(The following stories were sent to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign from New Yorkers who signed a thank-you card to Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and her bosses, Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Goldsmith. See accompanying press release.)
Joanne Waller, Manhattan:
I recently learned firsthand the value of the city's efforts to re-imagine the use of our public streets. In September of last year, I had an accident which caused a multiple fracture of my big toe. As a result, I was unable to walk for nearly three months. Being dependent on crutches, it was difficult to travel more than a few blocks from my apartment at 18th Street and Broadway.
Around the same time as my injury, the redesign of Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets was implemented. Since it is right around the corner from me, I was able to go there on my crutches and sit on the chairs on the east side of Broadway. I could then relax and comfortably watch the passing of the outside world that I was missing so much. On many afternoons, there was sunlight on that side of the street. And since my apartment's windows face north, it was my only experience of direct sun during those three long months!
The redesign of Broadway did not only contribute to making the city a bit more livable, it probably saved my sanity. Thank you for bringing civilized public spaces to where New Yorkers live.
Margaret Lettieri, RN, MPH; Queens:
As a public health nurse I am enthusiastic about the recent changes in the built environment that promote physical activity. The pedestrian friendly plazas in Manhattan and Brooklyn stimulate commerce. Streets that offer seating promote socialization and feel safer. While working in Brooklyn I have had the opportunity to sit and enjoy healthy food purchased from a nearby green market.
The Cross Island Parkway fitness path in Queens brings many walkers, cyclists, and skaters out for fresh air and exercise. Even during the snowy months the paths were plowed in a timely manner and I was able to bicycle all winter long. Yeah!
The bike route to Manhattan from Queens enabled me to cycle safely to Central Park and enjoy my beautiful city. It is quicker than driving in traffic and doesn’t contribute to air pollution.
I just love exploring the boroughs by bike and have participated in many organized rides with friends and family. All thanks to the forward thinking leadership at the DOT and the savvy elected officials who support fresh air, physical activity, and safety. Thanks for all you do!
Ian Dutton, vice-chair, Traffic & Transportation Committee, Manhattan Community Board 2:
Our neighborhood streets have become more civilized thanks to recent changes. Shortened crossings mean seniors don't have to run for their lives to cross avenues that seemed to be absolute barriers. Seating areas in what used to be traffic-plagued intersections let residents and visitors experience the city in new, pleasant ways. And cruising in protected bicycle lanes lets me take my time and enjoy the neighborhood - I've even discovered a new favorite cupcake bakery with a bike lane out front!
Pasqualina Azzarello, executive director of Recycle-a-Bicycle, a Brooklyn-based organization which operates youth education programs in city public schools:
My name is Pasqualina Azzarello and I am the Executive Director of a non-profit organization called Recycle-A-Bicycle (RAB). RAB is a community-based bike shop whose proceeds support youth development programs, including job-training, environmental education, and a Kids Ride Club.
Our Kids Ride Club began fifteen years ago as a community partnership between Recycle-A-Bicycle and Woodhull Hospital, which is a public hospital in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In the beginning, Dr. Edward Fishkin would ride bikes with a handful of kids after school and inspired them to explore the city beyond their own neighborhood. In doing so, the children learned the skills to ride safely, experienced the health benefits that go hand in hand with riding, and of course felt just how very good it feels to ride a bicycle. When this program began, it was clearly ahead of its time.
A few months ago, I attended a dinner that celebrated the 15th Anniversary of Kids Ride Club. Today, the program consists of more than 100 youth participants who collectively ride more than 10,000 miles every season and collectively burn more than a million and a half calories in the course of 18 rides from April through October. Ninety-five percent of the kids in our Ride Club live in low-income communities. Considering the health issues that can plague underserved communities, including asthma, diabetes, and obesity, Kids Ride Club is an invaluable opportunity for young people and their families to live healthy, active lives. Without a doubt, the more our city supports new bike lanes and development of bicycling infrastructure, the more that people of all ages and from diverse economic backgrounds can safely experience the healthful benefits and general well-being that can come with riding a bike.
