Jul 31, 2023, 05:55AM

Auto Banned

New York City’s attempt to eliminate traffic. 

Img 9054.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

A bizarre event occurs weekly; it’s a slapstick spectacle of cars jockeying into position between bike rental lanes and traffic islands. The goal is a prized, non-metered parking place in New York City. No one wants to work in offices anymore, but they undoubtedly enjoy driving around Manhattan. It’s simply another state of disorder recalling Grace Jones singing, “Pull up to my bumper baby, and drive it in between.” Beep-beep.

Nothing surprises me in a metropolis filled with nice people who have split personalities when it comes to parking. On days when the streets are cleaned, enter the Roman Colosseum. All vehicles must be moved, or get a ticket and towed, for hundreds of dollars. A common sight is a line of double-parked vehicles on the opposite side of the street. Sullen-faced drivers start down at their phones. A private, cannabis smoke party gets snuffed-out when a Department of Sanitation official pulls up in an electric car. All the vehicles that haven’t moved get tickets. The street sweeper passes by.

After a big cloud of dust clears, look out! Everyone tries to cut across two lanes of oncoming traffic to grab their old spot. It’s a free-for-all; an opportunity to let tempers flare, toss insults, honk horns incessantly, and scream profanities . With no sense of self-control, terrible repercussions might occur, such as reaching for a gun that may result in manslaughter charges over a disagreement. Over your shoulder, you see Mr. Helper Man looking pretty badass, staking out a location carrying a steering wheel lock in one hand, swinging it around like a baton.

I did a favor recently for a visitor, minus the twin hook Club 3000 Wheel Lock, and moseyed around the block one morning scoping out possible parking spots. One reason for the scarcity; the Covid land-grabs by so many restaurants for outside food sheds, so parking spaces are limited. There’s also an enormous amount of never-ending construction. The cityscape is constantly being imaginatively reimagined, for better or for worse, or so the “experts” say.

If you like driving through Times Square, enjoy it now, because it’s going to cost you in the near future. The idea of congestion pricing plans started building steam under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration. The seed planted and an overall negative sentiment towards automobiles grew. That attitude skyrocketed when Citi Bike rentals took over the streets in May 2013. Not to mention the efforts of everyday nuts and fanatics, militant bike activists and food delivery services. Being on a city street reaffirms the need for the personal safety code we learned as kids, “Look both ways before crossing streets.” Which rings truer than ever.

Enter the Federal Highway Administration with their final approval. The poles are in place for cameras torecord license plates. Slated for April 2024, drivers entering midtown Manhattan below 60th St. will pay an entrance fee that could be as high $23. New Jersey and Staten Island quickly filed lawsuits.

This is auto transition. With the new installations of electric charging stations, we’re seeing some progress. It’s a complex problem with numerous factors: will some motorists continue to exhibit a carefree attitude towards ownership? You wouldn’t think that from watching the gas-guzzling RAM advertisements seen on the six o’clock news. Thesafety alerts continue. Case in point: it’s impossible to see around those massive, tinted-window Uber SUVs that block intersections. Write them a ticket.

My recent impromptu morning weekday survey between traffic lights at Broadway and Chambers St. ended in frustration. I counted nine out of 10 cars with just one occupant: what’s the thinking here? The first line of advice on a website’s Survival Guide to Driving in NYC: “Don’t do it… requires some serious skills and patience to conquer.” By the way, there’s no right on red here.


Register or Login to leave a comment