Monday, April 3, 2023
Mostly sunny. High 59 degrees.
Our calendar has lots of local events! Click on the link or the lady in the upper righthand corner to look.
There will be a Community Board 7 full board meeting on Tuesday, April 4th at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. To gain access, sign up to speak, or read the resolutions that will be considered in advance, click the following links: Register for the meeting | Sign up to speak | Proposed Resolutions. The agenda is posted on the CB 7 website here. Note: a Transportation Committee resolution asking the Department of Transportation for a “plan and proposal” for east-west protected bike lanes every 10 blocks will be discussed and voted on. Members of the public can speak before the vote. Sign up above. Also, the new resolution regarding the planned safe haven on West 83rd Street will be read at the beginning of the meeting, but will not be considered or voted on until a public hearing on May 2nd.
By Carol Tannenhauser
As the Upper West Side considers expanding its bicycle infrastructure, adding more dedicated bike lanes, I’ve been thinking about where we are and how we arrived here. Once, New Yorkers traveled the streets by horse or horse-drawn vehicles – and sometimes on bicycles (invented in the early 1800s). Then came cars. And trucks. And electric bicycles. Now, there’s a movement to promote more two-wheeled traffic, at the expense (according to car owners) of the automobile. I’ve wondered if we’re on the cusp of another major shift. Researching that history took me down a fascinating rabbit hole, where I learned not only how the Brooklyn Dodgers got their name (it’s transportation related), but the original function of a fundamental architectural feature of the city, prevalent on the Upper West Side: the stoop.
“This was a design necessity,” The New Yorker wrote in 2009, “allowing a homeowner to rise above the sea of horse manure” that carpeted city streets, roughly from 1815 to 1915. In 1898, one commentator predicted that, if horses continued to “go” at the rate they were going — droppings totaling 45,000 tons a month — “by 1930 horse manure would reach the level of Manhattan’s third-story windows.”
Auto enthusiasts dreamed of a horseless city, wrote Today in Technology in 2017, “with streets, clean, dustless and odorless, with light, rubber-tired vehicles moving swiftly and noiselessly over their smooth expanse.” The automobile, they said, would eliminate “a greater part of the nervousness, distraction, and strain of modern metropolitan life.”
I sometimes find myself thinking about modern times from the perspective of the future. How will these days be described in textbooks 100 years from now? Here’s my version:
In the early 21st century, the battle for public space intensified. Antagonism between car owners, cyclists, and pedestrians grew. Following the Pandemic of 2020, biking gained in popularity while climate change, congestion and crashes contributed to calls for curtailing or eliminating cars. Car owners – though not well organized — pushed back, calling their vehicles essential for getting to work, friends, sick relatives, and second homes. Bikers worked to build a network of protected bike lanes, often at the expense of parking. Meanwhile, pedestrians complained that none of the wheeled vehicles obeyed the law, and, just yesterday, they came this close to being hit by a….(fill in the blank).
How will this chapter end? We know how the age of horses did. “Almost overnight, the crisis [of horse manure] passed,” wrote The New Yorker. “This was not brought about by regulation or by government policy. Instead, it was technological innovation that made the difference. With electrification and the development of the internal-combustion engine, there were new ways to move people and goods around. By 1912, autos in New York outnumbered horses, and in 1917 the city’s last horse-drawn streetcar made its final run.”
What will be the next transportation breakthrough that will free us from our current gridlock? It must be bold and go where no other man [or woman] has gone before…
Beam me up, Scotty!