Plaza Finally Opens at the Bronx County Hall of Justice

Hall of Justice Plaza

Bronx County Hall of Justice Plaza, from 162nd Street

The Bronx County Hall of Justice opened in the spring of 2007, but the public plaza surrounding the building remained hidden behind decaying one-story-tall blue plywood fences for six years. The fencing came down within the last few weeks. Now that it’s open to the public, the plaza looks great! And it finally opens up this block to diagonal through-traffic. Walking through here is going to make my commute shorter and more pleasant. Here are some photos of the plaza from a few different angles.

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Legitimate Cabs for the Outer Boroughs

Green Taxi

Prototype apple green outer-borough taxi (image via WNYC Radio)

I am ecstatically happy that the New York Court of Appeals has ruled that Mayor Bloomberg’s outer borough taxi plan, as approved by the NY State Legislature and Governor Cuomo, is legal. The plan had been held up by unnecessary and unfortunate legal wrangling brought by yellow taxi owners, who have enjoyed enormous asset appreciation thanks to government-created scarcity.

I hardly ever take cabs, but I still feel that this is going to be a huge improvement over the status quo. The idea that black cars (a/k/a livery cars a/k/a gypsy cabs) do business solely through “prearranged rides” — their only legal enterprise — was an utter farce.  You can hardly walk down the street in my South Bronx neighborhood without being honked at by black cars offering you a ride. Then if you accept the offer, you can haggle up front, or you can haggle at the end of the trip, by which point you pretty much have to accept the number the driver makes up. Either way, unless you take cabs all the time, you have no idea whether you’re being ripped off. In fact, you always feel that you’re being ripped off.  Now there is going to be a meter! The rates will be the same as yellow cab rates. You’ll feel confident that you’re being appropriately charged for your ride.

This new system finally legalizes a practice that is already going on and allows a service to exist that is clearly in demand. My only question is: Will the arrival of legitimate green cabs mean an end to the black cars soliciting business by aimlessly driving around and honking at pedestrians? It will probably come down to enforcement. The Taxi & Limousine Commission will issue 6,000 outer borough taxi licenses each year for three years, for a total of 18,000 cars. Only time will tell how much of a dent will that make in the gypsy cab business.

I also hope that the process of getting licensed for a green cab will mean an improvement to cabbies’ driving habits. I plan to make it a point of hailing only a green cab or a yellow cab (which you actually do see sometimes here in my part of the Bronx), even if that means I have to wait a little longer.

I’ll try to file a post here once the new cabs start appearing, which is promised for this summer.

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New Modes of Transportation for NYC

East River Ferry and Citi Bike

Citi Bike via ccho/Flickr and East River Ferry via mcmillianfurlow/Flickr

As a Bronx resident, I’m casting a jealous eye down to East River waterfront neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, which are benefiting from two great new forms of transportation, Citi Bike, and the East River Ferry. Both have long-term nebulous concepts of expansions to the South Bronx. I wonder which one will come up here first.

For now, the Bronx has one awesome new transportation-related thing that Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens don’t have (yet): real-time bus locations via MTA Bus Time.

Citi Bike image via ccho on Flickr and East River Ferry image via mcmillianfurlow on Flickr.

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Bicycle Parking Needed

Bike Parking

LOL. Here’s a sign that there isn’t enough bicycle parking at this spot. Yet, it also highlights the versatility of the bike, as it can be parked virtually anywhere. Photo from Madison Avenue in Midtown, near 46th Street.

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Manhattan Motorcycling: A Cautionary Tale

Motorcycles parked under Park Avenue viaduct

Motorcycles parked under Park Avenue viaduct.

I work in east Midtown, Manhattan, an area abundantly well served trains and buses. So four days a week I ride the train like everybody else. Or sometimes I catch the express bus to try to spice up the routine. On Fridays, I try to bicycle in for health and wellbeing as long as it isn’t raining or snowing.

Yesterday, I decided to ride to work on a motorcycle. What a huge mistake!

