This Just In From the “Depends How You Look at It Department”

One of the hallmarks of sensationalist papers like the New York Post is that the purported thesis of a story, loudly trumpeted in a headline, often seems undermined by the story itself. The case in point here is “Anger at Mike the Road Hog; Pedestrian Islands Drive Motorists Nuts,” (below the jump) about the new pedestrian space on Broadway in Manhattan.

The paper cites precisely two people who claim the project is a disaster; an “office worker” and a 24-year-old “Jersey commuter.” Of course, the Post could have simply wandered up to cars stopped at lights and asked the opinions of other motorists. They predictably would have bemoaned traffic, questioned the idea of taking away road space, etc. — and basically said the opposite of what people sitting in the new plaza would have said (not that they polled any of those). But the newspaper seemed content with a couple of random miffed types.

And, of course, nowhere does the Post bring up the uncomfortable fact that drivers on Broadway are the minority of street users, despite taking up a majority of the space, or even raise the question of to what extent Manhattan should be designed to make the lives of Jersey car commuters easier.

The piece then goes on to cite two people who think the pedestrian plaza is just fine: A shopkeeper and the head of the local Business Improvement District, two people who presumably have a greater stake in the actual lifeblood of the neighborhood. Throw in the DOT commish who gave the go-ahead to the project and it seems like a majority of the people in the story actually support the project.

Not that you’d know that from the headline, which makes Mayor Mike out to be a traffic tyrant rather than civic hero, and paints the whole thing as a misguided folly. There’s also a few gratuitous mentions of “road-rage inducing” projects like the Ninth Avenue cycle lane, etc. This road rage would presumably not extend to the many numbers of new cyclists in the city who are taking advantage of these facilities.

And for what it’s worth, for the guy who thinks the plaza will be a waste of space during the winter (space which could be better given over to tourists in cars coming to look at the Christmas Tree), he should get himself to Copenhagen, where, thanks to outdoor heaters and the like, the city has an almost year-round outdoor cafe culture.

WALK THIS WAY: A pedestrian island at Broadway and 42nd Street.
WALK THIS WAY: A pedestrian island at Broadway and 42nd Street.

Posted: 3:28 am
September 2, 2008

With his congestion-pricing plan reduced to roadkill, Mayor Bloomberg is making city drivers miserable with a series of pedestrian-friendly projects.

One of the biggest headaches for them has been the Broadway pedestrian islands – plazas that stretch onto the road – a popular summer feature that Midtown denizens expect will be deserted come the cold weather, even as they still tie up traffic.

“In the winter, it won’t even be used,” griped office worker Jeffrey Gottlieb, 47. “Broadway already is down to 1½ lanes after you take the FedEx trucks making deliveries.”

Other road rage-inducing projects include a bus corridor down 34th Street, a bike lane on Ninth Avenue from West 16th to West 23rd streets, and a bike lane on Greenwich and Washington streets.

The most dramatic changes have been on Broadway, which, with the islands, has gone from four lanes to two from Times Square to Herald Square.

“I think it is completely useless . . . It doesn’t do anything for Midtown,” said New Jersey commuter Jason Silitsky, 24.

But Haim Dadi, 48, owner of Mr. Broadway Kosher at 38th and Broadway, said he has profited from an increase in the number of pedestrians.

“Traffic-wise, it’s not good, but who cares about traffic? I care about the store, and for my store, it’s good for my business. They can take my food outside,” he said.

Barbara Randall, executive director of the Fashion Center Business Improvement District, headquartered on 38th, said: “We haven’t notice any traffic problems. It’s down two to lanes, but it’s moving.”

So far, she said, the month-old project is a success.

“It was completely, fully used every single day since it was opened,” she said.

The Department of Transportation downplayed concerns that the projects would be underused after summer’s end.

“Our streets, like parks and plazas, are used and enjoyed on a year-round basis. We will continue to monitor these improvements and make adjustments as required,” Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008 at 7:55 am and is filed under Bicycles, Cars, Cities, Congestion, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013 “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Grand Rapids MI



September 2008

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