New York Daily Photo Analytics

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Sittin' on Top of the World


Manhattan has a coordinated traffic signal system. Avenues run north/south and are generally one way, like the majority of crosstown streets. These avenues have traffic lights that are timed progressively so that traffic can move without stopping. In theory. The lights move in a wave - a green wave of about 5 lights traveling below speed limit, sandwiched between red lights behind and in front of this green wave. Driving these avenues is urban surfing - wait for a wave, catch the wave, ride the wave as long as possible and don't get caught in the soup. I have often ridden a wave like this for miles down an avenue.

On other major avenues that are two way, such as Park Avenue, Central Park West, 11th and 12th Avenues, lights are timed to change simultaneously. This means that the faster you go, the more lights you can make before stopping.

I drove a taxi in college, as did nearly all of my best friends. On one occasion, the wildest driver of the bunch asked me how many blocks I could make on Park Avenue. I believe he said he could make somewhere in the vicinity of 27 blocks. Without going through the mathematics, I can assure you - that is some fast driving on city streets, somewhere in the neighborhood of at least 60 miles per hour. Unfortunately, a few of us took this as a challenge, later comparing results. Fortunately, there were no fatalities in this short-lived reckless contest.
The speed limit in Manhattan is 30 mph. Traveling at 60 plus miles per hour on crowded city streets is lunacy. The reason for high auto insurance for those under 25 is abundantly clear.

Today's photo was taken looking north from the last Park Avenue mall. The small park extends from 96th to 97th streets, where the Metro North train tracks emerge from underground to travel on an elevated trestle along Park Avenue. Looking at this now, I realize that I could have challenged my college friend to see if, in French Connection style*, he could outrun a commuter train.

I, however, will keep away from all temptation that Park Avenue may offer, opting instead, for First or Second Avenue with the gentle waves of the progressive lights, where, with good conditions, I can catch a wave and ride it all the way. That thrill makes me feel like the ultimate Beach Boy, because in New York City, if you can catch a wave and ride it all the way, you feel like you're really sittin' on top of the world* :)

*The French Connection (1971) has what many consider of the greatest car chase scenes ever filmed. The chase was between a hitman on an out-of-control train on an elevated section of a subway line in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and a police officer in a car on the streets below the train. Most of the chase sequence was real and filmed without permission from the city of New York. It includes an accidental car crash which was left in the film.

* From the Beach Boys song Catch a Wave, with the refrain: "Catch a wave and you're sittin' on top of the world."

9 comments:

Steffe said...

Love the second photo. and that movie with Hackman.

Mary P. said...

Nice little park. Have you noticed that all NYC Parks Dep't parks have the exact same assortment of plants? While I'm sure that's the most economical, it sure gets BORING for us flower and plant enthusiasts.
(P.S.: I NEVER manage to catch that wave. Maybe it has to do with the time of day I travel.)

Erica said...

"The reason for high auto insurance for those under 25 is abundantly clear." Too true. lol

I love New York. Wish I was there now...

Suggestion said...

Suggestion: Could you please write about your experience with the Coney Island Cyclone.

Chicken Underwear said...

A few weeks ago I drove from Ocean Ave and Ave Z to Prospect Park without hitting a red light. It was like the greatest moment of my life.

Just going the speed limit at 11pm on a Sunday night.

Leslie said...

I had no idea that park existed! I always get depressed going into the blackness and lifelessness of that tunnel. Now I'll distract myself by thinking about the beautiful park just above.

Brian Dubé said...

Steffe - yes, an amazing chase scene.

Suggestion - I have blogged about the cyclone: http://newyorkdailyphoto.blogspot.com/2006/07/cyclone.html

Chicken Underwear - A feeling of great NYC accomplishment, is it not?

Mickaël said...

Just a little comment to tell you how great your blog is :)

Jhon smith said...

"The reason for high auto insurance for those under 25 is abundantly clear." Too true. lol

I love New York. Wish I was there now...