A protected intersection!
A protected intersection!
New York and Paris. So different and yet somehow so alike.
In New York, everyone speaks some version of English, even if the speaker’s vocabulary may be limited to, “I’m sorry I don’t speak English.”
In Paris everyone speaks French and it’s not because they really can speak English and just don’t want to.
A case that proves the point: the Parisian dog-owner. When Monsieur or Madame calls out “Viens ici!” the animal scampers right up. Surely even the British, that most animal-loving of nations, and, along with Americans and Australians, among the last mono-lingual cultures on Earth, do not suppose that French dogs are bi-lingual.
In New York, dogs, like cars, croissants and everything else, are larger than the Parisian. Canine New Yorkers watch TV all day alone in their apartments, relying on people dropping by occasionally to open cans and doors, sleep with, bark at and accompany them when they venture outside. If there’s a sale on, dogs in New York enjoy taking the subway to Bloomingdales, dressing for the occasion in plaid jackets and riding in shiny black vinyl sacks carried by their humans.
In Paris, if you are a lady, and a man opens a door for you–which all men, without exception, do (another difference), it is proper to say “Pardon” and not “Merci,” to show you have not confused gallantry with service.
In a Parisian restaurant, it is possible to carry on a conversation without being obliged to shout over loud music and even louder fellow diners. The waiter will never ask you, while you are chewing a mouth full of food, whether you have finished eating, nor will your empty plate be removed before everyone else at the table has put down their fork and knife.
And thank heavens this is not the case in New York. Half the city’s gastroenterologists and hearing aid manufacturers would be put out of business. Just another example of American superiority over the French,in keeping productivity high and unemployment low.
“Pardon” is French for “Excuse me.” When the word is spoken for the purpose of making one’s way through a crowd of people, it means “Having spoken, I will now stop and wait for you to make an adjustment to your spatial orientation which will allow me to pass.” The speaker then suspends all forward motion while the obstructing human moves out of the way. Once the path is clear, forward motion is resumed.
In New York the concept is more spiritual in nature. The words are spoken like some magic charm the utterance of which, while shoving to the right and left, not to say trampling over, inconveniently slow or stationary men, women and children, absolves the speaker of any hint or blot of rudeness such pushing, shoving and trampling the pusher, shover or trampler might otherwise incur.
On those unfortunate occasions when the New York interpretation of “Excuse me” is addressed by a bicyclist toward a motor vehicle, its flaws become immediately apparent. Just as no one in Paris, nor indeed in all of France, ever believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, or that the physique of the giraffe or the penguin are the result of a Divine Plan, so it must be conceded that in the matter of “Excuse me,” the French usage has distinct advantages over that which prevails in the great city of New York. In this particular case, one hopes for less, rather than more, courtesy.
As they say, Vive la différence.
Turning to geography, one notes that Manhattan and Paris are about the same size. Both cities are defined by their waterway. In Paris, the water runs right through the middle of it; in Manhattan, around the sides.
From the point of view of population, about the same number of people live in Paris and Manhattan, quite a large number. With regard to the inevitable space problem, Manhattan residents go in for the taller solution, Parisians favor the smaller.
Two million people live in central Paris, where there are exactly two high rises:the Tour Montparnasse, built in 1973, and the Eiffel Tower, built in 1889.
The Eiffel Tower was built to demonstrate how steel construction could liberate architectural design from the height limitations of load-bearing walls. In Paris, this spectacular breakthrough in engineering instantly produced a law restricting building height to seven stories within the city center and 20 on the outskirts, a classic case of French “I can but I shan’t.” This cultural characteristic is very useful in an urban agglomeration where 15 million people live crammed into tiny apartments. For if one cannot expand upward, one must divide living space into ever tinier units.
No reticence such as that which inhibited the French afflicted anyone on this side of the Atlantic. Architects and plutocrats alike spoke with one voice to greet the new technology: Yahoo!
The unbuttoned enthusiasm that ensued resulted in ever-taller buildings of such unwholesome design that, following the construction of the 38-story Equitable Life Building in 1915, a law was passed requiring that henceforward, all skyscrapers must be designed so as to allow daylight to reach street level for at least two hours a day.