A number of our youth participants spoke at the celebratory event. The dinner included more than two hundred guests, including new and veteran youth participants, parents, educators, volunteer ride marshals, doctors, nutritionists, and representatives from Council Member Diana Reyna’s office and Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez’ office, who has been a long-time supporter of Kids Ride Club. Here are a few quotes:
With these statements in mind, it is clear that the development of cycling infrastructure is essential in a city that wants to support the growth of its children and the overall well-being of its residents. Bike lanes create space and support for affordable, sustainable transportation, safer cycling, and healthful living.
Wendy Brawer, Lower East Side resident “since 1987”:
I moved to NYC because you don't need a car here. Now that I am over 55 and cycling every day, I want to thank you Commissioner, for raising the quality of my life with vastly improved bike lanes and eco- efficient mobility options!
Katherine Stanton, Manhattan:
I've lived in New York since I graduated from college 30 years ago. For the first 20 years I felt like I took my life in my hands if I dared to ride my bike up 6th Avenue to Central Park. With the new bike paths and bike lanes, I now ride to the west side, ride along the river up and down, ride over to Brooklyn and to the Rockaways. Riding shows me a New York I never saw before, and makes me happy.
Marcus Woolen, Jackson Heights:
Exactly one year ago today, I bought a bicycle from a shop near my office in Hell’s Kitchen.
I had no idea how transformative a decision that would be at the time. My doctor had expressed concern for my health, given my weight, cholesterol & blood pressure and family history. I started slowly, but quickly worked up to riding back and forth both ways – a 40 minute ride over the Queensboro bridge that took the same amount of time as my former E-train commute.
I've lost over 35lbs, sleep better and have more energy. I no longer hide when a camera appears at a gathering. I've had to buy new clothes twice - and will again soon, I believe - my waist size has dropped by six inches.
I've been able to add other activities as well - I've started running again some on the weekends, and occasionally attempt other athletic avenues. I still have more weight to lose to get to a "healthy" weight, yet already I feel better in every way.
I want to thank the city for including bicycle infrastructure as a part of the transit network that has enabled me to do this – some lanes are older, some are new (like the new Sunnyside Connector route and the current Queens Plaza redesign) but all combined – I have a route that feels safe from my home to my office, day or night.
As a resident of Jackson Heights, I also wish to thank the city for the ongoing extensive transportation study focused on improving traffic safety and congestion in my neighborhood, and for the amount of community outreach it’s done. At the community presentation/workshop of initial recommendations last month it was clear how much the plan was a direct result of community input received over the last two years – and I look forward to the implementation of its final plan.
Martin Wallace, Morningside Heights:
I just wanted to write about how much I love being able to stay down by the water when I'm riding south of 96th street. I live up at 115th, and I used to have to go up and down in order to keep going south. I'm pretty lazy when it comes to riding and I like to have a nice flat out route whenever possible, so when the city finished the improvements there by the water, I was ecstatic. I kept saying to my son, who is about to turn 4, "We'll be riding down there someday." He'd point out the cranes and other machinery and people down there working on our new path. Then, when the path opened and for about 6 months thereafter, we'd both shout "Hurray, we're riding on the new path!" He still mentions it when we're riding down it together. Thanks!
Yascha-Janet Bilan, Astoria:
When I first moved to NYC 17 years ago, I couldn't imagine ever riding a bike in the streets of NY. When I met my husband 7 years ago I had not been on a bike in over 14 years. He is an avid cyclist; a former messenger, a current bike commuter, cycle-tourist and lover of bike culture. It took me a couple of years to get over my fear of motorists but with determination and support I finally did it. Now I commute between boroughs and to work, ride in centuries, and cycle tour. Cycling has truly changed my life and I am grateful for all the positive changes in the city allowing me to accomplish this endeavor. I do not ever use a car to commute, prefer cycling and/or mass transit and walking! Never felt better!
Robert C., Upper West Side:
My employer, New York Life Insurance, added a bike room in the basement of their landmark building at 51 Madison Avenue last year as part of a “Go Green” project. At about the same time, the city was finishing up improvements to bike lanes next to the West Side Highway in the 80s, making it very easy for me to commute by bike from the Upper West Side to Madison Square, with almost the entire route on designated bike lanes, in about the same time it typically takes me to take the subway! I try to do a couple round-trips by bike each week, when my work schedule and the weather allows it, and it lets me get a workout and do my commute at the same time.
