28 January 2023

You Can Leave Your Bike Underwater--And It Will Survive

When a bicycle ends up underwater, it's not a good thing.  At least, most of the time.  I think now of all of those bikes from share programs that were sent to "sleep with the fishes" (if indeed any are present) in the rivers, canals and lakes of the cities served by those programs. Or of any other stolen bikes that met a similar fate, or bikes that were made to take a dive without scuba gear because their owners were too lazy to find new owners or simply discard them in more environmentally conscious (though not absolutely environmentally conscious) ways.

Perhaps it surprise no one that in Amsterdam--where the bicycle-to-person ratio favors velocipedes even more than the gun-to-person ratio favors firearms in the United States--thousands of two-wheelers have met their untimely and uncalled-for demises at the bottom of the city's canals.

This week, however, the city's cyclists can leave their bicycles under the waves of the so-called Open Harbourfront--and their bikes will not only collect seaweed, barnacles, debris or toxic chemicals, they will even remain dry.  And safe.

In a stroke of genius that can come only from a city that's one of the world's most densely populated--with people and bicycles--a bicycle parking facility, complete with useful racks and a security system, opened under those waters where they lap up by the Amsterdam Central Station, the city's main rail terminal.

Now, aside from its unique concept and design, what else makes this facility something from which other cities can learn?  Well, the fact that it allows direct access to the city's--and, by extension, the country's and continent's--rail system means that bicycles can become part of a reliable transportation system for many more people.

A few forward-thinking planners are starting to realize that if they want to get at least some cars off their city's streets, they not only have to make cycling (whether on a traditional or electric bike) more available and safer for more people, they also have to integrate it with mass transportation--which, of course, also has to be made more available and safer for more people.  

Many people who would be willing to cycle for all or part of their commutes, or simply for recreation, are not long-distance cyclists or any other kind of athletes. Even for those who are, the distances between their homes and classrooms, offices or other workplaces make an all-cycling commute impractical or simply inconvenient. (After all, if you have to ride two hours each way, spend 8-12 a day at work, you don't have time for much else.) But riding to a train or bus, and knowing that, when they return, the bicycle will be where and in the condition in which they left it, could entice some people out of their cars.

The thinking that went into Amsterdam's new underwater facility is a hopeful sign.  Here's another:  Another such facility, albeit smaller (4000 bikes vs 7000) is scheduled to open next month.


27 January 2023

Fear Not: I'm Still Here!

 Dear Readers, I am still alive--but not well. That is why I've been posting less frequently.

My illness isn't life-threatening or disabling.  But it has drained, seemingly, all of my energy.  

As I recounted a few posts ago, I started to feel congested and tired near the end of my Paris trip.  My former religious self might've said that I was being punished for having too good a time.  Truth is, the only possible connection I can see between my sojourn and my illness is the Munch exhibit I attended with Alec and Michele at the Musee d'Orsay.  It was one of the most crowded exhibits I've ever attended:  We, and other visitors were literally shoulder-to-shoulder.  It was all but impossible to move individually and independently.  

(That, by the way, was my only complaint about the exhibit, or any other I attended while in Paris:  I thought it was well-presented but I couldn't linger at some of the works, as I often do when I'm interested.)

I came home just in time for a long weekend. (Monday the 16th  was Martin Luther King Jr. day.) Surely, that would give me time, aided with copious quantities of chicken soup and orange juice, to recover my energies for the beginning of the semester on Tuesday.

My body--specifically, my respiratory system--didn't get the message. I felt as if I were being submerged even deeper into a sea of phlegm.  My routine has included going to classes, answering only the most urgent emails and curling up with Marlee.  

I figured--correctly--that whatever I was suffering wasn't COVID or the flu, as I was vaccinated as soon as the jabs became available.  Finally, I called my doctor who believed I had a respiratory infection and advised me to go to the nearest City MD center rather than to make a trip to his office.

His hunch was correct.  All I can do now is wait this thing out.  Then, I hope, I'll be back to my regular habits of cycling--and blogging.

25 January 2023

Because We're The "Low Hanging Fruit"

 Five years ago, on Halloween, Sayfullo Saipov drove a rental truck into the bike lane between the Hudson River and the West Side Highway in Manhattan

Even if he hadn't killed eight cyclists, I would've been as terrified:  I have ridden that lane a number of times, for transportation as well as recreation.  For the cyclists who died that day, some of whom were tourists, it was most likely their only ride on that lane.

The fear and grief I have felt since then has turned to rage: Yesterday, during Saipov's trial, US Attorney Jason Richman recalled that the accused was "smiling" when he asked to hang the Islamic State flag in the hospital room where he was confined after the incident.  "He was proud," Richman told the jurors. "He was happy about the terrorist attack...He had done what he came to do."

We don't have the death penalty in New York State.  Federal law still allows for it, however, and since terrorism is a Federal crime, Saipov could be condemned. If he's not, he will be sentenced to life in prison.

Even his defense lawyers concede that Saipov carried out his attack.  They argue, however, that he should be acquitted of a racketeering charge because they dispute the charge that he carried out the attack so that the Islamic State would allow him to join.  They claim that to do something "so awful" (their words), he must already have been an IS member and that he "had an expectation that he would die by police shooting."

In other words, according to the defense, he wasn't carrying out a gang initiation rite.  Instead, he was trying to be a martyr for the cause.  How that absolves him of racketeering is beyond me, which is probably one reason why I'm not a lawyer.

Whatever Saipov's motives, to me he's no different from the motorist who yelled "More of you should be killed" to cyclists who staged a "die-in" where a truck driver ran down Sarah Schick, a 37-year-old mother of two.  She was riding down a bike lane along Brooklyn's Ninth Street that is protected up from Prospect Park West to Third Avenue, but is separated from a major truck route by nothing more than a couple of lines of paint west of Third--at the exact point where a mixed residential and commercial zone turns into an industrial area.  I know it well:  I used to ride that way quite often when I was living in Park Slope--and there wasn't any bike lane at all on Ninth, or almost anywhere else in the neighborhood outside of Prospect Park.  

Photo by Julianne Cuba for Streetsblog

That motorist and Saipov are also no different from a colleague who, during my second year at Hostos, remarked, "When I see bicyclists, I'd love to run them down." When I told her I am a cyclist, she accused me of "overreacting" and complained to HR.  When I told them about her comment, they said there was "nothing we can do" and questioned my motives for taking umbrage.  "Well, that wasn't any different from saying I should die because I'm trans.  She's saying I should die because of who I am." The HR person dismissed my comparison because cyclists aren't a "protected category" but admonished me to "watch what you say" because that faculty member was a member of a "protected minority"--as if I wasn't.

Anyway, I am disgusted by the way people can so casually call for, or even commit, violence against cyclists.  While Saipov may not have been targeting cyclists because they were cyclists, I am guessing that he saw them as the "low-hanging fruit" to carry out his gang initiation or bid for martryrdom. In that sense, he is no different from the motorist or colleague I've mentioned.