Streetfilms: Summer Streets 2008

Conditions could hardly have been better for Saturday’s Summer Streets debut, and New Yorkers responded, turning out in droves to enjoy a car-free route from Lower Manhattan to Central Park. Of course, Clarence Eckerson was on hand to capture this historic livable streets event for Streetfilms. He offers this testimonial:

We’ll spare you the 200 adjectives we could list about how
transformational it was, for it was beyond anything on the printed
page. The general consensus was that the event succeeded beyond even
the most hoped for expectations and would pass even the most
pessimistic of measuring sticks. A page has been turned, clearly there
is no doubt: the future will hold many more large scale street openings
for pedestrians, cyclists, runners, children, dog walkers, dancers, and
any other reasonable livable space use.

If you missed it this week, take heart: early forecasts for Saturday call for partly cloudy skies with a high in the mid-80s.

  • ILoveSummerStreets

    The guys in the yellow shirts… the one on the left in the Yankees cap was very cute! I’m sure if he’s around at the next two events more people will come! 🙂

    Seems like this went very well!

  • Lars

    Summer Streets is the best thing since sliced bread!

  • Christina

    Aren’t pedestrians supposed to be separated from bikes for their safety? In the videos, people walking and biking are mixed together. All the multiuse paths I have seen have a lane for peds and a lane for bikes.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Can’t wait to come up to the city this coming Saturday for the second installment!

    And BTW! I plan on spending lots my Jersey earned MONEY!

    I would otherwise plan on going “down da’ shore” and would spend my money there if Summer Streets wasn’t happening.

  • As I said in Friday’s thread and , the event was a huge success and should be made permanent and extended to Saturdays May through September.

    One bittersweet note was sounded at ~12:45, when NYPD began preparations to re-open the street to traffic. The officers apparently were instructed to force everyone onto the sidewalk, including bicyclists. I was interested to see how many of the bicyclists–including plenty of middle-aged recreational cyclist-types–quickly responded to the officers “bicycles aren’t allowed on the sidewalk!” and “why can’t bicycles stay on the street if you are opening it to traffic. We are traffic!”

    My read was that the officers had simply been told to completely clear the streets of everyone and everything before re-opening, and had not been given much of an explanation why, so they were simply following orders. This left the officers in the position of having to improvise justifications for the bemused bicyclists. For example, I explained to one officer that I ride on Park Avenue with my children in motor vehicle traffic most days, that there was no need to shoo us off and in fact, by forcing us to walk on the sidewalk, he was preventing us from making it home before the motor vehicle traffic actually returned at 1 pm. His response was “Look, we did you a favor and let you in the street this morning. Now you have to get off. You’re trying to take over the street.”

    I was left wondering to what degree this response reflected the extemporaneous flow of consciousness from a windshield perspective vs. vague animosity against bicyclists, perhaps born in part from the highly publicized pushing incident at the last Critical Mass ride (or both).

    One thing seems clear: Summer Streets creates a proprietary feeling toward the street among bicyclists just like Critical Mass and will result in a more assertive bicycling community with a higher consciousness of their “equal right to the road.”

    Bring it on!

  • Brian

    Congratulations NYC and Mayor Bloomberg. This event really sets a high standard for big cities across the country. We are looking forward to our first Ciclovia in San Francisco in a few weeks.

    It’s so nice to see the city back on its dancing feet. You all look so healthy and happy. And hardly any black clothing!

    Lots of love from the West Coast.

    – brian

  • Christina,
    it all depends on the place and its design. There are plenty of officially set up routes that don’t separate bikes and peds. These were just city streets where for a time no cars were allowed, and no rule separating bikes and peds was intended. And, happily (and somewhat predictably), I for one didn’t hear about any incidents resulting from the non-separation.

    Some places do separate bikes and peds, but plenty don’t, and there’s no policy that says all roads/paths must segregate bikes and peds. In fact you’ll even find different “separate or not” setups on the different East River bridges (well, the last time I rode them, at least).

  • Cristina, as I wrote in another thread, I walked Summer Streets with my five-year-old son from 28th Street to 51st Street. I was alert to any potential danger, but nothing happened. Cyclists simply rode around us, no matter which side of the street we were on.

    I think the main reason for separation of cyclists and pedestrians in other places is that there’s just not much space. Park Avenue is huge, so there was plenty of room for everyone.

    Given the difference in how much space pedestrians, cyclists and cars take up, I’d be interested to see any traffic counts. I could imagine that more people per hour passed through Park Avenue on Saturday morning than on many weekdays.

  • summerstreeter

    Hey everybody — if you loved summer streets, be sure to send good feedback to the DOT:

    And tell them to keep it going more often for longer hours next year.

  • Max Rockatansky

    BicyclesOnly: That incident shows a failure of leadership on the part of the police – the same failure that leads to overreacting and assaulting bicyclists during Critical Mass. It’s a real image boost for cyclists – we’re real people, with jobs, and we pay taxes and stuff like that!

    Christina: On the Separation of Pedestrians and Bicyclists – The overall pace of the open streets was fairly slow and meandering. I think it makes sense to separate bikes and peds when you’re considering daily traffic flows but as an unique event, it seems to have worked fine.

    Angus: I was thinking the same thing (traffic counts), there were so many people on the street it could be a real plus for businesses. I imagine restaurants in particular could really bring in a lot of people if they had outdoor seating. It would be much nicer than the bouquet of exhaust that usually greets al fresco diners!

  • One of the things I loved is that the bicyclists “got” that it wasn’t a race and it wasn’t fitness training. Even the small groups of friends cycling together were merely touring. I think it was because there was no dedicated cyclist space that all the cyclists recognized they had to go slowly and avoid conflicts with pedestrians. The fitness guys were all on the CP loop or the West Side Greenway.

