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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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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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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Is Riverdale Really “Away From It All”?

A day trip around Riverdale for city folk. Credit: WSJ and John S. Dykes.

This morning I opened up to the New York section of the Wall Street Journal, as I do on many mornings, and found, in the top news, an article entitled “Away From It All, in Riverdale.”  The author describes his day in Riverdale as a “day in the suburbs,” part of a city mouse’s need to get away from it all.  How ironic, I thought, since just last week I had written how urban Riverdale is compared to my previous home communities.

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Hudson River Greenway Extended to Tip of Manhattan

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New wayfinding signs inside Inwood Hill Park point users in the right direction between the Amtrak Bridge and the Henry Hudson Bridge.

Every once in a while the city does something to make me feel like they care about me.  Today is one of those days.  On my morning ride through Inwood Hill Park, I found a crew of about 3 workers putting up signs designating my usual route as an official extension of the NYC Greenway – Manhattan Waterfront.

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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.

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My daughter enjoying Riverdale RiverFest.

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A Harbinger of the Hudson River Greenway Expansion

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New lane markings in Inwood Hill Park. Also note the freshly planted trees on the right.

Yesterday afternoon, towards the end of my (rather wet) ride home, I encountered a pleasant surprise in Inwood Hill Park.  For a few weeks now, I’ve seen parks workers here planting new trees, trimming invasive shrubs, putting up new fences, and generally improving the park.  Yesterday, though, they painted a number of shared cycling/skating/walking markers!  These markers, very similar to the ones encountered on low-volume narrow sections of the Hudson River Greenway, where all Greenway users are expected to share the path, may portend the future expansion of the Greenway into Inwood Hill Park!  As previously mentioned, plans already call for the Greenway to be extended through Inwood Hill Park into the Riverdale section of the Bronx.  With work on the Dyckman Street ramp from the current Northern terminus of the Greenway well underway, perhaps these markings are meant to help cyclists make their way to the Henry Hudson Bridge when the time comes. Continue reading