14 October 2017


I love it when two of my areas of interest intermix.  The title of this blog post refers to the phrase SIT ON A POTATO PAN, OTIS.  I don't know anyone named Otis or why he was told to sit on the pan.  It's just that the phrase is a palindrome – it spells the same from left to right and from right to left.  You'll have to ignore the comma and move the spaces around, of course.  I first learned about palindromes in a computer class for the BASIC language.  Recently I found a new love in CityStrides.com.

CityStrides.com let runners and walkers overlay a map of places they visited.  It seems like an impossible task – literally travel along all the streets in your town or places you visited.  In my case, that would be primarily New York City.  For some reason, out of the five boroughs, Brooklyn and Manhattan are also considered their own individual city.

Work and family constrains do not allow me to cover as much of my hometown Brooklyn as I want to so for now I try to maximize my coverage of NYC instead, as I regularly get sent to Staten Island and also travel through the Bronx.  The way CityStrides calculate percent completed has nothing to do with a street's length.  For example, let's say a city has a Main Street that goes for miles and miles.  Then there are also many streets that only stretch for a few hundred feet.  If someone were to focus primarily on completing Main Street while someone else covers all the shorter streets, guess who will have a better completion rate?  Yup, not the Main Street guy because by the end of the day, he may have just one out of the total streets completed.  Fair enough, really.

In trying to take advantage of this seemingly erroneous percent complete (which really is not erroneous), I try to cover all the short streets whenever possible.  Streets that are identified as Place or Lane are usually very short, one- or two-block long.  Then I came across Otis Avenue in the Bronx, in the Schuylerville area.  Imagine my surprise after walking along it and not finding it considered completed per CityStrides.  I searched for it in CityStrides and lo and behold there actually are three different Otis Avenues in New York City.  One in the Bronx, another in Queens, not far from Flushing Meadows Park, and yet a third one in Staten Island, just north of Miller Field.  The three locations are shown as series of green hexagons in the picture below.  Personally I think it is a mistake to consider the three Otis Avenues as three parts of one thing.  They just happen to share the name Otis and then also happen to be avenues.  New York City was not composed of the five boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens.  So at some point before the merger, streets were named independently and Otis Avenue happen to appear three times in the three different boroughs.  Just my semi-educated guess, of course.  CityStrides gets its data from OpenStreetMap, so if anything is to change it would have to come from OpenStreetMap.  Maybe I'll study OpenStreetMap and somehow I.D. the three Otis Avenues with suffix to make them unique to the borough and not considered part of "one street".  Highly unlikely I'll mess around with OpenStreetMap, as it seems to be a lot more involved than editing a page in Wikipedia.

Lucky for me, I happened to start participating in NYRR Open Run at Flushing Meadow Park.  I usually get there early and have time to walk around.  Otis Avenue of Queens was knocked out during my first run at FMP.  Next came Otis Avenue in Staten Island, where my son attends high school and I also work there regularly.  Easy for me, but I am sure the typical runner who have a job with a fixed office will find it hard to complete these erroneously longer streets.  Take that, Otis Avenue, go sit on a pot for all I care!


  1. let me know when you find Main Street in Manhattan?

    1. If you mean New York County, a big chunk of which is Manhattan Island, I can show you a Main Street...