Just as it was at one time possible to see the sky from the ground in Manhattan, there was also a time when it was possible, in either Paris or New York, to go out for a pleasant drive around town just to feel the wind in one’s hair, or, within no more than 20 minutes of setting out from the city center, find oneself rolling briskly through green fields. Ah, the Nationale Sept, what have they done to you? Perhaps the Canal de l’Ourcq might be a friend to turn to in your agony.
Both cities now sit at the center of gigantic urban agglomerations of 15 and 20 million people respectively. I myself can’t count higher than the six people I can fit around my dinner table, but I can tell you this: depending on whether you start out by taking the Lexington Avenue Line Uptown or the A train Downtown, one doesn’t really get the feeling of having actually left New York City before reaching Maine or North Carolina. Had you gotten on the F train by mistake, your fate would remain unknown as there is some debate among New Yorkers as to whether or not there actually is anything beyond Philadelphia.
Even if everyone stayed right where they were, 20 million people would still be quite a large crowd. But these hordes do not stay put. The need for employment requires a large portion of them to travel into the city center daily, and then go back home again at night. Somewhere P.T. Barnum is fuming with frustration that he is no longer alive to throw a tent over such a spectacular feat.
Not to be outdone by Jobs, his beautiful twin sister, Leisure, brings in a further 45-50 million visitors per year, for the sole purpose of livening things up when footballs fly through the air or there’s a sale on at Bloomingdale’s.
In 1959, Jean-Luc Godard made a movie whose plot relied entirely on Paul Belmondo’s ability to park his car absolutely anywhere and leap out from behind the wheel to chase Jean Seberg all over Paris, she herself afflicted with a mania for jumping out at stoplights. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, it’s obvious why these two were made for each other.
Twenty years later, Paris was the second most polluted city in Europe after Athens.crammed round the clock with barely moving motor vehicles, horns blaring.
More cars meant more dogs, naturally. If you weren’t sitting, irate, in your car not going anywhere, you were picking your way through so much Dachsund and Yorkie residue that the Sanitation Department created a custom-built fleet of motorcycles equipped with vacuum hoses designed for the sole purpose of sucking up dog shit.
What to do with all that shit was a problem at first but it seems to have been resolved—nobody knows how. Maybe there is a Yucca Mountain full of crap somewhere, perhaps in some sub-Saharan former colony, or if not that, le Quatre-vingt treize.
Had Paul Belmondo fallen in love with Jean Seberg circa 1980, the first time she jumped out at a stoplight he would have lost her forever while he drove around in circles for hours looking for a place to park instead of running after her. Even if he had found an empty space after a mere two or three hours and a sidetrip to the gas station, the minute he started to run he would have slipped in dog shit, broken his neck and died. It would have taken 90 seconds instead of 90 minutes to tell the story. Scene one, fade to black, roll credits. Trying to drag things out rather than shorten them, Godard never would have hit on the idea of using jump cuts. Today he’d be a cashier in one of those combination Dunkin’ Donuts Exxon stations instead of saying things like “Even when it’s not funny, it’s more funny” to Dick Cavett, who should know what he’s talking about, if anyone does. Only the movie title would stay the same, Breathless, but it would mean something completely different.
More cars, more people, more pets. It will be 1973 all over again,the same only different. It is estimated that by 2030, one million people will move to New York City; 90% of the population of both France and the US will be living in cities. Coughing and honking across the Atlantic, Manhattan and Paris will each fuse into two giant parking lots, the glow of every streetlamp and headlight surrounded by a misty, romantic glow equal parts carbon emissions and Cromolyn, the sky permanently dark with self-driving helicopters transporting Masters of the Universe to and fro between their citadels of productivity and parking space-sized habitation pods.
Or, alternatively, Bike Share. Here again, as ever, New York and Paris, twin souls.
In Paris, before Bike Share, on the best of days, bus drivers used the horn like an improvement to the accelerator, and a reasonable alternative to the brake pedal. On less good days, they urged their municipal steed from depot to depot with a single-minded devotion to speed. Passengers wishing to ascend to or descend from the juggernaut counted as no more than mere insults to be ignored in their passionate pursuit of the greater goal.
