Q&A: Trottenberg Previews Tomorrow’s “Shared Streets” Debut

For five hours tomorrow, limited vehicular traffic will transform 60 blocks of Lower Manhattan into "shared streets" for people on foot and bikes. Image: DOT
For five hours tomorrow, limited vehicular traffic will transform 60 blocks of Lower Manhattan into “shared streets” for people on foot and bikes. Image: DOT

Summer Streets takes a big step forward this weekend with “Shared Streets: Lower Manhattan.” From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow, DOT will open up a 60-block radius in the Financial District to pedestrians and cyclists, limiting motor vehicle access to residents, deliveries, and emergency vehicles [PDF].

The event evokes the concept of “shared space” — where pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists navigate streets based on the movements of other users, as opposed to curbs, signage, and traffic lights. Shared Streets will feature activities for cyclists of all ages, as well as historic walking tours and games for kids.

The full list of offerings is available on the DOT website. Tomorrow also brings the second installment of Summer Streets 2016, when Lafayette Street and Park Avenue will be car-free between the Brooklyn Bridge and 72nd Street from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Speaking to Streetsblog this morning, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the Financial District’s narrow streets already function a lot like shared space, and are primed for tomorrow’s “experiment.” Check out our Q&A with Commissioner Trottenberg, lightly edited for length, after the jump.

How does limiting the car traffic that comes in and out of the neighborhood change how we use streets?

We picked an area of Manhattan and a time of year when there aren’t many cars there. If you walk around Lower Manhattan, you can actually sort of feel what it’s like, which is essentially, it’s not signalized in a lot of the little streets around there. So what’s funny is this corner of Lower Manhattan actually kind of has that European feel — basically people and cars and cyclists are all just kind of all over the place. That’s sort of the concept of the shared street, right, that everybody is navigating the space. And particularly for cars, it’s kind of on them to really slow down and deal with, you know, a lot of people and bikes and so forth in the street.

So what’s funny is I think you can kind of get a bit of a feeling for it even on a regular day. The goal here is to even kind of tighten it up a bit more, and really encourage vehicles — unless you really need to be here because it’s a residence or some kind of important delivery — to avoid the area for the next five hours and really let people take to the streets. It’s building on a little bit of what we actually think is the natural streetscape in this part of Lower Manhattan, but taking it up a notch.

Is part of the goal for Shared Streets to demonstrate to people who live and work in that area that that is already the day-to-day experience there?

Part of why I’ve really been out there trying to get publicity for tomorrow is I want to show this concept off to more than just the folks in Lower Manhattan. I want to show it off to a lot of people in the city, and see what people think. I think they’re going to love it — I mean, they love it in Europe, right? We’re experimenting, you know, we’re trying something different. We’re building on Summer Streets, which we love, but we wanted to that, you know, what was the next big thing.

And by the way, the local residents association down there, they’re very excited about this idea. I think there’s a lot of pent-up desire to make that neighborhood, kind of, more “shared streets,” even than it is already.

Is this a model that could be expanded in future years to other parts of the city?

That would be my hope. We already do a little version of this in other parts of the city, in the form of our Weekend Walks, but that’s sort of on a modest scale. I think Lower Manhattan is a great place to start because it’s sort of already halfway there to being the “shared streets” concept. You’re not getting up a big head of steam driving around Hanover Square. And if you go to where the Stock Exchange is at Broad and Wall, because of the security there it’s a pretty restricted in terms of vehicles on top of that. So it seemed a natural place to show off the concept, and I’m hoping when people see it and like it then, yeah, they’re will be ideas for other parts of the city where we might do it.

Could the Financial District be in line for permanently shared streets in the future?

I think it’s too soon to say, I think I want to wait and see how tomorrow goes. But, again, I think we are viewing this as a chance to showcase the concept in Lower Manhattan, but hopefully for people from all parts of the city to come and enjoy and see what they think.

  • Vooch

    needs These Signs 🙂

  • Reader

    Placard reform would go a long way towards making a lot of what Trottenberg accurately describes even more of a reality, no infrastructure changes required.

  • Albert

    This is such a positive and hopeful statement from Commissioner Trottenberg—and, at the same time, a realistic, practical and down-to-earth one—that my heart is leaping.

