TransAlt Activists vs. a Pothole You Could Swim In

In every borough, there is a crew of Transportation Alternatives activists riding bikes, organizing their neighborhoods, and fighting for local change. It is political activism 101, mixed with a little trouble-making, and a lot of fun. These are some of their stories from the front line of New York City’s changing streets.

Raise Your Hand If You’ll Miss the L Train

TransAlt activists in Brooklyn are about to lose the L train for 15 months, and they want a replacement that’s pro-bike, walking accessible, and gives priority to buses. The proposal on the table — a PeopleWay — would add wider sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and dedicated bus lanes to Grand Street. At a recent meeting of Brooklyn Community Board 1, someone asked the crowd, “Who here supports the Grand Street PeopleWay?” The answer was more than a handful (see photo).

“The Bronx is poorly served by public transportation, and Boston Road is what results. It’s a dangerous mix of people and cars; the major commercial corridor for residents, and the major travel route for people passing through to Westchester. Medical centers and grocery stores are next to highway speeds. Because Boston Road cuts across the grid, crosswalks and intersections are full of unfamiliar angles and low visibility. Because it’s so wide, speeding is the norm. Boston Road needs a complete redesign with narrowed lanes, crosswalk bollards, protected bike lanes, pedestrian islands, and dedicated bus lanes, and in the Bronx, we are ready to fight for it.”
 — Bronx Activist Matthew Lootens

The Tallest Pile of Trash

A few mysterious activists are documenting a very stinky, very unsafe situation in Lower Manhattan: the towering piles of trash that take over Financial District sidewalks every night, forcing pedestrians to fight with the rats or walk in the street. You can watch them document the problem, and their fight for a walkable neighborhood, on Twitter @FiDiTrash.

“After a low-key presentation on a report about the Ferris Wheel coming to Staten Island, a rogue official slipped into the hallway and quietly advised TransAlt’s Staten Island organizer to read the report carefully. Sure enough, buried on page 42 of 63 was a rendering of Richmond Terrace with its bike lane gone! So I hiked down to the boondocks of Mount Loretto with a small army of other TransAlt activists where Staten Island Borough President James Oddo was at a community event. We cornered him to talk about it, and within days, he was demanding an explanation, and proposals to remove the bike lane were scrapped.”
 — Staten Island Activist Rose Uscianowski

Who Knows How to Swim?

When a few activists in Queens decided to organize a weekend bike tour of the border between Brooklyn and their home borough, they had no idea what awaited them in the murky depths. Don’t worry, this cavernous cavity in the asphalt — to be forever known as “The Hole” — only delayed the bike-riding, scenery-enjoying, activist-scheming fun for a bit.