Ban the horse carriages; Keep the Citi Bikes
Two topics that have been getting a lot of heated discussion lately are horse carriages and Citi Bike. In a way, they’re related, since they’re both modes of transportation — if horse-drawn carriages in New York in this day and age can be called such — but in a lot of ways, they’re very different issues.
During the mayoral campaign, Bill de Blasio pledged one of the first things he would do if elected would be to ban the horse carriages. It’s simply the humane thing to do, he said. True to his word, he’s moving ahead with a plan to end the horse carriages that ply Central Park and the Theater District — mainly ferrying around tourists — and replace them with electric vintage cars. Ideally, many, hopefully all of the 300 carriage horse drivers would get jobs driving the cars.
It’s the right thing to do. Yes, there has been no shortage lately in the daily newspapers of paeans to the unique, wonderful relationship between humans and horses that has existed ever since the latter were domesticated thousands of years ago on the steppes of what is now Ukraine, no less, or about how the horse helped build the modern city and so on. But society evolves, the world moves forward. There’s no reason these majestic creatures must continue to be beasts of burden — much less on New York City’s mean streets. The “nose-to-tailpipe” argument is very valid: Horses walk with their heads down, right at the level of car exhaust pipes. They are easily spooked by noises and sudden movements, and so wear blinders.
Some say that it would be O.K. if the equines are merely limited to Central Park and kept off the main city grid. Well, what about Smoothie, a 12-year-old mare who was startled by loud drumming in Central Park, then bolted, got her harness stuck between two poles, and died as she struggled to keep running?
Yes, it’s nice to think about what horses mean to us, and how quaint their clip-clop on the hard asphalt is. But what about the horses? They’re out there in all weather, in blistering heat or bitter cold. One look at them in their queue on Central Park South shows they’re miserable; they look dejected, listless, exhausted.
New York has more tourist attractions than anyplace, Central Park itself being one of the biggest. We don’t need the horse carriages. More important, it’s simply abusive to these poor creatures. And, hey, a lot of us have animals we can commune with already, namely, dogs and cats.
We agree with de Blasio, PETA and — despite conflicting polls — many city residents. It’s time to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City.
As for Citi Bike, the tabloids, again, seem delighted that the new bike-sharing system is struggling financially. Let’s face it, it was a brutal winter and early spring, and that hasn’t helped daily ridership, which is how Citi Bike makes money, as opposed to the super-affordable annual memberships, which are only around $100, though there are murmurings that rates may rise.
De Blasio announced he won’t “bail out” the privately financed Citi Bike with government funding, which was music to the ears of many of the “haters.” We’re not so sure that’s the right approach, however. Bike-share is now an integral part of the city’s transportation infrastructure. It’s nonpolluting, and we’re sure it’s far less expensive to operate than the M.T.A. subway or bus system. In other words, bike-share is a bargain, and a healthy transportation option, for the city. To use the “P” word, it’s progressive, forward-thinking.
Yes, at 45 pounds, the blue bikes are heavy, but they’re stable and slow, plus have excellent brakes — meaning they’re safer and less likely to be involved in accidents.
Now that the warm weather is finally here, Citi Bike ridership will ratchet back up, and the program will have its first full summer of operation. Instead of rooting for this program’s demise, we’re hoping it becomes even more firmly established — and accepted — as part of the city’s transportation system. And, yes, we do support using public funding, if needed, to keep it running.