Communicate safety in the future…

…By building better streets that look and feel safer to people on the fence about getting on a bike every now and then. It’s not rocket science.

Streetsblog commenter, 12/17/2015

I haven’t responded to this comment on my soi-disant authoritative comeback to all safety-based arguments: How are we in the future going to communicate the safety of bicycling in a way that is not true today? It’s been sitting there for more than a year now.

The answer is obvious; those streets are there already but nobody is riding on them, for reasons that have nothing to do with the safety of riding a bicycle. Every weekday afternoon I pedal through the quiet leafy streets of northeastern Queens and only on rare occasions do I see another person riding a bicycle. Again, my observation is confirmed. People will ride bicycles when it makes sense for them to ride bicycles, but not now; at present they just find it easier to drive around and do their errands. Nothing is stopping them from bicycling; there is not a lot of traffic, there are no steep hills. They just feel more comfortable driving.

In order to change this I humbly suggest moving away from safety promotion toward promoting the enjoyment of bicycling and the fun it involves. I am sitting inside on a sunny day and I am itching to go out and ride; why don’t more people feel this way?

You can take the woman out of Manhattan, but you can’t take Manhattan out of the woman.

“Kavanagh said it was evident she was from Manhattan.” Queens Gazette, March 3, 2010

You can take the woman out of Manhattan, but you can’t take Manhattan out of the woman. Despite having been killed late last year and left under the eastern end of the Queensboro Bridge, Miss Mannahatta still, in Deputy Inspector Kavanagh’s opinion, retained that je ne sais quoi that residents of New York County, alone among the five boroughs, possess.

I immediately project myself into some kind of Kavanagh-overlaid-with-Dupin persona and begin to conceptualize a physical object, curio or charm that would signify Manhattan residence. What could this signifier be? A key to Gramercy Park? A membership card for the J. Hood Wright Recreation Center? A sloppily-xeroxed weekly schedule of activities from Gouverneur Nursing Home? A half-eaten piece of kippered salmon from Russ & Daughters?

Seeking expert advice, as the next step in my relentless investigation I consulted Lauren Cerand, the mixmaster responsible for Lux Lotus, my personal lodestar of look. Surprisingly, she chose to interpret the question in a more behavioral context:

Because most people are on foot, everything is very village-y in New York and so neighborhoods tend to really reflect the perspectives and interests of their inhabitants more than other places that I’ve lived. Usually when I leave my neighborhood in downtown Manhattan and go somewhere in another borough I am struck by how pretty (more trees, you can see the sky, etc.) and how quiet it is. But I didn’t move to New York because I thought it would be pretty and quiet. And I am sure you can tell that just by looking at me.

So there we are. It wasn’t a trinket or tattoo that Deputy Inspector Kavanagh had discovered, but rather that Manhattan-specific attitude he recognized in Miss Mannahatta, even in her eternal repose.

How can one tell where you live, dear reader?

(B.H. Hellmich’s picture of the Queensboro Bridge from the New York Public Library)