About a week after the beginning of Paris Bike Share, I was riding one of these pleasure boats when the vehicle slid up behind a small flock of six or seven wobbly Bike Share cyclists noodling along at about 3.5 miles an hour. Anyone needing to pee or on their way to a sale at La Samaritain would walk twice as fast as these cyclists. I could not believe my eyes, therefore, when the driver slowed the bus to a crawl, taking the occasion to crack the window and, leaning back in his seat, light up a cigarette as we floated up the Boulevard Sebastopol as if on a summer cloud.
In New York, within six weeks of Bike Share, cyclists began marveling among themselves about the “Citibike Zone,” describing it to each other in hushed, awestruck tones as a kind of Shangri-la where motorists drive slowly, carefully and have even been sighted yielding to cyclists at intersections and other barely credible phenomena. I would not believe it if I hadn’t with my own eyes witnessed pedestrians acknowledging the ringing of a bicycle bell with a pleasant smile and a wave, rather than the torrent of obscenities to which the New York City cyclist is accustomed.
Seen from Outer Spac, these blue riders sprinkled throughout the streets make the city look like a field of blue-eyed grass. A kind of serene dignity attends the pinball-like trajectory that characterizes the more or less forward motion of these cyclists, and a far-off gaze hints at great minds filled with more important things than the nonchalant revolution they carry out with arms outstretched to welcome the future that is now, and legs spinning at speeds that recall why Tex Avery is so beloved by all.
Paris Bike Share celebrated its fifth summer this year: 250,000 annual memberships, 1.3 million rentals in 2012, and fewer accidents than any other mode of transport, including cyclists using their own equipment, with a total of six fatalities among 130,000,000 Bike Share trips.
New York Bike Share projected 60,000 annual members for its first year. Use surpassed all estimations in the first three months, with 80,000 annual members and, in Auguse an average of 36,000 trips per day. “I actually think you could quadruple what we have now,” said Jon Orcutt, DOT Policy Director at a public discussion in September.
New York like Paris?
I stop in to say hello to Mike at the Bicycle Station around six.
“So you’re riding in the cold weather! How are you holding up?”
Fine, I say, only my hands are cold; I need to get better gloves. I show him my arrangement: a pair of glove liners stuffed inside leather gloves. Riding that morning, it had taken only 15 minutes for my fingers to go from numb to smarting, the second stage of frostbite.
“Wait a second,” Mike disappears into the back of the shop and comes back a minute later pulling the tags off a pair of gloves that would not look out of place in a jousting match between Martians. “Take these, they’re too small for me.”
The next morning my phone says it’s 23 degrees Fahrenheit when I leave the house, but the wind has died down so it doesn’t feel as cold as it had the day before. I pull on Mike’s gloves and start off. When I stop for the light six blocks later, my hands hurt just as much as they had with my previous four-glove arrangement. Waiting for the light to change I pass the time pounding my hands together to stimulate the circulation. I’m thinking that the new gloves, for all their appearance of high-tech invulnerability, provide a mostly cosmetic improvement
But as I turn onto Flushing Avenue my fingers start to warm up inside the gloves. By the time I turn on to the Manhattan Bridge I’m wondering what similar arrangements there might be for my feet…
That night, on my way home, I stop in to thank Mike for the gloves, and I tell him about the strange getting cold and warming up again experience. He grins and says, “You have to make sure you stay warm, if you’re going to ride in winter. You don’t want to get frostbite. Racers use BenGay on their hands, on their legs, on their feet, to warm up their muscles.”
” That last snowstorm, I rode in it. I had hybrid 700×38 tires which still gives you some stability, but even so I was concentrating on main streets that were plowed. When you hear of icy conditions, you shouldn’t ride. You could break your body up pretty badly. They make studded tires for mountain bikes, but even so.
“I’ve been to Bear Mountain on the 1st of January several times. The Century Club used to have an annual ride. “It went from a ride to a race!”
“We started at Central Park, 25 of us. By the time we got to the George Washington Bridge, only seven of us decided to continue. We were dehydrated because the water bottles froze within 15 minutes. We spent like two hours in a diner, we were so frostbitten.”
