Not so long ago: Yellow skies and roads made for cars

Last weekend, together with Transportation Alternatives and the Little Cupcake Bakeshop, we participated in a ride for Moving Planet Day, an international day to support moving our planet away from fossil fuels and toward renewable resources.

The ride yielded an interesting discussion with our owner, Charlie McCorkell, on how the environment – for cycling and for residents overall – has changed over the past 30 years. Born in Brooklyn and with a degree from Cooper Union, Charlie has seen the city grow and evolve.

At its peak in the 1970s, New York City issued about 160 air quality alerts days within one year. “I remember riding in from Brooklyn and the sky would be yellow,” Charlie reflected. “We used to take our lives in our own hands just breathing the air.”

For cyclists specifically, the streets were a thrilling but hostile place. There weren’t bike lanes – the roads were made for cars.  The Manhattan Bridge was closed to pedestrians and cyclists alike, the Brooklyn Bridge had stairs. Lots of stairs. The Triborough Bridge (now the RFK Bridge) required passing through elevators down to Randalls Island and back up again, just in order to cross over from Manhattan to Queens.

Moreover, cyclists “got spat on,” he said. “You younger ones don’t know how good you have it!” he joked.

Indeed, we don’t. And still there is much room to improve. And so, for causes like this we ride! Here are some photos – click through to see the set on Flickr.

Moving Planet Day

Moving Planet Day: our photos on Flickr

Are you looking to get involved yourself, and support local efforts here to improve our skies and our roads? Sign the New Yorkers for Bicycling pledge. Your pledge helps local advocacy organization Transportation Alternatives harness the voices of citizens who are voicing their support for positive change.

Just last week, with Transportation Alternatives and the New York Chapter of the American Association of Family Physicians, 140 physicians issued a statement to Mayor Bloomberg to endorse the evolution of New York streets. Together they claimed that the new bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets are “vital to the public health of our city.”

140 physicians in unison, and hundreds of citizens at the UN. As for this past year’s air quality advisories? Still too high – but improving.

See you on the road.
Happy Rosh Hashanah, and happy weekend.


About bicyclehabitat

New York City's neighborhood bike store since 1978
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