The Pedestrian Loses the Way

Before the advent of the electric and cable streetcars, pedestrians had undifferentiated dominion over both the sidewalks and the roadbed.

Comments: 130

  1. This has implications for free speech rights as well, as citizens no longer presumptively have the right to speak publicly in the roadbed. Speakers are now forced to obtain permits or else be arrested for blocking the flow of traffic, for interfering with the general public's enjoyment of plazas and parks, etc.

  2. Reading this column instantly brought to mind the famous "Trip Down Market Street" film from 1906, which provides a view from the front of a trolley car as it moves slowly down Market Street in San Francisco, with the Ferry Building in the distance growing ever larger (http://www.archive.org/details/TripDownMarketStreetrBeforeTheFire. It truly gives one a sense of the lost pedestrian life. Automobiles, horse drawn drays, and trolley cars all move at a funereal pace -- the occasional "speeding" car goes no faster than a person can run -- and the pedestrians walk everywhere and anywhere in the street, most of them utterly oblivious to the various vehicles moving around them at a virtual snail's pace. (Equally interesting is a quick comparison with a 2005 modern-day version -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vqcz_tllnwM -- which shows the same street devoid of pedestrians, who are instead hugging the "baseboards" except at pedestrian crossings.)

    It would be wonderful if such a turn of the century "Trip Down Fifth Avenue" existed.

  3. James W. thank you for your interesting observations and that mesmerizing link, which depicts the character of the street at that time far better than any photograph - or any writer - possibly could. What a startlingly beautiful dance of cooperation it was! And ... was that a horse cantering down Market Street at 5:33?

  4. You speak for me and I believe many others, thank you for your work.

  5. What a column!!!!!! Please send it to Emperor Bloomberg and the crazy traffic commissioner. PEDESTRIANS have rights, not the lunatic cyclists. Sidewalks for pedestrians!!!!!!

  6. I note that, in half a century in New York, I have never seen an automobile driving down a sidewalk.

  7. The most extreme example of the loss of public commons can be found in the bicycle friendly city of Amsterdam where the physical separation of trams, motor vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians has resulted in many stretches of sidewalk so narrow that people are crowded up against buildings, and one is constantly meandering around street poles, bollards, and a million other obstacles that can make simple strolling a challenge.

    New York has much broader streets and sidewalks, but some of the same dynamic is at work. As dedicated bike lanes with their added curbs and landscaping take from the open street, the pedestrian is often the neglected party and the streetscape becomes more cluttered and difficult to negotiate. We should have bike lanes in New York--there is enough space--but the pedestrian should not, increasingly, be the loser.

  8. And how do we get there? Therein lies a problem.

  9. From a bicyclist's perspective one of the biggest dangers is the uppity individual who doesn't know his place preferring the street to a sidewalk no matter how wide, how smooth, how empty. Often I encounter joggers going in my direction totally oblivious to the traffic around them and made deaf to horns and bells by headphones. The worst of the lot are those pushing baby carriages on streets instead of sidewalks: they should be arrested for endangering the welfare of a child.

  10. The astonishing carelessness of the today's pedestrian is not that different from the behavior shown in James W.'s fascinating link to the 1906 Market Street link. However, that was a time when the street was shared by all -- and the penalty for error was hardly as severe.

  11. Private cars in New York City are somewhat oxymoronish. They have either contributed to, or become necessary because of, the weakening of neighborhoods, which is related to the growth of the big box store. Who goes grocery shopping in the neighborhood anymore?

    When I moved from Queens to a countryish town 15 miles south of Buffalo I was astounded, annoyed and exhausted by the all day shopping expeditions. Driving to 5 or more stores (the furthest being 30 minutes away), getting in and out of the car, maneuvering through parking lots and traffic was alien. But at the same time, my family in Brooklyn thinks it normal to drive to Fairway or BJ's or Target.

  12. Poster #2, Thanks for the video links, they are wonderful!

    Now a person can get a ticket for "jaywalking" if she decides to cross in between corners. And there was one triumph for the pedestrian: remember when Guliani thought NYers were going to cross an intersection, was it counter-clockwise, and installed iron barriers? That had to be the most obnoxious bow to vehicular traffic ever, and didn't last long!

    It is also interesting to look at old street photos; often the scene looks almost exactly the same except that there are no cars parked on the street. Guess which one is more appealing!?

  13. ALB, yes, I wonder when the streets became, legally, off-limits to foot travelers. The sorry history of the allocation of our streets to car storage is reviewed in: http://www.nytimes.com/1996/03/17/realestate/streetscapes-cars-when-streets-were-vehicles-for-traffic-not-parking.html?ref=christophergray

  14. Bicyclists should remember the pedestrian. We should be natural allies. The bad behaviour of some gets in the way and bikes do not belong on the sidwalk.

  15. Indeed, it is such a pity that there is no organization which lobbies for pedestrians in New York City - which is, of course, the fault of the pedestrians (including me). But the cyclists, taxis and cars manage their own advocacy groups quite effectively.

  16. The loss of pedestrian space coupled with a focus of resources on bicycles is especially destructive for elderly and disabled residents of NYC.

    The elderly are an ever-growing segment of NYC's population, but the Bloomberg administration continues to favor policies (cutting budgets for services, allowing the MTA to cut bus-mass transit while funding bike lanes etc) that benefit the young and affluent.

  17. Youngish riders have not the faintest appreciation for how devastating is the threat of being knocked over by a cyclist, something I learned only during the recuperation from a knee injury years ago.

  18. You may not have seen an automobile driving down a sidewalk, but I have seen scooters here in Montreal. So watch out, they are the next.

  19. Mr. Gray, I've lived in New York for less than three years and I have seen cars driving down the sidewalk. I've also seen them drive the wrong way on one-way streets, run red lights, turn from the fourth lane (driving along the crosswalk in the process)...

    There is much more blame to lay on motorists than on cyclists. Their vehicles are so much bigger and take so much of our public space, and they are also much deadlier.

  20. Couldn't agree more. In a city of preserved historic districts, it is the biggest single change on the landscape.

  21. Tell cyclists to not ride on the sidewalk, yell at them. Bikes have no rights to be there and there are not entititled to it. If enough people show their displeasure that practice should stop. I say this as a daily, year round commuter.

    What I gathered from this piece is that we New Yorkers would do well to send the car back to suburbia, and take our streets back.

  22. I was taken by the statement that car storage on streets did not occur until the 1950's. Would love to see more information and sources on that. Why have we allowed the automobile to take over 80% of the street (in Manhattan) when they add to quality of life to maybe 20% of the people.

  23. Here's one: http://www.nytimes.com/1996/03/17/realestate/streetscapes-cars-when-streets-were-vehicles-for-traffic-not-parking.html?ref=christophergray

  24. PS Thanks for the great history lesson - we need to be reminded of times when we were more "civilized".

  25. Of course, as another reader wrote me, the wastes left by horses was, we would consider now, intolerable. T'would be an interesting study simply to calculate the global warming effects of returning to the buggy, the streetcar and the railroad.

  26. In Portland I see more bicycles and skateboarders riding on the sidewalk, often without helmets or lights. Are bicycle cops in order?

