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The Amazing Race
June 3, 2008 10:52 AM   Subscribe

The Great NYC Commuter Race! A short by Streetfilms about Transportation Alternatives' annual event that pits a cyclist against a car and a straphanger in a race to Union Square from Fort Greene. Guess who wins?
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] (77 comments total)

 
I also saw this on Top Gear last night. The cyclist won that one too, but he looked like hell after riding across London.
posted by yhbc at 10:56 AM on June 3, 2008


I'm surprised it's a surprise. Cycles can navigate easily through automobile traffic, and you're not waiting for a bus, trolley or train to show up.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:57 AM on June 3, 2008


Philly, also.
posted by The Straightener at 11:04 AM on June 3, 2008


It's not really a surprise, considering that the cyclist has won seven years in a row. It's just an fun way for Transalt to illustrate their point.

Which makes me roll my eyes at the Gothamist's "Cyclists have dominated the competition, which is not monitored by any independent governing body, every single year," as if it's some kind of cheat.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 11:08 AM on June 3, 2008


Straphanger: a standing passenger in a bus or train.

There. Now you don't have to look that up like I did.
posted by gc at 11:09 AM on June 3, 2008 [6 favorites]


This is pretty much a no brainer.
I used to commute from Williamsburg/Greenpoint to mid-town Manhattan, around the 60s and 5th. I would go up through Greenpoint and then over the Queensborough/59th St. bridge.
On the train it took 30 mins. and was a great time for reading.
By car it took 30 mins. (then the headache of parking).
By motorcycle it took 25-30 mins. (easier parking).
By foot (when that black-out happened) it took about an hour and a half.
By bicycle it took 20 mins., but only because I did not stop for every light, which is to say, I was not strictly following the rules. Also, people drive like assholes in the city and that can be tiring.
I loved reading on the train, but the bike was a great way to get to work. The end of the day was often tough, the climb to the middle of the bridge is pretty steep, but in the mornings when the breeze was blowing down the East river and then coming into the middle of Manhattan and seeing, really, very few other people, was pretty great.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:11 AM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dunno, it's kind of a cheat. The competition is organized by a cycling advocacy group, so it's inherently biased.

I mean, I could probably rig the route to favor the subway if I so desired.
posted by keep_evolving at 11:11 AM on June 3, 2008


There are so many ways to look at the race besides time to destination. What about ease/comfort (car first, then public transport then bike). Safety (public transport most safe, car next and bike last). Cost. etc..
posted by stbalbach at 11:15 AM on June 3, 2008


NYC is a bit of a cherry pick for the race. A counter balance to that would be a race from Plano to downtown Dallas, or a Silver City to the DC mall race. Granted, even the most commuter friendly city needs an advocate for non-car commuters. It's just a bit of taking coal to Newcastle.
posted by zabuni at 11:19 AM on June 3, 2008


Guess who wins?

Jeremy Clarkson, obviously. Jeremy always wins. Even when he isn't competing, he still wins.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:23 AM on June 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this isn't as shocking as seeing Top Gear put on the same competition. Seeing as the result's already been spoiled, I'll leave it to the reader to guess why this would be a big deal.
posted by chrominance at 11:23 AM on June 3, 2008


Which makes me roll my eyes at the Gothamist's "Cyclists have dominated the competition, which is not monitored by any independent governing body, every single year," as if it's some kind of cheat.

It is kind of suspicious though. I mean, it's in New York. How hard could it be to find some UN observers?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:25 AM on June 3, 2008


But can the cyclist do it while reading the most recent copy of Glamour?

That's the real challenge.
posted by Stynxno at 11:28 AM on June 3, 2008


Guess who wins?

Everybody who doesn't have to commute in New York.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:28 AM on June 3, 2008 [7 favorites]


Philly, also.

And he claims he went all the way down Spruce, which is narrow and busy and not very good as a bike route. Kudos to him for handily winning.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:29 AM on June 3, 2008


Armitage Shanks wrote "How hard could it be to find some UN observers?"

They're probably stuck in traffic.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:29 AM on June 3, 2008


Transalt is an NYC organization, zabuni; they kind of HAVE to have it here.

And it's not even "sort of" a cheat-- it's a media stunt, arranged to prove a point which is well known to cyclists, but less known to other commuters. Sure, one of the other contestants could win, but it's less likely.