    Consider: She is actually openly floating the concept of reducing signalization and depending on the Social Contract, whereby drivers might “really slow down and deal with…people and bikes and so forth in the street.” I am pleasantly flabbergasted.

  • JudenChino

    I work in the FiDi. I think it’s absolutely nuts how they permit any roadside parking in this area. Simply nuts. The road side should be used for deliveries only (or on late evenings only for roadside parking). Every day, you see these ridiculous jam ups, where a single taxi is making a drop off, or bottle necks because delivery drivers double-park. Making matters worse, is the sheer number of “Placard only” parking without any real policy justification. And, we’ve got tons of construction work going on, so, I’m not exagerating, every single day you see big ass trucks blocking the sidewalk on

    The office of the NYS Comptroller may be an important job. Perhaps they really need to have “parking” near their office. Ok. But then they should park it in a garage. It’s just such an insult to see this incredibly densely packed area, be run over with, automobiles, all day (and delivery trucks/scaffolding all over the sidewalks).

  • Joe R.

    It would be great to get DOT on board with reducing signalization citiwide. For all the talk about how NYC driving culture supposedly makes signals necessary, I think the larger problem is we seldom give drivers a chance to even practice how they might interact with pedestrians without being scripted by traffic signals or stop signs. As with anything, if you don’t do something often, you tend to not be very good at it. Drivers need to get used to actually looking for pedestrians first, which is something that traffic signals prevent them from doing. After that they need to read body language so as to anticipate what someone might be doing.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    They do absolutely nothing on Nassau Street as is.

  • Joe R.

    I’m wondering with this absolutely miserable hot, humid weather we’ve been having how many people will actually even bother coming. It’s dangerous to be outside for any length of time, not just very uncomfortable.

  • Stop. The weather has been beautiful. I took vacation days on Thursday and Friday just to revel in the glorious weather, and I rode 50 miles each day. If Saturday offers more of the same, then this installment of Summer Streets will be wonderful.

    Anyone who complains about this spectacular weather is absolutely insane. I wish it were like this all the time. These conditions are so good they’re almost orgasmic — which might explain the complaints as manifestations of sexual repression. The cure: loosen up and enjoy nature’s bounty.

  • Joe R.

    Maybe we’re in different cities but last I checked the weather forecasters actually said the combination of heat and humidity was dangerous. I felt like passing out just walking four blocks to the store. This was at 8PM, well after the sun was past its peak. In fact, even with 3 A/Cs running all night the house is still uncomfortably warm and humid inside.

  • Vooch

    recall that Ferdinand is rather tough – he rides in shorts when it’s 25 degrees.

  • Simon Phearson

    Heatstroke isn’t a matter of opinion. I was riding around yesterday, too – not 50 miles, but enough (and hard enough) that I got to the point where overheating was an issue. I knew how to recognize it, knew how to address it, had the tools I needed to address it, etc. But it would be wrong to treat days like this just like they’re more perfect versions of days like this but 20 degrees cooler.

  • qrt145

    According to the Sexual Repression Department of the National Weather Service:

    … Excessive heat warning remains in effect until 10 PM EDT
    Sunday…

    * heat index values today… 105 to 113 degrees.

    * Heat index values Sunday… around 105 degrees.

    * Timing… highest heat indices in the mid to late afternoon.

    * Overnight lows… around 80 degrees through tonight.

    * Impacts… the combination of the heat and humidity will
    increase the risk for heat related health issues… especially
    for the elderly… those with chronic health problems such as
    lung and heart disease… those working outdoors… and other
    heat sensitive groups of people.

    Precautionary/preparedness actions…

    An excessive heat warning is issued when the combination of heat
    and humidity is expected to make it feel like it is 105 degrees
    or greater.

    Seniors and those with chronic health problems or mental health
    conditions are at an increased risk. Homes without air
    conditioning can be much hotter than outdoor temperatures.

    Use air conditioning to stay cool at home or go to a place that
    has air conditioning. Check on vulnerable friends… family
    members and neighbors. To find a NYC cooling center call 3-1-1 or
    visit NYC.Gov/oem

    To reduce risk during outdoor work the occupational safety and
    health administration recommends scheduling frequent rest breaks
    in shaded or air conditioned environments.