  27. When I moved from NYC, I immediately noticed the relative dearth of street life and pedestrians. I stopped riding my bicycle in fear of my life - and I'd never had any trouble riding from Wall St to Central Park on the weekends. And, even as a vegetarian, I appreciate the aroma of kielbasa smoke. ;-)

    New Yorkers - I'm sure it could be better, but in some ways you are so fortunate. Oh, dog - the Sabrett carts ....

  28. Interesting piece, but a few developments were overlooked. More and more space is, in fact, being given back to pedestrians. Witness the turning over of Times Square and Herald Square on Broadway. And the recent improvements at Broadway and 71st Street. Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. And so on.

    Another important aspect of the increase in bicycle infrastructure is that it makes a street safer for all users: cyclists, drivers and, yes, pedestrians. On streets where protected bike lanes have been installed between parked cars and the sidewalk, injuries and crashes are down for all modes. Now that's progress.

    And finally, Mr. Gray, regarding your comment about driving on the sidewalk: in NYC there are about a dozen pedestrians killed by motor vehicles each year on sidewalks alone. That's more than are killed in collisions with cyclists in a quarter century.

  29. Yes, the pedestrian reclamation of those areas has been a wonderful new development. If all vehicles could travel at bicycle speeds, the city would be a much more civil place.

  30. #2 - thank you for the video, really terrific. I saw a couple of pedestrian evasion actions, one early on in the video versus a bicycle and one at about 5:00 versus a car.

    I'm quite content today with cars in the roads and pedestrians on the sidewalk. If anybody wants a taste of what street life was like there then take a trip to modern Naples. Absolute traffic insanity.

  31. Can the writer give examples of when a bike lane installed in NYC took space from a sidewalk? I cannot think of one. Studies show more bicycle lanes means fewer bikers on the sidewalk and fewer injuries for ALL users of our streets, pedestrians included. An educated pedestrian should be 100% behind bike lanes, not complaining about a fictitious loss of space.
    And regarding never seeing a car driving down the sidewalk, you must not spend time around Manhattan parking lots, police stations, or fire stations. How do you think the drivers get their cars parked on these sidewalks without driving on them?

  32. I'm afraid I don't see any suggestion in the article that a bike lane took space from a sidewalk, "fictitious" or otherwise.

  33. In fact, Transportation Alternatives is a powerful advocate for pedestrians, in addition to cyclists.

    No bike lanes have come at the expense of pedestrian space. Providing bike lanes encourages safe cycling on streets and draws cyclists off the sidewalks.

    Cyclists and pedestrians shouldn't be at war: it's motorists that kill both of them, in huge numbers.

  34. Again, I don't see any suggestion in the article, or anywhere else, that bike lanes have taken away space from sidewalks.

  35. Then there are the crazy pedestrians. I was driving in Jamaica, Queens on a noraml road at normal speed when a man jumped in from of my slowly moving car and screamed at me"You don't really want to do that, do you?" Do what? Drive a car?

  36. It is astonishing, isn't it? There is such a double standard in behavior by pedestrians and behavior by drivers and cyclists. Of course, as demonstrated by the 1906 video mentioned above, when speeds were low, it was a very small problem.

  37. If Mr Christopher Gray wants to see automobiles driving down sidewalks, he should come to Staten Island. There are four commercial strips and businesses in my neighborhood alone where the sidewalk is literally used as an integral part of their front parking lots.

    Drivers back out and drive in anywhere they can over these sidewalks, they drive on them, they block them, they park on them. If they see a a spot, the drivers go right over the curb and the sidewalk to park in it.

  38. The poor and middle class are losing the right to use the roads in much of the world, and Mr. Bloomberg is trying to replicate that here. The rich have no need for parking spaces on the streets, so as parking spaces disappear are they are in NYC, it is the poor who manage to drive old cars and the middle class who lose places to park. The congestion-pricing plans of Mr. Bloomberg would function not only to keep cars out of Manhattan, but specifically to keep the cars of those who can't afford high fees out of the city. Look at London, a city that has congestion pricing in the center of the city. One does see far fewer cars, but the cars one sees tend to be high priced luxury models that whip by serenely on largely empty streets devoid of the older cars of the riff raff. When people are excluded from using the streets, it's to serve the rich who still can afford to use the streets, and to use them devoid of the usual hustle and bustle that should be included in a democracy.

  39. I think most people who bike would agree pedestrians also deserve more space -- we're on the same side. As someone who bikes, I'm careful to always stop for pedestrians at mid-block crosswalks. Walking is the most fundamental form of transportation, so people on foot should always come first. Which begs the question, why do we call them "crosswalks" and not "crossdrives," since it's where drivers (and bikes) are invading pedestrian space and need to wait until people are absent before they can cross?

  40. In mentioning bicycles on sidewalks, you should have also mentioned the most annoying and surprising fad of the last 15 years; cities allowing motorized Segway scooters on their sidewalks. The success in getting the Segway categorized as a "personal mobility device" placed geeks/yuppies in the same category as the genuinely handicapped, thereby forcing pedestrians to share the sidewalk with these fairly fast (and silent) motorized vehicles.

  41. There is no advocacy organization for Segways that I know of.

  42. In todays New York, pedestrian space is not sacrificed for the addition of safe space for cyclists. New pedestrian spaces, pedestrian plazas, and expanded pedestrian spaces have popped up all over the city at the same time bicycles lanes have been added to streets.

    If people who walk in this city want to get serious about having more space, then they need to speak up. If more of those people showed up to the 34th Street transitway meetings, maybe there would have been a nice pedestrian street on 34th between 5th and 6th Avenues in the near future.

  43. If we can't get cars out of central park, how are you going to claim regular streets? Driving in central park is no longer a recreational activity. Now, it's mainly cab drivers racing through as quick as they can honking at pedestrians and bike riders that are in their way.

    Free parking on the city streets is another idea whose time has past. Those lanes are extremely valuable real estate, yet they are given to people who can deal with alternate side of the street parking.

    Our roads would have an immediate doubling of capacity without it. On a cross street, we lose two of three lanes width. It could be very civilized if one lane was reserved for cars, one lane was for bikes, and one lane for people to load and unload their cars.

  44. At least, we no longer have to deal with horse exhaust!

  45. For the ultimate insult...I live in a small metro area in Illinois and was walking just outside of the area in a small town on a bike/jog path when I was harassed by police because I was barefoot on the trail. The ultimate pedestrian insult! Part of this problem is that citizens no longer have the control or the influence we once had. Many people hate cars, they are poisonous, expensive, and they cut you off from the world. Yet, we put up with them seeing no other way to commute. We accept the police state that has formed (cameras at lights, on roadways, the technology of tracking) primarily around the automobile. The train doesn't ride us anymore...the car does.

  46. Future New Yorkers might look back at this time in disbelief that we hadn't yet figured out how much more civilized sidewalk traffic would be if pedestrians followed the simple rule of the road, and walk to the right. Until then, it's a daily battle against pedestrian anarchy.

  47. The idea that the city has lost "the sense of the city as a democracy" because technology has made travel faster than walking speed is just another silly statement by today's anti-intellectual Luddites. Do we really want to keep looking to the past as the ideal-type, an era when life expectancy was 45? When people lived 5-10 per room in ideal "public space?" The past was really bad for most people.

  48. Indeed, those aspects of the past are horrible. Couldn't agree more. Not to mention horse excrement. The poundage was colossal.

