On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Panic on the streets of Harlem

Let me illustrate for you a remarkably poor bit of civic planning:

Exhibit A
In Exhibit A, you see a standard, multi-use path.  Very obvious to anyone who takes it, be they cyclist, rollerblader, runner, or walker.  You stay to the right.

Exhibit B
Exhibit B: a slight twist on the path.  Can you see, to the right of the white line, that it says "Ped Only"?  So, walkers and runners stay in the far lane (regardless of which direction they're headed), and cyclists and rollerbladers share the two-lane part of the road, with their directions being obviously marked (again, staying to the right... within your 2/3rds of the path).

Now, pay attention, because here's where it gets tricky:
Exhibit C
This is where the two traffic patterns meet, with no fanfare, and only a small "yield" sign indicating the change.

And wait!  It gets better:

Exhibit D
This is what happens next - a dark, shaded, blind curve!

There's some tension in NYC (maybe everywhere?) between cyclists and runners.  I'm sure cyclists have their own p.o.v., but from my perspective, the cyclists here are Lance Armstrong wannabes: fast-moving road hogs who expect the right of way because of their speed and their fancy clothes.  Confidential to NYC cyclists: no dude outside of the show So You Think You Can Dance has ever looked good in spandex.  It's just varying degrees of obvious genitalia.

This little roadway and its abrupt intersection, let me tell you, confuses the situation.  For miles, cyclists have been staying right.  Now they need to be in the middle.  Instead, nearly every cyclist assumes that they should stay right, and when they see you in their right lane coming toward them, they are angry even though you are correct and they are wrong.  Okay, to be fair, it's not just cyclists; walkers and runners often get this wrong, too.  But it's more fun to scape goat the cyclists.

I don't really understand enough about traffic patterns to have any idea of why one pattern on a multi-use path is preferable over another.  But, like whoa!  Someday I think I'll camp out right at this little intersection and take photos of all the near-miss accidents that happen here.

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