Times Shows Little Love for Livable Streets

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 dine
and relax so close to a busy route’s speeding taxis, noisy trucks and
exhaust fumes.

“They’ll have carbon monoxide in their tuna
fish,” said Corey Baker, 31, who works at a fashion branding company at
Broadway 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 of
a certain kind of urban idealist, saying that it will explore the
possibility of creating a bike-sharing program that could make hundreds
or 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."

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Envisioning a More Livable Columbus Avenue

|
As a candidate for a livable streets makeover, Columbus Avenue is a no-brainer. A block from Central Park, it is home to the American Museum of Natural History and sports a string of active ground floor businesses, but the street itself is a classically car-oriented corridor: three moving lanes sandwiched between two parking lanes. The […]

Tonight: See the Blueprint for a New Upper West Side

|
Streets designed for safe, accessible, and equitable use. That is the vision of the "Blueprint for the Upper West Side: A Roadmap for Truly Livable Streets," to be unveiled tonight by the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance Campaign. The product of one year of community-driven planning, in consultation with urbanist legends Jan Gehl and Donald […]

DOT Unveils Union Square Upgrades to Manhattan CB 5

|
NYCDOT’s plans for Union Square would add pedestrian plazas and better bike facilities on Broadway and 17th Street. Image: NYCDOT. For a larger version, click here. Last night NYCDOT showed plans for a package of safety upgrades and public space improvements for Union Square [PDF] to Manhattan Community Board 5’s transportation committee. Under the plan, […]

Tonight: DOT to Reveal Plans for a Safer Union Square

|
Image via NY1 Safer street conditions and more space for pedestrians and cyclists could soon be coming to Union Square under a plan to be unveiled by DOT today. We haven’t gotten our hands on the drawings yet, but media reports say that by Labor Day, East 17th Street between Broadway and Park Avenue South, […]