Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day for Cyclists: A free pedal in Harlem: and bike/boat share in Queens

Well, it is a gorgeous day, and hopefully you will get on your bike today and show the world that cars do not own the streets. Maybe you will even deign to pick up some random garbage surrounding your house, in your neighborhood, or even on your street or road. It's a sensible thing to do--you can't expect the people who threw it there to do it, can you?

And in New York City, Earth Day events by and with cyclists are numerous. For one, Peter Meitzler, owner of the Manhattan Rickshaw Co. will be offering free pedicab rides in Harlem between 8:30 am and 2:30 pm. Their location will be Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (the big state building where Bill Clinton had his offices,) and 125th St.

The rides are being offered in conjunction with Share (Safe, Healthy, Affordable and Reliable Energy), New York, a non-profit coalition of organizations "committed to ensuring the continued supply of reliable, clean and affordable electricity for all New Yorkers," according to the organization.

The group says that New York City, Rockland, Putnam, Orange and Westchester Counties violate federal clean air standards, including the level of ozone permitted in the air. They also say that East and Central Harlem have some of the highest asthma rates in the country, and that approximately one in four children in Central Harlem has asthma, about four times the national average.

According to a study published by the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, asthma hospitalization rates are as much as 21% higher in low-income and minority neighborhoods in New York City, said SHARE.

When BBB was a mere journalism student at Columbia University in 2001, she wrote an article on asthma among families living near the George Washington Bridge, where close to a million trucks and cars pass each day. Trucks, if you don't know, emit particulates, which because of their minute size, can pass the bodies defense mechanisms --intricate nasal filtering--and enter the lungs where they proceed to cause asthma, lung disease, and cancer.

In an informal poll, BBB found that at least one and often two members of every family living within two blocks of the bridge had severe asthma. One woman described how every piece of furniture in her apartment was coated with black soot, and that a previously white dresser in her bedroom was now permanently darkened. Children are particularly vulnerable to exhaust emissions, and doctors that I interviewed at Columbia Presbyterian's asthma clinic confirmed that the incidence of asthma was greatly elevated around the major highways and byways traversing Washington Heights.

So remember, every time you step into a car, you are adding to the equation of more disease and suffering for your fellow human being--and that could one day be yourself.

Then fly on over (by bike) to Queens for a Earth Day extravaganza at the old World's Fair stomping grounds Flushing Meadows/ Corona Park for a bike and boat share! The event is to last from today the 22nd until the 30th and also commemorates the opening day of the World's Fair in 1964 (I know, too long ago for some people.)

This event was the brainchild of Steve Stollman, that cycling creative who used to host the post Critical Mass ride parties at his printing shop on Houston St., with something other than cigarette smoke gently wafting over the entire affair.

The bike and boat rental concession on 93-acre Meadow Lake was initiated by Stollman and completed in conjunction with NYC Parks, and is called Lightwheels. Stollman hopes that the concession will be open every weekend from May 1st on, though for this special week it is open until the 30th.

Said Stollman, "With luck it will become a grand destination like the two World's Fairs that took place there in 1939 and 1964, but [from the ] bottom up this time."

The idea he said was to employ "human-powered vehicles made by people from all over the world, instead of relying on displays by governments and large corporations. Some of these designers and builders will come from the diverse neighborhoods all around this beautiful 1255-acre park."

Along with gorgeous posters depicting the new venture, there is a NYC Parks map of the area that identifies all of the new and cool things to do at Flushing Meadows. What you'll find there may surprise you. In addition to the lake and the bike/ boat share, there is the Queens Wildlife Zoo, the Queens Museum, the Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium, the World's Fair Marina, the Botanical Gardens, Shea Stadium, the New York Hall of Science, the Aquatic and Ice Skating Center, and the Queens Theater.

To get there, take the E, F, V, or R to Forest Hills, 71st Ave., walk three blocks north on 108th St., take a right on Jewel Ave., walk down to Meadow Lake. Or, take the no. 7 train to Willets Point, then walk through Flushing Meadow Park to Meadow Lake.

For more info call Lightwheels at 718-271-3005.

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