  49. Cars should be banned.

  50. The current DOT is responsible for expanding pedestrian space, in some instances restoring space that had been appropriated away for decades by less space-efficient, more dangerous modes. This DOT also has added bike lanes, every one of which has reduced sidewalk biking.

    Also, Mr. Gray, I have seen cars drive on sidewalks, and park on them. I have never seen such an offending vehicle get a ticket.

  51. A classic NYT article: dress up demonstrably false claims in a cloth of history.
    A) The city has added a great deal of pedestrian space in recent years. End of story. That's simply true. Look it up.
    B) The notion that riding bikes on the sidewalk is some new phenomenon is just . . . crazy. There's no other word for it.
    C) Riding on sidewalks is legal under some circumstances--and not just legal but the only safe option.
    D) I would welcome it if anyone could show me a single instance of a bike lane being added in the last five years that has cost pedestrians a single inch of space. One instance. One.
    Who lets articles like this get printed? Truly, who?

  52. Several readers have complained that the article makes the statement that bike lanes have come at the expense of sidewalks, or pedestrian space. I would appreciate it if one could call my attention to that passage.

  53. Remove asphalt and go back to belgian block road surfacing, and you'll solve speeding cars and biycles.

    Why are bicycles the enemy, when it seems parked cars are really the enemy: consuming all that street use and potential throughput to, what, give some lucky guy a $1 spot instead of $20 at a private lot? Why should street parking subsidize the lucky or early risers at the expense of every other person, pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers? Why did this article spend so much mental anguish on cyclsts and breeze right by the parking as an unchangeable fait accompli from 1950?

  54. Yes, I have always wondered if Belgian block would make street repairs easier. Myself, I don't recall having any "mental anguish" in writing this article. Street parking is discussed in http://www.nytimes.com/1996/03/17/realestate/streetscapes-cars-when-streets-were-vehicles-for-traffic-not-parking.html?ref=christophergray

  55. Excellent article! Let's also add the skateboards, the Razor scooters, the electric bikes (a new upcoming danger), unicycles, roller-skates, the oversize baby carriages, the self-absorbed cell-phone zombies and even the giant umbrellas that 'occupy' the sidewalks of New York.

  56. in half a century in New York, I have never seen an automobile driving down a sidewalk.

    well I have. When I first moved to Washington Heights I encountered cars driving down sidewalks frequently. The police allow cars to double park during the street cleaning hours. the cars which are hemmed in routinely drove down the sidewalk. The police refers to their policy as a courtesy. now where have we heard that before. Double parking is illegal, except when the police say so. This is not the rule of law.
    My complaints to the precinct resulted in at least one street to exempted from the double park mess. When I was pushing the stroller with my infant son down the sidewalk only to encounter a car was for me the last straw.

  57. Of course, as soon as we allowed permanent street parking, we allowed double parking.

  58. One or two cyclists breaking the law, versus how many law-abiding cyclists that you never even noticed, Christopher? Nearly every cyclist I've ever seen in my travels around NYC allows pedestrians the right of way, and for the one or two I've seen over the years blatantly intimidate or harass walkers, I've ridden them down and given them hell. It's a self-policing mode of transport. Cyclists know they are more, that's right MORE, vulnerable to car traffic than pedestrians, and so respect pedestrians far more than the average shlub who locks up his car at the curb and heaves his obese butt across the sidewalk to pick up his dry cleaning.

  59. This article grossly misrepresents the recent proliferation of bicycle facilities in New York City. In most cases, the protected bicycle lanes have been implemented alongside extensions of pedestrians space, in the form of pedestrian refuge islands and in the case of the Broadway project, massive expansions of pedestrian spaces and mini plazas. All pedestrian islands along bike lanes are planted with greenery which improves the aesthetics of the pedestrian realm. Further, protected bicycle lanes have been accompanied by a dramatic reduction of sidewalk bicycling on those streets, further improving the pedestrian space. In addition, protected bicycle lanes have often been created with the specific intention of slowing cars down, by removing travel lanes from cars, in order to improve pedestrian safety. This was the case on Prospect Park West, 9th Ave, Broadway, and 1st Avenue. Finally, the protected bike lanes have been shown to dramatically improve safety for all users. Here is a classic example of communities supporting bicycle lanes because of the pedestrian improvements and safety they bring:
    http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/09/08/cb-8-committee-may-not-love-cyclis...

    Yes, there are a few small examples where bicycles have been allowed to intrude on pedestrian space (e.g. City Hall Park), but these areas are due to extremely tight circumstances and their total distance can be measured in feet, not miles. Overall, though, there is hardly a war between bicycles and pedestrians, and attempts to foment one come at the expense of improvements for both users.

  60. Ah yes, the good old days, when cars buses and bikes had not been invented, when you could get run over by a horse drawn wagon and walk in the street in the mud and horse and cattle poop. Then, trains ran along railroad right of ways. Few dared to walk there. Now people walk and bike along many abandoned rail right of ways.

  61. If you really want to get a modern-day taste of what the streets (and people)could be like without the constant intrusion of cars or badly-behaved bicyclists, go to a Brooklyn block party some time. On my block all the cars are asked to leave (and do), and you get the opportunity to see the block from the street in it's original form, without the double row of cars obscuring the view. It becomes like a great, open-ended ballroom where everyone has a chance to add their mite to the dance, and you can really see your neighbors across the way, really be heard as you call good morning to them. It's only twice a year, but it's wonderful. Even the people on bikes like it--you can see where everyone is, and they can see you.

  62. Just yesterday a cab jumped the curb on Madison Avenue, injuring a woman. In June, a pickup truck driver jumped the curb after being hit in Harlem in the middle of the day, injuring at least five people and killing a 70-year-old woman. This summer, a woman was walking on W. 58th Street when a car jumped the curb injuring her critically. In July, an NYPD van driven by an auxillary driver crashed into a Chinatown sidewalk, killing a 55-year-old man. Not long ago, six people were injured when a Nissan driver jumped the curb, ran over the sidewalk, and crashed into the steps of the State Supreme Court on Centre Street. There's a sidewalk near the Queensboro Bridge where at least three cars have jumped the curb in a matter of months, in one case killing a pedestrian in front of a hair salon.

    There are countless other examples of cars breaching the safety of the sidewalk, but so far zero examples of bicyclists killing anyone walking on a sidewalk or in a pedestrian plaza.

    Yes, cyclists should stay off of sidewalks, but to say that sidewalks are the last refuge of pedestrian safety is to willfully ignore the carnage that automobile drivers cause on them every day.

  63. Add to the sidewalk clutter sidewalk cafes, bicycles as well as bicycle racks. kids as well as grownups on scooters and huge baby carriages (for multiple babies) and skateboards jumping off steps, rails etc.
    There seems to be no regard at all for pedestrians either on streets (cars obey no traffic laws or lights) or on sidewalks.

  64. It's ridiculous to imply that pedestrian paths are being encroached upon by cyclist. On the contrary the implementation of the "bike" paths have expanded the space of the pedestrian; people walk through these paths oblivious of any traffic that surrounds them. When I cycle I prefer the street to the "bike" paths. It's much safer. Drivers have to be attentive of their surrounding in nyc. Cyclists have to be super attentive of their surrounding in nyc. Pedestrians? Attentive to their phone or music, but usually clueless to what is going on around them. It would be great to have more cooperative roads, however, until the pedestrian can really be cooperative, the sidewalk seems to be working pretty well. As for cyclist riding on sidewalks, you would have to be crazy or a tourist to bike on a sidewalk.

