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The Metamorphosis of New York Streets

A great video from Streetfilms showing how the streets of New York have changed over the last few years with primarily quick and cheap transformations that have re-prioritised space around pedestrians and cyclists.

There’s nothing more dramatic then looking back five or ten years at Streetfilms footage (some of it a bit low-res) to see how much the livable streets landscape of New York City’s streets have changed. In this wonderful montage that even makes us cry check out the transformation of Times Square, Herald Square, the Brooklyn Waterfront and many other places that out-going NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and her staff have intrepidly installed.

We have similarly high hopes for Mayor de Blaiso as he takes office today and look forward to what he and his new NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. As much as has been done, the large majority of our streets still need reforms, we need drastic policy change, slower speed limits and traffic calming for our most vulnerable citizens. Hopefully, this short gets them excited to top the transportation record of the Bloomberg administration.

Please note: this is but a short sample. Seriously, we could have put together a one hour version!

We really need some of these types of changes to happen in Auckland so come-on Auckland Transport, get your act together and stop being so worried about the flow of vehicles.

23 comments to The Metamorphosis of New York Streets

  • Fred

    Along with the lack of bus lanes, Auckland Transport’s lack of progress in improving the pedestrian environment has to be the biggest disappointment of the past three years.

    This is cheap, quick and easy stuff to do. It must be the organisation’s culture that holds it back. Too many old school engineers.

  • Rob Mayo

    Gone are the days where people in cars stopping outside shops generated income for shopowners. It is feet along foothpaths attracted by placemaking as done in NYC under Janette Sadik-Khan that now generates decent income for local businesses – increases of at least 50% in many places.

    Auckland urgently needs this retail shot-in-the-arm. NYC have proven it works and works well. It can and should be implemented in AKL in 2014 and not be just a few plants dumped onto a corner in Lower Albert Street.

  • gazzamac

    Great change, recently moved to Northland and going to Whangarei regularly its city centre could do with a lot of this type of change…

  • Bryce P

    In JSK’s first 3 years, NYC installed over 300 km’s of on road bike lanes. They now have over 650km’s of bike lanes (in just 6 or so years). This doesn’t include the 300 km’s of ‘off road greenways’ bike paths. What has AT achieved in 3 years?

    They also have this website to help you find a nice bike route through the city. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bicyclists/bikemaps.shtml

    And bike corrals? While AT analyse the Ponsonby bike corral, here is a list of bike corrals installed in NYC since 2011. http://prtl-prd-web.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bicyclists/bike-corrals.shtml

    • Sam

      Agree. AT have been pretty pathetic. Good to see seperated bike lanes in the video.

    • Bbc

      They managed 10km of bike lanes last year. Their own plans require 60 a year to meet long term goal, they don’t even manage what they publically claim they are doing. Furthermore, these totals include things like a bus lane. AT basically double count things to make themselves look better and don’t take walking or cycling as a means of transport seriously in the slightest.

  • David Collings

    I do agree with improvements for cycling and walking in and around the CBD and in our local communities, however we need to have a balanced approach and a long term plan and take Aucklanders with us on the ride (excuse the pun) The new crossing on the harbour bridge will open up a lot of opportunity to expand into the city with other routes etc but these things take time. In regards to the video let’s also remember that New York is a city that has been and will continue to fine people for j-walking something New Yorkers are very aware of. If some of the initiatives in the videos that don’t have any hard barriers, were introduced into Auckland in the same way we would have fatalities overnight. That is because kiwi pedestrians are as mental on the pedestrian ways as kiwi drivers are on the roads – we have to get a lot better at this before we go too far. The second thing from the video to remember is New York is flat as a pancake, if you guys want to promote this anywhere it should be in Christchurch. Because the whole city is relatively flat but especially the CBD and with the rebuild this gives the opportunity to get it right rather than retrofit later like Auckland needs to do. I am concerned that the big plan for our second largest city seems focused on getting a new stadium, a new events centre a new this that and the other rather than planning a city for the future (CBD in particular) that is easy for people to get around. (particularly pedestrians, cyclists and public transport)

    • Bryce P

      Balanced? At the moment it is very unbalanced. Balanced would be amazing. I don’t understand your comment about pedestrian safety. How do you propose to fix this? Wouldn’t fewer, slower motor vehicles, with well defined pedestrian crossings be a great start? Having more people on bikes increases motorists awareness of people on bikes. The way to get more people on bikes is to provide infrastructure that allows them to feel safe while riding.

    • Sailor Boy

      New York has snow 5 months a year so surely that balances the topological considerations?