My problem wasn’t so much the actual ride, which was as you might expect a harrowing mixture of adrenaline-pumping forward motion punctuated by frustrating delays from brutal traffic congestion.  I took Lexington Avenue the entire way, a route that is slightly shorter than my bike commute. I made very good use, I thought, of a motorcycle’s ability to filter forward to the front of a row of cars at a red light, by low-speed, reasonably safe lane splitting as required by the circumstances. I probably passed scores of cars this way. Despite this, the motorcycle trip was four minutes slower than my typical bicycle trip which follows a longer route through Central Park.  Motorcycling took 42 minutes, although I’d allotted 35. I can only imaging how long it would take by four-wheeled vehicle without the ability to lane-split, which is a strong argument for congestion pricing.

Motorcycling in Manhattan rush hour traffic is a mentally invigorating experience. You’re constantly evaluating the traffic on all sides of you, what’s ahead, what’s behind, what’s likely to be ahead in the immediate future, how others are behaving. You’re looking at the official lights and signals, but also paying attention to body language of drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. Buses are turning in and out. There are trucks all over the place. Weaving cabbies. In a fluid and dynamic environment, you are hyper-alert and alive.

And it puts you into the city in front of you in an incredibly immediate way. At 86th Street, I was amazed by the river of pedestrians swarming across Lexington Avenue and packing into the downtown-bound entrance.  It’s a perspective you don’t see when you’re already on the train. It was a vivid reminder of just how much the subway is the economic underpinning of the city.

It also affects the rest of your day. When you arrive at work by train or bus, you arrive in a state of basic tranquil complacency. Everything is normal and you’re relaxed and ready for the day. Sitting down at the desk after bicycling in, I feel energized and at the same time enveloped by a strange zen-like calm.

Sitting down after motorcycling in, I was jittery and frazzled! I immediately drank a thermos full of tea to calm down the nerves. Thanks, Dear!

Just for the fun of it, I’d motorcycle in again occasionally if that was the only downside. But it wasn’t. The problem was parking.

After I got the motorcycle two years ago, I rode it into work one day and parked in a garage for $17, which was an expenditure I found hard to justify. This time, I was going to avoid that fee. Ask any New York City motorcyclist how to park, and he or she will tell you to remove your license plate to park with virtual impunity on sidewalks, commercial zones, anywhere. As long as you’re relatively out of the way and not preventing actual cars and truck from parking, you should avoid a problem. Technically, removing the plate means you’re vehicle is “abandoned” and subject to tow, but in the real world that doesn’t happen unless it’s there for a long time and someone complains about it. But it is a practical matter: If they don’t have your plate number, they don’t have a means of ticketing you.

I’ve been watching the local streets around the office and seeing that other motorcyclists do exactly this every day and all year long: Parking at the curb for free by removing their license plates after parking. I’ve particularly admired one rider who parks a beautiful mint Kawasaki W650 all year long, even in winter.

There are a few spots that seem more popular than others, and I picked one where there are between one and six motorcycles on any given weekday, always with license plates removed of course. The location is shown in the photo at the top of this post: 45th Street just east of Vanderbilt Avenue, underneath the viaduct that carries Park Avenue southbound through the Grand Central area. My bike in the center of the photo, next to the confidently striding vested gentleman.

To give you a better view, below is a close-up of the parking situation from another angle. I selected a spot next to two other bikes, in the margin of asphalt between the crosswalk and the thick white line delineates where a driver is supposed to stop at a red light. My goal in selecting that spot was to avoid interfering with pedestrians and let commercial and delivery vehicles continue to access the curb space they need, as they are the sole authorized users of curbside parking in this area on weekdays.

Motorcycle parking at 45th Street

Motorcycles parked on East 45th Street. Mine is at left.

At last, I felt I’d found a way to avoid paying high garage fees, while still not interfering with the needs of my fellow New Yorkers.  Just to savor it, here’s one more shot of the parked bike. Mine is the red cruiser at right.

My motorcycle, parked

My motorcycle, parked next to two others.

I checked on the bike at lunch time around 1, and everything was fine.  Ahh, perfection.

Parking ticket

Parking ticket

But it didn’t last long. I went to get the bike after work, and found a parking ticket on it!

The agent ticketed me based on my Vehicle ID Number!

So in an effort to avoid paying $17 to a garage, I now owe the City $65.

I am going to pay the fine, of course. They caught me fair and square and the ticket is valid. I was definitely breaking the law.