  65. You left out the privitization of the sidewalks by street vendors and restaurants too. Calling them street vendors is incorrect as its the sidewalks they have taken over. Then there are the film crews that insist you are not allowed on sidewalk, corner or street, or even your entire block as you try to get back to your home.

    Literally, most days of the week you cannot walk without the danger of being knocked into, gridlocked etc. from West Broadway to the subways at Broadway or at Crosby-Lafayette. It is freakin' out of control and insane. And DANGEROUS. Not making this up. The dangers include everything from bikers to people smoking and waving about their cigarettes in such a dense crowd. Naturally none of these deeply i-podded, i-phoned people even notice there are other people.

  66. I think one of the main ideas driving the installation of bike lanes is that increased bicycle traffic helps to calm car traffic. This in turn makes the overall streetscape safer for everyone, ie pedestrians. All of the bike lanes that I have seen in this city include pedestrian islands, which make it safer for people to cross the street, and landscaping to beautify the neighborhood. The many pedestrian plazas that have been installed are dedicated to making the streets places for people rather than cars, reclaiming the street as public space for all citizens rather than chutes to push commerce through. Given that pedestrian injuries have decreased dramatically in places where these street calming measures have been implemented, I think it behooves citizens longing for simpler times to support the DOT's efforts. The main problem is, of course, cars, trucks and taxis and the excessive speeds they drive at. A truck or car going 35-40 miles an hour does far more damage than a cyclist going 15-20 mph. I think bicycles are a bit of a straw man that auto/petroleum lobbies are exploiting to direct attention away from the real problem: our dependence on cars and oil.

  67. If we could get speeds down to those shown in the 1906 San Francisco video (above) the city would be a wonderful place. Might be a problem with getting take out food delivered, but I could live with that.

  68. Christopher -

    You sure have that right. New York is actually quite primitive compared with most European cities. It continues to allow cars and trucks to totally dominate the streetscape; the driver in NY has all the rights and privileges, and woe to anyone who dares challenge that, even to the extent of asking them to pay for that preeminence via congestion pricing. I am generally supportive of bicycles vs cars, but it is also true that the spandex psychopaths who dominate NY bicycling culture can be as irresponsible as car and truck drivers in their disregard of pedestrian safety. It's sad; NY doesn't have to be that way, but one needs no further proof that Gotham is in fact an American city than its seemingly unstoppable prioritization of automobile traffic over everything else.

  69. Very interesting article as to the changing view of "the road" in American culture. By noting how close houses were built to the road in old communities, you can sense how intimate the relationship of people to the roadway was before people, dogs, etc., were forced off the road by automobiles.

    I'm reminded of a line from a poem I read many years ago (wish I could remember the title) that had someone wanting to "live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend of man."

    Many rural secondary roads are still claimed by all. Some such roads have basketball goals located so as to use the paved secondary road for the court. And as a long-distance rural cyclist, I know that the very silent and often fast-moving bicyle is a very real threat to the people, dogs, livestock, etc., that so casually use the public way in many rural areas.

  70. Looking at the beautiful video that James W. shared, I cant help but notice also the lack of obese and or overweight people!! How much damage has the car done...

  71. Well, they certainly weren't moving too fast to be captured by the camera!

  72. Well, they certainly weren't moving too fast to be captured by the camera!

  73. Christopher, there are organizations which lobby for pedestrians, e.g., TA does quite some lobbying for liveable (walkable) communities, and the NYC DOT has done lately quite a bit for pedestrians with plazas, sidewalk widening. Also note that their bicycle infrastructure projects have improved pedestrians life by reducing sidewalk cycling (e.g., on PPW and 8/9th Ave). The pedestrian's biggest enemy is not the cyclists but cars: just look at the accident statistics, not to speak on the disproportional amount of space allocated to cars given that car owners are a minority in all of NYC ...

  74. Indeed the city's enemy is far more the car than the cyclist. But bicycles, with a newly assertive role in the mix, are more evident.

  75. Bike lane infrastructure, which costs less than building new roads or maintaining old ones, *does not benefit the young and affluent* to the exclusion of others. **It benefits anyone who can walk** (if you can walk, you can ride a bike, you need not be an Olympic-caliber athlete to commute on bike or merely enjoy cycling around the city ). And it benefits people like me who look at rising MTA fares and think it makes more sense to spend that money on a decent bike and maintenance, which costs far less than a car, and costs society far less, too.

    Bike lane infrastructure -- and this is a fact -- helps calm traffic, in turn reducing injury and deaths that are the typical results of prioritizing motorized traffic over pedestrians and cyclists. If you fear bikes more than cars, you are not watching what is happening on NYC streets. Please don't lump law-abiding cyclists in with some not-always-young inconsiderate ones. And don't set double standards for cyclists when no class of user, pedestrian, cyclist, or driver, exhibit anything close to 100 percent exemplary behavior. Drivers overwhelming cause and have the most potential to cause devastating injuries, and death. Making the city more bicycle-friendly helps make it more pedestrian friendly, regardless of perceptions otherwise. Increasing cycling and making the city pedestrian friendly are not mutually exclusive and never will be.

    Mr. Gray: Transportation Alternatives advocates for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit users.

  76. People fear bikes more than cars because bikes are relatively new, in strength, in the mix - don't you think? I do not see any "double standards" in the article, which sets out only to see how the streets - and sidewalks - have been the subject of turf battles for over a century. And I love what Transportation Alternatives does - but it is, essentially, a bicycle lobby - from which we all benefit. Even, I suspect, taxi drivers. Christopher Gray, former cab driver

  77. An interesting account, but an oversimplified one, I suspect. Without meaning to discount the danger (or speed) of motorized traffic, let's not forget that horses are big and potentially dangerous, nor that streets once played (as they do today in many parts of the world) a dual role not just as passageways but as sewers for animal and human waste alike.

  78. If anything, the increase in the number of bike lanes in NYC, especially Class I, physically protected bike lanes, has been a boon to pedestrians. On Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, for example, the installation of a curbside, parking-protected bike path last year led to a reduction in sidewalk riding from something like 40% of cyclists using PPW to 4%. Do pedestrians still need more space? Definitely. But I don't believe there's a single example in New York City of former pedestrian space being given over to a bike lane.

  79. I am still not certain where this "pedestrian space given over to a bicycle lane" comes from.

  80. This is completely wrong. Before motorized transport, the primary means of transportation was by horse. In the late 19th century, New York City faced a crisis of horse manure which threatened to sink the city by its volume. There has never been a time in the last 200 years when the pedestrian was king.

  81. I think the scores of children killed every year by motorcars until people learned they no longer had rights in the roadway would disagree with you.

  82. I always find the Streetscapes column fascinating in its details, and this one is no exception (what with the mention of outfits at court), but it seems extremely revisionist to say that pedestrians had the right of way, so to speak, before the advent of the bicycle, trolley, and automobile. Predating all of those modes of transportation was the horse and carriage/wagon, which together with street vendors, etc. surely created a little bit more chaos than this column would suggest. I'm not sure pedestrians ever had free reign to stroll down the street without a degree of chaos; we're just wrestling today with the latest version of that chaos.

