ROADS REPORT: The perils of modern transport

Sometimes survival comes down to love, luck or a good rideshare

August 05, 2014

Here’s to your health

The luck of the Irish was with a 22-year-old Bronx woman who survived being run over by three Manhattan subway trains this past spring and walked away with only an injured shoulder.

According to authorities, Mary Downey, a native of Belfast, staggered into the Midtown station on her way home after a late night out drinking. As she waited on the platform, she toppled over and fell onto the tracks just as a train was approaching. 

Despite her inebriated state and the fractured shoulder she suffered from the fall, Downey managed to squeeze herself between the tracks as the first train barreled over her.

Unable to lift herself up to safety, Downey rolled off the tracks into a tiny space under the platform.

Finally after two trains had passed by her, the third train’s operator spotted what he thought was a piece of trash on the tracks, but soon realized was actually a hand waving for help. The driver hit the brakes, but not before three of the train’s cars passed by Downey, pinning her into place.

Paramedics were called, and as luck would have it, two of them also were Irish. A firefighter from Dublin and an EMT from Limerick were able to keep Downey calm by chatting about their hometowns as she was rescued from under the train. A responding police officer joked, “What is this, an Irish reunion?”

Downey was taken to a local hospital and released just hours later.

A king’s ransom

Ever wonder what an arm and a leg actually cost?

AAA has done the math as part of its annual “Your Driving Costs” study, and the average sedan costs $0.59 per mile, or $8,876 per year, to own and operate in the U.S. (And that’s down 3% from last year.)

If you’re a commuter, AAA estimates that you’ll wind up spending about $59 in vehicle expenses per 100 miles you drive.

Those calculations are based on AAA’s analysis of the costs of fuel, maintenance, tires, insurance, taxes, fees, depreciation and finance charges, and 15,000 miles of annual driving.

When AAA published its first “Your Driving Costs” study in 1950, driving a car 10,000 miles a year cost $0.09 per mile and gas sold for just $0.27 per gal.

A labor of love

For more than 200 years, the Pont des Arts footbridge in Paris has been a romantic destination for lovers around the world. The iconic bridge spans the Seine River near the Louvre and is the perfect place to have a picnic, watch the sunset or just admire the beautiful views of the heart of the city.

More recently, couples have begun to declare their love in a more permanent fashion with love locks. As seen in movies, books and even recent episodes of “Parks and Recreation” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” couples buy a padlock from local vendors, inscribe their names, attach the lock to the bridge railing, and throw the key into the water below. True love forever.

But the weight of all that love began to buckle the bridge this past June. The landmark had to be evacuated and shut down for several hours after an 8-ft section of railing collapsed under the weight of thousands of locks.

Fortunately no one was hurt, but the city is looking to the public for alternatives to the padlock craze, which is estimated to have added 10 tons of additional weight to the bridge, not to mention the threat posed to the marine life below by all those discarded rusting keys. But so far the city has been reluctant to do much more than that for fear of dampening the city’s amorous allure and hurting the tourist industry.

The love lock fad has gotten a huge boost from social media, which has helped spread the practice around the world, from Brussels to Berlin to Brooklyn. Some cities like Rome and Venice have banned love locks altogether, while others have experimented with original solutions.

For example, when locks began to festoon the bridges over the Vodootvodny Canal in Moscow, the city cut them all down and erected dozens of metal trees along the banks of the Moscow River where couples can attach their locks instead. When a tree is full, the city takes it down and melts the old locks for scrap.

Not quite true love forever, but then again “crash and burn” might be a better representation of the modern relationship. R&B

David Matthews

David Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news for his Roads Report column since 2000. The stories are all true.

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