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Times Shows Little Love for Livable Streets

11:39 AM EDT on July 11, 2008

Are you "a certain kind of urban idealist"? Chances are that if you read Streetsblog, the answer is yes. At least according to the New York Times.

This week, the Times covered three major livable streets initiatives, now either underway or under consideration by the city: its first step toward establishing a bike-share system, a pilot program to charge market rates for curbside parking, and the reclamation of street space for pedestrians and cyclists on Broadway. While the Times could have presented these projects as good news for the vast majority of New Yorkers who do not drive, the motorists, as usual, were allotted an inordinate amount of room.

Take the headline on today's Broadway Boulevard piece*: "Closing on Broadway: Two Traffic Lanes." Why not "Opening on Broadway: More Sidewalk Space"? While the story itself makes the case for the need for more pedestrian areas, there is no resisting the oppositional dynamic of conventional daily journalism, epitomized in this passage:

Some workers in the area wondered whether people would flock to dineand relax so close to a busy route’s speeding taxis, noisy trucks andexhaust fumes.

“They’ll have carbon monoxide in their tunafish,” said Corey Baker, 31, who works at a fashion branding company atBroadway and 41st Street.

Still, Mr. Baker said that the neighborhood would benefit from more open space and added that he might even use it.

This story also refers to the upcoming "banning cars on Park Avenue on three Saturdays in August." Again, why not the "opening of Park Avenue to walking and biking"?

In the peak rate parking story, the rationale behind the "congestion parking" program, once established, is rebutted with quotes from shop owners and drivers -- the go-to for street management expertise -- who are skeptical that it will work as intended. Neighborhood residents, who might like to see less honking, congestion and pollution caused by "people from out of the area" cruising for parking spots, are not quoted directly, but represented by community board chairs. That on-street parking space is the cheapest real estate in the city -- a major reason why peak rate parking is both warranted and necessary -- goes unmentioned.

Then there is the bike-share article, unremarkable save for two points, one being the lead paragraph:

The city took a tentative step this week toward fulfilling the dream ofa certain kind of urban idealist, saying that it will explore thepossibility of creating a bike-sharing program that could make hundredsor even thousands of bicycles available for public use.

We don't know what "a certain kind of urban idealist" is. Maybe it refers to anyone who would like to see their city become a little less dependent on, and therefore less dominated by, noisy, space-hogging, polluting, life-endangering cars and trucks. Point number two: Though this is a story about bike riding, not one "man-on-the-street" cyclist is quoted here. Of course, that would have necessitated an opposing viewpoint from the windshield perspective. Just to keep it fair.

* A tipster informs us that in one edition of the Times newspaper the headline for this article reads "2 Lanes to Close on Broadway, Making Way for Bikes and Lunch."

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