Broadway Goes Car-Free

May 27th, 2009 | By | Category: Uncategorized

No kidding: 7 blocks of Broadway have been closed to traffic, transforming Times Square into a pedestrian mall.

beach-chairs-on-broadway

(Photo via Tri-State Transportation Campaign.)

Manhattan closed off seven blocks of Broadway to traffic over the weekend, creating a series of new pedestrian spaces where only last week traffic chaos reigned. Earning praise from pedestrians, tourists and even The New York Times’ architecture critic, the move drew plenty of flak from impatient taxi drivers, truck drivers and commuters.

broadway-before

Broadway before Memorial Day weekend (above) and after (below). (Photos via NYT.)

broadway-after

Aaron Naparstek of Streetsblog.org, a blog that has long advocated for urban improvements like pedestrian streets in New York, visited Times Square this week and liked what he saw. Check out his post entitled The Crossroads of the World Goes Car-Free.

broadway-map-closed-roads

Left: Sections of Broadway closed off to traffic in red (via NYT). 

Though officially defined as experimental pilot project at this point, the pedestrian street is rumored to be just the first step in a larger project to pedestrianize most or all of Broadway. The lawn chairs are expected to eventually be replaced by more permanent design elements, as planners closely observe the way New Yorkers react to and utilize the space. 

An excellent article in the New York Magazine shed some light recently on the thinking behind the project. The article profiles New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, the project’s mastermind, describing her as a “hipster bureaucrat” and a combination of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs (referring to the highway-loving official and author/activist whose rivalry shaped much of the city’s physical and theoretical development).

Says Sadik-Khan: “One of the good legacies of Robert Moses is that, because he paved so much, we’re able to reclaim it and reuse it. It’s sort of like Jane Jacobs’s revenge on Robert Moses.”

Sadik-Khan has spent much of the last two years as head of the DOT attempting to reclaim public space from cars, something NYT Magazine describes as a “peculiar new culture war – over the role of the automobile in New York.” So far, it’s been an uphill battle, as car-lovers and shop-owners lodge vehement objections to every change in the status quo and critics bash Sadik-Khan’s “elitism.”

However, as the article notes, such interventions are already common in European cities, where the convential wisdom is the opposite of what it is in the US: “Many transportation experts now recognize that adding more lanes to a traffic-clogged road is a poor long-term solution for gridlock, because over time more lanes just attract more cars.”

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  1. [...] year, New York City has experimented with closing sections of Broadway, transforming the usually busy thoroughfare into a relaxed pedestrian mall. The move dramatically [...]

  2. [...] year, New York City has experimented with closing sections of Broadway, transforming the usually busy thoroughfare into a relaxed pedestrian mall. The move dramatically [...]

  3. Are they planning to do this every sunday – or EVERY DAY???

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