Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bike Racks

One think NYC is in serious drought of is bike racks. I usually end up using a sign post, an awning post, or sometimes even a tree. A substantial addition of bike racks on every block would create less of a mess when multiple bikes need to be parked in the same area. On that note, I was interested to see a 'bike check' down at BLVD on the Bowery when I swung by there for a Tuesday night Green Drinks. Of course I noticed it AFTER I had already locked my bike up but oh well.

David Byrne, out of all the weird and cool things he's done, also has an enthusiasm for bike racks:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bailout the Bicyclists

Thanks to my friend Beth for passing this info along...

Apparently the Federal Bailout Bill has some nice little tidbits attached, such as employers being able to claim a $20/month/biker tax relief, passed down to the biking employee via fringe benefits. Now, a couple extra Jacksons in the wallet isn't going to ease much pain, it actually might not even be worth the extra work required to prove qualification, but it's definitely a pedal in the right direction.

Go to page 205:

It goes without saying but I will say it anyway: using cycling for transportation can save you money regardless, even if you already use a thrifty means, like the subway or bus system.

Now all we need are more bike parking spots, tire pumping stations, and severe prosecution for people who park or open their car doors into bike traffic lanes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Bike Lane aint a Bike Lane if...

...if you can't bike in it!  Let me just say, I do commend the efforts of city planners and the cooperation of the DOT to paint green bike lanes on Broadway and other streets throughout the city. HOWEVER, why would you add another space in between the bike lane and the traffic lane with tables and benches for people to occupy? That forces people to walk through the bike lane. ARRRGHHHHHH! Why!?!? Look at this!

Why not just put the seating area next to the sidewalk where the pedestrians belong, not sandwiched between two moving lanes? Did anybody think this through? I almost took out like 8 people in a 3 block span. I ended up just using the road. For this lane: thanks, but no thanks.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Eggs are for Eating

To the 3 young teenage boys on Willoughby Ave:

Don't you know that eggs are for eating, not for throwing? They offer no value when strewn throughout the street. Plus, you have terrible aim, I was like 15 feet away from you, c'mon. And watch your language.


PS: If I ever see you again I will strangle you worthless pieces of...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Defensive Biking

As I sit here dabbing anti-bacterial ointment onto my most recent wound, I feel the need to speak about my close calls this week with, well, whatever.

The traffic cameras at the intersections (that take your picture if you run a red) are causing problems for me. Not because I think I will get caught, although that would definitely birth a nice new blog post, but because it causes cars, especially cabbies, to jam on the breaks when a yellow appears. Now that's not good for me when I'm right behind the cab going a good 20mph. Some would call that tailgating, but as any biker will tell you, momentum is very precious, since it is produced by the hard work of the rider. Changing speeds constantly is not helpful when trying to maximize efficient traveling, it's all about finding a good constant speed in a nice high gear and just cruising. Except when all of a sudden the car in front of you stops.

One thing I'm trying to be more consience of is not slamming on my front break, because it causes the back wheel to slide out and foward. However, I'm not sure I could depend on stopping as fast if I only used the back break, and when a reaction causes you to break, you usually squeeze both. Thus, the exact series of events I expereinced last night, as I barely missed slamming into the back of the cab. The back wheel came around during the skid and the bike fell back away from the cab, all contact with the asphalt being absorbed by my knee, my elbow, and the pedal (which broke off). Fortunately for me, clothing damage was minimal and apparently I can ride a bike with one pedal and one...peg.

For some reason, I've been having a lot of close calls like this, non others this close, but I am wearing a lot of rubber off my tires. Two nights ago, I was flying up 3rd Avenue and racing to get through the yellow light at the big intesection at 34th street, this delivery guy comes down 3rd Avenue THE WRONG WAY and then proceeds to turn in front of me at the cross walk, right as I am passing through the intersection. I yelled at the guy, he kept his vector, I slammed on my breaks, so did he, and I ended up missing him by inches. If it wasn't for the fact that I was desperately trying to get home and watch the VP debate (the Phillies game had just ended, and beautifully at that, take that C.C.), and also due to the fact we were in the middle of an intersection, I probably would have blew up in his face. He wouldn't have understood me though anyway, my Spanish is too broken. Not more than 4 streets later some other delivery dude comes flying out of nowhere and I almost hit him. What is wrong with these people? I'm very tempted to support needing a Biker's License to use the streets. And to have a license you should need a green card.

