New York City Sidewalks Don’t Have to Be Garbage Dumps

New York City isn’t Barcelona. You can tell because in Barcelona, garbage bags don’t line every sidewalk. Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr.
New York City isn’t Barcelona. You can tell because in Barcelona, garbage bags don’t line every sidewalk. Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

In many parts of the city, sidewalks are too narrow for two people to walk abreast comfortably. One way NYC compromises the walking environment is by dumping garbage on the sidewalks before pick-up.

Whether in commercial or residential areas, every week people are forced to walk around mountains of waste on streets where curb lanes are reserved for vehicle storage.

For his “Rebranding Driving” series, Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson Jr. took a walk with pedestrian advocate Christine Berthet to survey sidewalks in Hell’s Kitchen prior to pick-up time:

Dumping trash on the sidewalks is not just unsightly. As shown in the video, it creates pinch points, which can be impossible to navigate for people with strollers or in wheelchairs. Sidewalk garbage was also cited as a contributing factor in the death of Andrew Schoonover on the Upper East Side in 2012.

There’s another way. Over the weekend Clarence sent these shots from Barcelona.

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Notice the refuse bins are sited on asphalt, rather than the sidewalk. The trash is out of sight, and people aren’t tripping over it.

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The video features pics from other cities with similar systems.

New York has room to get trash off sidewalks. What it needs is the political will to use curb space for something other than parking.

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The wider pedestrian zone is separated from the bike lane by planters, and the bike lane is separated from motor vehicle traffic by inexpensive bollards and low-profile barriers. Photo: NYCFreeParking/Twitter

This Block Now Has a Protected Bike Lane *and* a Wider Sidewalk

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Midtown Manhattan avenues have a problem: The sidewalks aren't wide enough for all the people walking on them. People have to walk in the roadbed to get where they're going. On avenues with protected bike lanes, this means people on foot spill over into bikeways, rendering them all but impassable for cyclists. Now there's a single Midtown block with a protected bike lane that also has a wider sidewalk.