Nathan Hamblen, Downtown Brooklyn:
I never thought I would ride a bicycle in New York when I moved here in 2001. It seemed too dangerous, and perhaps even more significantly it seemed too different. I didn't want to be a "bike nut" or anything like that. As a software programmer I already have enough stereotypes to deal with. But when the city started installing bicycle lanes a few years ago, I thought I might be able to ride a bike without having to be some kind of angry road warrior. So I got a folding bicycle, and one change led to another. Now I ride almost every day of the year; it seems too easy, convenient, and fun not to do it. Safe and efficient cycling has become an essential part of my physical and mental well being; I dearly appreciate New York's first steps towards real cycling infrastructure and I hope these steps continue so I can live here the rest of my life.
Ken C., Upper West Side:
I live a block from the new Columbus Avenue bike lane. When I ride on it, I instantly feel safe and protected from traffic and opening car doors. It's a wonderful feeling. If I could experience that feeling on more streets, I would bike on them more.
Josh K., Williamsburg:
I moved to NYC a year and a half ago from uber-bike-friendly Santa Cruz, CA. I was immediately frustrated by my commute: To get to school/work, I had to go quite a bit out of my way to take the east river path or risk my life on the avenues. Within a year, protected bike lanes were installed on 1st and 2nd avenues, providing me with a relatively safe and quick commute-and a huge decrease in frustration levels! The improvements to NYC's biking infrastructure over the short time I've been here have been impressive, and I hope that the changes over the next year and a half will offer safe and efficient commutes for many others like me.
Dan T., Lower East Side:
I live on the Lower East Side, so I especially appreciate the city creating more public space in an area where the public streets have been handed over to cars. Within two blocks of my apartment I can relax and shop on Sundays on Orchard Street when it is closed to cars. I can jump on a Select Bus Service M15 and go uptown, saving 10 to 15 minutes off of the old trip. I can ride my bike on Allen Street and 1st Avenue for over 50 blocks protected from speeding cars. And I can even sit on the improved pedestrian plaza on Allen Street and enjoy a coffee, a book and public art on a bench under a tree in an area that used to be filled with trash and wasted space between two underused traffic streets.
Jessame Hannus, Queens:
Here's one place in the city where I really noticed the improvements:
The intersection of Christopher & Bleecker in the West Village has long been a jumbled mess overflowing with pedestrians and traffic. Bleecker St. is an excellent route for drivers coming south and going east and has heavy car traffic. The West Village is a happening neighborhood, and with the improvements to the piers and greenway on the Hudson, foot and bike traffic has greatly increased through this intersection. While both streets are one lane and fairly narrow, their angles create a strange surplus of space where they cross. In the past drivers going south would try to use that space to maneuver around the car in front of them resulting in awful log jams as they tried to merge back into the traffic lane. At the same time, while all these vehicles are at a standstill pedestrians take over the intersection.
With the simple addition of a bike lane on Bleecker and a more clearly painted right turn lane off Bleecker onto Christopher, this maneuvering logjam has vanished like magic. The bike lane helps to demarcate the fact that Bleecker is one lane. The right-turn lane creates a pedestrian refuge where people can wait without fear of a car trying to use their space to get around the car in front of them. The car traffic there is still heavy and often at a standstill, but at least the anxious movement is gone. Between the Hudson River Park and the High Line, tourists and locals alike are flocking to this area and finding a pleasant and welcoming place to wander and discover. Improvements like these improve their safety and the quality of life for everyone.
Michael W. (New Yorker, borough not given):
I am 62 years old, with back problems, a total knee replacement on the left side, and other things. So you can imagine how much I appreciate what you have done in New York as far as bike riding -- something I am able to do. Keep up the good work.
P. C. Wong, Lower Manhattan:
I have been living in various part of New York since the 60’s.
The improvement of bike paths and plazas has make this a much more livable place.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is a nonprofit organization working toward a more balanced, transit-friendly, and equitable transportation system in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. www.tstc.org