September/October 1996, p.22-23


Dear T.A.:
I just picked up your magazine for the first time. I enjoyed your publication greatly. However, two of your articles in "Reclaiming the Streets" (March/April) seemed to need another side of the story.

The first was about Union Square being made into a "pedestrian paradise." At first, this sounds like a great idea. As a frequent shopper of the greenmarket who walks by there every day on my way to work, I feel strongly about the presence of pedestrians and the greenmarket. However, since the MTA narrowed the street west of Union Square to make room for both the greenmarket and free untaxed parking for the police, the traffic going south from above the park is a mess. Most of it is diverted around the park to the east, while a few buses and private cars travel down the small section to the west. I feel that by further clogging up this area and closing it off to buses, which I take faithfully when the weather is too cold to walk, this would put greenmarket shoppers and others at risk of more pollution from traffic jams. Please consider all the factors when campaigning for this new area.

Secondly, you mention the use of traffic circles in Seattle and how this has reduced collisions by 91 percent. You advocate their introduction to New York City. I offer another opinion. I have never been to Seattle so I don't know how the traffic is there, but you did mention "neighborhoods." Perhaps this is the distinction. Outside of Chicago there is a famous traffic circle that is in my experience ten times more dangerous than a regular intersection. It's known simply as "Suicide Circle."
Lori Baur
New York, NY

At Union Square there are two lanes of traffic on Broadway above the park and two lanes below. The city DOT believes that traffic between these can be handled on 17th Street and Union Square East. The current configuration was expected and will diminish as drivers get used to the changes-now that DOT has put up the direction signs they promised. Buses might need to be re-routed (buses used to run through Washington Square, too!), but the final design could allow for buses and local traffic deliveries.

As for traffic circles: the word "neighborhood" is indeed key. The circles we're talking about are small and used on local streets (only one lane of traffic and a sharp radius), not the behemoth traffic movers most people are familiar with. -Eds.

Dear T.A.:
Thanks for all that you do to promote a more livable city for walkers and bicyclists. In this chaotic city, where the car is god, your voice of sanity, calm, and common sense is vital to all New Yorkers.

I joined T.A. because a car-free Central Park is my passion, but what you've been doing in the area of traffic calming in neighborhoods is of great interest to me. Every time I cross Amsterdam and Broadway between 73rd and 75th Streets I see huge freight trucks barreling through the lights, disregarding the speed limit. Cars are big offenders as well, but I've never seen a police car pull over any vehicle for speeding. Is there a Neighborhood Streets Network established in this part of the Upper West Side? Are traffic-calming efforts underway?
Jeri E. Schmidt
New York, NY

We're working to get more NYPD speed enforcement, and we'll do a speed count at the location you mentioned. As of now, there are no NSN members on the Upper West Side, but we're working on that, too. One big problem is your community board, CB 7. Earlier this year, they actually voted to rip up pedestrian safety devices at Columbus Avenue and 97th Street! -Eds.

The following letter was sent to new NYC DOT Commissioner Christopher Lynn, who spoke recently on the benefits of efficiency.

Dear Commissioner Lynn:
Efficiency is a wonderful thing. I am glad you are for it. One blind spot I find with all New York City politicians is that they refuse to acknowledge the enormous efficiency of the bicycle in densely populated cities such as New York. I urge you to aggressively establish a proactive bicycle policy to increase bicycle ridership as a serious and substantial component of New York City's transportation mix.

Despite all the impediments New York City puts forth, I ride my bicycle to work every day because it is the fastest commute available. Likewise, I think you and the Mayor should set examples of efficiency and ride bicycles. You should also get your employees out of those inefficient cars and into environmentally sound, cost-efficient bicycles.
Rob Kotch
President, Breakaway Courier Systems
New York, NY