The second installment in Streetsblog's series on
the potential direction for transportation policy during Michael
Bloomberg's third term comes from Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation
Alternatives. Don't miss the first entry, by Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director Kate Slevin.
Mayor Bloomberg has already shown how much his administration can accomplish in just a few years. Since Janette Sadik-Khan's appointment to head the DOT in 2007, the city has striped hundreds of miles of bike lanes, reclaimed acres of street space for pedestrians and improved bus travel for tens of thousands of New Yorkers. "More of the same" is no longer a dirty phrase when it comes to local transportation policy. During the next four years, the mayor needs to accelerate this progress, and introduce a few key innovations to maximize the value New Yorkers get from their new streets.
There is plenty of room to build on the Bloomberg administration's record of support for safer, greener streets. Photosim of 34th Street: Luc Nadal and Marc De Decker, ITDP.
Whether you're a straphanger, a cyclist, or a driver, every trip begins and ends with a walk. Pedestrians have had it good in recent years: Public plazas are sprouting by the dozen, hundreds of intersections have safer sidewalks and crossings, and the city's blueprint for sustainability, PlaNYC, promises that many more improvements are coming soon. How should New York keep this momentum going?
Well, the release of DOT's Street Design Manual back in July was an especially auspicious development. This groundbreaking playbook contains templates that can transform streets in neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. The manual is an engineering document, but it also makes sense as an outreach tool. Community groups concerned about street safety could use the manual as a menu, requesting traffic calming solutions for their neighborhood from DOT. Liberal use of these new designs, applied through a smart community-based process, could pay huge dividends all over the city.
For a fraction of the cost of subway line construction, buses could move millions, if the mayor throws his weight behind BRT.
Our city's new public spaces and calmed streets won't live up to their potential, though, unless New Yorkers know their roadways are safe places to walk and bike. Under Commissioner Ray Kelly, the NYPD has reduced levels of violent crime to record lows. Law enforcement should tackle traffic crime with equal diligence. Zero tolerance for speeding and dangerous driving, more comprehensive reporting and analysis of traffic crashes, and a relentless advertising campaign -- similar to the one the Mayor used to take on smoking -- would tame the Wild West atmosphere on our streets. If Bloomberg and Kelly successfully drive down traffic crime, hundreds of lives could be saved, thousands of injuries prevented, and countless New Yorkers would get out and enjoy their city more.
One sensible way for the NYPD to roll out this approach to traffic enforcement would be to start in areas frequented by children and seniors. Seniors make up 12 percent of New York's population, yet account for 39 percent of pedestrian fatalities. And according to the Department of Health, auto traffic is the leading cause of injury-related death in children ages 1-14. DOT's Safe Routes to School and Safe Routes for Seniors programs have spawned imitators around the country, but our city is no longer the national leader. Other cities are now far ahead of New York when it comes to implementing these street safety programs. Combined with police enforcement, short-term and inexpensive improvements such as leading pedestrian intervals, reductions in signalized crossing speeds, and a citywide slower speed limit in school zones would prioritize pedestrians, save the lives of children and seniors, and get New York City back in the forefront of planning streets for safety. Read more...