Calming Traffic in Chinatown


With all the talk about high level personnel changes at the DOT, let’s take it back to the streets for a minute, shall we? As we have already noted, Chinatown has gotten a buffered bike lane on Grand Street, which is fantastic, and would be even more fantastic if it wasn’t treated as a car parking lane. But that is not the only recent change to the Chinatown streetscape.


I am pleased to see all the traffic calming, or at least traffic channeling, improvements that have been put up in Chinatown. The double yellow lines in the center of the Bowery and Chrystie Street have been given visual reinforcements — bollards that keep cars from swerving into lanes of oncoming traffic and alert drivers to the fact that they are in a heavy pedestrian zone.

Here are some more photos.




In a way, however, all these large bright orange devices sort of mar the streetscape, scalding the retina of the slow pedestrian. But their presence also indicates what traffic is around major bridge approaches: Romper Room.

  • H. Tuttle

    Traffic calming is a bad idea wrapped in a search for a solution. Every traffic calming a/k/a channeling solution I’ve driven into in Manhattan and Queens (I don’t know about Brooklyn, the Bronx or Staten Island implimentations) has made the situation worse by eliminating the ability of cars to jockey and manuever. It’s a typical wonkish response to a problem that needs a different solution.

  • Maybe it seems worse if you are in a car and forced to drive at 25 miles per hour, but I ride right pass this spot almost every single day and I can testify that it’s much much better for pedestrians and cyclists now. Cars having room to jockey and manuever is precisely how motorists intimidate pedestrians.

  • H. Tuttle: sounds like traffic calming IS working if you’ve lost your ability to “jockey and manuever” in your car. This is to the benefit of the pedestrians and cyclists who are not protected by 2000 lbs. of steel (who vastly outnumber motorists on the streets of Manhattan).

  • Steve

    The ideal solution would be for motorists to change their attitude and behavior by recognizing (1) the equal rights of bicyclists to the road; (2) the preeminent right of way pedestrians as dictated by common sense and the law; and (3) the overarching intimidation factor and risk of injury posed by motorists who do not heed speed limits, traffic signals, bike lane restrictions, and common-sense limitations on safe proximity to other road users. Bicyclists and pedestrians would have to reform their ways, too.

    Wouldn’t that be great? But until you can come up with a way to make it happen, Tuttle, I’ll stick with traffic calming measures that force motorists to at least nominally limit their imperious and dangerous conduct on the road.

  • ddartley

    Tuttle, so far everyone responding is right, and I’ll add/reinforce: jockeying and maneuvering is a major cause of collisions–with both other cars and–check out this novelty–human beings.

  • P

    Traffic engineers also like to point out that
    ‘jockeying and maneuvering’ also slows the average speed of traffic: Driver 1 might be able to cut his travel time by swerving out of a clogged lane but drivers 2, 3, 4, and 5 have to hit their brakes when he jumps in front.

  • someguy

    Exactly. Studies have shown that switching lanes on a semi-congested highway doesn’t end up moving you any faster – the lanes just ebb and flow and balance each other out. Switching lanes in that situation ends up adding friction to the whole thing and slowing EVERYONE down overall.

  • EVKeith

    I’ve driven two of these routes–Chrystie and Bowery –since the installation of the new orange plastic things, and they’re an eyesore but otherwise I like ’em. They keep oncoming cabs on their side of the double yellow line. They deter illegal mid-block u-turns as well. The DOT could do much to improve the traffic flow in Chinatown simply by immediately and mercilessly ticketing all double parkers. One thing that makes the area so dangerous for drivers AND bikes is all the sudden left swerves people make to get around these scofflaws.

  • Double parking really comes down to the larger overarching problem of free parking. There’s not enough room to handle all of the parking people want to do, so they are forced to either double park or abandon their trip’s purpose.

    Charge a reasonable price for on-street parking and you’ll have better allocation of scarce resources.

  • Oh, and besides being ugly, they also cover up the (narrow) bike lane that exists between the two parallel yellow lines.

  • P

    Good job Steveo- we’ve gone from problem identification to theory to proposed solution. Any chance that Chinatown could be the first trial for appropriately priced on-street parking?

    Alternately, I’ve never heard any proposals reserved on street delivery parking as a means to reduce double parking that way.

  • Steve

    The entire midtown Central Business District is now muni-metered with commercial parking only between 7 am to 6pm, and metered parking for everyone other hours, 6 hour limit, at $2 per hour. My experience is that there is far greater demand for parking chasing after far fewer spaces in Chinatown, than in the Midtown CBD (not to mention more pedestrians chasing after more limited sidewlk space). The only arguments I can think of for not implementing a similar regime in Chinatown (and I’m not from there, so I may be way off on this) is that it would take away free or low-cost curbside parking from local residents, or reduce tourism. There are ways to deal with these issues. For example, you could raise the curbside parking rate to ensure turnover and ~15% vacancy rate, which would encourage tourism, and you could issue local resident parking permits.

  • crzwdjk

    Knowing the local residents of Chinatown, I doubt very many of them have cars. It seems like much of the personal auto traffic in Chinatown is actually chinese people from other parts of the greater metropolitan area coming to visit Chinatown, which is something that they might as well take the train for.

  • ABG

    You’re probably right, crzwdjk. I’d add that a lot of outer-borough Chinatowns have dedicated bus shuttles running to Manhattan Chinatown. You can see some of these vans picking up passengers on the south side of Canal Street near Mott. I don’t know exactly where they go, because the information is all in Chinese.

  • gelston hinds

    What are the merits of issuing parking permits for local residents other than to make it politically palatable? Why does anyone have a right to occupy the public space for free? Why give such a freebie to car owners, rather than require them to pay their own cost of parking? Maybe there should be an exception for zip cars??

  • steve

    I’m sympathetic to gelston’s critique of permit parking, though it is important to consider and sometimes mitigate the impact of any change in the distribution of public resources, mainly for political but also for fairness reasons. Resident parking is not the most important use of curbside parking, but properly priced it has its place in the hierarcy.

  • someguy

    I agree with Gelston – permit parking is a red herring. It’s selfish, it’s NIMBY, it’s private hoarding of public goods at its worst. (Ok, may be not its worst – not like drilling and mining in national parks)

    Hmm.. on the other hand.. playing the devil’s advocate – if the city zoning disallows private vehicle storage (garages, driveways) in certain areas, then perhaps permit parking is justified? Otherwise it might be considered too much of a hardship imposed by government. It’s in effect saying, we won’t let you store your own vehicle, but we also won’t provide adequate supply to meet your demand.

    Then again, how can you feel sympathy for people owning cars in this city? If you want that big-ass asthma-inducing, infrastructure wrecking, public resources-sucking (i.e. police enforcement & emergency response) air polluter, you may have to suffer a little hardship competing for limited parking space with those others like yourself seeking the benefits of the motoring lifestyle.

  • 83% of the households in 10002 (Chinatown and eastward) have no car.

    Source: U.S. Census

    (Check your own zipcode — once you redirect to the census page by clicking on the link above, you can change the zipcode in the URL and find the results for that zipcode.)

  • man, what an eyesore. it’s Chinatown! just follow East Asian traffic patterns — run for your life and don’t make eye contact with the drivers; that way they’ll swerve around you.

    maybe not. but that’s the way it goes down in Viet Nam…

  • AD

    You’re on a roll someguy!


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