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Hurricane Sandy has more New Yorkers biking

A subway station in Downtown Manhattan is closed to the public after Hurricane Sandy caused severe flooding and damage to a large part of the city’s transit system.

At Future Cape Town it has been suggested that future cities will depend heavily on public transport. In the developed world we are already seeing how public transport has become the sole mode of transport for commuters to and from the city. In New York City for example, 95 percent of people commuting to Manhattan’s central business district do so by train and buses. But what happens when a city that has become so dependent on its public transport system, suddenly have to do without it. Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, bridges between New York’s boroughs were shut and bus and train services were suspended. New Yorkers realized just how isolated they can be without it.

It is ironic that a natural disaster led to the creation of New York’s IRT system, and that it would take another force of nature to shut it down. Although the shutdown has caused many to start asking questions (again) about New York’s failure to maintain and expand their 108-year-old IRT system, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy more New Yorkers are biking – something which the city has tried to implement but failed (or at least postponed) at. New York’s proposed bike-sharing program would have been ideal in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, argues a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek, but for those who had to get to work (or simply to a higher and drier spot), simply going out and buying a bike was their only option. According to CNBC a bike shop that sold a bike every two weeks, saw 15 bikes sold in one day. And as bikes were seen taking over the deserted lower Manhattan this week, there is this (lame) intro to the aforementioned article:

New York, once known as New Amsterdam, could soon look a lot more like … well, Amsterdam.

During New York’s 2005 transit strike, which only lasted 2 days, the city saw a 500 percent spike in biking. The Manhattan-based advocates for bicycling Transport Alternatives says as New York’s subway system is expected to take at least 3 weeks before being fully operational, this could just be the opportunity everyone was hoping for to get more people biking.

Power outages and fuel shortages following hurricane Sandy has seen New Yorkers depending on their feet more than anything else to get from point A to point B. Buses are overcrowded and cars are only allowed into Manhattan when carrying three or more occupants.

So, with climate change changing the way we commute (at least in New York), will we all go back to walking and biking to work? I, for one, hope so.

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André-Pierre du Plessis has been a journalist in South Africa for nearly a decade working for Die Burger, Huisgenoot, YOU and DRUM Magazine. More recently he was a reporter for eNuus and the eNews Channel. He co-created and produced the channel’s flagship technology-news programme “Tech Report”. He’s currently completing a MA in Business and Economics Journalism at Columbia University in New York.