Thursday, November 1, 2012

The bicycle and the apocalypse

A few years back, I lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  While I was there, I personally stood witness to two breathtakingly powerful acts of nature - Hurricane Ivan, and later, Hurricane Katrina.  They bring home the power of nature and how much your life depends on the infrastructure around you.  Power.  Roads.  Traffic Reports.  Police.  We depend on them all, and you never notice them until they're gone.

With those memories, I have obsessively followed the situation on the east coast during and after "Frankenstorm" Sandy - the catastrophic power of this storm has crippled New York, New Jersey, and the surrounding areas.  With that comes the usual side-effects of hurricanes, but the population of the area amplifies these effects a thousand times.  The effects of no power, no gasoline, amplified effects of basic temperature fluctuations, and destroyed infrastructure.  Add to the destruction of vehicles, debris everywhere, and the basic cleanup that has to happen to make the word navigable and you have all the ingredients for a traffic nightmare.

The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, declared a transportation emergency Wednesday night.  Between gridlock, a lack of available fuel, and damaged public transportation infrastructure, to quote the New York Times, "Only bicycles seemed to be rolling."  The bicycle is a beacon of freedom in the gnarled mess of commuting without a car or a train to get you from A to B.  It's independent of gasoline, and if it spends a day underwater you can pull it out, hose it off, dry it, lube it, and get where you're going.

In the aftermath of the storm, reports of life are largely coming by bicycle - the only viable way to get around.  The Wall Street Journal goes into the black zone.  Business Insider photographs Manhattan in the heart of darkness.  It seems like the one thing no one focuses on when the cars stop working is how well the bikes really do.

In the end, no one will be riding the Mad Max Interceptor or the pickup truck from the Walking Dead because when the gas stops, so do they.  All you need to ride a bike is yourself.


  1. That's crazy! I was lucky that I had my bike folded inside home.

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