Hurricane Sandy brings pedal power to New York City

In the wake of the devastating storm, many New Yorkers see biking as the best way to get around the city.
Written by Channtal Fleischfresser, Contributor

On Wednesday, New York City's public transit system slowly creaked back to life, with bus service mostly restored and most subway lines in northern Manhattan and parts of Queens starting up again after an unprecedented shutdown.

But for those in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, things will take longer to return to normal. With power still out for much of Manhattan south of 40th St., no subways were running below 34th St. And on Wednesday transit workers were still working to pump water out of the seven city subway tunnels that flooded with sea water. Even once that daunting task is complete, salt water corrosion could further complicate the city's ability to restore service between Manhattan and Brooklyn. SmartPlanet's Andrew Nusca wrote about what the Metropolitan Transit Authority is up against on Tuesday.

So for many Brooklyn residents unwilling to wait hours for the 'bus bridge' - linking the Atlantic Ave. transit hub with midtown Manhattan - or spend hours in gridlocked traffic, the solution is pedal power. Bikes are proving to be the most reliable - and in many cases, fastest - way to get around the city. As Chris Puntarelli posted on Twitter on Wednesday, "Everyone in New York City: if you have a bike. Now is the time to use it. Forget about driving anywhere. It's a mess out there."

In recent years the city has increased the number of bike lanes throughout Manhattan and the outer boroughs. But biking in New York City is not for the faint of heart - even more so post-Hurricane Sandy. With lower Manhattan largely free of any working traffic lights, many intersections have become a free-for-all. But with several hours of wait times as the public transportation alternative, more people may become willing to face the honking, swerving cars on New York City's streets. On Thursday, Twitter user @BrooklynSpoke said the Manhattan bridge appeared to have three to four times its usual bike traffic.

We may yet see some good emerge in Hurricane Sandy's wake: if more New Yorkers come to see biking as a viable commuting option, perhaps the city will work to make city streets safer for bikers - and everyone, including the environment, would benefit from that.

Photo: Leandro Garcia

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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