Broadway Boulevard Confirms: People Will Sit in Well-Placed Seats


Broadway Boulevard takes center stage in a USA Today story on New York City’s recent pedestrian improvements. Those who questioned whether people would sit in plazas near passing traffic have their answer:

Bianca Assim-Kon, 30, was initially skeptical about the plazas. "I saw them doing this, and my co-worker and I (said) all the tourists are going to sit there and we’re going to laugh at them because they’re going to get hit" by cars, says Assim-Kon, who works as a production assistant in a building across the street from one of the plazas. "And now here I am, sitting."

Reading a "chick-lit" novel on her lunch break, she says she can eke calm out of the surrounding cacophony. "I’m a New Yorker," Assim-Kon says. "You learn to focus."

Understandable as those initial doubts may have been, anyone familiar with the work of Project for Public Spaces and William H. Whyte could have predicted that, yes, New Yorkers will even venture across a bike lane for a decent place to sit.

Bonus photo and quote from Whyte after the jump.


"I end then in praise of small spaces. The multiplier effect is
tremendous. It is not just the number of people using them, but the
larger number who pass by and enjoy them vicariously, or even the
larger number who feel better about the city center for knowledge of
them. For a city, such places are priceless, whatever the cost. They
are built of a set of basics and they are right in front of our noses.
If we will look."

Photos: Brad Aaron

  • Andrew

    The seats are great but the bike lane was better as just an idea. I biked down there the other day and it isn’t so much a bike lane as it is an extension of the sidewalk. People jump in and out of it and it almost makes more sense to bike in the road.

  • The solution is so easy:

    FILL the green bike lane with the phrases,

    “Look [arrow pointing uptown]”

    and repeat

    “Look [arrow pointing uptown]”
    “Look [arrow pointing uptown]”
    “Look [arrow pointing uptown]”


    Do it! Problem 90% solved. It can’t be all that expensive or hard to do. In the UK (and elswhere) they paint similar markings at almost EVERY busy city intersection, no reason we can’t add more messages into the green bike lane:

  • I bike that stretch of Broadway every work day.

    I have decided that despite my many complaints about that bike lane’s design, I will, for the cause of improving bicyclist-pedestrian relations, I will ride in that lane every time I ride that stretch of Broadway.

    I will NOT yell at the pedestrians. I will be polite to them no matter how oblivously or stupidly I have seen them behave (for example, the dozens of them who, deafened by iPod, step into the green bike lane without looking up at all).

    If they can’t hear me or see me, I will wait till I can pass them without scaring them.

    I will allow them to slow me down, get in my way, and do things that would normally piss me off.

    When I pass them, they will see that they are in the wrong place, (I’ve seen the realization hit them, it does happen) and they will see that I was civil about their being in the wrong place.

    They will not have a story to tell about an asshole bicyclist.

    I hate the design of this lane, but I will forgo all the things I like or want about bike travel when I’m on that stretch of broadway, all with a view towards cyclists and pedestrians being on the same side, not pitted against each other.

    (Cars, on the other hand, I will continue to hurl into the sea, as I always have.)

  • Max Rockatansky

    It’s a rough route to ride, exactly for all the reasons outlined above. Perhaps, if they decide to make this permanent, building a protected bike lane to the outside of the benches would make more sense. Using something like jersey barriers to protect against wayward traffic. I’m not surprised it’s become popular – it’s a convenient place to sit in stretches where there aren’t a lot of other options. And bravo ddartley!

    With the continuing rise in oil costs and MTA shortages the city should be doing everything possible to make biking attractive.

  • rlb


    To quote Lloyd Braun:

    Serenity now, Insanity Later

    I hope you screw the cap on that bottle extra tight.

  • JK

    The Blvd is great, but the curbside bike lane adjacent to jammed sidewalks is not working. I didn’t think it could work, but wanted to see for myself before joining the many other Sbloggers observing the same thing. Now I’ve ridden through a couple times. Yep, the curbside bike lane has be converted into ped space, and a protected lane installed on the street side of the seating area. No amount of signs and markings are going to keep pedestrians from walking in a bike lane when they are jammed onto the sidewalk. This part of the experiment didn’t work. No problem. Adjust the plan and move on. The great part of the current regime at DOT is their flexibility. They shouldn’t have too much trouble moving the lane to where it makes more sense.

  • Dan

    As annoying as the pedestrians can be, let’s be thankful for the benefits that have come along with this lane. At least here you can ride without having to worry about a taxi pulling into the bike lane, or having a car parked in it, forcing you to swerve into traffic. I’d much rather have to deal with pedestrians instead of cars.

  • That looks great, hopefully it can serve as a model in other cities in the US>

  • Jealous that Milwaukee hasn’t done something like this.

  • anonymouse

    Perhaps the current bike lane is okay… for specific purposes, like a leisurely ride. But if you want to get from point a to point b quickly (and is velocity not an integral part of the velocipede?), then you’re best off mingling with the cars out in the car lanes. Unfortunately, I believe the current vehicle code prohibits it, saying that if there is a bike lane, cyclists are required to use it, and cops have been known to enforce this on occasion.

  • mike

    anonymouse –

    Yes, the law says you’re required to use “usable” bike lanes, but makes all sorts of exceptions as to when it’s non usable, and even says “including, but not limited to”. I am sure you could make a case that several hundred pedestrians blindly and unpredictably walking across a bike lane renders it dangerous and unusable.

  • When I encounter a pedestrian walking in this bike lane who’s willing to talk to me, I pose this simple question: would you leisurely walk in the middle of an active car lane? Then why would you leisurely walk in the middle of an active bike lane?

  • Andyp

    While I would love to have ddartley saintliness, it’s hard when bikes are not allowed on the sidewalk or in parks and will be ticketed when ridden in unauthorized spaces. Meanwhile anyone from peds, tourists, skylarking car drivers, street vendors and dog walkers can use the bike lanes/bridges lanes without penalty and regularly do so, often walking the wrong way/blocking much of the lane. I have seen people park on the Westside bike lane so they can watch the cruise ships sail, read a map, make a phone call, catch a short cut to the Chelsea piers.

  • Max Rockatansky

    Speaking of the Westside bike lane, I saw an elderly gentleman drive right through one of the curb cuts thinking it was the road.