Mr. Singh, who works next door to Mr. Kraus, is more uncertain. Customers from the neighborhood are coming in “more and more,” he said. But he lost 40 percent of his business when the city created bike lanes along Ninth Avenue, making it impossible for taxis to park in front of his store.
Just for kicks, I used a popular mapping application to obtain a "street view" of Mr. Singh's store, and here is what I saw:
So yeah, thanks to these horrible bike lanes, instead of parking right in front of the store the taxi drivers now need to park a whole twenty (20) paces away at most.
This is not to begrudge Mr. Singh his right to make a robust living, and I certainly acknowledge he had a pretty sweet setup for years as far as feeding taxi drivers, what with being right in front of the hydrant and all:
(Easy to pull over.)
Still, my main question is this:
When the hell has a bike lane ever stopped a taxi driver from stopping?
If anything, if you didn't know any better, you'd just assume they were passenger pick-up and drop-off zones.
Also, this is a story about a "rising tide of wealth" subsuming humble shopkeepers, and it's worth noting how effortlessly the riding of bicycles--which arguably makes the city more accessible to people of limited means drowning in a rising tide of wealth--is often woven into the narrative of evil gentrification run amok.
Then again, maybe bike lanes are arteries of evil. Just a few blocks south of Mr. Singh's shop is the New York City headquarters of a certain company that makes a popular mapping application, as well as an Internet searching engine, a video-sharing website, and a social network nobody uses. So perhaps this bike lane merely serves an an artery of smugness for the certain company's employees, and once they're at work they deprive Mr. Singh of much-needed business by dining in their famously well-appointed cafeteria.
I really don't know, I'm not a socioecononomist.
All I know is that for a moment I thought maybe Mr. Singh could turn the bike lane situation to his advantage by marketing to bike messengers instead of cab drivers. But then I realized that loading up on Indian food in the middle of the day is not exactly the wisest choice for a messenger who's still got five hours of riding to do--unless his goal is to clear out the elevator at his next pick-up, which now that I think of it isn't a bad time-saving trick.
("Everybody out! The messenger just cut one!")
That's how you turn a local into an express.
Speaking of Manhattan and soul-crushing hyper-gentrification, I was knocking around downtown this past weekend when I passed a humble sidewalk sale:
I feel really bad for the kid whose fashion-conscious parents spend $125 for a 400lb Ross sold to them as a Schwinn (or "Schwin") because they're charmed by the vintage aesthetic. Granted my own first bike was a nearly-identical Ross, but that's only because it was actually the 1970s--and even then the bike didn't cost anything since it had previously belonged to my cousin. Most frightening of all though is that this bike will wind up being purchased by an adult, who will invariably ride it around the trendier precincts of the city, causing good honest working people like Mr. Singh to shake their heads when they salmon on by in the bike lane while gabbing on a cellphone.
And speaking of that certain company that's destroying Mr. Singh's livelihood (there, I said it), I bet their self-driving cars are specifically programmed not to pull over and support hardworking local businesspeople:
The company has begun building a fleet of 100 experimental electric-powered vehicles that will dispense with all the standard controls found in modern automobiles. The two-seat vehicle looks a bit like the ultracompact Fiat 500 or the Mercedes-Benz Smart car if you take out the steering wheel, gas pedal, brake and gear shift. The only things the driver controls is a red “e-stop” button for panic stops and a separate start button.
My first reaction upon reading this was that it was great news for cyclists, for here after all is a vehicle that is so diminutive that it couldn't intimidate even the most diminutive cyclist--and the best part is that it only goes 25mph:
Google’s prototype for its new cars will limit them to a top speed of 25 miles per hour. The cars are intended for driving in urban and suburban settings, not on highways. The low speed will probably keep the cars out of more restrictive regulatory categories for vehicles, giving them more design flexibility.
That means you can give the driver the finger and easily sprint away.
But the more I thought about it the more worried I became. As it is, if a driver hits you while you're riding a bike, the police will virtually always assume you were somehow at fault--even if the driver is an unlicensed and uninsured homicidal maniac with a criminal record and a meth lab in the trunk. Now imagine you somehow get hit by one of these little driverless golf carts. Who do you think is getting blamed for that? The car designed by the most talented software engineers the world has ever seen? Or you, the smugmonger in shants and a pannier full of shattered craft beers?
And that's how cars will win the war once and for all. In the future, you will always be wrong. All the time.
Then the computers will finally take over everything and humankind will be reduced to slaves in a horrific techno-dystopia, yadayadayada.
Yes, it will be much worse than it is now, when we're only wrong 99% of the time, and the other 1% of the time they don't believe anything happened to us in the first place:
When Pupko later attempted to clarify to police that the rope was tied with the apparent intention of causing injury, he was brushed off, he said.
"[The lieutenant] is patting me on the back saying 'We're trying to help you here, not hurt you,' as if I'm this liar trying to fabricate the whole thing," he said. But when he insisted that the lieutenant take the report as a crime, he resisted. "He said 'Your friend was involved in a serious traumatic incident, there are certain inconsistencies we have to clarify,'" he said.
Sure, the lieutenant had every reason to be skeptical. How does he know Pupko didn't hurt himself while fixed-gear jump-roping, which everyone knows is the new bike polo?
Lastly, remember those cats I mentioned a month or so ago? Well, there's a reward:
Someone needs to do a "Silence of the Lambs"-esque remake of "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" set against the gritty backdrop of downtown Yonkers.