Battery Park City: An Opportunity for Innovative Street Design

woon_Haren1.jpg
A "woonerf" or "shared space" street design in the Dutch town of Haren.

Yesterday a Streetsblog reader reported that the Department of Transportation is removing stop signs and installing traffic signals at some intersections in Battery Park City as a way "to provide for the safest streets possible citywide." The reader noted, "The area is home to many small children and seniors, who are
fighting the DOT change. My instinct is to agree, but I also know that
some new thinking favors fewer traffic controls."

Andy Wiley-Schwartz, vice president and director of Project for Public Spaces’ transportation program, wrote a great response in the comments section, suggesting that to create safer and more community-friendly streets, city government and community groups need to look beyond stop signs and traffic signals. Here is what he wrote:

It’s good that DOT spoke with the residents of Battery Park City and listened to their concerns. What I wonder is if either side ever considered that the streets should be designed to support a variety of types of activity, and that the pedestrian issues could in fact be far more important than the mobility issue for motorists.

In this case, we have a large park and lots of apartments, with a road in-between. So is the goal of this street to move cars through, or to facilitate community activity? If a neighborhood wants people to go slowly and respect pedestrians than there are lots of ways to change the street to get that kind of behavior, through lane widths, medians, sidewalk activity, pavement treatments, etc. Changing or eliminating controls at intersections is only a small part of that equation.

In Battery Park City, with it’s limited through-traffic and local
destinations, you have a good place to try out more innovative
treatments.
Considering that we are talking about a street that is in between a large park and a bunch of houses, this would seem to be a great opportunity to traffic-calm through a variety of measures.

Design speed on a street like this should be incredibly slow, but here the city and BPCA are only considering changing the intersections to control driver behavior. If people are speeding in between intersections, than the street should be redesigned to move cars very slowly all along. Then the "confusion" at the stop-controlled intersections would not be a problem.

In fact, engineers in Europe are telling us that this confusion is exactly what heightens safety, because drivers and pedestrians have to negotiate with each other. Signals increase predictability through and makes drivers and pedestrians LESS conscious that they need to be looking out for each other at all.

Haren photo: Ben Hamilton-Baillie, Woonerf diagram: Eran Ben-Joseph 

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Time to Expand DOT’s Toolbox Beyond Signs and Signals?

|
A Streetsblog reader reports from Lower Manhattan: DOT is removing a series of stop signs from a five block street along the river in Battery Park City for reasons explained below. The street is lined on one side by a heavily-used waterfront park, and the other by residential apartment buildings and entrances to other parks. […]

Houston Street Redesign: The $30 Million Missed Opportunity

|
The death of Derek Lake, killed one month ago at age 23 when his bicycle tripped a metal plate on Houston Street, hints at a tragedy shared by all New Yorkers: City Hall’s continued insistence that the ultimate goal of a New York City street is to move as many cars and trucks each day […]

Is Another Stop Light the Best Fix for Livable Streets?

|
Last week, the New York Times profiled David Bookstaver, who after six years succeeded in getting DOT to install a stop light at East 85th Street and East End Avenue. Whether Mr. Bookstaver’s victory will result in a safer crossing remains to be seen, and stop lights, though popular with the public, are not the only tool […]

Queens CB 6 Eager for Safety Fixes (Just Don’t Touch Their Parking)

|
The Rego Park senior focus area, which includes several blocks of Queens Boulevard, is slated for pedestrian improvements. Click here to enlarge. Image: NYCDOT. As we’ve recently seen in Astoria, DOT doesn’t always bring innovative traffic calming tools to streets that need them. What happens when they do? At a community board meeting in Rego […]