  83. So, in 50 years Mr. Gray has never seen a vehicle pull into or out of a parking garage (driving on the sidewalk in the process), or a truck at a loading dock blocking the entire sidewalk and at least one lane of the roadway, forcing everyone to walk in traffic? Cyclists are killed constantly by cars, and if we want cyclists not to make the calculation that they're more likely to survive their journey by riding on the sidewalk, then we should by all means build more protected bike lanes.

  84. Yes, I have seen cars crossing the sidewalk, but I have never seen a car "driving on the sidewalk" as a thoroughfare. I do hope someday we have the cyclist traffic to warrant bicycle lanes on every street - that is, however, a lot of real estate.

  85. Here in Seattle, bicyclists are the worst. They constantly whine about not having enough bike lanes, but when they get them they still use the sidewalks. And then they lecture you about how much they contribute to the health of the planet.

  86. And all it takes are a few to spoil it for others, as with cyclists, as with cars. Pedestrians, on the other hand, seem to ignore all signals. Birthright, I guess. My own rule is, don't cross an avenue (a wide street) unless there are at the very least the first cars are at least four blocks away.

  87. I am an avid cyclist in the Bronx and Manhattan. I stop at red lights and signal and communicate effectively w. pedestrians and drivers. I dress visibly and don lights on my body and bicycle. I ride very fast but that is meant to keep up with the flow of traffic, and let drivers proceed quickly to /their/ destinations. Sometimes I take a car lane, but I both ask for it and signal when I am giving it back! I slow down if I see children or strollers /near/ the curb and signal for cyclists behind me to slow down. If a cyclist misses an oncoming pedestrian, I sound my horn on their behalf. If a driver does something wrong, I tell them what they are doing wrong. If we are in motion, I have to scream, but if we reach a light, I motion for them to roll their window down and tell them what they did wrong. If I am wrong, I scream "sorry" or retreat from the lane or intersection. I work very hard at being a good and safe cyclist, but some pedestrians and drivers are not as conscientious.

    I committed to not scream at pedestrians. Well, last night some lady did a 180* back INTO the bike lane, w. a cellphone in her face, I said: "Miss, you can't do /that/. You went one way and then went another." I got a 'talk to the hand' gesture and she blissfully walked a few paces into a shoe store. So I walked 5 feet into the store and calmly told the sow that I almost hit her while going 25MPH.

    I came within 2-ft if knocking this woman down, tearing her nice legs w. my pedals, and slamming her body into the asphalt. I try very hard not to cause such problems for drivers by being /responsible/, pedestrians need to think in the same manner for their own well-being, and for us cyclist to not incur legal problems. Cyclists please be consistent and diligent about safety and following the rules!

  88. If every cyclist was like you, bicyclists would not incite such anger. Now that I think of it, "pedestrian training" wouldn't be a bad idea.

  89. There is a great organization lobbying for pedestrians in NYC: it is Transportation Alternatives, which also promotes more bike lanes, better transit, and safe bicycling behavior. Christopher, please take a look at this short video on fixing the great mistake of autocentric development: http://www.streetfilms.org/fixing-the-great-mistake-autocentric-developm...

    The issue is not pedestrians vs. everyone else. It is about cars. If the privileged position of cars is curtailed through market-rate parking and congestion pricing, there will be plenty of room for bicyclists and pedestrians to happily co-exist, as they do in other world capitals like Paris, London, and Amsterdam.

  90. Considering how heedless pedestrians are, in the face of thousands of pounds of steel, I am always surprised at how few are killed. However, when I look at any of the pedestrian crosswalks in Central Park, across the drives, which have stoplights, I am not so sure about your contention about co-existence.

  91. Mr. Gray writes, "Indeed, it is such a pity that there is no organization which lobbies for pedestrians in New York City - which is, of course, the fault of the pedestrians (including me). But the cyclists, taxis and cars manage their own advocacy groups quite effectively."

    This is a lie, as anyone who goes to the Transportation Alternatives website will see in the banner on top. www.transalt.org. Transportation Alternatives is one of the oldest advocacy groups around.

    Why is Mr. Gray trying to drive a wedge between pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit-riders? And when was pedestrian space ever taken away to give to bicyclists?

  92. "Lie" is a rather serious term. Transportation Alternatives is a wonderful group, and does wonderful things. But its membership base without cyclists would be, I suspect, much, much reduced. Hence their opposition to things restricting cyclists, like bike registration. I am, incidentally, a cyclist. Each group has its own interests, entirely naturally.

  93. Cars drive on the sidewalk EVERY SINGLE DAY in New York. How do you think all those cars get into the garages? Don't think those are dangerous? Cars come up blindly onto the sidewalk, making our sidewalks real danger zones for pedestrians.

    Another case of myopia by a driver.

  94. I do not own a car, but I thank you for the compliment, if it is one.

  95. The Columbus Circle picture today reminds me there was a B&O bus station in the 1940s in the building on the northeast corner. The bus would take train passengers via ferry to the B&O Terminal in Jersey City. Other buses would also go on the ferry from several other pickup points in midtown.

  96. I am a walker of the city. I own a car. I own a bike. I do not own a Segway and am grateful beyond expression for the absence of that dangerous foolishness from the streets and sidewalks of my city.

    Bikes do not belong on sidewalks, they should not be ridden against the flow of traffic, bicyclists should wait at red lights even in parks and they should not turn on red lights, bicycling without helmets should be an offense just as it is for motorcyclists, and bicyclists should not be thought of as occupying a moral high ground.

    Bike lanes serve virtually no one in my neighborhood--Columbus Avenue in the 80's--you can observe for many minutes at any time of day without seeing a single rider. Yet pedestrians have to be wary crossing the bike lane on the off chance that a bike will come through from either direction on this one way avenue. Beyond that the complexity of the signaling if left turning lane for cars on 81st street, now that we have this vestigial bike lane, further complicates a complex intersection. This is a bad ill-conceived joke.

  97. Well, it certainly would be wonderful if we had that many bikes. And if the streets were all bikes, it would be a more pedestrian friendly city. And perhaps that is a way to get there. But I, like you, look up and down Columbus Avenue and see ... this morning, for instance, one (1) cyclist, from 76th to 84th. More would be great. And I hardly begrudge them the lane.

  98. The suggestion that the few arrogant cyclists who use sidewalks constitute a abrogation of pedestrian rights to them is a writer's overstatement used to make a point. Bicyclists on sidewalks are scofflaws and are not a sign that pedestrians have ceased to own their space, just as the existence of criminals in the society doesn't mean honest citizens are finished.

  99. I think a city of the future is more to be like the World's Fair or Disneyland...two places where a person could, or can, stroll, walk...carfree, and find amenities. I always wanted to live in the Flushing Meadows fairgrounds. Not near it...inside it...with the AMT monorail fully built.

    Why aren't we building more plazas...more enclaves...in some sense a large outdoor shopping mall is a far more pedestrian friendly experience than the average downtown.

  100. The only solution I see is to license all bikes. Then the police can
    identify the scoff-laws. At present there is no enforsment of the rules
    of the road, or sidewalks. And what about the next fronteer: electric
    bikes?

