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If the Calendar Says ‘Friday,’ It’s Another Day of Hell on Varick Street

Streetfilm recently captured the catastrophe of Varick Street on a Friday afternoon. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Thank god it's Friday — unless you're a pedestrian, a cyclist or, yes, a driver on Varick Street this afternoon.

Our Streetfilms colleague Clarence Eckerson Jr. tried to bike through the well-known mess last week, and posted the video below. Everyone in the city knows the problems on the stretch of Varick near the Holland Tunnel — too many cars heading towards too small an opening, like pouring pebbles into a funnel — but the video brings the disaster into full living color: pedestrians running in fear, cyclists blocked, and drivers fuming.

It's must-see TV as far as Streetsblog is concerned:

It's tempting to indulge in more than a little schadenfreude watching people who drove into the city getting stuck in the very traffic that they cause, but their driving causes danger for everyone else in the short stretch between West Houston and Canal streets, where 155 pedestrians and cyclists have been in injured since 2010.

"I get the instinct to focus on the schadenfreude watching people sit in their four-wheeled hell moving one inch every half hour, but unfortunately it has negative effects for everyone, including those of us who've opted to build a life that doesn't include daily driving," said Doug Gordon, who works in the area and tweets as BrooklynSpoke. "This is a failure of policy and everyone, drivers included ought to be angry at the mayor and governor for not figuring this out."

Gordon backs up the film's lasting impression that pedestrians and cyclists are the people who are mostly inconvenienced.

"Crossing the street can be very unpleasant and nearly impossible," he said. "As far as cycling goes, the bike lane ends where Seventh Ave South becomes Varick Street [at Carmine Street], so people on bikes are left to mix it up with all of those cars. And every intersection is a mess.

"I've been in that office building for seven years. It's absolutely gotten worse," he concluded.

A spokesperson for the city Department of Transportation said the agency is aware of the problem and that the whole area is "under review as part of the Hudson Square/West Village study, which is seeking opportunities to improve pedestrian and bike safety along Varick Street, as well as other streets throughout these two neighborhoods." That review, the spokesperson said, will be completed by summer, 2019.

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