In fact, I have to give the City some grudging respect for this one. They’ve neutralized the whole “pull the plate” trick, at least in my case.

All of this raises the question: How are all these other guys managing to pull it off? I may never know.

Maybe in addition to removing their plates, they’ve also scratched out their VINs. That seems like it could come back to haunt you when you decide to sell the bike. Maybe they got ticketed too, just this one time. When I found the ticket, the other bikes were already gone. Maybe they make so much money don’t care about getting some fines. That seems hard to imagine.

Who knows. Anyway, I’m not going to worry about those guys. I’m just going to keep taking the train to work as usual.

UPDATE April 30, 2013:

I now have no choice but to park the legitimate way, with one of these guys dangling off of my handlebars displaying a Muni-Meter receipt. Here’s a visual from Saturday while I was at the dentist.

Motorcycle parking with muni-meter receipt

Parking with Muni-Meter receipt displayed on handlebars.

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Focus on Infrastructure: New Willis Avenue Bridge

The new Willis Avenue Bridge, now nearly complete, has made it easier for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists to travel between the Bronx and Manhattan. For motorists, there is now a huge flyover ramp directly connecting the bridge to the northbound Major Deegan Expressway. This should result in better air quality for this section of the South Bronx.

What’s more, a good deal of thought was given to pedestrians and cyclists, particularly on the Bronx side. The bridge walkway has three basic access points, including two that are stair free. It’s a major improvement over the former single, stairway-only access point. Through these improvements, the local neighborhood that’s impacted by the bridge gets benefits from it as well. And through-cyclists can move ahead more easily without being blocked by the Deegan, as they were in the past. Let’s take a look.

Willis Avenue Bridge Stairway

The new Willis Avenue Bridge has a stairway to south side of Bruckner Boulevard.

As you’re traveling northbound on the bridge pedestrian path, the first thing you come to is a stairway down to the street level. This leads you to the southwest corner of Bruckner Boulevard and Willis Avenue. It’s particularly useful if you want to say in the local neighborhood, where an apartment building called Bruckner By the Bridge has just been completed. So if you live by the bridge, now you can walk right to it without having to cross a busy street or go several blocks out of your way. This stairway replaces what had formerly been the only pedestrian/cyclist access point on the Bronx side to the old bridge.

The next thing you come to is a ramp that leads to the northwest corner of the same intersection.

Willis Avenue Bridge Ramp

The new Willis Avenue Bridge has a ramp to the north side of Bruckner Boulevard.

As you see here, pedestrians or cyclists heading northbound toward the camera have a choice of continuing forward toward the right foreground, or in doubling back toward Bruckner Blvd. In this way, particularly beneficial for cyclists or wheelchair users, destinations that are local or more distant are accessible without the need to negotiate stairs. Notice also the rusticated, rough-hewn stonework, giving the bridge an air of permanence, solidity and fine craftsmanship.

Finally, of value to those whose destinations are further north, the bridge’s pedestrian path continues with a bridge that engineers managed to slip in underneath the flyover ramp and over the Major Deegan. This is probably the biggest benefit of the new configuration over the old.

Pedestrian Underpass

The new Willis Avenue Bridge has a pathway for pedestrians and cyclists that goes underneath a flyover ramp and over the Major Deegan Expressway

Going through here takes you over the Deegan to the southwest corner of E. 135th Street and Willis Avenue. From there, you can continue along Willis Avenue’s two-way bike path, which leads right to the major shopping district at The Hub. Previously, if you wanted to continue into the Bronx and you were on a bike, you’d have to carry your bike down the stairs, then go out of your way along busy Bruckner Blvd. to find a way across the Deegan. The closest underpasses are at Alexander Avenue one block to the west, or Brook Avenue two blocks to the east. Now there’s a beautiful, hill-free direct connection.

And finally, as yet another benefit of this new bridge, there’s a walkway on the east side of the bridge, allowing a direct connection between 134th St. and 135th Street without needing to go down and around to the other side of the bridge where the main walkway is.

Sidewalk on East Side of Bridge

The new Willis Avenue Bridge has a sidewalk across the Deegan on the east side of the bridge.