Here are some unspoken guidelines that people with common sense follow. If you don't have common sense, then you are, by definition, and idiot. If you are an idiot, please, lock youself inside your house or apartment and never leave. By all means, don't get on a bike or in a car, and please, please stay away from me:

1) Whatever moron decided to spread the rumor that it's safer to ride against traffic than with traffic is, well, and idiot. I'm sorry, just because you can see traffic better when going against the flow doesn't make the impact of a head on collision any less. That may work on country roads, but not in the city. Riding with traffic yields a smaller impact if you are hit, and allows one to get more consecutive green lights. Also, if I'm riding in a bike lane with traffic, and you come the opposite way, that doesn't work now, does it?

2) If you open a car door on the side of traffic (which you should ONLY do if in the drivers seat and you have no other option), open it a crack first, and make sure there isn't a car or cyclist flying past you. This infuriates me, and I bet any city biker will tell you that they have had several close calls with IDIOTS swinging open cab doors to get out on the side of traffic. Wow, just wow.

I may add to this list if future idiots try to ruin my day in other ways.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bike Security

When I bought my bike I also bought a huge keyed Kryptonite chain lock (it's pretty bad ass when I wear it around my neck) and a smaller keyed cable lock. I used to take my front wheel off and lock it to the back wheel with the body using the big chain, then use the small cable for the seat and my helmet. Then I started getting lazy and used the cable for the front wheel (without removing it), keeping my seat vulnerable. "It's not a quick-release" I remember arguing to a fellow cycler. "Doesn't matter, people will take it." Well, he was right. Last Friday I came out from work and my seat was gone. Are you kidding me? How lame is that. Thank God for Larry's bike shop on 2nd Ave at 87th which is open until 8pm when all the rest in the UES close at 6:30 (so much for the city that never sleeps). After getting a new post and seat, I decided to also upgrade the "security system" on my bike. I bought the OnGuarg axel and seat locks, that require a special key to open. It seemed worth the $60 since I didn't have to ever lock up or remove wheels or seats.

So to begin the ironic section about the bike related incidents that happened to me this week, yesterday afternoon I was riding back from the office and swung by Citbank to get some cash. I used that small cable lock since it's quicker than the chain, and I was only going to be a minute at the ATM. I came out and went to unlock the cable and I could't get the key in. Now, the key had been a little fidgety recently but never to the point that I couldn't even get it in the hole. I seriously worked at it for 20 minutes, but to no avail. I even ran to the deli and bought a lighter thinking maybe something got stuck in there and if it was flammable I could burn it out. I was pretty desperate to say the least. The looks I was getting as people walked by at the busy intersection of 79th and 1st were pretty priceless. But those looks were topped by the looks I was getting when I decided to give up, run to the hardware store, buy a hacksaw, and go to town on this cursed lock, made by, guess who, OnGuard. It took me about 10 minutes with the saw to get through the steel cable (the plastic sheathing actually helped my case by making a groove for me). I then slowly rode back to my apartment wondering if anything crazier could happen.

This morning something crazier happened. I rode to church and on my way back I quickly noticed something was wrong with my front wheel. I looked down and realized the axel, yes the new special secure axel lock I had JUST bought was missing. "You have GOT to be kidding me" I screamed out load. I went back to where I had locked the bike up and found first the axel, then the washer, then the notched lockable cap, BROKEN on the ground. The thing was made of steel, I thought. If it is, it's defective steel.

I was wondering how it even happened and my best guess is that somebody saw the wheel unlocked from far away, went in for the quick snag, saw the special notched cap, tried to open it anyway with pliers, broke it, then somebody walked out of the church and scared him so he ran away (the wheel was still there, vulnerable). Either that or it became fractured due to stress while I was riding and just fell off when I parked it. Good thing I can ride my bike without an axel (the arms slip right on the wheel but unsecured so don't go over any bumps). I got home and put back my old quick-release axel and filled out the warranty card and sent that bad boy in.

Oh yeah, did I say that I was also in the bike shop earlier that week to fix a broken chain? It's just not my week for biking.

My First Bike Ticket

That's right, I got pulled over on my bike in Central Park. I really hope people find this post and learn from it because I was completely unaware that you can't be in The Park after 1am and before 6am, not even on the roads in a moving vehicle . This is cited in Title 56 of the Parks and Recreation laws in section 1-03 part (a) items (1) and (3). The reason for this completely stupid law is for "safety" not only for bums who would stay in the park and freeze to death in the winter, but for pedestrians who might be attacked by ruthless hoodlums. Yes, people should be careful, but this law is straight up stupid. Riding or driving on the roads in Central Park late at night is much less dangerous than riding on the avenues outside The Park. What could to happen to me? Is somebody going to throw a brick at my head when I'm riding? I don't even have to justify people who run around the resevoir before 6am. This law is straight up dumb.

