28 June 2016

A Developing Picture: The East Coast Greenway

A decade ago, you could say that the photos you took during your vacation were "being developed", and everybody would know what you ment.

I thought about that one day when a student reported seeing a "One Hour Photo" sign and asked me to explain it.  Until then, it hadn't occured to me that a generation of young people is accustomed to instantly sending or uploading images from cameras and "smart phones" to computers--or other smart phones.  Those pictures do not have to be "processed", at least not by human hands.

When I was in high school, I learned how to develop and print photos in a darkroom.  For those of you who have never experienced the joys of such work, I will describe it, briefly.

A darkroom can be, really, just about any space that's big enoug for your equipment, has access to running water and, as the name indicates, can be sealed against light.  Even the slightest leakage of light--except for special blue light in the last stages of printing--can ruin the film on which the photos were shot or the photographic paper on which they were to be printed. So, all of the memories and imaginings you stored on rolls of film could be obliterated by the flick of a switch or the opening of a door.

(Old joke:  Dick and Jane  are in the darkroom.  Let's see what develops.)

First, the film immersing it in a tank of chemicals that converts or releases the substances in the film that store pieces (pixels, if you will) of the image.  The image emerges, if you will, but you can't see it because the film is in a tank and you are working in the dark.  But, later, when you print the film, you can see lines and shapes forming on the blank paper when it's immersed in another chemical bath after the image is projected onto the paper, which is photosensitive.  As the print is washing, you can turn on a "safelight" and see it emerge.  Lines appear and merge with each other, forming shapes of hair, noses, leaves, petals, wheels or whatever you photographed.

Yesterday, when I rode to Connecticut (again!), I felt as if I were watching a picture emerge from a blank slate, or paper, if you will.  Perhaps it's funny that I should use such a metaphor for a ride in which I didn't take any photos.  I'll explain.

Just over a year ago, on another Connecticut ride, I saw signs for something I'd never, up to that moment, heard of:  the East Coast Greenway.  When completed, it will allow non-motorized travel from Calais, Maine (at the border with New Brunswick, Canada) to Key West, Florida. It will include paths and trails through wooded areas and parkland (like the stretch through Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx), designated bike lanes that parallel main roads and quiet residential streets. . The first ECG symbols I saw stood at the end of the PBP trail, at the city line, and along residential Mount Tom Road in Pelham Manor.

On yesterday's ride, I saw some new ECG signs--or, at least, ones I hadn't noticed before.  I spotted them on my way back, just after I crossed the line back into New York State.  They led me along a series of narrow but lightly-trafficked streets that wound through a series of old churches and stone houses in Port Chester and Rye on the way to Playland.

I welcomed the "detour", if you will, as it was pleasant and relaxing--and took me away from Boston Post Road, one of the area's main streets, for a few miles.  Then, a couple of towns south, I picked up another (shorter) series of ECG signs in Mamaroneck, near the harbor and found myself pedaling down a series of suburban streets lined with houses and small sores down to New Rochelle.

And, after navigating the intersection of the New Rochelle DIner and the Home Depot, I picked up the first stretch of ECG I rode last year, from Mount Tom Road all the way (about ten kilometers) to the Hutchinson River Parkway Bridge.  From there, I zigged, zagged and wound through Bronx streets to the Randall's Island Connector.

It's not yet possible to ride a single unified greenway from the city to Connecticut, let alone to Maine or Florida.  But it's fun, in its own way, to see segments of the Greenway emerging like the lines on a developing photograph.  Perhaps one day soon, those lines will connect,  and the picture--the Greenway--will be complete.


  1. The ECG is a monumental undertaking. I hope it materializes in the nearer rather than the deeper future. We have many long connecting cycling paths over here (in Europe), but our distances are so very much shorter. It would be like us connecting Stockholm and Lisbon with a bike path.

    Greenway: I first saw that word a few years ago when visiting a certain wierd West Coast city noted for it's cycling culture that has "Neighborhood Greenways". After tooling around the city on a bike for a while I concluded that a greenway was a street closed to motorized vehicles that has foot wide meandering cracks in the asphalt that are wide enough to grow grass and wild flowers, thus producing a "greenway". Took a while to develop a more precise definition.

    Another ancient joke opaque to those who did not learn to read with the Dick and Jane primers in the 50's...

    Jane discovers a big smelly wet place on the carpet. She admonishes the culprit, the family dog, saying "Out, out, damned Spot!".


  2. Leo--Your definition of a "greenway" is about right, at least in many places here in the US.

    I hope that ECG--and other "greenways"--materialize in my lifetime. It would be nice to plan a bike vacation from Point A to Point B and know that you have a good, safe--and, hopefully, interesting-- route. At least, I hope they're more interesting than the interstate highways!

    Dick and Jane--another part of our culture is about to be lost!