I think I’ve figured out why, when it comes to allocating space on New York streets, the Daily News opinion team tends to take a position that’s completely at odds with making the city a better place. The problem is that the Daily News opinion team doesn’t understand how city streets function.
In a piece that ran this weekend, editorial board member Josh Greenman reminds us that people drive motor vehicles to make useful trips, and that New York is already more walkable than Miami. So, now that’s settled.
Greenman sees himself as a sort of mediator between different factions — the bike, the car, and the pedestrian. “New Yorkers can like bikes without having disdain for the automobiles that share the roads,” reads the headline, and after condemning “knee-jerk anti-bicyclism,” he attempts to position himself as the voice of reasonable middle ground by defending driving:
Behind the zero-sum vision of some pro-bicycle advocates is a tacit assertion that in some parts of the city, cars, those corporate tools, have no claim to the road. They must be managed in the way an incurable disease is managed. God forbid anyone in power should try to make life easier for those who dominate the roads.
But framing the discussion around who has a “claim to the road” or how to “make life easier” for any one subset of people on the road isn’t a productive way to analyze streets and transportation policy.
Here’s how Streetsblog evaluates the transportation and planning subjects we write about. (This next part will probably be covering well-worn ground for Streetsblog readers. If it’s too didactic, I apologize. I didn’t know what else to do after reading a column which responds to current transportation policy debates by observing that trucks haul garbage.) The basic question we start from is, “What sort of city do we want to live in?” My answer to that question probably isn’t drastically different than Josh Greenman’s:
- City streets should be safe from traffic violence, so that people of every age can walk without fear of injury or death.
- People should have convenient access to jobs, schools, and other destinations in their daily lives.
- Streets serve a social and economic function as well as a transportation function. We should maximize their potential as public spaces and as generators of economic activity.
Striving to achieve those goals, a few obstacles loom especially large: