Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Only bicycles seemed to be rolling"

One Way Around the Traffic Muddle in Brooklyn: Riding a Bicycle

With power out, gas stations not able to pump, and subway lines still flooded or without power, New York City is working its way out of gridlock  as it tries to recover from Hurricane Sandy (note added later--no sooner did the area start to recover from Sandy than another 'Noreaster hit the area!)  Commutes are lasting hours and I wonder what happens as folks sit in stalled traffic with the gas gauge dipping towards Empty. According to the Times article, Gov. Cuomo has declared a transportation emergency in the NYC area.

1979 revisited?
A couple quotes from the NY Times article: "Only bicycles seemed to be rolling."..."With no underground route from Queens to Manhattan and car traffic stalled, some crossed the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge on bike or foot. One Twitter user described cycling over the bridge as “escaping zombie apocalypse.”

Typical 1979 East Coast gas line during the the oil
 crisis. This one in Md but Eastern LI was bad, too.

Streetsblog tells a different story of those who are more adaptable: "...The commuters who had the least to worry about from post-Sandy traffic were those who rode their bikes..."

Indeed, twice while I was on Long Island during grad school, the bicycle proved why it is without question the most reliable and robust vehicle, needing only air in its tires and food and beer in its engine. These were during the 1979 Oil Crisis, and in 1985 when power in the Stony Brook/Port Jefferson area was out for close to two weeks after Hurricane Gloria roared over Stony Brook on its way across the island, leaving downed trees and severed power lines in its wake. Not needing gasoline and being able to filter around storm damage (and mile-long gas lines) helped a lot. I started my habit of riding my bicycle to work in the spring of 1979 rather than face hours sitting in a gas line with my wife's car or my motorcycle (my wife usually rode her bike, too). 

This latest crisis reminds me of a cartoon my Ph.D. advisor, another avid transportation cyclist, once sent me. Gil provided an email caption along the lines of "in case of emergency, pump tires". Just change the dates.

Late Note: Gasoline is now being rationed on Long Island and in NYC. From the 11-8-2012 New York Times.
A 2012 Gasoline line in New York City. From the 11-8-12 NY Times

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