighborhood daily since moving in last week! I have found that my neighborhood is well served by buses, subways, sidewalks and taxis (both yellow and “black” cars).

I have been able to find a lot of the things I need to make life comfortable – grocery stores, the local laundromats, a dry cleaners, the post office, the police precinct and Chinese food.

However, the one thing missing from this great neighborhood is bike lanes! Bicyclists can use the bike/pedestrian paths at Riverbank State Park, but there are no bike lanes along Broadway or Amsterdam, the two major avenues in the area. Bicyclists must travel in traffic – sidewalk biking is not a good idea because of the large number of pedestrians. A comprehensive bike network would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood because it is hilly and bicycling is faster than walking or the bus during peak hours.

Pedestrians in Manhattanville are also at risk, because of speeding cars, the large number of buses up and down the avenues and general New York style impatience! There are wide sidewalks along the avenues, and less wide sidewalks on streets – but nonetheless, it is dangerous for a pedestrian to walk out from behind cars to cross the street. As proof positive, I saw the aftermath of a pedestrian-taxi accident on my way home today. In addition, I was almost hit by a taxi yesterday, although I had the right-of-way to cross the street. Impatience made the taxi driver turn right and almost directly into my legs as I crossed Broadway.

I will be posting pictures later this week of some transportation conflicts I see in my neighborhood – namely the horrible handicapped access to major subway stations, poorly maintained sidewalks and crazy drivers. If you have anything you’d like to see, let me know, and I’ll do my best to photo-document it. I’ll also be posting my photos from my trip to Roosevelt Island, an island between Manhattan island and Queens, New York.

6 Fare Policy Suggestions

  1. Introduce a Smart Card that works with multiple transit services.
  2. Create bus and schedules that make it clear to riders where the fare zones change, if you are going to work with a zone-based fare system.
  3. Make fare exceptions for people riding from a stop immediately on one side of a fare zone to a stop immediately after the fare zone change.
  4. Speed up bus loading by ending collecting cash fares on the buses; use Smart Cards or Transit Cards.
  5. Make it easier to purchase monthly or weekly fare cards at machines by using more intuitive menus and quick shortcuts to purchasing discounted fare cards.
  6. Create and promote purchase of quarterly, semi-annual and annual bus/rail passes

Commuting by Bike in the Winter

I found a neat article at ultimate geek girl titled, “Commuting by Bike in the Winter”.

Here are the tips, but read the article for more information on each tip for making winter commuting easier.

1) Protect your hands and face from the cold and the wind.
2) Pick your clothing wisely.
3) Know how to handle your bike in cold, icy and snowy conditions.
4) Check your lights.
5) Take care of your bike.


Photo credit: Sytske_R

I’m looking forward to getting a bike and adding it to my daily commuting and transportation options. Not only is biking faster than walking, but there are usually stronger biking communities than walking communities. When was the last time you met a walking enthusiast?

One of my reasons for being car free is the monetary savings – I do not have a car note, insurance and car maintenance to worry about. A secondary reason is my desire to add more time to my day to read, listen to music or even nap. You cannot safely do this while driving!

Do you commute by bike? Do you have any tips/tricks to add?