And I got busted for it. I was out riding home from the West Village on a Friday night and after coming up the bike lane on 8th Ave I shot through the park at Columbus Circle. As I was riding up the east edge of the loop, I see lights and a cop car pulls up next to me, and one of the two officers asks me to "pull over." I was a little surprised when the other cop got out and asked me to dismount my bicycle. The only thing I could possibly think of was that a bike had been stolen matching mine's description. After taking my information, I waited about 10 minutes for them to run my record. I started to wonder if there was more to the story and then a black SUV pulled up and I overheard the driver asking one of the cops for directions and hearing the cops tell the man that the park was closed. The man responded with an apology and drove away. It was then I realized that technically I wasn't supposed to be there. They couldn't be giving me a ticket though, could they? How about a warning? If that was the reason I was "pulled over" I'd be pretty angry.

Well, that was the reason. I was dumbstruck when I was handed a criminal court summons. A summons is an order to appear in court, it's not a fine that I just pay and mail in. Either way this was going to be a substantial inconvenience. One of my personal weaknesses is that my facial expressions are at times pretty transparent to my emotions. Apparently blatantly rolling my eyes didn't make the one officer happy, to which he replied by asking me in an antagonizing manner "What's wrong, you look like you're not happy about this." Oh, that set me off. "Yeah? I look unhappy? I wonder why! Maybe because you just pulled me over and gave me a summons for RIDING MY BIKE IN THE PARK!?" I couldn't help it, I was so livid. We want back and forth for a little bit arguing about if there was a sign and if there was where it was and how I was supposed to see it at night. The cop ended the confrontation by walking back to the car and telling me to leave. What an ass.

Like I said, a summons requires you to attend court regardless of your plea, so of course I pleaded NOT-guilty. After various pro bono consultations with several informed acquaintances, I was prepared to make my case in front of the judge. My first argument was that the part of the law that was cited, item (1) rather than item (3) under part (a) of section 1-03 in Title 56 was not an item with a fine attached. Item (1) says that you may use park from 6am to 1am. Item (3) says you can't use them after the curfew, and that's the item with a fine associated.
My second argument was that I was not put under proper notice that such a law existed because the signs (which I went back and found later) we mere 6" wide dark green non-reflective signs that a pedestrians wouldn't even notice, let alone somebody flying by on a bicycle. Straight up lame.

Let's play "Find the Sign!"

Sitting in court, I had to listen to the 20 or so people before me go up and argue their violations. Most were for open containers or public urination. One was for soliciting ads, one was for going the wrong way down 2nd Ave. When I got up there, I whispered to the public attorney that I was going to plead not-guilty for this curfew violation and when he repeated that to the judge I received a confused look and the question "what were you doing in the park"? After explaining that I was riding home the judge responded by asking "don't you work in the morning, what are you doing out so late?" I replied with, "It was a Friday night, you honor, but even so, what the heck does that matter?" I didn't actually say the second part of that, but I sure thought it. Why are people giving me such a hard time about this?!? It's an embarrassment to our legal system! I then heard, to my surprise, the judge chuckle and say "get our of here kid, you're dismissed." I looked at the public attorney with a confused look to which he responded "That's a good thing, you're dismissed. You can leave." I didn't even get to use my arguments. Oh well.

The story would have been better if I had gotten a BUI...

Biking the Bridges

My first one to try was Queensboro Bridge. Not a bad ride at all. It's nice racing the Roosevelt Island cage lift. The downfall of this bridge are the entrances on either side. Although the bridge starts on 2nd Ave in Manhattan, there's a high fence wrapping back down to 1st Ave. This isn't a big issue coming back, since I live on 1st Ave and go that way anyway, but approaching the bridge after coming down 2nd Ave forces me to go an extra block (times 2) out of my way. C'mon, that's not cool. Also, the approach and exit on the Queens side is just a messy long stretch of atypical intersections, which take an effort to cross. My bridge rating = 6/10.

