Saturday, May 14, 2011

Horses + traffic = danger ahead

Six blocks from the place where the carriage horse Spotty died in a horrific spooking accident in 2006, the white horse (in front of the building) is seen yesterday sandwiched in between parked cars and moving taxicabs.

A recipe for trouble, considering how easily horses spook and the consequences when a 1,500-pound animal runs wild.

This is business as usual for the carriage horses who live in the cramped and substandard stables at West Side Livery and Central Park Carriages. Both of these are on the far west side of Manhattan, below the Lincoln Tunnel. At 42nd Street, the scene is chaos--two bus lanes feeding eastward into the Port Authority, cars coming up Tenth Avenue, either via the tunnel or from lower Manhattan. This video from "HorsesinNYC" tells the story and shows the traffic and dangerous conditions that are a fact of life for the horses.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bucolic Central Park? Not exactly

Central Park is one of the most beautiful places in New York City. Its pastoral settings pay tribute to Frederick Law Olmsted, who together with Calvert Vaux, designed the park in a simpler era. He had a great deal of foresight yet surely could not imagine how crowded parts of the park would become. Ironically, the most congested part of the park is section in which horse-drawn carriages are largely confined--the so-called "lower loop." See the first photo? These guys are about to make a left turn--in front of the horse.

This 1.7-mile oval stretches from the park's southern boundary at 59th Street to the east-west transverse at 72nd Street. And make no mistake--there are dangers to pedestrians, bikers, skateboarders, and horses in this part of the park.

The junction immediately southeast of 72nd street is easily the most hazardous part of the park in terms of collisions, which often are associated with injuries to people. Runners and bicyclists are aware, if not always mindful, of the risks, and accidents occur here--on this hill--with some regularity.

Car, pedicab, and carriage traffic moves around this loop in a counterclockwise direction, and car and taxicab traffic feeds into the park at 72nd Street from Fifth Avenue.

Skateboarders swarm the area, loving its hills.

Runners, walkers, skateboarders, and bicyclists have the option of going left on 72nd Street toward the west side, or continuing north on East Drive up the hill toward the Metropolitan Museum or Great Lawn. All the while, cars and carriages are bearing down and making a left turn as people either cross 72nd St. to go north, or bear left.

Decisions are made quickly, and often a horse-drawn carriage will be cut off abruptly. That is unwise.

Nearly 5,100 runners took part in a New York Road Runners Race on May 8, and they poured out of the park at E. 72nd Street in droves, as they typically do on any given weekend. Tourists were out on rented bicycles, maps in hand. Fast racing-type bicyclists are always out.

I observed this junction for about 10 minutes and saw a runner very nearly get run over by a pedicab (which, like carriage, can't exactly stop on a dime!). In this dangerous mix, the carriages are working, and the drivers often have their back turned so that the can chat with the passengers (as I have documented on this blog). Among all the many near-misses, a serious accident is waiting to happen. The many recent horse spooking incidents, including a runaway horse who tossed his rider during the royal wedding procession, underscore the danger of putting horses into loud and chaotic situations.

Get the facts about carriage rides, carriage accidents, and what you can do to help the horses.
Did you know? There's a global coalition called Horses Without Carriages International

Horses Without Carriages International Day is June 4, 2011