Point of View: Ride a bike, improve Flushing traffic flow

By George Tsai

Why? Traffic is a never-ending headache plaguing downtown Flushing. Local officials and politicians apparently have exhausted their efforts to find a cure for it.Biking is perhaps the only remedy for Flushing's traffic woes, and it's affordable.That sounds like a backward step. To many, bicycles are synonymous with mainstream transportation in developing countries.The traffic congestion in Flushing has been mounting at an alarming rate for years. What you see in the morning and evening is a sea of cars and buses on Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue moving at a snail's pace.Last week, I was taking a friend to the local stop of Long Island Rail Road when my car got stuck for nearly 10 minutes on Main Street. As a result, he missed the train and had to wait for the next one on the platform in the cold . The rapid growth of new immigrants is unquestionably the root cause of the traffic congestion. In Asia, particularly in China, bicycles are still the popular transportation in smaller cities.Several acquaintances in the greater Flushing area all agree that pedaling to downtown Flushing could ease the current traffic conditions aggravated by the growing number of vehicles. Westchester County, which is north of Flushing, has long set aside biking trails or paths zigzagging through several towns. It's indeed a cheap way to improve the quality of life.The greater Flushing area can do the same, making streets and parks in this area accessible to cyclists. And environmentally, people in this area can breathe cleaner air.Needless to say, a bicycle requires much smaller space for parking. A 10-bicycle rack takes less space than a car.Don't worry, car salespeople. The project, if implemented, will have zero impact on local car sales. Nobody would barter a car for a bike just for a few trips to Flushing a month.About four months ago, I read reports that the town had planned to make Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue one-way streets. It's a terrific idea. The realization of that goal would certainly spell relief for traffic congestion. However, I have not seen any action since then. Oh, well. The plan is perhaps still on the drawing board or it may just be a rumor.I venture to offer this alternative on its merits, as riding bike can help accomplish the following things: 1. Easing gridlock and parking problem. 2. Saving gasoline and reducing car tear and wear. 3. Good physical exercises. 4. Helping cut emissions from reduced car use.Parking is a very serious problem in a Flushing replete with Oriental supermarkets and restaurants, so the congestion gets worse during the weekend as Asians flock to town for grocery shopping and savoring the Chinese culinary delights that reportedly beats those in lower Manhattan's Chinatown.On the weekend the three public parking lots are quickly filled to capacity, leaving scores of potential customers to drive around the town over and over again.Also, many new immigrants of various ethnicities come to town via the subway train as Flushing has become a must-visit town, where odd jobs are plentiful.No less to the traffic cops, the weekend seems to be one the busiest days of the week, as they issue tickets to cars for parallel parking on the bustling streets.Unable to find any parking space, a College Point friend parked his car in the Home Depot parking lot that was then empty. He then walked toward downtown to watch the parade celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year or the “Year of the Dog.'' My friend thought he was smart. He wasn't. A guy followed him for a block, and then yelled to draw his attention that his car would be towed away. Confused, my friend returned to the lot, where a muscle man, probably hired by Home Depot, was waiting for him. “Pay $100 plus taxes or your car will be towed right away,” he was told. My friend had no choice but to comply reluctantly.If there are designated biking paths, those living in the surrounding areas can pedal to town. That could save them round-trip bus fares, gasoline costs or allow them avoid tickets if they drive.It's fashionable these days for many people to exercise at fitness clubs. They usually do two things Ð running on the treadmills and pedaling the stationary bikes facing a wall. However, riding a real bike can get the same health benefit with a better view.Besides, Flushing is a densely populated metropolis. For health reason, the town should do something to curb car emissions from going into the air. Biking is the right alternative.

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