And an "independent" organization would never bother to host such an event, because why would they care?

You'd have to look almost esoterically deep into traffic patterns and whatnot to find a way to rig this race. Time of day, weather, unforseen factors-- all these notwithstanding, a bike is essentially the fastest way to get around. Instead of endlessly carping on that fact, let's just have a fun race!
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 11:30 AM on June 3, 2008


They've done this in Milwaukee before and the cyclist won there too.

At my current job, cycling is actually the quickest way to get here. It takes 10-15 minutes by bike, while the drive takes 7-10 minutes, but then I have to walk for at least 10 minutes from the nearest reasonably priced parking lot.
posted by drezdn at 11:35 AM on June 3, 2008


I live in Atlanta, and I commute from the suburbs every day. I'll put my car up against any bicycle or bus on my route and I will bet you a paycheck that I will win every time. Even during rush hour.
posted by tadellin at 11:36 AM on June 3, 2008


Now give each contestant 3 bags of groceries and a crying toddler and try again.
posted by DU at 11:39 AM on June 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


I live in Atlanta, and I commute from the suburbs every day. I'll put my car up against any bicycle or bus on my route and I will bet you a paycheck that I will win every time. Even during rush hour.

That wouldn't be fair, you'll need your paycheck for pay for gas.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:40 AM on June 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I went to the subway when I (a) moved far enough out that I tend to get a seat and (b) started missing my reading time. But I think the point is that many folks think cycling takes too long, and this proves it doesn't for your average commuter (who is unlikely to be taking a toddler and groceries to work).
posted by dame at 11:47 AM on June 3, 2008


I live in Atlanta, and I commute from the suburbs every day. I'll put my car up against any bicycle or bus on my route and I will bet you a paycheck that I will win every time. Even during rush hour.

Maybe that's because Atlanta is a borgesian, vertiginous maelstrom of suburbs, exurbs and some of the worst public planning I've ever seen. I guess congestion won't be a problem once it becomes a ghost town due to the empty water reservoir and prohibitive gas prices.

On preview, Blazecock's response is wittier and better executed.
posted by Telf at 11:52 AM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


many folks think cycling takes too long

They may say that, but that isn't what they really mean. "Takes too long" is shorthand for "takes too much effort, plus doesn't cover all the cases, not to mention where I am going to store a bike".

Not that I'm against cycling. Far from it. I'm just thinking that the way to promote it is to address the real reasons, not make up some and then "solve" them.
posted by DU at 11:53 AM on June 3, 2008


No seriously, most people I know think it takes a lot longer than it does. I used to think so. It is the illustration of one point, and an exercise to pique folks' interest. Fortunately, Transportation Alternatives spends the bulk of its time working to make cycling safer and more convenient.

As for "covering all the cases," no single option does that. That is why is preferable to live someplace where you can choose the option that works best. I want to read: I take the train. Mary wants to exercise: she bikes. Yay!
posted by dame at 11:59 AM on June 3, 2008


Don't tell me--I know all about diversity. I'm just saying that a lot of people are looking for the Silver Bullet Transportation Solution. Telling them how fast bikes are isn't going to solve that.
posted by DU at 12:05 PM on June 3, 2008


Given that Transalt's strapline is 'your advocate for walking, cycling and public transport', it's kind of interesting that even in Manhattan, a city with great public transport and terribly congested roads, the car completely thrashes public transport -- even during rush hour.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:06 PM on June 3, 2008


Now give each contestant 3 bags of groceries and a crying toddler and try again.

It's a morning commuter race. Does your office let you keep your groceries and kid in the fridge until the end of the day?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:10 PM on June 3, 2008


I ride my bike to and from work every day, and love it. That said, this seems maybe a notch above critical masses as far as useful advocacy goes.
posted by everichon at 12:12 PM on June 3, 2008


Does the time for cycling include shower time?
-- heavy sweaterPerson who sweats a lot, esp. in DC humidity
posted by inigo2 at 12:19 PM on June 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


Some students in Glasgow staged a sprint version, where the guy tried to reboard the same train after getting out and cycling between consecutive stations about 1/2 mile apart.
posted by Jakey at 12:28 PM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's kind of interesting that even in Manhattan, a city with great public transport and terribly congested roads, the car completely thrashes public transport -- even during rush hour

Fort Greene is in Brooklyn. That said, a car is often faster in NYC, but it is an expensive pain in the ass. Is the train faster in other cities (London, Paris, etc.) or is it a better option all things considered?