All in all, cyclists and pedestrians can now enjoy much better connections between Manhattan and the Bronx, as predicted back in 1997.

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Manhattan Waterfront Greenway Expanding Along Harlem River

Manhattan Waterfront Greenway construction along the Harlem River

It looks like crews are working to fill in one of the last big gaps of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway – the segment between roughly East 124th Street and East 133rd Street. Most of this segment has been a staging area for DOT contractors rebuilding the Third Avenue Bridge and replacing the Willis Avenue Bridge. But many of the construction trailers have been removed, and contractors are building a stairway and ramp connecting the Willis Avenue Bridge to the future greenway, which is really cool in and of itself.

Here is what the Department of City Planning reported back in its 2004 survey of the entire greenway:

[T]he New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) is using the Harlem River shore as a staging ground for its bridge reconstruction. Over the next decade DOT will repair and reconstruct the Third Avenue, Madison Avenue, and Willis Avenue bridges. Until this work is finished the shoreline is closed to the public. After the DOT bridge reconstruction is complete, both DSNY and DOT have agreed to cede their land to the Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR), which will then turn it into a waterfront park, complete with greenway.

That appears to be happening now! This will be right on my commute route if it connects to the Madison Avenue Bridge. And if this gap is filled in completely, one will be able to bike along the waterfront from 60th Street and York Avenue to 142nd Street and Fifth Avenue with no traffic lights. (The only obstacle would be a stairway at 81st Street.)

Here is my map of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway as it is today. The last unfinished segments are in red, and the arrow points to the segment in question.

Map of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway

Map of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway

Speaking of the Willis Avenue Bridge, the Bronx approach for bikes has been greatly improved over the former bridge. There’s now a wide dedicated bike/ped path extending over the Major Deegan Expressway all the way to the southwest corner of 135th Street and Willis Avenue, where it connects to the Willis Avenue bike lanes. The bridge also has a bike ramp and stairway that connect to Bruckner Boulevard. The DOT has done a great job designing the bike and pedestrian connections on both ends of this bridge. I’ll have photos and details in an upcoming post!

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Olympics Coverage Catch-22

By way of introduction, my wife and I don’t have a TV. If we want to watch the Yankees, we just walk four blocks over to the stadium. If we want to watch other major sporting events, we usually just go to a bar. By and large, not having a TV is a quiet lifestyle we enjoy, except for the two weeks every two years when I am suddenly consumed with an all-encompassing desire to watch the Olympics. Here’s the woeful tale of what happened when I tried to watch the 2012 Summer Games without the benefit of a television. All of the quotes below are paraphrased as best as I can remember them from a month ago.

NBC: Get our great free app, Live Extra, to watch the Olympics!

Me: Awesome! Now I’ll be able to watch the Olympics on my iPad. This is exactly what I wanted! [Downloads app. Attempts to activate.]

NBC Live Extra app: To activate this app, click on your cable provider. [Provides a list of links to many cable providers: Comcast, Cablevision, Verizon, Time Warner, etc. etc. etc.]

Me: Uh-oh. I don’t have cable, which is exactly why I want to download this app. But then again, I am a Cablevision subscriber for Internet. Maybe that will work. [Clicks on Cablevision link.]

NBC Live Extra app, after a pause: Sorry, you’re not authorized to use this app. Call your cable provider at this number for assistance.

Me: [Dials the number.]

Cablevision: Thank you for calling Cablevision! To order our services, press 1. For help with your existing account, press 2.

Me: Hmm, I might need to order cable AND I need help with my existing account. Both of these choices seem like they could help me. [Presses 1.]

Cablevision, after being on hold: Hello and welcome to Cablevision. How may we help you?

Me: Uh, hi. I want to activate the NBC’s Olympics complete coverage app. But it wouldn’t let me activate it, and said I should call this number.

Cablevision, after 20 minutes of back-and-forth, being on hold, multiple pronouncements of my Cablevision account number, transferring to new representatives, and confusion about what I was trying to do: You need to upgrade to a cable subscription in order to use this app. You can add cable to your existing Internet subscription for an additional $64.95 a month. Or you can order Optimum Triple Play which gives you cable plus phone plus Internet for $89.85 a month.

