The NYPD is up in arms over an anonymous driver by the name of Afroduck claiming to have lapped Manhattan in a record-breaking and very illegal 24 minutes. How long would it take a sane human being to do the same drive?
Since I'm dumb enough to own a car in Manhattan, I decided to see how long it actually takes to drive around the island of Manhattan. The night that Afroduck posted his video, I set off with fellow car nut Jonny Harper along the exact same alleged record-breaking route. If I stayed within the speed limit, if I didn't dart past a truck on the shoulder, if I didn't run any red lights, how long would the trip actually take?
41 minutes and 45 seconds.
That's within two minutes of how long Google Maps would tell you that the 26.5 mile route would take. But what I learned about the run isn't just how long it takes to drive around Manhattan at night with reasonably light traffic. I learned exactly how much of an idiot you would have to be to try and set any kind of record driving the ring roads of America's densest metropolis.
Over the course of the 41 minute lap, I encountered multiple cars driving with their headlights off in the dark. I saw at least one driver run a red light. I think I counted four distinct near accidents. There was a surprise three-to-two lane merge in the middle of an intersection thanks to some unannounced ConEd maintenance work on the side of the West Side Highway. I didn't even bother counting how many drivers were on their cell phones, or how many cars shot past me (in the middle lane, Manhattan's unofficial slow lane) on the right hand side at a good 15+ miles an hour over the speed limit. I witnessed (amazingly) only one driver make a classic no-signal triple lane change in front of another car.
At the very best of times, driving in Manhattan takes your full concentration just to keep from bashing someone else's fenders. If you're trying to set a lap, unexpectedly rushing past traffic on the right, you're putting every other car on the road in danger.
Here is the full drive, as recorded from inside the car. See if you can count how many times we get cut off.
Many thanks to Jonny Harper for making these videos possible.