I was curious about the way my hands had warmed up in Mike’s gloves, so I went to REI in Soho to ask them about it. A guy in the bicycle department, he sent me to the glove department. There I met Jay and Hotek, standing in the midst of more gloves I had ever imagined could exist, hanging on hooks on one wall from floor to ceiling and both sides of two aisles of chest-high racks.
What is the warmest glove?
Jay said, “People will argue this a lot. You need something with wind protection, and insulation. Lots of companies say their gloves are windproof, but they’re not.
She turns to the rack, scanning the gloves for a good example cialis with atenolol.
“Which part of your hand gets hit by the wind first, knuckles or fingers? A lot depends on how you ride. If your handlebars are drop-down or t-shaped, your hands are facing the wind in different positions.”
She takes a pair of gloves from the wall.
“See? Mittens like these are really insulated at the tips, but on the knuckles they’re pretty thin. So you have to think about that.
“Then, mittens or gloves? There’s a lot of discussion about which is better. People tend to prefer one or the other. Scientifically, it seems like it makes more sense that mittens would keep your hands warmer.”
She returns the gloves to the rack and takes down a pair of fleece mittens.
“One pouch to hold the combined heat of your fingers–and your whole hand– rather than isolated fingers trying to keep warm separately.
“Then, there are three kinds of insulation: Triplex, Primaloft and Comfortmax. Primaloft is considered the best because it has a higher warmth to weight ratio than down. ”
Hotek, who has been talking to another customer, comes over just in time to hear this.
“Well, that depends on what kind of down you’re talking about,” he says.
A rapid-fire. discussion ensues about fill power vs. quality of down, and whether “fill power” and “quality” mean the same thing.
A disagreement about feather weight turns into an argument about how fill power is determined and Hotek starts explaining something having to do with filling a tube with feathers and ratios of feathers to air in the tube.
Trying to drag the conversation back to the difference between fill power and down quality Jay says, “Some down is just chopped up feathers.”
Hotek shoots back “That would just be false advertising which is a separate problem.
“Now if you want to talk about what kind type of birds it comes from, that’s another question.”
I discreetly collect my lower jaw from the floor to say, Can we get back to mittens vs gloves?
A nearby customer overhears this and says, “You can’t wear mittens when you’re riding a bike; you need your fingers to be able to switch gears.”
Jay looks at Hotek. He shrugs as if to say, that’s a good point. “A lobster claw would be probably be good.”
I show them the gloves Mike gave me.
“Oh, Thinsulate,” Hotek says. “Thinsulate was the first microfibre, built in 1979 by 3M. It has good things and bad things about it. ”
“The good thing,” says Jay, “is it’s incredibly warm. I have a Thinsulate hat that belonged to my grandmother. It’s so old, and it’s my warmest hat.”
“The problem with Thinsulate, ” Hotek goes on, “is it doesn’t breathe very well.”
“Then you get into sweat and wicking,” agrees Jay.
“The premier synthetic is Primaloft.”
So what’s the warmest glove?
“That would be these Black Diamond gloves over here,” says Hotek walking over to a pair of green nylon gloves with leather palms hanging in the center aisle.
I try them on; they seem very warm, but they’re so thick I can hardly close my hand.
You could never a bike with these, I say.
He nods. “They’re made for skiing.”
“Wait a second.” He squints, looking at the ceiling. “There was a guy in here a while ago…” he walks around to the other side of the rack, “looking for warm biking gloves, and we gave him a Manzella windproof liner underneath a Pearl Izumi lobster for insulation.
“That’s got to be the warmest, most windproof glove.”
“Coming home late? Take your hike with a guy on a bike.
“Brooklyn Bike Patrol, an all-volunteer organization that rides around the borough to accompany women home after dark, has been busy this week as women in Williamsburg is daily dose cialis on the tml formulary and Bushwick seek extra protection following reports of a scary attacks across North Brooklyn…”
A great article about Jay Ruiz and Brooklyn Bike Patrol by Danielle Furfaro in The Brooklyn Paper.
Read the whole article here
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