15 August 2017

The War Between Blue And Orange

Everyone knows that New York is a big city.  How big is it?

Well, in terms of population, it is about three times as large as Los Angeles or Chicago, its nearest competitors in the US.  Its population is also that much greater than any European capital except London. (I know:  Some will say England isn't really part of Europe!)  

As for its geographical size, the Big Apple doesn't come anywhere near that of those sprawling municipalities found in the American South, West and Southwest like Jacksonville or Phoenix.  Still, it is a good deal larger than the aforementioned European capitals or even some American cities like Boston or San Francisco.

When most people talk about "New York City", they are referring to the island of Manhattan--which, until 1898, was indeed the whole.  But in that year, as the US was taking Guam, the Phillipines, Puerto Rico and Cuba from Spain in retaliation for something the Spanish didn't do*, New York City annexed the counties of Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Bronx and Richmond (Staten Island).  As a result, the city was ten times as large as it was in 1897--and larger, in area, than almost any other city in the world:  at that time, those sprawling Sun Belt cities either didn't exist or were hardly more than villages.

To put the city's size in perspective:  You can cycle from the Porte de Clignancourt, at the northeastern end of Paris, to the Porte de Saint Cloud, in its extreme southwest, in 50 minutes or less, depending on your pace and route.  However you go, you won't have to pedal more than about 12 km, or a little less than 8 miles. On the other hand, a ride from Columbus Circle, in the center of Manhattan, to Rockaway Beach stretches for about 25 miles, or 40 kilometers.  If you ride about 25 kilometers (16 miles) in the opposite direction from Columbus Circle, you can go to City Island, near the northeastern extremity of the Bronx.

I am thinking about this because a San Francisco-based bike share company Spin announced a plan to bring its services to the Rockaways and other outlying areas of the Five Boroughs.  The city, however, put the kibosh on that plan, citing the "revenue contract" is has with Citibike.  That agreement gives Citibike gives exclusive rights for its first two phases, which include Manhattan, Brooklyn and parts of Queens--though not the Rockaway area.  

Long Island City, the Queens neighborhood closest to Manhattan, is part of the area included in the agreement.  But it didn't receive its first Citibikes until last spring, some three years after the blue bikes first appeared on Manhattan streets. Astoria, where I live, borders on LIC and is slated to get its first Citibike stations in the coming months.

That begs the question of just how long it will take for Citibike to reach neighborhoods like Rockaway Beach which, in the summer, has some of the most crowded bike lanes.  The district's City Councilman, Eric Ulrich, has said that allowing Spin--or, for that matter, any bike sharing program--in the Rockaways should be a "no brainer" because, among other things, "it doesn't cost the taxpayers a dime."

So why won't the city allow Spin to operate in the Rockaways?  I suppose the places that rent bikes might object, but I don't think they are a terribly large constituency.  And they're all seasonal.  I'm not a lawyer, but I should think that there would be a way to provide a temporary or provisional permit for Spin to operate, at least until Citibikes come to the Rockaways.

The reason why the city won't do that, I believe, is this:  Spin charges only $1 for 30 minutes:  less than Citibike's rate.  Also, Spin's technology is more advanced, so it is easier for someone with the right app to access one of Spin's orange machines than it is to use a Citibike.

In the meantime, in Ulrich's words, the Rockaway Beach--a location for bike shares if there ever was one--is "deprived" of such services, all over a war between Blue and Orange.  In this city, it makes no sense.

*--This event is commonly called "The Spanish-American War."  I think of it as the American lynching of Spain.

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