The Big Apple is on a “road diet”
September 12, 2010 Leave a comment
One of my favourite parts about NYC was experiencing the new public spaces created through what has become known as “road diets” – taking back lanes and sometimes whole roads for pedestrians, cyclists and for people to play. From Times Square to Broadway to 8th Ave the space for cars has been radically shrinking. What were lanes of traffic are now large potted plants, coloured asphalt , places for people to sit and ephemeral public art. Where there was once streams of yellow taxis and cars choking the roads there are now streams of people riding bikes, reading newspapers, drinking coffee and even doing hula-hoop lessons.
When this radical city wide road diet was proposed there was plenty of opposition to it. Nay-sayers said it would cause traffic congestion and chaos and that local businesses would suffer. A year on the evidence is that that traffic was no worse than it was and NYC businesses are doing better than most in the USA economically.
While the feared negatives have not materialised the positives are clear. The doubling of the bike network since 2006 to over 200 lanes has resulted in more than 12,500 daily commuter cyclists into the Manhattan Central Business District – a massive 35 percent increase. The lanes have also reduced bicycle accidents and made streets safer for pedestrians to cross the street.
The “road diets” have also created new spaces for community to flourish in for people to meet, read, play and dance. Who would have thought a lane or two of traffic could do so much once cars were taken out of the equation.