Also, looking at the location where they began, I can see why the car had an advantage in this particular race as well. It is very close to the BQE for the car, but a walk from the subway, and the closest subway is the G, well known for being the slowest train and certainly not a straight shot to Union Square. (I provide this as context, not to say that a car is not usually faster.)
posted by dame at 12:31 PM on June 3, 2008


I am open to the idea that my happy fantasy of an Amsterdam-like cycletopia can be engineered by means of cultural influence, I just don't think this is gonna do it. I don't know what will, either, though I suspect rising gas prices may give it a little bump.

It needs to somehow reach beyond the valley of the Young Able Hipsters, who are still the sorts of people who participate in this kind of thing.
posted by everichon at 12:31 PM on June 3, 2008


Now give each contestant 3 bags of groceries and a crying toddler and try again.

Well, obviously, if you need groceries and kids, you need a Sport Utility Bicycle.
posted by eriko at 12:31 PM on June 3, 2008


It is very close to the BQE for the car, but a walk from the subway, and the closest subway is the G, well known for being the slowest train and certainly not a straight shot to Union Square.

She took a bus to the subway.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:43 PM on June 3, 2008


eriko, I'll see your Xtracycle and raise you a Big Dummy.

I am certain I could bungee several bawling children to one of those, if I had to.
posted by everichon at 12:46 PM on June 3, 2008


Oh, I see. Sorry, I can't watch the movie right now: I just extrapolated from the map. A commute where you have to take the bus to the train is not a commute many people are willing to make. Definitely not surprised the car won.
posted by dame at 12:47 PM on June 3, 2008


1) Even if you win, you're still riding a bicycle, so you lose.
2) No commute that involves a bus is even remotely fair on the subway contestant. If she has to get off the subway to wait for a bus to take her through the same damn traffic every other driver goes through, then it's not a contest about the subway's speed.
3) If bicycles are so awesome, why do I keep seeing people dragging the fucking things onto subway trains?
4) I hate bicycles.
5) I'd be more interested if they didn't cherrypick the commute this way. While I can appreciate them pandering to their hipster demographic by picking a commute from Fort Greene to Union Square, It'd be a more interesting test if it went from South Ferry to Harlem.
6) Seriously, bicycles?
posted by shmegegge at 12:58 PM on June 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


the car completely thrashes public transport -- even during rush hour.

I can't tell for sure, but it seems the driver was a car-service driver. And we all know the kinds of feats cabbies are able to form thanks to their pacts with the Elder Gods.

If I was the driver I'd still, days later, be trying to politely coax my way onto the freeway.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 12:59 PM on June 3, 2008


Is the train faster in other cities (London, Paris, etc.) or is it a better option all things considered?

I can't speak for Paris, but driving in London is a living hell. Public transport is almost always faster. Certainly during the day.

I recently had to go to a meeting in London, and because I was spending some time in the Peak District, it seemed to make sense to drive there and back.

I live less than 200 miles from London, and the place I was visiting is perhaps 150 miles away.

I left home at 9.30 am, and arrived at my final destination at 12.30 am. Liverpool to the M25 probably took me 4 hours. I was at my meeting for one hour. So, if that makes 9 hours for the driving outside London, I must have spent almost six hours driving inside London -- covering a total of, what, 60 miles, at most (end of the M1 to the Imperial War Museum?)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:02 PM on June 3, 2008


It's a morning commuter race. Does your office let you keep your groceries and kid in the fridge until the end of the day?

No, that's why they have to be dropped off before you can go to work just like in the real world.

So did the race have any rules about none of the contestants breaking any laws?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:07 PM on June 3, 2008


Re: breaking any laws - actually, the Top Gun episode I mentioned above did note that the cyclist was having to stop at all lights, etc. "because I'm on telly".
posted by yhbc at 1:10 PM on June 3, 2008


Gear. Top Gear.
posted by yhbc at 1:11 PM on June 3, 2008


So did the race have any rules about none of the contestants breaking any laws?

