Putting Your Foot In It

I was surprised to learn recently that the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation is “anti-cycling:”

The reason, apparently, is that they recently closed a section of park path to bicycles in Queens:

I happen to know this section of bike path very well and have ridden it often. The pathway that was just closed is an exquisite example not of Park’s alleged “anti-cycling” stance, but of the Department of Transportation’s weird Twister-like contortions when it comes to installing bike lanes. Basically, about 10 years ago they put in a protected bike lane along Vernon Boulevard, which runs along the East River waterfront and formally made Long Island City and Astoria a part of the Great Hipster Silk Route. However, they didn’t want to take some parking spots away, so at one point the bike lane just stops and sends you through a park instead:

[I paid $10,000 for this graphic, is that too much?]

It’s about as convenient as telling a pedestrian that the sidewalk’s closed to them and they’ll have to walk through a Stop & Shop to get to the other end of the street.

This stretch also happens to run alongside public housing, and while I don’t know the particulars of why the DOT decided to preserve this particular batch of parking spaces it’s not hard to imagine that they did so to accommodate the residents of said public housing–the same people who advocates are always reminding us don’t own cars. The Möbius strip of New York City politics can really make your brain hurt.

Anyway, it’s a ridiculous detour that not only takes you out of your way but also requires you to tip-toe (or do the cycling equivalent of tip-toeing) through a park in which kids are running around and using little kiddie scooters and are generally liable to leap out in front of you at any time–you know, because it’s a park. So once you attempt the detour you never use it again and simply stay in the street. However, I have no problem believing that this is happening since we now live in a motor scooter and e-bike hellscape:

So if there’s any agency to blame, it seems to me it’s the DOT, who basically ran a bicycle highway through a small park, with predictable result.. And at some point we should probably also start to blame whoever actually does use that detour, because holy shit people do not stop for pedestrians. We’ve already failed-to-yield our way out of a significant portion of the West Side bike path. Streetsblog of course spins the infamous Riverside Park detour as a flirtation with death:

But as annoying as it is I completely understand why they had to do it, and it’s especially bad now that the majority of the wheeled traffic is motorized. Generally when I yield to pedestrians now one of two things happen: either they thank me profusely, or if it’s a group one of them says to the other(s) loudly enough for me to hear, “These bikers never stop.” I don’t know why they seem to direct this at me, the rider who stopped, but I guess the thinking is it’s like roach bait and I’ll take the insult back to the nest and infect the others.

Riding in the city isn’t all bad though–especially on a beautiful day:

I will admit though that I’m getting very frustrated with bikes. Basically I’ve given up on trying to understand them. What makes a bike feel good? Is it the material? The tires? The drivetrain? Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out and that it’s some rarefied combination of tubular tire and Italian steel, that’s when you get on some 35 year-old glued-together Trek and you’re like, “Goddamn it, this bike feels great too, maybe they all do.” I just don’t know anymore. Sure, there are differences in feel and handling and stuff, and you notice them for about the first five minutes, but after awhile whatever bike you happen to be riding that day has a way of becoming your favorite.

As for the pedals, I don’t really believe in toe clips and straps but I enjoy them sometimes as an affectation:

They’re also a good excuse to wear my vintage footwear:

I’m tempted to give the bike a gratuitous fancy derailleur from the test units Paul sent me, but I’m hesitant to undermine its mediocrity:

Or to direct my attention away from the scenery where it belongs:

When there’s not a motor scooter coming at you it’s a pretty pleasant place to ride.

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