Me: Thanks but I don’t need the Triple Play since my wife and I just use our cellphones and we don’t really need a landline. I’ll take the minimum package possible as long as it has CNBC and MSNBC. Is there some sort of minimum number of months I need to agree to for this?

Cablevision: No. There’s no contract. You can cancel at any time.

Me: That’s cool. But still, in order to watch the Olympics on this free app, I need to pay you $64.95 for one month and then cancel my cable subscription? That seems like a lot of money to pay for a free app, but hell, I love the Olympics and I’m willing to do it.

Cablevision: OK, when do you want us to come over to install the cable?

Me: Oh, don’t worry about that. As long as I can use the app, I’m good.

Cablevision: We can’t give you a cable subscription without physically installing the cable box and hookup.

Me: You mean you need to come to my apartment and actually install cable? I just want the account.

Cablevision: That’s right. For you to have cable, we need to come over and install the cables.

Me: Are you completely certain that I can’t just get an account, enter the account number into the app, and watch on my iPad?

Cablevision, after checking with supervisor: Yes, that’s right. You need to have a cable hookup, including the cable box.

Me: Okay, when can you come to set it up?

Cablevision: We can be there next Tuesday between 8 a.m. and noon, or 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Me: Well, luckily my wife is home for summer break and she’ll be around during those times. I’ll miss the first few days of the Olympics, but I’ll still be able to catch most of it. There’s one thing I should tell you since you’re going to be installing cable television in our apartment. We don’t have a television.

Cablevision: In order to have a cable hookup, you have to have a physical TV.

Me: In order to “have cable TV” for the purposes of activating an app, I have to have an actual TV set? All I want to do is watch the app on my iPad.

Cablevision: Yes, you have to have a physical TV to have cable. [I'm sure she's stifling laughter at this point, stating the obvious to such an idiot as myself.]

Me: What’s a TV going to run me? Probably hundreds of dollars, right? This free app is starting to get expensive.

Cablevision: Maybe you can borrow a friend’s TV?

Me: This is getting complicated. Let me figure this out. Thanks for your help. I’ll call you back if we decide to go forward.

So all I wanted to do was watch the Olympics in an age of ubiquitous broadband and streaming content. NBC has created a free app specifically for that purpose. But in order to use the app, I already had to have cable. If I’d have had cable, I could just as well have watched most of the events I wanted to watch right on TV, without the need for the app!

It’s a Catch-22: Because I don’t have a TV, I want to watch the Olympics on my iPad. In order to watch the Olympics on my iPad, I need to subscribe to cable. In order to subscribe to cable, I need to have a cable box and hookup installed. In order to get the box and hookup, I need to have a TV. This is ridiculous! Why can’t NBC just offer a paid iPad app where I wouldn’t need to go through all this?

In the end, we watched the Olympics at my folks’ house an hour away and at a hotel. And, since we were booked on a cruise anyway, we watched on a cruise ship, soaking in a hot tub in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by the sea, the stars, and scores of cheering USA fans. From now on, we’re not even messing around with free apps or cable. We’re booking cruises every two years to watch the Olympics.

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A Field Guide to South Bronx Bike Racks

I have now completed my initial survey of bike racks in the South Bronx – the area south of Fordham Road, from the Harlem River to the Bronx River. Since the “My Maps” feature in Google Maps allows only up to 200 placemarks, I’ve divided the map up into two sections, a northern section and a southern section. Throughout the course of this survey, I’ve found 476 bike racks at 305 locations, which together can comfortably provide parking for 1,191 bicycles. Are there other bike racks out there that I haven’t found? Almost certainly. That fact, given that bike racks are always being added and subtracted, means that these maps will be continuously updated or will be a snapshot in time – Winter 2012. Here is a summary of the nine types of bike racks I found.

Bollard Racks

Two bollard racks in Crotona Park.

I found two bollard racks inside Crotona Park, at the northeast corner of Crotona Avenue and Claremont Parkway. These are the only two racks of this type I’ve been able to find in the survey area. These look sturdy and secure. They are a nice find tucked in behind a bush at a fairly busy intersection. There’s not much else I can say about them other than that their existence helps provide a little diversity to the overall universe of bike racks in the survey. I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more of them sprinkled around. People need to know that there are various designs of bike racks, and that there isn’t necessarily one “best” design.

