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Just Say Snow

January 25, 2011

When the discussion of bike lanes comes up, one of the most predictable questions from opponents is about emergency access, especially during winter.  How will fire trucks and ambulances get through a roadway narrowed by a bike lane and then narrowed again by a blanket of snow?

I shot this picture on Friday following an overnight and early morning snowstorm.  It’s the bottom of 6th Street and 5th Avenue in Park Slope.  It was taken at about 8:30 AM, well into the morning rush.

As you can see, even though the street had not yet been fully plowed, and even though the street is slightly narrower due to snow near the parked cars, these two trucks were able to get to the scene of the emergency, arriving at it from different directions.  The only thing that could have blocked these fire trucks from responding would have been double-parked cars or delivery vehicles.

Most streets in New York are more like 6th Street, pictured, than Prospect Park West or on many other two-lane roads on which traffic calming projects have been installed.  You don’t hear a chorus of people calling for the city to widen one-lane roads for the sake of emergency access.  It’s even more nonsensical to suggest that a roadway with two traffic lanes could somehow become impassable just because of snow.  Bike lane and traffic calming critics know this, but since they tend not to get up in arms about cars narrowed by parked cars, their “concern” is just a cover for their own perceived inconvenience.

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