  • Joe R.

    I shovel snow in a sweater when it’s 15°F out. Much easier to deal with cold than heat. You can add as many layers as needed to deal with cold. Nothing much you can do about heat. I’d feel like passing out walking around naked under today’s conditions.

  • Wilfried84

    Unlike Ferdinando, I don’t take perverse pleasure in living in an oven. Nevertheless, I rode Summer Streets all the way to the top, did a spin around the park, and then all the way to the bottom and to the Shared Streets area. All in all it was OK. Summer Streets was much sparser than last weekend, when I rode it to work, and it felt a bit like bumper cars. There wasn’t much going on at Shared Streets, which felt kind of deserted. There were a few people walking around, and a few cars, but it didn’t seem like anyone was doing anything really different than otherwise. It was certainly easy enough to negotiate around the cars. I don’t know how different it was from a more typical Saturday.

    Then I got to Chinatown. I thought, good God, can’t they do something like that here? Even today, when there were fewer people out, the sidewalks were teeming, and in places people were crammed in like the subway, and the streets were clogged, where with the narrow streets cars barely fit, and some SUV bungs it up completely, and it was hard to find any space to move. Why can’t they limit cars here? If they can pedestrianize Mulberry Street above Canal, in that museum of a neighborhood, why can’t they do it to Mott St., where people still live and work and do business, and the teeming hordes are squashed onto a quarter of the street space?

  • Not perverse pleasure but straightforward wholesome pleasure. I wait for this all year and long for it all winter. There is literally nothing better than riding on a day like today. Not sex, not pizza. Nothing.

    I did my third straight day of riding 50 miles today. The conditions were magnificent. Today was the kind of day that reminds you that it’s good to be alive.

  • I ride in shorts at 25 degrees because my legs are the last things that get cold, as that’s where the motor is.

    By contrast, I wear up to four pairs of gloves, up to four scarves, and who knows how many layers of shirts. Still, I just have to resign myself to the unavoidable fact that my face, chest, and (worst of all) my hands are going to be uncomfortably cold.

    In the heat the only adaptation that’s necessary is to drink a lot. If you do that you’ll be perfectly fine.

  • They have this new thing called “beverages”, which are available in astonishing variety at every bodega and every chain store.

    Problem solved.

  • Joe R.

    I much prefer that newfangled invention called “air conditioning”, or more accurately cooling. 😉

  • Simon Phearson

    Looking at the pictures from “Shared Streets,” I couldn’t help but wonder if it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the European model it sought to emulate.

    As you suggest here, it makes sense to “share the street” where there is enough pedestrian and bike activity, and little enough car activity, that the “sharing” kind of self-enforces. You don’t need bored-looking officers manning barricades with signs to encourage drivers to take it slow, because what the driver sees is a teeming mass of activity that they can’t just drive through.

    We often talk here about Trottenberg maybe lacking a backbone and DeBlasio not having her back on significant, comprehensive street redesigns, but perhaps the problem here is genuine incompetence. Trottenberg’s recent statements on the Brooklyn Bridge and this experiment with “shared streets” seem to reflect the thoughts of someone who is paying attention to what’s happening on our street, wants to do something about it, and is looking for successful models to emulate. But maybe her problem isn’t that community boards get in the way or that DeBlasio doesn’t want to antagonize drivers, etc., but that she, herself, just isn’t very good at her job.

  • Wilfried84

    From what I saw, there was little enough activity of any kind, automobile or human. I don’t know if it was the heat, or a normal quiet Saturday afternoon. The people I saw walked on the sidewalks. I didn’t get any sense that they felt they had permission to use the streets any differently than they normally do; I bet most of them had no idea that something called “Shared Streets” was going on. There would have to be something to say to people and drivers, “On these streets, people take precedence, it’s up to you drivers to figure out how to negotiate your way through.” There also wasn’t the “teeming activity” that would make people naturally flood the streets. Back to Chinatown, people there certainly would flood the streets, if they felt they were allowed to, and if there weren’t barriers, like parked cars, getting in their way.

  • Joe R.