Grid Rack

Grid rack at the Bronx Zoo.

In all of the South Bronx, I found just one grid rack. It is in the Fordham Road Gate to the Bronx Zoo. This is an older type of bike rack that has fallen out of favor. The idea of the grid rack is that a cyclist inserts his or her front tire in between the vertical slats, and walks away. The bike stands up by itself without the need for a kickstand. Unfortunately, there is no way to lock a bike frame under that type of usage, so using a grid rack in the manner it was designed does not lead to a secure situation. However, this type of rack is nevertheless fully functional – if you know how to use it. One can lock the bike securely at either end of the rack. If both of those attractive spots are taken, you can still lock your bike securely by hoisting your front tire up over the rack, then locking front tire and bike frame to the rack.

Hoop Racks

Hoop rack at South Bronx Preparatory School, 360 East 145th Street.

I found 63 hoop racks in the survey area, mostly in a couple of clusters just south of Fordham Road along University Avenue, Webster Avenue, and Valentine Avenue. There are also a few sprinkled in the East 160s and East 140s, including the one in the attached photo.

The Hoop rack is the current design used by the City of New York, through the DOT’s CityRacks program. It was selected through a design competition the DOT undertook in 2008 that attracted more than 200 entrants from around the world. This design is by Ian Mahaffy and Maarten De Greeve of the firm Bettlelab in one of the world’s foremost cycling cities, Copenhagen. In announcing the winning design on its blog, the City’s DOT wrote:

Mahaffy and De Greeve’s design reflects a modern simplicity that will greatly enhance the City’s streetscape. The rack is round with a horizontal crossbar, evoking an abstracted bicycle tire. Constructed of cast-metal, the design is elegant yet sturdy enough to withstand the harshest street environments.

Inverted-U-Type Racks

The ubiquitous inverted-U type bike rack.

The inverted-U rack is the workhorse of South Bronx on-street bike racks. I found 288 of them in the survey area – often in huge clusters. (East 149th Street at The Hub, Southern Boulevard, and East 167th Street all have huge numbers of them.)

The design is simple. Two vertical posts that merge in with one another at the top make for a secure, if aesthetically underwhelming, place to lock a bike. This is the former staple of the NYC DOT’s CityRacks program before the Hoop rack arrived.

The funny thing about the Inverted U rack is that nearly all of them are oriented incorrectly, and used incorrectly by cyclists. Technically, in theory, one should lock one’s bike perpendicularly to the rack, as if it were just one hump in a wave rack (see below) or one half of an M-type rack (see below). Thus, they should be installed perpendicular with the curb, so that when one locked up his or her bike, it would be parallel with the curb, and thus, not blocking pedestrians. Instead, the racks are parked parallel with the curb (which minimizes obstacles to pedestrians from the rack itself), and cyclists all lock up parallel to the rack, which can entangle bikes with one another. If they were used properly, they would put each of the bikes far enough away from each other that two could park comfortably out of each other’s way. There are some cyclists out there who like to be able to lock both the front wheel and the rear wheel to the rack, and thus, parking parallel to the rack is required for them.

The City must have resigned itself to this practice, because the Hoop rack seems designed so that you would lock up parallel to it. The funny thing, though, is that M-type racks, below, are installed “correctly.”

Most of the inverted-U racks in the study area are made of square heavy steel tubing covered with black paint, as seen in the photo. The most heavily used ones tend to have sections of paint chipped off. Some use unpainted galvanized cylindrical metal tubing but have roughly similar dimensions. Three of them, such as this one at Fordham Rd. & Southern Blvd., are narrower.

M-Type Racks

Galvanized M-type rack.

The M-type rack is or was also part of the stable of racks deployed through the DOT’s CityRacks program. It is listed as the “large” type rack, compared with the “small” inverted-U racks. The M-type rack is simply two inverted-U racks merged as one. As noted above, even though they take up more space than inverted-U racks, these M-racks are generally installed “correctly,” perpendicular to the curb, as seen in this photo. This means you could securely lock four bikes up to the rack, one against each vertical post. This type of rack also comes in either galvanized cylindrical tubing, as seen here, or as square heavy steel tubing painted black. In either case, the dimensions of the rack are roughly the same. The Yankee Stadium parking garages turned to the M rack in a big way – adding 134 of them right across the street from the stadium.


