A NEW YORK CITY MTA Bus almost ran me over this morning as I WALKED my bike in a crosswalk with a green light. Before he almost ran me over the driver honked at me, loudly, to tell me to get out of his way. And I repeat, I was walking in a crosswalk, with the walk light.
That’s what turn lanes and turn lights do. They give drivers the idea that they have a right to turn, without people getting in their way. And green turn lights and boldly marked turn lanes encourage drivers to go quickly and “take the lane,” because they are clearly in an environment set up for cars—just like in the suburbs. The bus was going at least 35 miles per hour, and so was a long stream of traffic behind him. If the bus had hit me while going 35 miles per hour, I would have almost certainly been dead. While walking with the light in a crosswalk, on an island where 80% of the people don’t own cars.
Earlier this morning, I was at the corner of Broadway and 56th Street and watched while pedestrians going both ways (across Broadway or crossing 56th Street) all had to wait after the turn light went green, giving drivers the go-ahead to turn left onto 56th Street. That should never happen in Manhattan.
FACT: There is an inverse relationship between a traffic engineer’s or DOT’s Level of Service (LOS) and the degree of walkability. That’s why in our petition to the US DOT we proposed a Walkable Index Number (WIN) for towns and cities instead of an auto-based Level of Service. WIN versus LOS equals walkability versus drivability.
Residents of Manhattan deserve better. So do all the tourists walking around the city. The only way Mayor DeBlasio’s Vision Zero pledge to reduce traffic fatalities in New York to zero will work will be to level the playing field and stop giving so much of the “space between the buildings” to the small number of people who drive in New York. Even the planet would be improved if we got over the idea that everyone has a God-given right to ignore the best transit system in America and drive into the city.
The YouTube video above includes a slide show. Some of the slides are closely correlated with the interview, while others are only loosely connected. Click here for a higher resolution version of the video.
The video below only has an image of the cover and the audio track.
We then crossed the College Street Bridge to enter downtown, and found ourselves where Weybosset and Westminster merge to form what Dr. Street said could be a sumptuous civic plaza. It is a sumptuous civic plaza, replied this doctor, and a civic dance plaza on WaterFire nights. He said it was still too wide. He noted that Nantucket’s Main Street has a horse fountain at one end and a Civil War monument at the other, around both of which cars must maneuver. He recommended an obelisk at Westminster and Weybosset to slow the cars entering downtown. What a great idea!
Dr. Street referred often to a new “paradigm shift” for making cities less car-centric. Vision Zero was conceived by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has called for zero traffic deaths, including pedestrians, in the city. These are not unpreventable “accidents” and no level is acceptable. By focusing on safety, politicians who otherwise care nothing for the niceties of good streets will feel obliged to promote the goals of the slow-streets movement.
Benefit Street in Providence, Rhode Island, closed for a RISD street fair. In most American cities it’s better to sometimes close streets for special events than to create Pedestrian Streets that are always closed to traffic.
John Massengale and I are standing in the middle of 1st Avenue at East 4th Street, in New York’s East Village, and he does not like the feng shui. He points to the thick, white lines in the roadway, directing drivers toward a left turn. “Automobile-scale striping,” he notes. “It’s telling you: ‘This is not a place for you.’”
Part instruction manual, part history, part manifesto, the book argues that it is the street, more than anything, that shapes the city. In traveling to cities around the world and interviewing residents, pedestrians and businesspeople, Dover and Massengale found a remarkable degree of agreement about which streets are nice and which are not. “If there is so much consensus on what makes a good street,” they ask, “then why are we still building so many bad and ugly ones?”