    I think Chinatown is a great place to pedestrianize the streets 24/7/365. The sidewalks there never have enough space, plus there’s always vibrant street life even well after dark. I’d love to even toy with the idea of closing off Canal Street to through traffic, especially trucks. Same thing with downtown Flushing which is similar in many ways. Close off all the streets there to everything except buses, bikes, and delivery vehicles.

    BTW, I think the heat may have had something to do with the level of activity you saw. I’ve noted far fewer people walking around my neighborhood when it gets like this. Sometimes people will finally come out for a little air well after the sun sets.

  • Nancyjkuiper3

    <<fb. ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????::::::!il919r:….,….

  • JamesR

    Nothing like soaking up some sweet ground-level ozone and PM2.5 on an Air Quality Alert day. Your comment does sound a little fetish-y, honestly.

  • Well, whatever. I have already said that riding is better than sex and that the conditions are essentially orgasmic. Riding in those conditions provides a visceral, sensual pleasure (which surely accounts for some people’s discomfort with it). All I know is that I felt great on those four days.

    And, by the way, I did my fourth straight day of 50 miles on Sunday. Checking my records, I see that it’s the first time I have done that. While I have certainly averaged more than 50 miles per day in a four-day period on several occasions, this was the first time that I actually hit 50 miles on four consecutive days.

  • Joe R.

    You’re one of the few people who actually not only tolerate, but enjoy this kind of weather:

    http://www.norumbega.net/pages/dewpoint.html

    Dewpoints have been in the 70s which most people find intolerable. Maybe you have a freakish adaptation to heat? Just out of curiosity what’s your normal body temperature? If it’s somewhat above the normal 98.6°F that could explain it. My “normal” body temperature when I don’t have a fever is 97.6°F. I never could tolerate heat well but I deal with cold much better than most people (i.e. I can cycle in a t-shirt when it’s in the mid 50s).

  • My body temperature is the normal 37°C / 98.6°F.

    When it’s in the 50s, I am well into my piling on of layers for riding, though I can easily walk around in that weather in a t-shirt.

    Riding significantly lowers the apparent temperature on any day by providing a constant wind. Even during these 90-degree days I still wear a scarf, because I don’t like the wind on my neck.

  • Vooch

    nado – you treat your 20 mile bike commute as trivial. it might explain why you are in condition to pleasure ride in these tenps.

    your resting heart rate must be 42 or something

    I rode >60 miles today on mostly gravel paths in the woods on a 45lbs commuter cycle with 47mm wide balloon tires , without a rest stop. it nearly killed me.

  • My resting heart rate is somewhere in the 60s. The last time I had a physical, which was a couple of years ago, the doctor specifically mentioned that as a something he was happy with.

    Because I don’t want to mess with that, I have entirely cut out caffeine. I drink a lot of soda, but only the kinds with no caffeine. (Fresca is the best!)

    I make stops when I need to pick up drinks. If I were carrying lots of water or soda with me, then I suppose that I wouldn’t stop as often. But there is always a store available; so I have no need to carry drinks on me. (I feel bad favouring the chain stores over the local bodegas. But CVS or Walgreens or Rite Aid is much more likely to have one of the decaffeinated diet sodas that I drink than a corner grocery store is.)

  • Joe R.

    Mine actually gets into the high 40s during years when I put in 3000 to 4000 miles. Now it’s a more pedestrian 58 or so on account of only riding 1000 miles annually last two and half years.

    I’d done 40+ mile rides is very warm weather. The term “nearly killed me” describes it perfectly. Of course, I don’t carry any water or stop anywhere to drink. I just drink maybe a quart of water before starting. I suppose carrying fluids would make it more bearable.

  • ahwr

    Ride slower even when you don’t think you have to yet. Drink water before you get thirsty. Eat some salty potatoes before and/or during the ride. Or something else with a lot of sodium and potassium. Take it easy for a bit after you eat.

    I’m sure there’s some individual variation to what extent people can adapt to the heat. Whether due to genetic makeup, obesity/other health issues, medications/drugs etc…And to how long it takes people to adapt to summer weather. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t making things much worse for yourself. Really, no water on a long ride in the summer? Sit inside blasting the AC all day, mostly just going out at night in the summer and yea, if you go out on a hot day you’ll be uncomfortable. And if you push yourself as hard as you can on a ride on a hot day when your summer has been you inside in the AC or outside for a bit on a cool evening and you don’t bring water for the ride it can be dangerous.

