Provocateur: Why Not the Best for the Big Apple?
Why does New York City not use the best street designs for pedestrians and bicyclists? Why does the City of New York say “no” to traffic engineering that has been shown to save life and limb for decades elsewhere in the country and in Europe? Is not New York City a world leader? Indeed, are we not “The Capital of the World,” as the last mayor put it? Are we not the only city in the United States in which more people walk and take transit to work than drive, in which the majority of households are car-free? How about it Big Apple? We should start saying yes to the full range of traffic engineering that national guidelines and engineering standards say work to encourage walking and cycling. Here are just some of those tools:
Raised intersections: Similar to a big speed hump in the middle of an intersection. Raised intersections help reduce speeds, increase compliance with stop signs and reduce crashes with turning motorists, and are also recommended by ITE. The City installed one at the four-way stop intersection of Slocum Place and Stratford Road in Prospect Park South, Brooklyn. As a result, the number of motorists stopping at the stop sign increased from 64% to 89%. Status: Rejected by the City DOT when proposed as part of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming project.
Two-way on-street bike lane: Cyclists have big problems getting through the heavy traffic near the East River bridges. The City’s current solution is to route cyclists blocks out of their way. A better approach would be to create two-direction bike lanes separated from traffic by curbs or barriers. The City installed a two-way lane from 155th Street to the Harlem River along Harlem River Drive as part of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. Status: It is unclear as to whether more are forthcoming. The City DOT had previously rejected all requests.
Bollards used to extend sidewalk and pedestrian space: An inexpensive alternative to widening sidewalks is to use bollards to create safe pedestrian space in the street. The City installed attractive concrete bollards at 59th Street and 5th Avenue that reclaim space for pedestrians. Status: Rejected by the City DOT for use in Herald or Times Square, where pedestrians are “protected” from motorists by painted neckdowns and flimsy light weight plastic bollards.