Rinkonomics and Traffic Justice


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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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.


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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NYC Traffic Violence, Stop de Kindermoord, and Right of Way

It wasn’t until I started cycling that I got interested in popularizing and expanding cycling infrastructure.  It wasn’t until I started following multiple blogs and news sites devoted to cycling that I started learning about the broader “livable streets” agenda, “new urbanism,” and pedestrian/bike advocacy more generally.  And it wasn’t until I moved to the City that these causes became so deeply meaningful and personal.

Photo courtesy of Right of Way

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City Living: Lessons Learned from Week 1

After posting my last piece on why we are moving to the Upper West Side, many friends commented that they would like to read a follow-up piece on what it’s actually like to live there.  Now that we have been living in Manhattan for exactly one week, I have a few initial impressions and already some lessons learned.  There is undoubtedly plenty more to learn and experience, and these impressions may change over time, but for now, here is what we’ve experienced as a family with two children moving into a relatively small apartment after years of living in the suburbs.


Baby in an empty apartment, waiting to receive our stuff.

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On Greenways and Roads


A seemingly never-ending stretch of wide open greenway in Lower Manhattan.

Greenways are the absolute best way to get around by bike when they’re available.  With beautiful scenery, smooth pavement, and no car traffic, what more could you ask for?  But that last caveat, “when they’re available”, underscores a major hurdle to the wider acceptance of cycling for transportation.

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Riverdale RiverFest 2013 and the Hudson River Greenway in the Bronx

Yesterday the family and I went to Riverdale RiverFest, an annual family-friendly festival to celebrate and advocate for Riverdale’s waterfront, and especially the extension of the Hudson River Greenway into Riverdale and Yonkers.  The highlight for my daughter was the bouncy castle and the face painting.  But the highlight for me was the unveiling of NYMTC’s Hudson River Valley Greenway Link Study, a plan to extend the Hudson River Greenway into Riverdale.


My daughter enjoying Riverdale RiverFest.

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