Wild, Wild West Side Has Its Own Vigilante Traffic Cop

You’ve got to already be a little bit crazy to choose to drive into Midtown for work each day (as the record-breaking ridership numbers on the PATH train attest). Sitting in traffic, dodging the even crazier driver next to you — perhaps the only thing worse than driving near the Lincoln Tunnel is trying to walk safely along those traffic-clogged streets.

Last Thursday, evening rush hour congestion caused one tunnel-bound commuter to finally snap. This driver, captured on video by Animal New York, decided she’d waited long enough to get out of Manhattan and took actions into her own hands. She got out of her car, walked into the middle of Eleventh Avenue and W. 43rd Street, and did her best impression of a traffic cop. One key difference: She waved cars through in just one direction — hers.

It’s impressive as a work of urban anthropology — look at that deference other drivers show to the trappings of authority — but even more so as a case study in psychology. This is your brain on traffic.

The city has the power to make this neighborhood, which is becoming an increasingly residential community, a little less exhaust-addled. The Lincoln Tunnel is already tolled (and last year’s sizable toll hike helped drive people toward transit), but there’s another way to do it, through parking policy. Every time the city lets a little piece of Midtown and the West Side get  gobbled up by automobile storage, it becomes that much more appealing and affordable for drivers to try and squeeze through the Lincoln Tunnel (and during the evening, when there is no Lincoln Tunnel bus lane, that much slower for transit riders thrown into mixed traffic).

In just the first five months of 2008, before the real estate market fell apart, the city approved special permits for 500 new parking spaces in Hell’s Kitchen alone. Now, the city wants to allow more parking to be built in the Theater District. If nothing else, it’s a good way of encouraging more vigilante traffic cops.

  • Guest

    I think you should take a closer look…

    Yes, the City has allowed new parking spaces in some of the development.  Yet a whole lot of that development has been built on parking lots (much of which had stacked parking).

    Perhaps you could balance the picture by letting us know how much parking has been eliminated as well as how much has been created so we can understand the net change?

  • Ever since the DOT added the new bike lane on 9th Avenue traffic around that part of midtown has been a freakin’ nightmare. I totally understand the need to make biking safe in New York. I understand the need to encourage more people to commute by bike. I understand the benefits of discouraging people from driving into Manhattan. But come on folks, do we want a city where every single avenue is impassable during the rush hours? When you put bike lanes and take away traffic lanes on just about every single avenue used to approach the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel this is the result. You can’t say that this doesn’t impact response time of police, fire and EMT vehicles in emergencies. We need to have a sane policy that recognizes that our streets need to be shared between pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. You’re never going to make Midtown private vehicle free. So how about facilitating the efficient movement of vehicles on some avenues while others are better suited for bikes? 

  • Also, your argument that additional parking is to blame for this kind of traffic jam is completely discredited. At the same time the city was requiring more parking garage spots to be added in the area they were taking away more street surface parking. 

  • Station44025

    I remember back before the bike lanes when it was easy to drive into the tunnels during rush hour.  Wait, no I don’t.  That never happened.


The Weekly Carnage

The Weekly Carnage is a Friday round-up of motor vehicle violence across the five boroughs and beyond. For more on the origins and purpose of this column, please read About the Weekly Carnage. Fatal Crashes (4 killed this week, 95 this year, 14 drivers charged*) Astoria: Sabrina Mangos, 10, Visiting from Australia, Killed in Two-Car […]

Kate Ascher: New York City’s Next DOT Commissioner?

Sources say that Mayor Michael Bloomberg will name the replacement for outgoing Department of Transportation commissioner Iris Weinshall later this week. Word has it the job may be going to Kate Ascher. Ascher currently works as executive vice president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation. She received her M.Sc. and Ph.D. in government from the […]

The Weekly Carnage

The Weekly Carnage is a Friday round-up of motor vehicle mayhem across the metro region. For more on the origins and purpose of this column, please read About the Weekly Carnage. Cyclist Solange Raulston, 33, was killed on December 13 when she was hit by the driver of a flatbed truck at a Greenpoint intersection […]

Going Nowhere Fast

This weekend’s City section of the New York Times featured a mind-blowing essay by children’s-book writer Sarah Shey about her habit of taking her one-year-old son out for drives in the city — drives with no destination or purpose in mind, in which she crossed and recrossed the Brooklyn Bridge endless times. Shey, who is […]

Cy Vance Files Felony Charges for Beekman Street Sidewalk Hit-and-Run

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has filed felony charges against a woman accused of driving onto a downtown sidewalk, striking a pedestrian, and leaving the scene. Heather Hensl was walking on Beekman Street near William Street on April 13 when a motorist struck her, knocking her to the ground, lacerating her head and fracturing her leg. The driver […]