No. If you watch the video, you can clearly see the cyclist stab a few people in the neck on the Manhattan Bridge.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 1:13 PM on June 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


I usually just take the nearest Stargate.
posted by brain_drain at 1:21 PM on June 3, 2008


Iceman: Wow, you guys really are cowboys.
Maverick: [Suddenly faces Iceman] What's your problem, Kazanski?
Iceman: [Slams helmet locker's door and faces Maverick] You're everyone's problem. That's because every time you go up in the air, you're unsafe. I don't like you because you're dangerous.
Maverick: That's right! Ice...man. I am dangerous. [Iceman bites]
posted by Pollomacho at 1:29 PM on June 3, 2008


FWIW, I live in San Francisco and work in a suburb south of there. Driving takes 25 - 40 minutes depending on traffic, BART (our version of the NYC subway) takes about 40 minutes, and cycling takes about 45 minutes.

Those times are all from when I leave my front door until I have my butt in the chair at my desk.

Caveats: My work has showers and I can keep my bike in my cube, public transportation is subsidized to the tune of $35/month free money (my fare is $3.65 each way), and I can get up to $85/month in pre-tax income for public transportation, parking in my neighborhood in the evenings is a nightmare, so add 20 minutes to my evening commute if I drive.

Bottom line: I almost never drive.

Getting people to take alternative modes of transportation (alternative to cars anyway) is hard and takes commitment from the gubmint, transportation agencies, commuters, and employers. We're still not there even for single folks with no kids, but stunts like TransAlt's are a great way to at least show that it's possible.
posted by dolface at 1:37 PM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see this race with the time spent looking for parking included in the car's transit time.

The cyclist (a girl!) says she did not run any red lights. My question is, did the driver?

As for shmegegge's assertion that he hates bikes, then don't ride one. And please keep your bike-hating to yourself, because a lot of people are riding them nowadays. As for a commute such as South Ferry to Harlem, I do it once a week, and my riding time is almost always 45 minutes--and this is at a slower, end-of-the-day pace. Even so, this is faster than the train, excepting the times I have caught the express at Chambers and back to the local at 96th Street right away.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:44 PM on June 3, 2008


London Cycling Campaign used to run these races annually, maybe they still do. Years ago the average vehicle speed in central London was around 10 mph. Despite various 'improvements' since, I doubt it's changed much. On some longer commutes from outer suburbs it could be close between the bicycle and the Underground commuter, but the bike always won. Like lots of folks have said, no big surprise, given the traffic conditions. One difference with the London commuter races was that they sometimes included motorcyclists, who did win quite handily, on occasion, if I remember right. Anyway, nobody with any sense chooses to drive a private car in central London - never mind the congestion, the parking costs are ludicrous.

And yes, some folks could be surprised how fast a bicycle can get you around. One summer as a student I worked in a warehouse in Tottenham whilst living in Streatham. The guys I worked with never believed me when I told them my commute by bike was only an hour or so each way (right through the center of the city, by public transport it would have been a nightmare). Sure, I was a lot younger and fitter then, but I wasn't any kind of racer or athlete.
posted by normy at 1:48 PM on June 3, 2008


As for shmegegge's assertion that he hates bikes, then don't ride one. And please keep your bike-hating to yourself, because a lot of people are riding them nowadays.

oh calm down, dude. I'm mostly kidding. I don't actually hate bikes. I hate bike riders.
posted by shmegegge at 1:55 PM on June 3, 2008 [5 favorites]


"Guess who wins?"

That's easy. The motorcyclist. Now we need to legalize lane splitting/filtering in this country like the rest of the civilized world. CA is the only state where it's legal (more accurately, not illegal--there's no statute against it) and it's a part of the culture. That last part is important; it's when it's not expected or seen as "taking advantage" that it's unsafe (Johnny SUV of course needs to be judge, jury, and especially executioner to justify his 3-ton penis compensator). Really, it's better all around, because I'm not in your way and the incentive is then on people to get motorcycles. The amount of available parking we'd suddenly have, the reduction in traffic (2-4 bikes fit in the space--including safety cushion--of a car), and the reduction in petroleum demand would all be colossal if even a percentage of folks who currently commutes to work alone would get on a bike--motorized or not--for their daily trip into work. With the money you save on gas and parking (in urban areas), you can easily still afford to keep the giant four-wheeled beast in the driveway for special occasions. You won't need it to drive the kids to soccer practice, mom, since they'll be on bicycles (or even walking, goddammit).

Just don't be a dick if you filter. Look before you leap, and watch your speed differential since that's what really kills you.

