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Post-hurricane biking in NYC

Posted by Sarah Laskow  November 2, 2012 02:29 PM

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In the aftermath of the superstorm that rushed through New York City, one of the cheerier spots has been #bikenyc, the Twitter gathering point for the city's cyclists. With the subways still down and the bridges clogged with cars, members of the cycling community have been in good spirits: they're getting around pretty well, despite everything.

At #bikenyc, veteran cyclists are organizing group rides into Manhattan for first-time bike commuters. Dani Simons, whose day job is at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, offered newbie cyclists tips and this bit of reassurance: "The good news about gridlock? The cars aren’t going very fast." Cyclists circulated a video by filmmaker Casey Neistat, who spent four hours during the storm biking around and documenting the rivers that had taken over the streets. And one cyclist even claimed that "unicycling is the best way to travel in the city right now. Can blend with pedestrian traffic on choked bridges better than bikes."

Sustainability advocates should be evangelizing right now. One of the strongest arguments for bike infrastructure is that it creates options for transport: cars, trains and sidewalks don’t serve all needs. The New York Observer points out that New York might have been better off right now if it had gone through with its plan to install the sort of bike-share system that cities like Boston and D.C. already enjoy.

These bike share systems even have a way to deal with the would-be Neistats inspired to ride around during severe weather. The Boston and D.C. systems use the same hardware, made by a company called PBSC Urban Systems, which is working with New York, as well. The Observer explains,

What about idiots trying to ride bikes in the middle of a hurricane? According to a DOT spokesman, there is a kill switch on the system. Flip it, and all the bikes lock into their stations and cannot be removed.

[Art: detail from "Hurricane Sandy on Bikes in NYC" by Casey Neistat]

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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