  101. The licensing bill was proposed ... and then shot down. By the bicycle lobby. And good for them - that is exactly what they should do. Early newspaper coverage of the advent of the automobile, in the early 1900s, makes amusing reading with the automobile industry making all sort of exculpatory protests when, for instance, legislation was introduced reducing the speed limit from 15 to 8.

  102. I know that I am going to get grilled by some bike zealouts for saying this, but here it goes. First off, just like the WNBA, the use of motor vehicles isn't going to die anytime soon no matter how much some tend to despise. Motor vehicles are still needed because there are still some places that depend on them a lot such as major deliveries and services since that can't be done by by transit or even bicycles. Christopher, people were getting hit in the streets by horse carriages way before the invention of cars, and let's not forget that when the city's population was growing, grade level tracks started to become a danger, which lead to the removal of streetcars and trolleys from densely ubran areas. By the turn of the century, horses were becoming obsolete for most things, which lead to the invention of the car. A major advantage of them was that people no longer had plan around train schedules, and the demand became higher when the Model T. Ford was made, which sold them at a cheaper price for everyone. In reality, no level of government created this car culture, just reacted to this, and the same thing happened with Robert Moses when he made most of the city's highways. In all honesty, I don't see why cyclists need special lanes to go around when all they need to do is just follow the traffic laws. Instead, they tend to act like they are part of some special class and feel that just because they are riding something that doesn't produce emissions, they have a blank check to do whatever they want. It's an irnoy how bicycle advocates demand that us motorists follow every letter of the law when they hardly do that themselves. Some of the bike lanes are only used seasonally or weather permitting except for flashmobs from Transportation Alternatives compared to the roads that are used all year long. As for pedestrian plazas, they shouldn't be placed in major areas such as Times Square especially when it caused a number of buses to be stopped later on.

  103. Thank you for this inspiring article. I am sadly a native and resident of bike friendly Seattle, where bicyclists seem to have the status of Sacred Cows. I don't think anyone in the media here would dare to express such pro pedestrian ideas. In my city adult bicyclists are welcome to ride on the sidewalks, in effect making them multi-use bike paths, that pedestrians are welcome to use, but only at their own risk. Seattle is a lovely city, but a dangerous and unpleasant place to walk. How fortunate you are to live in NYC.

  104. Here in San Francisco bicycles are now allowed to blow through stop signs and disregard red lights. Imagine a bike barreling down one of our hills and not even pausing at an intersection.

    It has contributed to their already huge sense of entitlement, shown in their riding on sidewalks and the wrong way on one way streets. While walking around in my beloved city I have had more close calls with bikes than with cars, trolleys or the dreaded MUNI bus.

  105. My compliments to the author for taking the time to reply to so many of the reader's comments!

  106. Bob, thank you. If my grandmother ever caught me not responding to an individually addressed letter, she'd horsewhip me.

  107. Let's not be coy. Dozens of people think this text suggests that bicycle lanes have come at the cost of pedestrian space because this is implied. In the first paragraph alone we are treated to "Bicycle Wars", "bike paths", and the "question of territory". How hard are we supposed to try to avoid the topic in front of our faces, and which lies at the center of the real world debate?

    When Mr. Gray asserts that bicycles have a "newly assertive role", the reader is asked to consider what is new. It is the miles and miles of new bicycle lanes. We are lead down a path, at the end of which is a bemused writer assuring us he has no idea how we got there. This is an amusing distraction from other points raised, such as the construction of certain famous pedestrian plazas in the past few years.

    Since bicycle lanes are supposed to be out of the picture, we are left only with the claim that cycling on sidewalks is a newly significant problem, or "War". But unlike the increased miles of bicycle lanes, which is not in question, we don't know if cycling on sidewalks has increased or not. And no evidence is offered. My experience is that this has been a fairly constant annoyance in the ten years I've been here; other people have difference experiences.

    But many would agree that if you want to understand the phenomenon, you should start with the eating habits of New Yorkers since so much of the illicit traffic is bearing their sustenance. Having watched lunch laden bicycles delivering to 1 Police Plaza the other day, confidently ridden past signs forbidding their operation, I must say that attributing this practice to Bicycle Wars and all that this dramatic name implies is a fairly wild association, if not a disingenuous one.

    Protected bicycle lanes reduce sidewalk riding among all kinds of cyclists. This is why we advocate for them, in addition to more spaces for pedestrians only. It would be splendid to have more informed pedestrians in this struggle.

  108. No "war"? Wow. The bitter, bitter pushback on bike lanes in Brooklyn seems like war, newly engaged, to me, as the bike lobby websites clearly reflect. Much of it seems to be farfetched, even comic, but it sure is there. I still fail to see anything in the article suggesting that bicycle lanes are wrong headed, or taking space from "the unwheeled." Cyclists are simply taking over real estate formerly dominated by cars - which held it at the expense of hundreds (?) of cyclists killed and injured per year, often in the most gruesome circumstances, in the city. The cycle lobby sure seems to think it's a war. Hey, the cabbies certainly do! And, based on the tenor of the remarks on this comment page, many pedestrians do - a sentiment the bike lobby seems bent on discounting.

    And, indeed I cannot see how bike lanes could possibly harm pedestrians, any more than Commissioner Sadik-Kahn's enlargement of pedestrian spaces - they are drops in a bucket, but such sweet drops! But I have yet to see any sidewalks widened (excluding neck-downs) although surely there must be some, somewhere. If the bike lobby could control its one-in-hundred (thousand?) nutty private cyclists (probably not possible) and its hundreds of restaurants cyclists (much more likely) surely whatever pedestrian anger there is would almost vanish. I have been riding a bicycle in Manhattan since 1971. I still miss my DL-1, with the 28 inch tires - best vehicle I have ever owned.

  109. I believe several avenues in NYC were widened in the auto's early days to add new traffic lanes. This increase for cars came at the expense of the sidewalk. The controversy regarding 5th Avenue in particular was well documented in the Times:

    http://timesmachine.nytimes.com/browser/1909/06/27/PSM1

    The impact of the auto cannot be overstated, but this Streetscapes article may overstate the impact of the bicycle. If there's a battle between pedestrians and cyclists, it is at best a skirmish in the overall triumph of the auto.

    I happen to be on the side of cyclists, largely, and believe they (we) deserve a space on the street. However, I think it's also useful to remember that the tug-o-war between street users isn't so much a loss of the "democracy of public space, open to all," as the democratic re-imagining of that space given the mores of the time. We might finally be entering the post-automobile age, at least in urban environments, where we will once again undergo the wrenching changes necessary to meet the future.

  110. #68: because having license plates on cars has completely eliminated the hundreds of pedestrians who are killed by cars every year?

  111. Dear Christopher Gray,
    Regarding your quote,"I note that, in half a century in New York, I have never seen an automobile driving down a sidewalk," I suggest you check out W. 100th between Columbus and Amsterdam.

    There is perpendicular parking due to the police and fire stations. Most of this block has cars double parked perpendicularly to the legitimate spots (in other words, parallel with the street) and have blocked the first group of cars in. The only way for people to get out of the spots is to back up, and drive down the sidewalk until they come to a driveway and then head east on 100th. Reverse the maneuver to get the spot back...