    • Kent Lundberg

      Both San Francisco and Seattle have similar topographical conditions and with much higher bike use. Seriously, the hills are not that big of deal. A bike with about 7 gears is all you need for the steepest hills.

      • Steve D

        I don’t know about Seattle, but the topography of San Francisco is actually worse than here, because the roads don’t take it into account. Our roads follow natural ridges and valleys, their grid pattern just goes up and over any hills.

    • Topography is over-rated; e.g. a city like Portland OR, which is brilliant for walking and cycling, is actually very hilly. And Chch is getting a lot of walk/cycle provision in the new CBD plan (including a large 30km/h zone), not to mention the $70 million of cycleways outside the CBD…

  • Jennifer Ward

    Lower speed limits on all urban roads would be a no-brainer first step that would have negligible costs associated with it. Any costs could rapidly be recouped through strict speed enforcement in the first few weeks. Ponsonbys 40km hour zone has increased both pedestrian safety and car movements exponentially – not to mention reminding some car drivers that they do actually have some manners & they do know how to use them, ‘letting someone in’ or a pedestrian safely cross doesn’t seem to be such a big deal at slower speeds.
    Kiwi pedestrians may have poor jay-walking tendencies but only as a direct result of being marginalised and ignored. If pedestrians were prioritised this would self correct rapidly.
    A few bold initiatives to test the reality of these measures would soon show they are readily applicable and effective.

    • Bbc

      Not forgetting the whole concept of jay walking is a relatively recent law forced on us by car manufacturers to further hand streets over to cars. If nz had jaywalking laws it would literally be impossible to walk anywhere, there are so few pedestrian crossings in Auckland. Perhaps as a result of jay walking laws almost every cross section in a city like NY has a zebra crossing, unlike Auckland in which cars always have priority. There’s a serious need for some balance in Auckland.

      • Steve D

        New Zealand doesn’t have and never has had a law against “jay walking”. In America, where that term comes from, it refers to laws that most if not all states have, making it generally illegal to cross the street between intersections, except on a marked crosswalk. On the other hand, the mouth of every intersection is treated as a crosswalk where pedestrians theoretically have right of way (unless there are traffic lights), whether or not it’s painted.

        I say theoretically, because the same sort of bullying happens as here. Exercising one’s right of way can be dangerous, especially in suburban areas where there are fewer pedestrians, and car speeds are higher than they would be in a similar situation in New Zealand.

        It’s a warning to us: laws giving pedestrians more priority are fine and dandy, but the thing that actually improves safety is slowing down the bloody cars.

        • BBC did say that if NZ ever had jaywalking laws, he wasn’t saying we do have/had them. The point he was trying to make was that jaywalking laws the result of the car manufacturing industry in the US to make roads easier to drive on and therefore vehicle ownership more popular.

          • Steve D

            I was trying to reply to Jennifer W there.

          • Steve D

            But to expand a bit: I was responding to the “impossible to walk anywhere” part. That’d be true if we just adopted a jaywalking law, but America isn’t us + jaywalking. They’ve also got the crosswalks rule which is intended to be a quid pro quo for jaywalking. You can walk anywhere (in principle, and with some serious detours).

            Bbc mentioned that New York has “zebra crossings” everywhere (although they don’t mean the same thing as here!), but this isn’t a result of traffic engineering – it’s built into the give way rules. The crosswalks exist conceptually, and the road rules are the same, whether or not the crossings are actually physically painted on the road. Thus they might as well paint them everywhere.

        • Kent Lundberg

          Steve, Isn’t there a rule that requires people near ped crossings to use the ped crossing? If so, this would be a de facto jay walking rule.

          • Steve D

            Only within 20 metres. Nothing like the American version which applies to the whole distance between intersections, in some states no matter how far apart they are (e.g. even more than a mile).

            New Zealand doesn’t also generally enforce traffic regulations against pedestrians, except for walking on the motorway. See e.g. https://www.fyi.org.nz/request/breakdown_of_traffic_offences

            Speculating, but I think the tiny handful of tickets given out are probably given along with another, more serious offence (or even instead of the more serious offence, because it was easier to prove).

  • Don

    There are some rules relating to how and where a pedestrian can cross though:

    Quotes from the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004:

    A pedestrian or rider of a mobility device or wheeled recreational device who crosses a roadway elsewhere than on a pedestrian crossing or at a school crossing point must, whenever possible, cross at right angles to the kerb or side of the roadway.

    If pedestrian traffic on any part of any roadway is controlled by traffic signals, a pedestrian must not cross any other part of that roadway that is within 20 m of the part controlled by traffic signals.

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