(ABOVE: Craig Wallace Dale photo)
Here’s an idea. Let’s put 50,000+ people into a square mile and see what happens. Sounds like an exciting experiment—unless you’re one of those 50,000+ people. Then it sounds like a sadistic, anti-utopian hellscape.
As Hoboken strives further and further toward its manifest density, the ability of its occupants to move about town becomes more and more compromised. Not only are we living on top of each other, but we’re also walking, running, biking and driving on top of each other… into each other… up each other’s—well, let’s just say there’s a high probability of contact and friction.
In an effort to alleviate some of these strains, we’ve put together “A Practical Guide to Getting Around Hoboken.” DISCLAIMER: These are theoretical observations, cultivated over years of experience navigating the ever-tightening streets of Hoboken. These suggestions are not meant to be taken too seriously, in respect to public safety, mental health and or legal advice. This is just some insight on how we have managed to survive to this point (knock on wood…).
WALKING IN HOBOKEN
Hoboken typically ranks among the top “most-walkable” cities in the nation—which is great, because you sure as hell can’t drive anywhere. Meanwhile, Hoboken’s walkability is primarily a byproduct of its geography. Sure, you can quickly walk anywhere in town… unless there’s a stroller in the way.
The sheer abundance of strollers in Hoboken has created a whole new level of tension on the mean sidewalks of the Mile Square. There are the single-wides, double-wides, the side-by-sides—patrolling packs of perambulators choke the thoroughfares, outdoor cafés, storefronts, store aisles, restaurants, bars, biergartens… and they’re not going to move. Just be advised and get the hell out of the way—it’s easier in the end. Odds are they’ll never say thank you, but you’ll thank us.
There’s an entitled sense of hierarchy on the streets and sidewalks of Hoboken, and something’s gotta give. A lot of people try to interpret law at every intersection, claiming, “I’m pretty sure pedestrians have the right of way…” Here’s the only law you need to remember when you’re walking anywhere—“no two pieces of matter can occupy the same space at the same time.” That’s just science.
So when you think you have the right to step in front of a moving vehicle—a vehicle driven by a person who likely didn’t see you because there was another vehicle (parked or moving) blocking their view—try to focus more on the scientific impact of your decision, and less on the legality. And please don’t blindly shove your stroller into the intersection. We really shouldn’t have to say that, but we do.
Pedestrian safety is a huge talking point here in town, and unfortunately there are many tragic examples of why it is so important. Yet all the pedestrian safety measures enacted by local administrations mean nothing if people refuse to use their heads.
In a world where “death by selfie” outnumbers “death by shark,” the proliferation of mobile media devices will likely be the bubonic plague of our generation. Whether it’s staring at a screen (Satan’s blindfold) or using noise-cancelling headphones (Darwin’s whispers), situational awareness is at an all-time low in contemporary society. If you really feel the need to distract yourself while walking through a dangerous urban environment, at least have the common sense to pull your head out of your posterior from time to time—at least at the street corner.
DRIVING IN HOBOKEN
Here’s the one thing you need to remember about driving in Hoboken: DON’T.
Seriously—just don’t do it. It’s simply not recommended, under any circumstances.
Driving in Hoboken should be a video game, “Rated M for Mature.” There’s a lot of screaming and yelling, plus some language that may not be appropriate for children. Think Resident Evil, with potential barriers popping up at every turn and “zomb-iPhied” creatures jumping out at you from every direction. It’s hair-raising, for even the most experienced of drivers.
Then, assuming you safely make it to your destination, there’s absolutely nowhere to park. This goes back to that science thing we were talking about earlier—“no two pieces of matter can occupy the same space at the same time.” Politicians love to campaign on this issue, but there’s no practical resolution in sight. There’s a finite amount of space in Hoboken, and it’s full.
Let’s say you do drive in, and let’s say you miraculously manage to find parking. The bureaucratic spider web that is the Hoboken Parking Utility lays in wait, ready to spring its trap and feast on your lifeblood. Visitors and residents alike—no one is safe.
So leave the Escalade at home and take the train in. If nothing else, the train ride will give you a chance to stare at your phone without putting other people’s lives in danger.
BIKING IN HOBOKEN
There has been an awful lot of effort put into pumping up Hoboken as a bike-friendly city. We have bike lanes, bike cops, even our own bike share program. We trumpet bicycle efficiency and enforce bicycle safety. On paper, Hoboken is an extraordinarily bike-friendly city. In practice, it has a ways to go.
On the streets, a bicyclist in Hoboken gets no respect whatsoever. Bike lanes are simply spots where people can now double-park to run errands (y’know, because there’s no parking). The bike path along the Waterfront has become little more than a fast lane for strollers and a slow lane for tourists with selfie-sticks. Even if they do manage to see you around the Fresh Direct trucks on every corner, cars won’t stop for you at stop signs because you’re not in a car—you’re on a bike. Here in Hoboken, pigeons don’t even move for you when you’re on a bike.
The only creatures that do pay attention to bikes here are bike-thieving vermin, with the Hoboken Police Department acknowledging an increase in stolen bikes citywide. They recommend you register your bike with the National Bike Registry database, to assist in tracking a stolen bike via serial number in the event that it is stolen.
All that said, if you’re proactive and alert, you can still manage to get around Hoboken on a bike. If you assume right of way or common courtesy, you’ll be proven wrong. Still, it beats driving.
RUNNING IN HOBOKEN
The best street-proven method for getting around Hoboken is to run.
Because you see, here in Hoboken, runners rule everything. See that sidewalk? It’s for running. See that bike path? It’s also for running. See that street? You guessed it—it’s for running.
The nice thing about running is that runners seemingly don’t need to adhere to traffic and/or common social and moral standards. They can cut right in front of a car at a corner, because they simply CAN’T slow down—they need to keep that heart rate up. If you get in their way on the sidewalk, their only option is to run right into you. They can’t stop to apologize (see: heart rate), and frankly why should they? YOU made that happen, walking on that sidewalk like some oafish old sluggard.
They are mighty Gods, and we are mere mortals. We all collectively feel the shame that is being in their presence and we’ve earned every manifestation of their disdain, whether it comes in the form of spit, sweat or an ambivalent shove, because let’s face it—we don’t deserve to be among them. We clog the arteries of society like insidious plaque while joggers are the coursing lifeblood. It’s all about them, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we’ll just get the $*@% out of their way.
This isn’t meant to be a rant or a manifesto (alright, so we teed off on the joggers a bit…). This is a simple set of observations for you to take on board next time you venture out of your house. Let’s call it a combination of common sense and critical analysis—what was once know as “street smarts.” We’re just taking that expression literally.
Best way to get around Hoboken? Leave your car at home, watch your bike get stolen and run—don’t walk.
And please, be careful out there.