Thursday, April 16, 2009

On yer bike!

Two items caught Malcolm's notice in another example of synchronicity:
  1. The 11th annual Blessing of the Bikes will take place at New York's Cathedral Church of St John the Divine (a.k.a. "St John the Unfinished") this coming Sunday. This is an event which now seems current in cities and towns across the US.
  2. Essex County Council (that's Essex, England, for the overseas reader) is finally getting round to filling in the pot-holes which have been used as a "traffic-calming measure". In doing so, the County authorities (who have responsibility for the highways) are over-ruling the local parish council of Navestock. Navestock has tolerated the holes because repairing them took "time and resources" and "If you fill them in, it just allows people to drive faster down these roads. If they're not filled, they have to slow down.".
This conjuncture provoked a Malcolmian moment of meditation.

Malcolm has always admired and envied those brave souls who venture onto the streets of New York above just the two wheels. He still quivers at recollection of a bicycle courier trying to beat the massed yellow-peril cabs away from the lights at 7th and 33rd -- particularly since the lone hero then swerved across several lines of traffic.

Then there's the infamous New York potholes. They are particularly in season about now:
... for the 38 City Department of Transportation service inspectors who spend their days scanning New York City's 6,200 miles of streets for potholes, March brings days of almost constant discovery.

That is because the main cause of the pothole - defined as ''a break in the asphaltic surface down to the base'' - is spring's freeze-and-thaw cycle. Water runs into cracks in the pavement, freezes overnight and expands. A pothole eventually appears.
Nothing has changed very much since that New York Times report from 1987. It's become a topic of annual report:
The [NYC] Department of Transportation says they have fixed more than 200,000 potholes since July 2008.

Once a pothole is reported, the city claims it takes about three days for it to be fixed.
The City even publishes a handy illustrated guide, to show that not all pot-holes are pot-holes: they should, more properly be classified and reported as examples of:
Potholes, Cave-Ins, Hummocks, Ponding Conditions, Manhole Covers, Street Hardware, Failed Street Cut or Old Utility Cut, and Open Street Cut.
Potholes are characterized by a definable bottom surface such as dirt or gravel.
Note that carefully: in some cases, they are seemingly ... bottomless. As with:
Cave-ins generally look like depressions, with a jagged hole and a deep void beneath it.
The Transportation Department then, blithely undepressed, says "Phew!" and continues with other tasks for:
Repair of cave-ins is the responsibility of the Department of Environmental Protection. Call 311.
Some of these holes, however they are categorised, are ginormous, like the Maelstrom capable of swallowing a small warship, let alone a baby-buggy or a Vespa. They seem most frequent at intersections, convenient to pedestrian crossings. They fill with water. A car or truck corners. A spew of foul water drenches everyone nearby up to waist-level.

To cycle in such conditions needs courage of a new dimension, as well as wheels of some super-strength material.

No wonder the cyclists need blessings. Sphere: Related Content

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