  112. Great article, but -- hey, NYT -- if you're going to refer to your own 19th and 20th century articles, why not embed links to the originals in the Times Archive?

  113. Bicyclists almost always stay off of sidewalks, except for kids and scaredy-cats who are unlikely to be going too fast.

    On the other hand, bike lanes have become a wedge for pedestrians to reclaim the street. They use them all the time. I travel by bicycle 95% of the time, and I every day I dodge many dozens of pedestrians who are not merely crossing, but have opted to walk down the bike lane instead of the sidewalk. Women with strollers, most likely nannies, are most common, but you see all types. Sometimes there'll be a gaggle of teenagers or college kids just hanging out in the bike lane.

    Well guess what. I'm all for it. Pedestrians take the bike lanes, bikes take the car lanes. The more cars we can squeeze out, the better. I think the next rational step in making this city liveable is to designate at least 1 every 10 streets as a no-car zone. Over time, we should move towards having a car-free city (delivery trucks only). People could park at the border and hop on a trolley.

  114. I had assumed that people just starting parking cars on the sides of the street organically, and then laws were brought in later. That there was an actual ban is very interesting -- reminds me that some of all of the Avenues in Manhattan used to be two-way...

  115. Hi Chris it's great that you are willing to dialog with your readers. Refreshing. It's a time of great change in NYC, a sign of that are the bike lane articles in many sections of your fine newspaper---Real Estate, Arts, Opinion, Metro, etc. It seems if a writer mentions bike lanes he or she get readership (and comments!). The livable streets changes are wide ranging and profound and, of course, full of dramatic conflict! Ultimately we pedestrians win as bikers become more mainstream, as plazas are reclaimed from motorists, and mass transit gets the focus ($) it merits. The city keeps getting better.

  116. I am very disappointed in Christopher Gray's article. The statement that pedestrians had "dominion over both the sidewalks and the roadbed" shows a surprising ignorance for somebody who claims to be a historian and writes a column about "Streetscapes."

    The historical evidence, as well as basic common sense, positively contradicts his statement. Let's start with common sense. Nobody who has spent the slightest amount of time around horses could possibly believe that people on foot would have any sort of "dominion" over a space shared with wagons pulled by horses. They are much larger, faster, and their movements are sometimes unpredictable. In any potential conflict between a pedestrian and a horse wagon, it is clear who would lose!

    As for the written historical record, I wish Mr. Gray spend more time reading about the history of New York's streets instead of trying to rewrite history to match his own agenda. He could start by purchasing himself a copy of the writings of Frederick Law Olmsted, who played such a strong role in the evolution of New York's streetscapes.

    More than a decade before the 1880s that Mr. Gray references, Olmsted was commenting on the dangers that wagons posed to pedestrians, which resulted in the need to positively separate sidewalks from the roadway used by wagons.

    Mr. Gray might also want to get around to reading about the Loew Bridge, which was built over Broadway at Fulton Street in the 1860s in an attempt to make it safer for pedestrians to cross the street. If pedestrians had anything remotely close to "dominion," nobody would ever have had any reason to propose building such a costly structure.

    Unfortunately, the quality of this column does not meet the standards I expect of the New York Times.

  117. The mention of Segways caused me to remember an amusing exchange I had five years ago with a tour operator in Vienna.

    I had booked a "Segway tour," not because I approve of them but because I thought I should at least give it a try before joining the chorus against them. The tour operator turned out to be a bicycle shop that offered tours of Vienna by bike, and lately by Segway.

    I told them that I was skeptical of the Segway but that I wanted to give it a try. So we went across the street to the park, and the operator tried patiently and earnestly to show me how to use it.

    On my first try, I wound up falling off, so I resolved to be slower, more methodical, more careful. On my second try, I rammed my tour guide, who was incredibly patient and offered to keep trying until I got it right.

    I politely refused, and said, "This thing is the worst American invention since the atomic bomb. Would you mind if we did this on bicycles instead?"

    That's when I learned that they weren't too fond of the Segway either. Bicycles made more sense as far as they were concerned. Four hours later, I completed my three-hour guided tour, an extra hour given for free to the newly-minted Segway-hating American.

    If any Segway riders are looking in, can I tell you that those machines are the worst American invention since the atomic bomb?

  118. I'm confused. I've lived in a few countries since leaving the US in 1995, largely because I could not accept the car as part of my life. I am half pedestrian, half cyclist, and half user of public transport (if you will permit me three halves), and I am fully convinced that the car is the single enemy I face. It is dangerous, dirty, and noisy. You cannot communicate in any with its operator, and too many of them seem convinced that might is right. Bicycles command vastly less momentum (that is mass x velocity) than cars, so assuming that the entire population shares the same regrettable behaviors (distracted movement, excessive optimism in the face of risk, insensitivity to others' feelings of intimidation, for starters), cyclists can do vastly less harm to pedestrians than cars and trucks can do to cyclists.

  119. Christopher - many thanks for a great article, as well as for all the many and interesting answers to readers' comments. In my humble opinion, the greatest disaster of the last century was to allow cars to have priority in Manhattan streets. I think that we have Robert Moses to thank for that, at least partly. Mayor Bloomberg certainly had the right idea with congestion pricing, but the corrupt state legislature would have none of it. i urge the City to do everything in its power to make it more difficult for cars to enter Manhattan - bridge tolls, whatever. Would anyone like to help form an organization to promote this? Thanks again, Bill Bauer, Chelsea.

  120. ican give two examples of where pedestrian must yeild right-of-way to bicycles on sidewalks. on the brooklyn bridge walkway ( which is a sidewalk ) half the walkway has been given over to bicycles even though they comprise only 10-15% of the users. on the manhattan bridge one of the two walkways is for bikes only. therefore pedestrians are restricted to 50% of the sidewalk. the bikes are such a danger to workers doing bridge maintanance that pedestrians were made to use the north walkway so the bikes could use the south walkway and not be a constant danger on the northside. as with all nyc sidewalks bicyclists should be required to walk their bikes. they have a feeling of complete entitlement because nyc officials give them every reason to feel that way.

  121. Hi Chris,
    Great platform for this discussion! Only with the words 'puppy' or 'kitten' could you have driven more traffic to it. So many good points made. It all comes down to those increasingly illusive qualities in our lives, street or otherwise: civility and consideration. Like you, I don't drive a car in the city, or, in my case, anywhere else. All motorists should honk a chorus of thanks for that. I do ride a bike, walk, and on occasion, push a stroller. I stick to the right side of the lane, whatever surface I am on, which can be funny in the house, but helps in most situations. I am increasingly tempted to wear a helmet in all outdoor settings, not just riding the bike. One woman I talked with recently said that her husband, a neurosurgeon, calls riders without helmets "organ donors". I can't get that out of my mind. My bike is a terribly heavy 3-speed Royal Scot, and could do damage to someone hit at nearly any speed, so I dismount and roll in any crowded setting, vehicular or pedestrian.

    Here we are, happily in one of the few truly great pedestrian cities in this country, but we still have to share the streets with things on wheels. Pedestrians should be assured safety from all vehicular traffic but tiny tricycles and strollers on sidewalks, but have no "right-of-way" to flaunt traffic rules on the street or in bike lanes. Cars and bikes cannot become effortlessly air-borne to avoid jay-walking or driver-side car door openings.

