Rinkonomics and Traffic Justice

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Fewer injuries occur on the rink than on trampolines, skateboards, or baseball fields, despite the seemingly chaotic atmosphere. I was also shocked to see so many kids wearing helmets despite their proven lack of effectiveness in the most common types of ice skating injuries.

I just listened to a fascinating (as always) Freakonomics podcast about a concept developed by Economics Professor Daniel Klein called Rinkonomics.  On an ice skating rink, a few simple rules (everyone skating in the same general direction, no cell phones allowed, etc.) suffice to keep everyone relatively happy and safe.  Given the lack of central control and direction, someone unfamiliar with a rink might think that collisions would be extremely common.  In fact, as I can attest from recent experience, collisions are very rare and the most common type of injury is self-inflicted and involves only one skater.

Klein goes on to make the case for the rink as an analogy for economic life in general, and against central planning.  However, I was most struck by the following quote explaining why the rink functions as it does:

An important quality of collision is mutuality. If I collide with you, then you collide with me. And if I don’t collide with you, you don’t collide with me. In promoting my interest in avoiding collision with you, I also promote your interest in avoiding collision with me.

Therein lies the key to understanding, and potentially solving, one of the biggest public health crises (and undoubtedly the biggest public health crisis facing children) of our era.

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City Living: Family in New York City

This is my fourth post in my series on city living.  For earlier posts see

A word of warning: I have a lot of weakly related ideas floating in my head these days, and today’s post is more my way of sorting through it than an attempt to convey any particular message.

Staying in the city after starting a family and raising kids may be increasingly popular, but there’s still a fair number of people who end up leaving for the suburbs.  Since my wife and I have actually lived in multiple suburban communities, and visited or explored several more, we are often asked what each of them are like.  However, looking back at the people we met in the suburbs and comparing them to the people we’ve recently met in the City, I now realize that this information about individual suburbs is far less useful than most people imagine.

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Taking Back the Streets: How to Solve NYC’s Parking Problem

I’ve spent hours in search of the elusive free parking spot in NYC, marked by a sign such as this one indicating the relatively few hours of the week during which parking is not allowed there.

Last week I described how the series of street fairs in our neighborhood got me thinking about the under-allocation of space to pedestrians and the need for more places for kids to go out and play.  Late last week I brought the car home from its increasingly long-term parking spot at work in order to facilitate some weekend travels and shopping.  The hours I spent circling the neighborhood searching for free parking have given me plenty of time to contemplate alternatives to the horrendous state of parking in Manhattan.

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Taking Back the Streets: Pedestrian Spaces and a Crosstown Bike Route

Another Sunday, another street fair.  This past Sunday’s street fair on 100th St between Broadway and West End was not quite as extensive as last week’s, which closed down half of Broadway for 10 blocks.  Nevertheless, it had the obligatory bouncy castle, which of course meant we had to stop while my daughter played.

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My daughter pauses from fishing in a kiddie pool and getting her face painted to listen to a kid-friendly guitarist sing Old McDonald.

Walking about in the middle of a car-free street for the second week in a row got me thinking about street allocation space in New York City more generally.

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The George Washington Bridge and the Differences in NY and NJ Cycling

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The George Washington Bridge spans not only a great river, but also a great difference in attitudes towards cycling.

Due to a quirk of our nanny situation, I was freed from having to take my daughter to school this morning.  I took advantage by taking the long way to work over the George Washington Bridge and through New Jersey.  The ride reminded me of how different attitudes towards cycling are in New York and New Jersey.  As difficult as it can sometimes be to cycle in New York City, you only need to cross the river to realize how great we have it on this side of the Hudson.

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City Living: Sunday Street Fair

This is my third post in my series on city living.  For earlier posts see

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The view of the street fair from our balcony looking south. You can just barely make out the kosher BBQ at the bottom here.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish in just one Sunday living in the City.

We headed out early in the morning to a party celebrating the birth of a girl to some friends living in Riverdale.  We headed out on the subway.  Although the 45-minute trip took considerably longer than it would by car (20 minutes max), it did not feel as long since we were able to eat breakfast on the train and play with and talk to the girls throughout the ride.  My older daughter especially enjoyed being able to stand up and walk around the subway car, peering out the windows.  For me, too, it felt good to be able to watch her as we went and not have to pay attention to the road ahead.

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Tips for Cool Weather Bicycle Commuting

This post is part of my advice series. For other posts in the series see

We’re now in the midst of fall in New York City, which means the leaves are turning color and the temperature is dropping. We’ve had an unusually warm fall so far. Not a single day has had a high temperature below 60 degrees. The warm temperatures have meant that the amount of cycling I see on the greenway each morning is still sky-high. Even in the morning, temperatures have yet to drop below 50 degrees by 7 AM, and afternoon commutes are typically quite pleasant in the upper 60s to low 70s. Unfortunately, this is certain not to last, but with a few tips and some small purchases, you can extend your cycling well into November or beyond.

Central Park. Credit: chrisschoenbohmm/Flickr CC.

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