It's scheduled to rain all day tomorrow, and I plan to ride through the rain to and from work. A decent rainsuit is cheap, and you know what? The rain is actually kind of nice. You ain't sugar and shit don't melt.
posted by Eideteker at 1:55 PM on June 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


For people concerned about spoiling Top Gear races, you needn't worry. You can tell who will win any Top Gear race simply by looking at what vehicles are involved:

If it's a person without a car (pedestrian, climber, dog-sled, etc) versus a motor vehicle, the pedestrian will win.

If it's a car versus any other form of transport (train, plain, rail, boat, yadda yadda...) the car will win.

I've watched pretty much every episode since 2002, and I can only think of maybe one time this wasn't true.

Not that knowing the likely results will ever stop me from watching the show. I love that program.
posted by quin at 2:08 PM on June 3, 2008


Everything has pros and cons. If we measure bike riding vs. car on speed alone, yeah, the bike wins in several instances. Now store the bike, ride in inclement weather, shower, carry groceries, etc, or factor in flexibility of scheduling options (e.g. you don't always just go home immediately after work), and you see that biking as a regular, consistently useful option simply becomes a non-option for many. At the same time, the car has cons too (gas, parking, maintenance, etc).

The competition is an interesting exercise that, at best, results in a shoulder shrug from anyone with 30 seconds to think through the implications.

So, this is me shrugging my shoulders.

People are rational actors that make rational economic choices based on their perceived options. If bike riding really worked for more people, factoring in every consideration, more people would choose it. It really is that simple. If you're an urban planner or environmentalist and you want more people to ride bikes because of ancillary benefits to the city or the environment, stop wringing your hands and trying to merely persuade and start working to remove obstacles and provide options.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:19 PM on June 3, 2008


Yay bikes! We have a proposal in front of the Philly City Council to set up a bike rental scheme with strategically placed rental kiosks all over center city. Really cheap rentals, seems like a great idea to me - don't have to worry about locking that bike up, getting it stolen, etc.

Also, I understand that they're demonstrating a point —bicycles are feasible transportation—but the race should be timed from door to door, including finding your car, gettiing your bike clothes and helmet on, donning walking shoes, parking, locking your bike, etc. as needed.
posted by Mister_A at 2:25 PM on June 3, 2008


the race should be timed from door to door

Truth. I find the all the miscellany almost as time-consuming as the actual ride.
posted by everichon at 2:44 PM on June 3, 2008


Ooh! Thank you for this term, "straphanger".
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:49 PM on June 3, 2008


People are rational actors that make rational economic choices based on their perceived options.

If this were true in the way you seem to mean it, we wouldn't have advertising or marketing. Which is basically what this is.

If you're an urban planner or environmentalist and you want more people to ride bikes because of ancillary benefits to the city or the environment, stop wringing your hands and trying to merely persuade and start working to remove obstacles and provide options.

The problem is that sometimes non-cyclists are opposed to spending resources (money, lane space, traffic priority) on these options, in my opinion partially because they think they will never use them. Marketing is a way of fighting against that too.
posted by grouse at 3:32 PM on June 3, 2008


Now store the bike, ride in inclement weather, shower, carry groceries, etc, or factor in flexibility of scheduling options (e.g. you don't always just go home immediately after work), and you see that biking as a regular, consistently useful option simply becomes a non-option for many.
I realize that I am not one of 'the many' but I find it funny that two of your detractors mentioned were reasons why I prefer using a bike over public transit. I hate having to carry more than one grocery bag worth of stuff on a bus or subway train, but those same two grocery bags on bike panniers feel relatively effortless. Also, in any situation where going from work to restaurant to nightclub to home involves taking a bus and a subway train, I know that riding my bike will always, always be faster.

I've had evenings where my girlfriend and I will meet after work for dinner or a movie or both, then head home and for some reason or other, either she or I will not have a bike and will opt, instead, for bus+subway. The person who takes public transit will always arrive 15 to 45 minutes after the cyclist.

I disqualify my car for any trips that are inside city limits just because it will be that much slower than cycling. The only reason why I hold on to it is if there's a highway between me and my destination.

