On Wednesday, September 26, 2012, HII geared up for a Green Bike Tour throughout the Lower East Side led by Wendy Brawer of Green Mapsfor Day 6 of 10 Days of Climate Action, entitled “Green Culture Cycling Tour:
An Exploration of Climate Action in NYC”. Green Maps’ mission is to create a system that supports inclusive participation in sustainable community development worldwide, using mapmaking as its medium. Wendy is a skilled navigator leading our group, consisting of 10 or so bikers through the streets of the Lower East Side, stopping at points of interest on the way and identifying organizations that are making positive contributions towards a healthy planet.
We hopped on bikes that Wendy loaned us. They were petite, foldable bicycles with smaller wheels. It took a full 2 minutes to get used to the bikes, but once we did, we were sailing! It was our first time riding bikes in NYC, but as pedestrians and drivers, we did have our preconceptions about bikers, especially when they whiz by, not following traffic signals or hurriedly weaving through people in crosswalks. But this time, as bikers ourselves, we saw that it’s not easy for them either.
Mayor Bloomberg’s new bike lanes are a tremendous help. Not only do the small blocks have bike lanes, but the large avenues even have a cushion area for cyclists where parked car doors open into the street—normally a dangerous, ever-looming threat for bikers. We covered a lot of ground in just 2 hours and reveled at how much bigger NYC becomes when you have access to it in different way of travelling. I, personally, saw many new things in an area I lived in for over 3 years. We gained compassion for bikers. Using no energy but their own strength, they do a service to our shared airspace by helping reduce harmful emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles. Bikers, pedestrians, drivers and any other NYC-street-travelers must learn to co-exist on our streets—everyone deserves a share.
Beyond learning about biking in NYC, we were educated on many great, green spots in the East Village and the LES, listed here:
1. Tompkins Square Park – We started here after a quick snack of local apples and delicious honey harvested on an LES building roof! But before we left we decorated our bicycles with streamers and fun signs saying things like “Don’t DRIVE yourself to extinction”. In essence, we were a moving art piece, fitting in nicely with HII’s 10 Days of Climate Action for Climate Week NYC 2012.
2. Cooper Union – We saw their new LEED Platinum building with loads of features like rainwater-harvesting, low-flow plumbing, a green roof, and semi-transparent mesh screens on the windows to regulate the indoor temperature
3. FAB (Fourth Arts Block) – FAB’s goal is to preserve and “advance the East 4th Street Cultural District”. They even had an art installation highlighting biking in NYC!
4. M’finda Kalunga Garden in Sara D Roosevelt Park – The M’finda Kalunga Community Garden does many things including Urban Park Rangers Day, It’s My Park Days, Senior and Head-Start Gardening classes, story hours, Pet Adoption Days, compost, chicken-care and raised-bed building workshops, only to name a few!
5. Allen Street Mall- green infrastructure, street redesign and art – “a collaboration between an artist and a landscape architect, [the mall consists] of new pavements and curbs, fences, benches, plant materials, historic and cultural information” (City of NY Parks & Rec)
6. Community gardens along Stanton Street – listed on The Lo-Down News from the Lower East Side. We also passed an unclaimed lot: An organization called 596 Acres can help a community claim to use as a community space. Free land!
7. Time’s Up! Manhattan’s space in ABC No Rio community arts center - TIME’S UP! is a New York City-based not-for-profit direct-action environmental group that uses events and educational programs to promote a more sustainable, less toxic city. They are community-based and completely volunteer ran. Join them for events like free bike repair workshops! ABC No Rio, founded by artists committed to political and social engagement, is a collectively-run center for art and activism.
8. Lower Eastside Ecology Center – Located along the FDR with beautiful views and brand new green roofs, the LES Ecology Center provides community-based recycling and composting programs and youth development through environmental education programs
9. We rode back to our starting area on the East River Greenway with beautiful vast bike lanes
10. Lower East Side Girls Club on Ave D including Tyra Banks’, T-Zone
11. Willow trees on Ave C and 9th in La Plaza Cultural community garden – This spot marks a place in NYC that used to be underwater, which is why the Willow trees that normally grow near water are still there!
12. MoRUS (Museum of Reclaimed Urban Spaces) – MoRUS’s mission is to preserve history and promote scholarship of grassroots urban space activism by researching and archiving efforts to create community spaces. We will also exhibit materials that document these actions, to educate people on the political implications of reclaimed space.
13. Green Map System – We end back at Green Maps’ headquarters and return our bikes to Wendy. We then check out all the cool NYC maps they have such as an NYC Composting Map, Waste Reduction Green Map, NYC Food Map, LEED Buildings Map,Queens Green Map, Brooklyn Green Maps like the Red Hook Green Map, and the mainGreen NYC Map, not to mention all the international locations for which they have interactive maps! Look up your city here.
We hope you all find these references useful and can find what you need to remove the obstacles preventing you from getting a bike so you can explore our great city. (Mine was lack of bike racks near where I live, but after seeing these highly functional folding bikes, I may just be converted!) You can always reach out to Green Maps and Wendy as well as the good folks at Time’s Up for more help. Happy biking!
–Rachana Patel, Environmental Education Intern