Swerve-style bike rack at the Bruckner Bar & Grill, Mott Haven.

The “swerve”-style bike rack is a modified form of an inverted U. It bends one leg of the rack 135o, then gives it another 90o bend. This form probably provides more locking options than the simple inverted-U rack. Like the Hoop rack, it essentially acknowledges that cyclists are going to lock up alongside it rather than perpendicular to it.

Right now, there are only two locations that have swerve-style racks so far. There are three at the Bruckner Bar & Grill (one is shown here), my favorite bar in the South Bronx, in Mott Haven. And the new PATH center, a homeless family intake center at 151st and Walton, has eight stainless steel swerve-style racks that were built as part of the building. They are underneath an overhang and are partially weather protected.

Triple-Triangle Racks

Triple-triangle bike rack at Macombs Dam Park.

I’m not sure what the real name of this type of rack is, but it consists of three connected vertical triangles (the third leg of the triangle is the ground), so I’m calling it a triple-triangle rack for now. In brand new parks near Yankee Stadium, 16 of these racks have been installed. Four are installed at the four corners of the elevated part of Macombs Dam Park, the part of the park that is atop the parking garage. This means that you might have to carry your bike up a set of stairs to reach this rack. They are going to be less used for that reason.

Nearby, in Mill Pond Park, there are three sets of these racks. In each set, four racks have been set up end to end, forming what looks like one large bike rack. One is in a bar-b-que area, one is tucked away behind a tennis center, and one is in the middle of the park. Hopefully, more people will use these racks as more people discover them.

These triple-triangle racks are also popular in downtown Brooklyn, where they are made of stainless steel and line the Fulton Mall.

Twin-Post Racks

Twin-post style racks at the Bronx County Hall of Justice.

Here is another type of bike rack that I really don’t know the name of. These racks consist of two vertical posts joined at the top by a horizontal bar that is reminiscent of bull’s horns. These racks comfortably hold two bikes each. You can simply lock your bike up to the vertical post as you would to any rack, or you have the option of hoisting your frame over the top bar to get more of the frame closer to the rack. There are seven of these racks in the survey area, all installed at the new Bronx County Hall of Justice. Inside a public plaza underneath the building, they are fully weather protected. This type of rack can also be found in Midtown Manhattan, for example, in the plaza behind 1166 Avenue of the Americas.

Wave Racks

Wave rack at Tremont Park.

The M-type and inverted-U racks noted above are really just sub-types of the wave rack. Besides those, I’ve found 26 wave racks in the survey area. Most have three humps, like the one in this photo from Tremont Park. There are a few with three humps, including the shiny new weather protected stainless steel one at the Yankees-E. 153rd Street Metro-North Railroad Station, or the aging yellow painted, slightly rusting one at Roberto Clemente State Park. I don’t think I found any with more than four humps. These wave racks are most often installed in parks. They may be the basic rack used by the Parks Department.

Addendum: Sheltered Bike Parking

NYC DOT bike parking shelter at Tremont Avenue and the Grand Concourse.

The NYC DOT has also installed bike parking shelters around the city, including one in the survey area at Tremont Avenue and the Grand Concourse. These shelters make parking one’s bike on the sidewalk a bit more respectable. The shelter at Tremont and the Concourse has three stainless steel inverted-U racks as well as an NYC bike map. Getting points for intermodal connectivity, the shelter is located right at the Tremont Avenue subway station on the B & D line. I would say it does get better usage than your average run-of-the-mill unsheltered bike rack.

Then there is the ultimate in bike shelters. The DOT runs a series of municipal parking garages. There are two in the survey area, and the one at 315 East 149th Street has free parking for bikes, with the help of one wave-rack. Of all the racks surveyed, this one was the one that was most oversubscribed. People really appreciate protection from the elements, but also, since this rack is located within sight of the garage attendant, at least the perception of protection from would-be bike thieves.

Free bike parking in NYC DOT municipal garage, East 149th Street, South Bronx.