I do agree that advocacy can do more to campaign for additional facilities and infrastructure, but that should certainly go hand-in-hand with correcting a lot of misinformed impressions over the laboriousness of riding a bicycle.
posted by bl1nk at 3:51 PM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


People are rational actors that make rational economic choices based on their perceived options.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Sorry. But where do you live? Clearly nowhere in America, where one is practically blown off the sidwalk by the air-conditioned entryways to grocery stores.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 4:01 PM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


If this were true in the way you seem to mean it, we wouldn't have advertising or marketing.

Part of the legitimate purpose of advertising and marketing is to let people become aware of options they may not otherwise ever know about. You're free to disagree, but there you go. For example, if it weren't for advertising, I wouldn't ever have known about this lovely device. Or more to the point, this one, the likes of which may change my mind about bicycle commuting at some point.

The problem is that sometimes non-cyclists are opposed to spending resources

So? Make the case. Work harder at working different. I can think of any number of things that get funded despite strong opposition.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:04 PM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Part of the legitimate purpose of advertising and marketing is to let people become aware of options they may not otherwise ever know about.

Exactly, that's what this is.

So? Make the case

That's what this is doing.
posted by grouse at 4:13 PM on June 3, 2008


Sorry. But where do you live? Clearly nowhere in America, where one is practically blown off the sidwalk by the air-conditioned entryways to grocery stores.

See, that's where you simply misunderstand the concept of rationality and utility in economics. This is a gross simplification, but all else being equal, if one option is simply more pleasant than another, for whatever reason (e.g. air conditioning), it has a greater utility, and will therefore be chosen, as rational actors always seek to maximize utility, however that is defined.

You'll visit the grocery store that's closest to you, because it's easier to get to, right? Unless its prices are too high, in which case you'll visit the one farther down the road, right? Same idea.

So, you want more people to ride bikes? Don't try to merely persuade them by pointing out that sometimes it's faster than driving your car, and maybe hitting them with a namby-pamby guilt trip. Just make it easier for them to ride their bikes, period, and more of the ones that will get something out of it will do so.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:14 PM on June 3, 2008


[Re: Top Gear] If it's a car versus any other form of transport (train, plain, rail, boat, yadda yadda...) the car will win.

Unless it's a Bugatti Veyron v. a Eurofighter.
posted by nicwolff at 4:41 PM on June 3, 2008


More to the point, they cheated by having the bike rider be the cutest girl in New York. Off-camera I assume men hold up traffic for her and lay down their coats that she may ride over puddles without getting her race slicks wet.

And she's single! And funny!
I have to ask this because your fans want to know: single or attached?

Single. Although I have a rather extensive relationship with my bike... I mean my bike(s). I rank them like a harem, depending on what 'shape' they're in. I'm kind of the Don Juan of my own bicycle village.
Swoon.
posted by nicwolff at 4:48 PM on June 3, 2008


Just make it easier for them to ride their bikes, period, and more of the ones that will get something out of it will do so.

It's worth pointing out that Transportation Alternatives does exactly this. Their work as an organization is not limited to whimsical races and publicity stunts.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 4:51 PM on June 3, 2008


Now store the bike, ride in inclement weather, shower, carry groceries, etc, or factor in flexibility of scheduling options (e.g. you don't always just go home immediately after work), and you see that biking as a regular, consistently useful option simply becomes a non-option for many.

To be fair, the argument isn't whether the bicycle is the best all-around mode of transportation in all cases. Certainly when you're shopping, a car is going to be more useful than a bike. Or walking. But that's not the point: the point is that it's the fastest.

Now, to that point, I say: not always. The traffic lights in NYC are timed exquisitely at night time--I've gone almost 50 blocks without hitting a red.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:54 PM on June 3, 2008


It's kind of interesting that even in Manhattan, a city with great public transport and terribly congested roads, the car completely thrashes public transport -- even during rush hour.

That seems utterly, utterly wrong to me (as a 25-year New Yorker). I'd say during the rush hour ground transportation is always substantially slower than the subway; I'd take the subway any time unless there are substantial walks at both ends.

I take a lot of taxis and a lot of subway; periodically I'm late, I want to spend money to speed things up, and I find myself much later because I took a taxi.

Fort Green to Manhattan? In rush hour?!

So I just looked at the movie. I'm sorry, this isn't "rush hour". In nearly every shot, even in Union Square, I'd describe the traffic as "moderate". In rush hour, there will be traffic jams pretty well everywhere between Fort Green and Union Square.