My favorite one thus far is the Williamsburg Bridge. This giant red caged bike platform is wide and splits into two sides on the Brooklyn half. It overlooks the subway tracks and highway below, and offers nice views coming back of midtown to the north and down town to the south. My only small qualm is when the path splits, the south path is technically for pedestrians only. Because of this they put rumble strips at the bottom, which is very annoying for bikers. As far as I'm concerend, pedestrians are not as important as bikers. I realize I have a long way to go until I fully consider pedestrian safety as important as my convenience, but I'm not quite there yet. It's probalby because pedestrians are so freaking unaware of their surroundings even when given adequate visual or audible warning. This is a topic you can be sure to hear more of from me later on. Regardless of this small inconvenience, my Billiesburg Bridge rating = 9/10.

I have tried the Manhattan Bridge once. It could be the best option if going to or coming from west Fort Greene area, but other than that it's narrow and the entrances are tough to find. It does offer a nice view down onto the Verizon baseball field on the Manhattan side, but other than that it's not the greatest. My bridge rating = 4/10.

I have yet to ride over the Brooklyn Bridge (although I have walked it), but I look foward to doing it when the opportunity presents itself. I almost did this when attempting to cut the 5 Boro bike tour down to 4 boros to save time, but I never even got to Queens due to the bottleneck at the entrance to the Queensboro and my overwhelming impatience. I also hear that the Verrazano Narrows Bridge offers pretty amazing views of lower Manhattan.

Biking to the Boroughs

After I started riding in NYC, I quickly discovered I could get pretty much anywhere within Manhattan or the inner areas of the boroughs within 30 minutes. I was also able to explore the neighborhoods along the way, a luxury I would miss out on if I took the subway.

QUEENS: My first reoccurring out-of-Manhattan ride was to Long Island City for a class. I could get there from 86th & Lex (where I work) in about 20 minutes, shooting down 2nd Ave and over the Queensboro Bridge. I also found it wasn't bad getting out to Woodside, which I did once to visit some friends.

BROOKLYN: I started attending Pratt Institute for grad school this fall, and decided I would bike there until it got too cold. Thanks to the fact the the U.N. hates bikers and wont allow the East Side path to extend continuously down the east edge of Manhattan, the quickest way to get down town to the southern bridges is 2nd Ave. With little to moderate car traffic, I can get to Delancey St and the Williamsburg bridge in 20 minutes, then another 20 through Brooklyn. Coming back at night with no traffic and a strong desire to get home and go to sleep, my quickest time is 30 minutes flat (7.5 miles, average of 15 mph). I thought this would be a dangerous ride at first, crossing through the fringes of Bed-Sty, but I quickly discovered that far more dangerous than one of the more dangerous ghettos in the Unites States are the dark-coat-wearing Hasidic Jews who tend to jaywalk at night without looking both ways, almost trying to get hit by a cyclist. The ones driving cars aren't much better, and they can do even more damage.

BRONX: Are you kidding me? I'm not that stupid. Harlem, maybe, but not the Bronx. MAYBE if I was a Yankees fan, even then, I'd probably just take the 4 train...My reasoning has nothing to do with time it takes to get there...I did technically poke through during the 5 Boro bike tour which was a 1 mile little section, but that doesn't count.

STATEN ISLAND: You know, this almost happened during the 5 borough bike tour which turned into the 4 Boro Bike Tour (I was going to take Brooklyn Bridge as a shortcut back instead of Verrazano to Staten Island) which turned into the 2 Boro bike tour when the bottleneck over the Queensboro was so unappealing that I just decided to go home, shower and go to church instead. I hear the ride down Sunset Park and over the Verazano is pretty amazing though, so maybe next year I'll start that ride earlier and not get caught waiting around (AND I THOUGHT MT. FUJI WAS BAD!).

Brock's Bike Blog

I am a Philadelphian living in New York. The worst part about moving to New York was not having room in my apartment for my bicycle (that, and having to be surrounded by New York sports fans 24/7). Because of that, I had a friend of mine in Philly bike-sitting for me. When I finally moved into a bigger spot in February, I called up my buddy, told him I wanted my bike back, at which point I found out it had been stolen. He then paid me the $300 we had agreed on prior to the arrangement, and I went hunting for a new bike. I bought a Trek 7.3fx hybrid. Since them I ride everywhere: near, far, across town, downtown, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn...In 98% of destinations, biking has proven to be the quickest and cheapest option possible. This blog will be my outlet for expressing my enthusiasms, venting emotions and critiquing society's reaction to an increasingly biker oriented city.