In the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy across the East Coast this week, the bicycle has emerged as the most reliable form of transportation.
So many people have turned to bicycles in New York City, that one public radio commentator said some city streets look like those in Amsterdam.
The flooding of subway tunnels in the city has made public transportation a shambles. People turning to automobiles have found congested streets, carpool requirements and long lines to gas stations that are suffering fuel supply shortages.
Those gas lines stretch for miles, and tempers are flaring as cars converge in every direction at the service stations. Meanwhile, lines of commuters waiting to board buses are nearly as long as the gas station lines.
“I’m extremely glad I have a bike right now — it’s one of the best assets you can have,” Brooklynite James Emery, 22, is quoted in the New York Times (“…Bicycles free to roam”).
Several cyclists interviewed in the NYT say they’re bike commuting for the first time and plan to continue the practice after things return to normal.
Bike commuter help
Those with experience riding in New York say Manhattan is easier because of reduced traffic, but cyclists heading to Brooklyn says it’s more dangerous because of the congestion around the bridges.
BikeNYC.org is encouraging bicycle use in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The nonprofit has set up bike commute stations at the bridges and site around downtown, much like you’d see for Bike to Work Day events. Valet bike parking, bike repairs and other essentials are available at the Resources Recovery Hub in Times Square. Planet Bike is supplying bike lights to commuters at these commute stations.
People resorting to bike transportation for the first time are seeking advice on routes through Twitter with #BikeSandy.
Bike sales up
Bike shops are doing their best to meet the demand for bicycles. CNBC reports that Bicycle Habitat in Brooklyn sold 15 bikes on Wednesday, compared to the regular sales of 1 or 2 bikes daily this time of year.
A bike store in the blacked out Soho district was selling bikes by flashlight. During the day, two mechanics worked outside to make customers’ old bike road worthy.
Other bike uses
Bikes aren’t only being used to get around the city. Generator bikes used during Occupy Wall Street have been enlisted to recharge cell phones.
And the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls is looking for cyclists who want to help with emergency food distribution in Brooklyn on Saturday. Details here.
Considering how people in Tokyo also turned to bicycles following last year’s earthquake, disaster agencies should add the bicycle to the list of items that households should have on hand for pending emergencies.
Below, a New York filmmaker explored the city on a bike immediately after the storm.