    Check out this post by Ron Gabriel - a modern day dance salute from this century to that tremendous pre-fire (by days!) video brought to our attention by James W. of Miami. http://blog.ronconcocacola.com/2011/06/10/3way-street-follow-up.aspx


  122. Peak Oil is already solving the car problem. Just watch and see the cars disappear from Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. No money, no car.

    Peak oil is solving along with cynical US foreign policy which destroys petroleum demand with drones, commando raids and government overthrow. Much of Africa is on the way to being 'car free'. Next, South America, Venezuela?

    Peak oil is solving care problem in the US by 'facilitating' unemployment. None of the 15 million or so jobless can afford to operate a car much less buy one. Another 15 mil and the auto industries will go bankrupt: no customers, no industry! Bankrupt for some a second time is the charm. For all it is permanent. Tomorrow? Maybe no but the auto age is almost over, can't happen soon enough.

    Car (and bicycle) free in Virginia.

  123. The city of Sao Paulo has an even greater problem. With 20 million inhabitants in the metro region, and 6 million vehicles in the city itself, bike riders risk their lives on the street. Six hundred motorcyclists die in the city every year, even though there are preferential lanes for motorcycles on some major thoroughfares. On Sundays from 8a.m. to 2 p.m. Some lines are blocked off for cyclists. Bikes can be transported on subways on weekends, but driving on the 10- lane ring roads Marginal Pinheiros or Marginal Tiete is suicide.

  124. About a year ago an elected public official told me "The reason there is no enforcement of the motorvehicle laws on cyclists is because Transportation Alternatives doesn't want it". When I made this comment in public Paul S. White Trans Alt head called me a referred to this as "subverting the rule of law." The fact that TA lambastes the NYPD for ineffective enforcement of said laws is a ponderous hypocrisy.
    This administration has displayed a callous disregard for public safety in this regard. It has unleashed a horde of lawscoffing bike riders and conflated going green with tolerating the minute to minute jeopardy that the public endures. There have been deaths by rogue riders. There have been numerous injuries and untold numbers of near misses by rogue riders operating with an arrogant sense of entitlement. The statistics issued by Trans Alt anre dubious. A small number of special interests zealots has managed to dictate policy to the Dept of Transportation. Their mission is to make Manhattan as unfriendly as possible to motorvehicle. In this their fanaticism is the obverse of the power broker Robert Moses who was the champion of the automobile to the detriment of the environment and sense of community. This administration has gone along with their program. The billionaire who has given the green light sees this as greening his legacy. Let it be written and let it be said that this constitutes a flawed and gross mismanagement. The legacy this mayor aspires to should not be hacked out of the safety of the public for the whim of the few.
    If the next election does not provide the city with a leader who puts a priority on public safety and a responsible bike culture then the bike bedlam which we currently experience is likely to not only endure but metastasize.
    Jack Brown Cyclist, former bike shop owner and spokesman for The Coalition Against Rogue Riding. CARRNYC.blogspot.com

  125. Mr Gray,

    You haven't seen any sidewalks widened? Seriously? What about West Houston Street, Broadway in the heart of Midtown, Lenox Ave in Harlem, Gansevoort St in the Meatpacking district, Madison Square, Union Square, Queensboro Plaza, Main Street in downtown Flushing, Grand Army Plaza, all the ped-only spaces in Lower Manhattan,and the Hub in the Bronx? Perhaps you either need to get out more or think more before writing these posts.

    I also object to you labeling of liveable streets advocates as the bike lobby. Go ahead and have a look at what TA and Streetsblog have done and have lobbied for (BRT expansion, ped plazas, traffic calming, sidewalk widening, neckdowns, ped refuges, safe routes to school, safe streets for seniors, fighting service cuts, fighting fare hikes, a long hard fight for congestion pricing). These are off the top of my head, I could go on an on. Yes, advocating for bicycles is a part of that, including opposing measures that have been shown to dramatically reduce cycling. In a few cases those organizations have lobbied for ped improvements that come at the expense of cyclists. Times Square was a prime example of that, and I dare you to find a single instance of Streetsblog or TA doing anything but lending their full and unwavering support of that project. I also dare you to find a single instance of a cyclist describing how much nicer it is to bike through Times Square now. Sure, there are a lot of cyclist involved in those organizations, and cycling has been a big issue recently. However, calling them strictly bike organizations, and lamenting the notion that NYC doesn't have a ped organization is simply disingenuous.

    I appreciate the historic perspective that you brought with this article, but I think your rhetoric serves to add fuel to flames, rather than begin real dialogue. Sadly, you're not alone in this.

  126. Speaking from the POV of a pedestrian and a senior citizen, walking is a right and driving an automobile is a licensed privilege, one that can be removed for violating the rules of the road.

    Since cyclists are required to adhere to the same rules of the road as drivers, cyclists too should be required to have licenses in order to legally ride in the City of New York.

    I could give many examples of near-miss accidents with cyclists, but I’ll offer one that seems to typify the arrogance of many: I was crossing Roosevelt Avenue recently, walking with the light, when a cyclist, going the wrong way, and against the light, nearly ran me down. As I jumped out of the way and he sped off, I saw written on his back-pack the following: “Think Safety.” Indeed.

  127. Christopher - I have also lived in Manhattan for nigh onto 40 years; and I *have* seen a car driving down a sidewalk - to wit: in 2008, in front of The Grinnell, 800 Riverside Drive, a SmartCar was being driven from W157 eastward in search of a better parking spot.

  128. Bob NY: Really Bob, you see cars on sidewalks? I've lived in New York for 50 years and have never seen a car on the sidewalk -- only thousands of bicylists!

  129. I am not sure what Mr. Brown above is talking about with regards to the non-enforcement of laws on cyclists. Last spring saw the start of the "BikeLash" on NYC bike riders, the heavy NYPD ticketing of cyclists for legitimate and quite often, fabricated motor vehicle laws. Cyclists who break traffic laws should be fined, as should all road users. Bikers were hit hard with fines for infractions such as speeding in Central Park and light running. They were also fined for riding without a "Helment" not an infraction for an adult even when spelled correctly, riding with a tote bag on handlebars and riding outside of a blocked bike lane. (Blocked by the ticket issuing cop's patrol car) TA does great work encouraging cyclists compliance with traffic laws and showing consideration to other road users.
    What really frustrated me was seeing and hearing the stories of the greatest offenders, the food delivery cyclists, literally getting a pass from the police, because they are often undocumented and cause more paperwork to process. And they fit the description of those most complained about by New Yorkers.
    The claim that there "have been deaths by rogue riders" (less than one every 2 years) is true, while it is also true that number falls several hundred short of the number of New Yorkers killed by cars- yearly.
    Everyone in NYC knows a bike rider and most likely a they know an everyday commuter. The charge that Mr. Brown makes that certain road users act "entitled" is hard to accept when motorists purposely cut-off, buzz at high speed, fatally door, right hook and double park, gravely endangering cyclists. All this without being penalized by the NYPD, in fact, over and over drivers kill cyclists and pedestrians, and are excused with the unbelievably negligent claim "I didn't see him."
    That's entitlement.
    Go ask your bike riding friend, they'll tell you.