NYC's 'humane streets' sets example for us

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .




Atlantic Cities features Clarence Eckerson Jr.’s film on the transformation of numerous streets and squares in New York city since 2005.
A paean to Michael Bloomberg’s administration, notably his transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, the film points out the great accomplishments in traffic redesign that gives over much more space to people on foot and on bicycle, with separate channels for cars. The film shows before and after scenes from places like Times Square, the Queensborough Bridge and Union Square.
With Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first term beginning, Sarah Goodyear, writing about the film and Bloomberg’s legacy of humane streets in “The Dramatic Makeover of New York’s Streets Under Bloomberg,” states that “now that New Yorkers have begun to get used to more humane streets in many parts of the city, it’s startling to see just how stark the contrast is. It makes you wonder, how did people accept the previous status quo?
“Bill de Blasio’s new transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, has a tough act to follow. Yesterday, before de Blasio’s inauguration, she was outside City Hall meeting with members of Make Queens Safer, Make Brooklyn Safer, and other street safety advocates, who were rallying in support of the new mayor’s ambitious “Vision Zero” plan to eliminate traffic fatalities in the city by 2024. It was an early indication that we won’t be going back to these “before” pictures of New York streets any time soon.”
New York City is flat and Pittsburgh is hilly but there are many places in our city where these kinds of transformations are not only feasible but advisable. Unlike New York, which is still car-congested, Pittsburgh has lots of underused boulevards, many of them multi-laned, that almost beg for a redesign for exclusive bike lanes.
Outgoing Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has made modest progress in granting some space to cyclists. The painted images of bicycles on streets with no provisions for safety might be raising the consciousness of some car drivers but it’s time for Pittsburgh to get some protected bike lanes. More chairs on the streets — beyond the ones people post to save parking spots — would be nice, too.
Like New York, we have a new mayor, Bill Peduto, who responds to the description progressive. Maybe 2014 will be the year Pittsburgh breaks out the bold, dramatic changes that have transformed the experience of cycling in the Big Apple.


Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.