    Take time to work up to the heat and you will acclimate to it much better. Maybe not as much as Ferdinand, but more than you have. As to your concern that summer streets would be empty because of the heat, Citibike data is released on a delay so you can’t check the other day, but look at the hottest days the past few years, in general ridership doesn’t drop just because it’s hot out. If it does drop one hot day look closer and you’ll probably find some other issue at play.

  • Vooch

    in hot weather, I drink water constantly while riding. drinking perhaps 1 quart per hour

  • Vooch

    so if you and my resting heartbeats are lower than Ferdinand’s

    how come he kicks our respective a bottoms in the heat ?

  • Joe R.

    Some people are just better adapted. My mom had a friend who was 75 pounds overweight and loved this kind of weather. You would think being fat would make someone intolerant of heat but apparently not.

    I guess you could say something similar about why I might kick Ferdinand’s bottom in the cold. When I ride in typical winter weather, say 35° to 40°F, I’ll wear normal pants, one pair of socks, a undershirt, sweater, windbreaker, and sweatshirt. If it’s in the mid 40s I can lose the sweatshirt and gloves. 50 and I can lose the windbreaker. 55 or over and a t-shirt is just fine. The only thing which gets cold are my fingertips, and then only when it’s mid 40s or less. I actually come home sweating underneath after a good, long ride dressed like I described.

    Interesting read on the subject:

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323608504579024902134097292

    I’ve heard the oft-repeated line of learning to increase your tolerance to heat by exposing yourself to it more but that never worked for me. In fact, I spent the first 16 years of my life without air conditioning and the next 11 without air conditioning in my bedroom. I still couldn’t deal with heat. Anything past the mid 70s is uncomfortable. 80s or higher with the sun beating on me is brutal.

    Just came back from a ride. 51 minutes, 12 miles, so really not that fast or that hard. My t-shirt is soaked. I’m heading into the shower.

  • Joe R.

    As I mentioned above, I lived the first 16 years of my life without A/C and the next 11 without A/C in my bedroom. If I was going to adapt to heat I probably would have done so under those conditions. Note that there’s a difference between being very uncomfortable in heat versus just not being able to cope at all. I’ll bet most people couldn’t do a fairly hard hour long ride on nights when it’s humid and in the 80s. I certainly hardly see anyone out. So I can deal with physical exertion under these conditions but I totally hate the way it makes me feel.

    On the lack of water, I have a great mechanism which prevents me from overexerting myself to the point of it becoming dangerous. I’m somewhat prone to leg cramps even under ideal riding conditions. Long before I lose enough water to become dangerous dehydrated I’ll get cramps which forces me to lower my pace. When the cramps come, if the do, I’ll take the shortest route home. Typically in warm, humid weather they don’t start for at least a hour. Most of the time, I’m already done with the ride by then. Tonight I came home after 51 minutes. Not because I was on the verge of dehydration, but I just wasn’t enjoying the ride anymore.

    I wouldn’t expect Citibike ridership to drop much on hot days. The bulk of it is essential trips like commuting. People have to get work. You don’t see much of a drop in pedestrian activity in commercial areas on very warm days either. I’ll bet recreational activity in all forms drops quite a bit on the warmest days.

  • Vooch

    A/C ? OMG

    The only time I turn on a/c in my Apt is when it’s over 100 degrees.

  • I don’t air conditioning in my apartment; I haven’t had it for more than 20 years. I just have a fan; and that is plenty.

    Also, I really hate air conditioning. I hate it personally and as a member of society. On the personal level, I hate that it’s typically jacked up too high in stores and in office buildings; to be sitting in my office in August and feeling chilly is just depressing.

    On the societal level, I hate air conditioning because it has encouraged unsustainable surges in populations in several areas of the country, such as the Southwest.

    The only times that I have voluntarily used air conditioning lately is when I was in hotel rooms. The modern trend is to have windows that don’t open. (Side note: for this alone our society can be judges as unredeemably insane.) So, while I love it hot outside, I don’t like to be cooking in an oven.