Posted in Bike racks, Bronx, Cycling | 6 Comments

Why Not Ride a Bike to the Bronx Zoo?

Map: Bicycle Parking at the Bronx Zoo

I Googled around for information on bicycle parking at the Bronx Zoo, but I didn’t find very much. The zoo’s official directions page, which does a great job explaining the subway and bus routes to the zoo, doesn’t mention bike parking. I did, however, find a comment from a cyclist on this forum who said, somewhat tantalizingly, that he rode to the zoo and found “a serpent-shaped bike rack.” And the NYC Dept. of Transportation bike parking page lists six “large” racks at the zoo’s official address, 2300 Southern Boulevard. So I emailed the zoo and asked about bike parking. They emailed back to confirm that there were, indeed, bike racks at the zoo’s entrances.

But I was still curious for more info. Were the racks deep inside the zoo? Would I have to pay first then walk the bike to the rack? Should I ride through the pedestrian walkways or the car lanes? How many racks were there? What kind were they? Etc.

So as part of my South Bronx bike rack map (northern half), I surveyed the bike parking at the zoo. Armed with the information I’ve obtained, I’m writing this blog post so that if anyone else wonders about bike parking at the Bronx Zoo, hopefully this page will come up in Google.

Bicycle Parking at the Bronx Zoo

The zoo has placed bike parking at three of its four entrances as shown in this map: Bike Parking at the Bronx Zoo. Here are details.

Southern Boulevard Gate

Wave-type bike rack at the Bronx Zoo's Southern Boulevard Gate.

The Southern Boulevard Gate has two entrances. One for buses and cars at Garden Street and Crotona Parkway, and one for pedestrians at 2300 Southern Boulevard (between 183rd Street and 185th). Cyclists should enter through the pedestrian entrance, while being careful not to freak out or antagonize any of the actual pedestrians.

About 340 feet in from the street’s curb, you’ll find the galvanized wave-type bike rack pictured here. This is probably the “serpent-shaped” rack the cyclist above had mentioned. (And I’d been envisioning a fancy rack, intricately shaped into a sea serpent in honor of the zoo’s mission of promoting animal life. Oh well.)

The rack has a comfortable capacity of six bikes. After locking up, the zoo’s entrance is directly ahead of you about 30 feet.

Fordham Road Gate

Grid-type bike rack at the Bronx Zoo's Fordham Road Gate.

At the Fordham Road Gate, there is a grid-type rack to your right just after start down the entrance. You will see it before you get to the guard booth. I would guess there is a comfortable capacity of about eight to ten bikes at this rack. With these kind of racks, the most attractive spots are at either end. If they are taken, you can still securely lock your bike in the center part of the rack if you hoist your front wheel up over the top, then lock front wheel and frame to the grid posts.

Once you’ve locked up, you’ll walk on the sidewalk past the guard booth, then continue on the sidewalk into the zoo’s most majestic entrance, with a grand drive and stairway.

Bronx River Gate

M-type bike rack at the Bronx Zoo's Bronx River Gate.

Getting to the Bronx River Gate on a bike is tricky. To approach the entrance, turn onto Boston Road from Bronx Park East between Pelham Parkway and Lydig Avenue. This short section of Boston Road is fairly busy with traffic heading to and from Exit 6 of the Bronx River Parkway. Still, it’s just a two-lane road, so it isn’t terrible. Once you go under the parkway overpass, you’ll see the zoo entrance ahead of you. Go through the pedestrian sidewalk on the right. As soon as you pass through, you’ll see a sturdy galvanized M-type rack on your right. This rack can comfortably hold four bicycles.

Asia Gate

The Asia Gate is the gate you use when you arrive at the zoo by subway. (Take the 2 or the 5 to West Farms Square / E. Tremont Av.) Unfortunately, there is no bike parking at this gate.

All in all, cycling to the Bronx Zoo is probably easier than you think. And while parking a car at the zoo will cost you $13, parking a bike is completely free. So next time you’re heading to the zoo, consider the option of cycling. And once you’re in the zoo, make sure you see the best animal, the tapir.

The Tapir

Sleeping tapir at the Bronx Zoo. Photo by Aaron Donovan, June 17, 2006.

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