Sunday, April 30, 2006

Middletown Multi-Modal

[Blogger problems. The usual.]

Saturday I had a meeting in Middletown (Exit 114), an 80+ mile roundtrip. Instead of driving, I decided to go by train and bicycle. I thought it would be a fun exercise in multi-modal transportation. Instead, it turned into a lesson on the barriers faced by persons in wheelchairs.

Bike on board NJ Transit train

NJ Transit treats bicyclists with standard frame bikes pretty much like wheelchair passengers: no additional fare or permit is needed. But access to trains leaves much to be desired. Forget the standard of barrier-free access – only 40% of the train stations are even minimally accessible. The majority of train stations (including the big terminus in Hoboken!) do not have raised platforms. That's a giant step up from ground level to the train for an able passenger, a big hoist with much loud grunting for a bicyclist (hey, it works for tennis players), and pretty much an impossible proposition for a wheelchair passenger. For that matter, most young children, women great with child, and seniors can't step that high. For shame!

Once on the train, bicyclists use the same space as wheelchair passengers. Wheelchair passengers have priority, but since they basically can't board at most stations, I had the space to myself. The seats fold up easily and there are tie downs to secure the bike with bungee cords (bring your own).

At Secaucus Junction, the transfer station for 10 NJ Transit lines and Amtrak, I provided some early morning entertainment for the security guy, who watched quizzically as I carried the bike downstairs to the wrong platform [sigh], then back upstairs and down again to the right platform. It turns out discreet signs point to the elevators at the far, far end of the platforms. Well, now I know.

The ride was pleasant enough = I got a little knitting done. A while ago my excellent SP6 pal, Yarn Pirate, sent me one skein of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in colorway Jungle Stripe, which makes skinny stripes in vivid tones of parrot green and heliotrope. I cast on for a cuff down anklet.

Jungle Stripe sock

The challenge is to make to make two socks from the one skein. But not any old self-striped st st anklets will do – such a singular yarn calls for something different. The stitch pattern, #6 from Knitting Lace by Susanna E. Lewis (sadly OP), rises to the occasion admirably. Worked in a demure laceweight, it's a traditional Shetland lace pattern.* Here, it not only gives the wild stripe a little swing but also has a bit of openwork to help increase the mileage. I'm planning an afterthought heel and toe, possibly in contrasting colors.

Happily, the Middletown train station has a platform and a ramp, and the meeting went well. Now I'm pondering my next trip, to MDS&W (via the Modern Yarn carpool)! We'll be there Sunday – hope to see y'all.

* ETA: To see the stitch pattern in its traditional guise, properly blocked and everything, see Jackie E-S's article in IK Summer 2006. On p. 68, the A in LACE is superimposed on the same stitch pattern.


Will Pillage For Yarn said...

Oh very pretty! Don't worry, it will stretch - I recently got a pair of feather and fan anklets out of one identical skein of that LL's yarn with even a little bit (not much but enough for a few stripes on each of a pair of oddball socks) leftover. I did do the heels/toes in a contrasting color, as you are planning. But I think you'll be ok on yardage.

Have a fabulous time at MDS&W! I have festival envy!

Julsey said...

Awww, sad that the MY carpool is going on Sunday. A bunch of us are meeting up on Saturday. If you change your mind and decide to make it a 2 day adventure, let me know!

Melanie said...

I love that sock - its really pretty! I'm going to MDS&W on Saturday, but I'll try to leave some stuff for you! ;)

Olga said...
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Olga said...

What a great post on the shortcomings of public transportation for the disabled, Ina. We take stuff like that for granted. My campus is mostly wheelchair accessible, but even then! you have to get around all the landscaping and stone steps to find the wheelchair ramps. I imagine it would take ages to get to where you were going.

I saw your sock and and I was like, man, that looks familiar! and then it dawned on me...the top I *just* finished (FO pix to come) is the exact same colors!

Calling Kahlo said...

I thought that was a very thought provoking entry as well. Most people may only see the inconvenience of taking their bicycle but you applied this and explored what a lot of us may overlook. Thank you for that!

mf said...

The LL colroway is neat I like it.. You should spilt to ball up by weight and knit toe up for perfectly even sock using the one skein. The pattern your working on looks wonderful! I look forward to seeing them where there finished! ;o)
Great intreging post!

CrazyFiberLady said...

I see you discovered the fun of travelling by train. You're absolutely right about the lack of raised platforms and the difficulty it poses. I had serious trouble with it when I was great with children having significant trouble hauling my bulk up to that first step. I faced it again last summer when I badly sprained my ankle. It is a shame. I do know though that they have lifts for those in wheelchairs in at least a couple of stations, Hoboken included. Rutherford has a ramp where the pull the train forward to get it to line up with the door. But you're right, in the 15 years I've been commuting via NJ Transit, I've seen far more bicycles in that space.