In case you’re tuning in from another part of the world, Hurricane Sandy made it’s way up the east coast and threw everything she had against New York and New Jersey at the beginning of this week.

8th Avenue, A week before Sandy

8th Avenue, taken a week before Hurricane Sandy – doesn’t look like this right now

We’re seeing the greatest natural disaster New York has faced in generations, maybe ever. And out of the wreckage come bicycles.

Old School is New School in Transit

Flooding, downed power lines and trees, inability to get goods into the city, and the flooding of the subway and traffic tunnels has moved New York back in time. Bridges are open and buses are attempting to provide transit, but without the subways regular cars and buses clog the roads and traffic does not move very well. When modern technology breaks in the face of this storm we see the return to the time honored and proven staples: walking and biking.

Cycling has always been a part of getting around New York, especially with the city’s renewed push for more bike lanes and the upcoming bike share program. Now bicycling is finding a rebirth as the city begins to heal.

No Gasoline to Be Found Anywhere…

This tale via the Wall Street Journal blogs,

“At a gas station on the corner of Henry Street and Atlantic Avenue in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, the phone Thursday afternoon rang constantly.

“Cobble Hill, no gas!” the owner Tony, who declined to give his last name, shouted into the phone.

“What should I do?” responded the caller.

“Bicycles!” yelled Tony and then hung up, before the phone rang again. He said his station ran out of gas on Monday and he has no idea when he’ll get more.”

Delivery trucks have been having a difficult time – at best – but primarily impossible task of refueling gas stations. From private residents to taxi and limo companies, there is no gas to be had, anywhere. Human powered locomotion is the only option. Walking works, but New York’s five boroughs are expansive. What’s left? A bicycle. People are pulling them out of attics and basements, the WSJ reports. But how to bring these bikes back to life after so long in disuse?

Local Bike Shop Ingenuity

Bike shops across the area have been as affected as other businesses, institutions, and residents. With more stranded New Yorkers seeking to get around by bike, with more bikes being pulled out for riding after so long not being used, there’s a lot of work to be done. But how so without power? Shops are kicking it old school. Mechanics stands are being brought out into the street. Free safety checks for nervous new bike commuters; sales for helmets, lights, and locks; and even serving coffee are a few of the things that have popped up in the wake of Sandy. There is still a long way to go, as several shops were severely damaged, and their neighborhoods are flooded and cannot yet be reached.

Working Together

Bicycle Retailer reports:

“Advocacy group Transportation Alternatives set up aid stations on three bridges into the city on Thursday, and also is manning a station at mid-town on 6th Avenue, one of the busiest bike routes in the city.

The stations offer maps, route advice and tips, mechanical assistance, floor pumps and coffee, TA executive director Paul White[…]”

Experienced New York cyclists are helping new bike commuters. It may be quite some time before New York’s transit looks and functions the way it used to. To fill the gap in between now and then there are bicycles. Or – from an even more hopeful perspective – perhaps more New Yorkers, currently forced to cycle because of a lack of other options, will discover the joy that is biking beyond it’s excellence as a form of transit.

To all those affected by Hurricane Sandy we sent our heartfelt hope for everyone’s safety and well being as the healing begins.


Other Resources:

The New York Times put together this video.

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