    Some pedestrians were uneasy with this state of affairs and wanted cyclists to stop at the traffic lights that were not in effect (i.e., at the instersections where intersecting traffic was blocked). Those pedestrians were “missing it.” Without traffic lights, people had to look at each other, communicate with each other, cooperate with each other. I took every opportunity to grow these traffic interactions into non-traffic pleasantries, like “have fun!” and “isn’t this great?” I generally received very positive responses. Presto, an exponential increase in NYC civic culture! It’s easy! The folks who can’t deal with this are clinging to the NYC of the 1970s and 1980s, when it was taboo to meet eyes with or speak to strangers.

  • BicyclesOnly – I thought police tended to get a bit heavy handed in directing bicycle traffic, both stopping and pulling, particularly at downtown intersections like Canal Street and Foley Square.

    I couldn’t help but wonder how many pedestrians might find this intimidating if Police felt it was necessary to exercise crowd control at each major intersection.

    By comparison, Police seemed to take a much more relaxed role as one moved uptown. There were even Bicycle Cops in the East Sixties and Seventies.

    But above all, it was a wonderful experience and I can’t wait until next Saturday. I certainly hope DOT will make this a regular warm weather event and consider expanding it to include more of the City’s great boulevards.

  • It was so much fun for me and I saw so many people. Actually made it difficult to work.

    It will only get more fun this Saturday when I don’t bring the camera. Okay….I’ll only bring a point and shoot…I didn’t get as many good photos as I wanted.

  • momos

    I’m so curious about pedestrian/bike counts on Summer Streets Saturdays versus non-Summer Streets Saturdays. I hope DOT or Trans Alt is studying this. Such data could be invaluable in winning over businesses and making the case for closing Prince Street to cars, for example, or shrinking the number of car lanes on 42nd St.

  • Jaywalker

    I jogged and walked in street clothes from 52nd street down to City Hall, stopping along the way to take pictures and otherwise just enjoy being in the middle of the street. I found it particularly interesting how I saw people stayed (walking, running, biking) on the right side of the road instinctively even w/ all that space on Park Avenue.

    Of course, the bicyclists I encountered had no problem with me being on “wrong” side of the road as the pace was leisurely and everyone just went around me naturally.

    I also went into the Park Ave. Tunnel (actually, Murray Hill Tunnel) to take pictures. Was surprised I didn’t see anyone even if just for the novelty.

    Oh well. I want to see more of this and with better hours! START at 10 or around there and then leave it till dusk. Then again, a good jog does cure a hangover!

  • bikepower

    Summer Streets shows New Yorkers what this city can be without cars. People can see the dramatic quality of life difference with and without traffic. The air was clear, the streets were quiet, people could talk to each other without screaming. New Yorkers were chatting, flirting, exercising, having fun. It was a civic experience where people of this city shared the space that belongs to us all equally.

  • NewYorkRules

    JSK for mayor!

  • Lars

    Mayor Bloomberg for Mayor!

  • NoisyFisherman

    I was surprised at having a good time, I wasn’t frustrated by the usual oblivious pedestrians, reckless or slow cyclist, in fact it made me relax, overall i found the entire ride back and forth pleasant, I even had a few conversations with officers-even they seem to be pleasant.

    Now back to reality

  • Larry Littlefield

    “One of the things I loved is that the bicyclists “got” that it wasn’t a race and it wasn’t fitness training. The fitness guys were all on the CP loop or the West Side Greenway.”

    My wife and I rode up Park Avenue, around the CP Loop, and back down. The one sad moment was seeing two people on the ground badly hurt on the east side of the CP loop. It appeared that either two bicycles, or a bicycle and a jogger, had collided at high speed.

    The issue is speed. In Prospect Park the speed riders come out early, ride in a group, and have people posted at entrances to warn the pedestrains.

  • Slevin

    Well done, Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan! What a great event. Who knew biking on 4th Ave near Union Square could be relaxing?

    I hear next year it’s all day long?! (Or is that a rumor I just started?)

  • That looked amazing. Wish I could have been there. Thank you New York for having the courage to try something different. You have set the bar high. I’m sure every city that opens their streets to people makes it eaiser for the next city to do the same. I hope our two Sundays in SF (Aug 31 and Sept 14)can add to the general feeling that it’s time to use the streets in a new and healthy way. See you in the streets.

  • Budnik’s word was spot-on–it is INCREDIBLE what we people will do with a ribbon of asphalt-shaped possibility when automobiles clear out. The ARTIST in us all got to come out and play alongside the walker, runner, cyclist, rollerblader. how terrific to live in a city that endorses physical activity’s artistic power of re-imagination!

  • Dan!

    i’m pretty sure I saw some good dancing here, JP!

  • I couldn’t make it due to family junk, but it looks like I missed out on a great day!! You can bet your sprockets I’ll be there on the 16th! And again on the 23rd when my wife and I are planning on doing Summer Streets and then the waterfalls…

    Anyway. I’m a wee bit troubled. It’s GREAT to get cars off the streets, but I can’t help worrying that Summer Streets emphasizes recreation instead of transportation. To be honest, I’m scared that we might be giving ammunition to the miseries who tell cyclists to go ride in the park. And will this be thrown in our faces next time we want a bike lane? I don’t want to hear “No, you can’t have a bike lane on Queens Blvd. We already let you have Summer Streets, now go away and leave our roads alone.” I dunno… I’m not really sure how I feel. Just a little uneasy. Maybe I had too many Gummy Bears for lunch…

    Feel free to stop me and say hello on Saturday. I’ll be on a black 29er singlespeed with yellow chain and yellow pedals.


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