    But the hotel where I have stayed a few times in Washington is a very comfortable old-timey place. It’s so old-timey that the room keys are actual keys, not cards! And in this place the windows open. I was very pleased not to have to use the air conditioning in that hotel.

    Turn off your air conditioning. A cold shower works just fine. (A cold shower doesn’t work for what it is purported to work for — I am still horny as hell. But it works to regulate your body temperature and let you sleep comfortably.)

  • Vooch

    so You Cycle to DC when You have a biz Mtg ?

    ( that would Be seriously hardcore )

  • Joe R.

    Without A/C the temperature in my house gets to dangerous levels. Last night was the first time in over a week the A/C was able to bring temperatures inside under 80 (still uncomfortable for me but at least bearable). Without A/C I’d say the temperatures inside would be pushing 120 to 130.

    The problem is the way most buildings in this country have been designed in the last 50 or 60 years. You can build houses insulated by earth which generally don’t require active cooling to remain comfortable. Unfortunately, we thought cheap energy would exist forever, so we designed assuming active cooling.

  • Joe R.

    No A/C for individual dwellings sometimes works depending upon the building’s design. Unfortunately, public spaces where large numbers of people congregate can’t be comfortable without some form of active cooling. Figure each person throws off at least 100 watts of heat. Now add in lighting, computers, other office machines. It’s impossible to get rid of that much heat just by opening windows. Also, it needs to be cooler outside than you want it inside for open windows to work in the first place. I studied some of this in college. Large office buildings actually need active cooling down to something like 40°F to remain comfortable (note that “comfortable” for most people falls within a 70° to 80°F range). It’s impossible for most people to work efficiently if it’s much warmer than that, which explains slow economies in places like Mexico.

    On the societal level, I hate air conditioning because it has encouraged unsustainable surges in populations in several areas of the country, such as the Southwest.

    No argument from me there. Like anything else, cooling or heating is a tool. However, something is seriously wrong if you decide to develop a place where you need cooling (or heating) pretty much 24/7/365. Add to that the fact most travel in the Southwest is by private auto and you have an unsustainable situation.

  • Hehe, no. No business meetings in Washington when I rode there from home. I did that ride during a vacation.

    On several other occasions, I brought my bike to Washington on the Bolt Bus, and just rode around within the town for a couple of days. That’s why I had several stays at the comfy hotel. (I’ll sneak the plug in: it’s the Windsor Inn at 16th St. and T St. NW.) Washington is a great bike town, even if it has more hills outide the central core than I would like.

    As far as business meetings, that’s no problem, either. I ride to work daily. I just change into a clean shirt upon my arrival and use some deodorant, and I am good to go. (As of a few months ago, there is a shower available in my building. But I haven’t had the need to use it.)

  • Vooch

    dude

    attic fan ?

  • Joe R.

    We have one but it doesn’t help much when the outside air is uncomfortably warm and humid, which is pretty much all summer. Remember Flushing was built on a swamp. I think Manhattan tends to be a lot drier than Queens. Also, the attic fan uses as much power as air conditioner, so not much point.

    Another issue is insects. Even with screens, the attic fan drags them in. No point in us suffering when the money exists to pay for electric. Eventually I’m going to install solar panels so my using the A/C won’t have any environmental (or financial) impact.

  • Vooch

    You have a basement ?

    i Used to cool a House with a Small fan in low Pulling cool Air from basement into House.

  • Joe R.

    The basement isn’t large enough or deep enough to cool the entire house. This house was built in 1952. Little thought was given to passive climate control. Nothing much we could do short of having some insulation blown into the walls. We already put in new windows in 1994. That made a huge difference in the heating and cooling bills.

    One of the best solutions for older, poorly designed houses like this is to just plant shade trees. We have one in back now. Eventually it’ll get tall enough to shade the house somewhat. That should mean less need to use A/C.

    All that said, I’ve always wondered why so many environmentalists get all worked up about A/C but not about heat. We probably use more energy for heating in this part of the country than for cooling. We might do better telling people to keep the heat off unless it gets under 20°F than telling them to turn off the A/C.

    Don’t forget I work at home. I can’t work on stuff like circuit boards if I’m dripping sweat on them, not to mention I can’t even think straight when I’m hot.

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