December 28th, 2004
By Sam Schwartz
It was 20 years ago Tuesday that Sgt. Pepper predicted a gridlock day. Okay, it was more like 30 years ago, and it wasn’t a Sgt. Pepper but a Chief Ryan of the NYPD, who warned me about the Wednesday after Christmas. He told me of a terrible day in 1965, when everyone at the NYPD and Traffic Department relaxed, because it was four days after Christmas, and they got rocked by the worst gridlock (they didn’t know what to call it then – I was a mere undergraduate) the city had seen in decades.
The chief warned me, then a fledgling traffic engineer, “Kid, the matinee day after Christmas starts out a sleeper, but don’t be fooled. By midafternoon, a million people who put off seeing the tree and the biggest theater crowdof the year converge on midtown and it’s a sea of pedestrians and cars from river to river.”
So here I am, warning all of you to beware the matinee day of Christmas week! We face the same calendar as the chief did in 1965. Please come and see the tree, shop to your heart’s content, take in the theater, but also take in the subway or railroad.
The “Christmas Spectacular” will play four shows Tuesday and Wednesday at Radio City Music Hall, bringing some foot and car traffic to 49th St. and Sixth Ave. Madison Square Garden will host the String Cheese Incident on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Wednesday, the Knicks will play the Minnesota Timberwolves at 7:30p.m. Combine these events with shoppers crowding Macy’s, adding to traffic woes at Herald Square.
Gridlock Buster Awards
Here are some more deserving honors:
* Taming traffic is also about creating opportunities for alternative transportation in New York City, namely bicycles and pedestrians. Despite the highly charged environment surrounding Critical Mass this year (those end-of-month bike rides when cyclists take to the streets), many cycling advocates are headed in the right direction by asking for more cycling access in the city.
* So this year’s Give Us More Space Please Award goes to cycling and pedestrian advocates Paul Steely White, executive director, and Noah Budnick, projects director, of Transportation Alternatives, for their work encouraging businesses to provide bike access to their buildings.
* The Numbers Tell the Story Award goes to Charlie Komanoff and Michael Smith of the activist group Right of Way for their unending push to uncover the details of cycling and pedestrian accidents, and to create a more bikeable and walkable New York.
* Because of his relentless work within the system, including assessing cyclist traffic, Paul Schmidt of the City Planning Commission gets the Dogged Alternative Transportation Planning Award.
* The Change Through Lawfulness Award goes to Time’s Up director Bill D’Apollo and legal projects volunteer Matthew Roth, who have encouraged Critical Mass riders to obey city traffic laws when cycling through the city, and to Steve Stollman, who volunteered his space to downtown cyclists.
* Finally, the Quiet but Steady Wins the Race Award goes to founder and director Karen Overton of Recycle-A-Bicycle, which teaches children how to rebuild old bicycles throughout the city.
Copyright 2004, Daily News