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

No comments: