On a vacation with my family to New York City this past weekend, I noticed many more nice ways to get around care-free than there has been in years past. The sheer amount of bicyclists was clearly the most obvious trend, and the city appears very geared up and ready for the Citi Bike bikeshare program launch later this month. But I made some other mobility observations as well. Here are my top 10:
1. Bikes everywhere. It seems a lot of people have gotten over their fear of wending through mobs of traffic and pedestrians, which is great. Perhaps someone there is holding classes like BikeArlington’s Two-Wheel Tuesdays safety classes.
2. Bike rentals. There are people selling bike rentals on corners all over the streets of Manhattan, which is encouraging for what I like to call “the retail-ization of transportation.”
3. Bike rentals with trailers. This means bike rentals are not just for adults anymore. The ease of renting these bikes (I paid $22 for about 90 minutes; the regular bikes were going for about $14) means the whole family can see the sites without being stuck on tour buses or in Times Square candy and toy stores all day.
4. Pedestrian paths. The obvious pedestrian improvements are around Times Square, where some streets have been closed off to anything but pedestrians, with some bike lanes running through them. But walking all over Manhattan has long been a favorite pastime for me, and it’s just getting easier and easier (take, for example, the amazing High Line).5. Easy taxi rides.The cab experience in new York has been made more and more pleasant over the years. If you like, the news and weather, as well as maps, play on a TV in the backseat. And paying with a credit card is fast and computerized, with easy choices clearly noted for how much to tip.
6. A seemingly increasing lack of vehicles. Other than taxis and delivery trucks, the streets of Manhattan seem to be increasingly less clogged than they have been in years past. It is pretty clear that transportation planners, through the Midtown in Motion program and others, are doing a better job of keeping traffic flowing and total vehicle numbers in the city lower and more manageable.
7. Buses and trains. We sailed in and out of Penn Station on Amtrak from Washington DC. It was great and certainly recommended over bringing a personal vehicle into the city. The only problem with Amtrak is that it is disproportionately overpriced. For those on a budget, the Bolt Bus and other bus options that run up and down the East Coast are dirt cheap, have wi-fi, and are nearly as pleasant as the train.
8. The hotels. A decade or so ago, I would stay in seedy, dirty hotels just so I could spend my trip in the heart of the city. But the options for remodeled, trendy hotels in the $125-per-night range are proliferating (check sites like Priceline). The Hudson Hotel and World Center Hotel are two examples. Hotels in themselves may not be related to mobility and transportation, but, if you’re looking to spend your time in Manhattan, staying in a centrally located spot certainly beats finding a place on the outskirts or in the other boroughs.
9. Again, buses. Don’t be afraid. Bus commuters are some of the friendliest people you haven’t met yet. People on buses are much more likely to strike up conversations, let pregnant women have seats, and not give icy stares while lost in their iPods and magazines. Just like in DC, New York City buses are becoming a better and better option for a wider demographic range of travelers.
10. The subway. I amazingly didn’t ride it this weekend. But no city in America has a better grid for getting everywhere than New York City.
Photos by Paul Mackie