Not that I doubt that the cyclist won! But I'd be very surprised if a cyclist or a driver could beat the time on my commute, for example.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:07 PM on June 3, 2008


lupus, how long does that take you door-to-L-to-door? And, what time do you start? Maybe I'll take you up on that, for the lulz and the exercise. (I won't be stopping at red lights though :)
posted by nicwolff at 5:16 PM on June 3, 2008


If it's a car versus any other form of transport (train, plain, rail, boat, yadda yadda...) the car will win.

Except the episode that relates to this story :)
Spoiler: The car loses to the cyclist, the boat, AND the public transportation guy (bus+train+train+bus, if I remember correctly, which I probably don't), in that order.
posted by inigo2 at 6:05 PM on June 3, 2008


I don't see the point of these "contests" as the outcome is obvious.

In most cities, for a fit person, for a quick commute into the CBD without luggage, and with no hassles with clothing and showers, the bike is the best choice. It is not subject to traffic, which beats the bus and the car (although not the train). It beats the bus (or train) because don't have to walk to where the bus journey starts, wait for the bus, sit on the bus while it stops every fifty feet, get off where the bus journey stops, and walk to where you actually want to go. It beats the car because you don't have anywhere near the hassle and expense of parking it. So the cyclist is always going to win.

Motorcycles beat out cars for sheer speed, but the only reasons for that are lane-splitting whether or not it is legal, better dodging, and faster takeoff speeds. As a transport option they're just a tiny car. Unless the city has lanes for motorcycles, and good parking for them, they're under the same rules as cars. They are not allowed on the footpath (which cyclists are, at least under some conditions), and they can't be taken on a bus or train.

But for any journey over, say, 3km (2 miles), where traffic and parking are not a major issue (which does not describe most people's daily commute, tautologically) the motorcycle and car will always win over any other form of transport short of air travel. Only a cyclist has a chance, and even then, only if they run red lights and ride at a breakneck (literally) speed.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:00 PM on June 3, 2008


For other curious commonwealthers, this seems to be about a 6.4 km ride.
posted by loiseau at 7:22 PM on June 3, 2008


The subway is still the best commuting method, since it's the safest to use when drunk.
posted by jonmc at 7:40 PM on June 3, 2008


I worked as a bicycle courier in London a few years back and had a 10km (6 mile) journey from my apartment to the despatch at around 8:30 in the morning.

I remember one day a motorcycle passing me soon after I started out. I caught up with him at the traffic lights after which he would pull away again. This was repeated various times until we reached central London about 8km into my journey. At this point we reached a T-junction where he had to turn. I was able to keep going straight, over a few metres of pavement (sidewalk) to the road on the other side while he had to turn to use an access road a block or two down. So, while I'm sure a motorbike is faster in most situations, on this day I was quite proud of beating a motorbike over a half hour journey into town.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 1:08 AM on June 4, 2008


A lot of my trafficky rides go like this:

Bike along
Be passed by zooming car
Bike along, eventually catch up to car which has been forced to slow or stop
Bike along
Be passed by same zooming car again
Bike along, catch up to car again which has been again forced to slow or stop
Be passed by same car yet again
Keep biking, keep passing car, keep being passed by car
Etc.
posted by loiseau at 2:06 AM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Motorcycling is like that, except the cars don't catch up with you. I burned both a Porsche Carrera and a Cayman yesterday, tee hee. And my bike is not a fast one.

I have a 12.5-mi commute, each way. I could do it on a bicycle, but like I said, the m'cycle is the optimal solution.
posted by Eideteker at 5:31 AM on June 4, 2008


As for a commute such as South Ferry to Harlem, I do it once a week, and my riding time is almost always 45 minutes--and this is at a slower, end-of-the-day pace. Even so, this is faster than the train, excepting the times I have caught the express at Chambers and back to the local at 96th Street right away.

Travel time on the 1 from South Ferry to 168 St is 42 minutes, maximum, at all times. That's if you don't switch to the 2/3 and back. Unless you're commuting at a time when the express isn't running, the train's going to be faster, especially given that the 1 isn't plagued by delays like, say, the 4.
posted by oaf at 8:15 AM on June 5, 2008


Of course a bike would win. Bike riders cut traffic, run red lights, run on sidewalks and other assorted things that you can't do in a car.

These people would probably also stage a contest between a bike and a fighter plane, the only rule: the race is in a parking garage.
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 11:51 PM on June 5, 2008


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