View Full Version : You Like Walking in the City? So Do Plenty of Others

December 6th, 2011, 07:26 PM
...you don’t live here unless you like people.

Teensy over-generalisation, methinks?

You Like Walking in the City? So Do Plenty of Others


Feeling congested? Not your nose, your toes. City surveys confirm that sidewalks are becoming more crowded. And transportation officials say that’s good for the economy, the environment and for your physical, if not necessarily emotional, health.

Since the city began keeping score at 50 of the busiest intersections five years ago, its “pedestrian volume index” has climbed steadily, except for one year, from 2008 to 2009, perhaps because of the recession. Fixing the volume in 2007 at a base of 100, the index rose by more than 10 percent, to 113.2, last May.

They surveys are taken each May and September. Preliminary figures for September suggest a greater increase again. The volume on West 14th Street between Hudson Street and Eighth Avenue soared by 58 percent from the year before.

“Everybody is a pedestrian at some point,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, the transportation commissioner. “It’s staggering when you think how many people are walking the streets of New York City at any given time.”

How many? About 350,000-a-day in Times Square, 97,000 on Main Street in Flushing, Queens, and 80,000 on East Fordham Road in the Bronx, according to a 2007 study. New Yorkers not only talk the talk. They walk the walk.

Surveyors wielding hand-held counters found 31,701 people on West 34th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on May 10 and 26,106 on Fifth Avenue between East 54th and 55th Streets during the same time period two days later. On West 14th between Hudson and Eighth, the volume was 11,166 in September, according to preliminary figures, compared with 8,911 in May and 7,0555 the previous September.

The least crowded of the 50 corridors in all five boroughs was Victory Boulevard between Bay Street and Van Duzer Street on Staten Island, which was traversed by 1,215 pedestrians between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on May 19.

“These include millionaires who like to walk and people without the wherewithal to get around any other way,” Ms. Sadik-Khan said, referring to the city’s strollers.

The Transportation Department has been widening sidewalks where possible and expanding pedestrian malls to make room for more pedestrians because streets that are too crowded can become unsafe and hamper business. Pedestrian volume has increased 12 percent in Times Square since vehicular traffic on parts of Broadway was curbed.

The problem is defining “too crowded.” A department consultant, Gehl Architects, says the maximum volume for comfortable pedestrian movement is 12 people per minute per yard of sidewalk width. By that measure, Main Street in Flushing is overcrowded 83 percent of the day. Is there a saturation point?

“People like to be around people,” Ms. Sadik-Khan said. “With 8.4 million people, you don’t live here unless you like people. And with 6,000 miles of streets, the challenge is re-engineering the real estate to deliver attractive, safe and sustainable streets.”

That includes adding benches — the city is installing 1,000 new ones — and signs to guide pedestrians.

“At any given time,” Ms. Sadik-Khan said, “you have 10 percent of New Yorkers who will admit they were lost in the previous week.”

By some measures, pedestrians are more likely to spend money than drivers.

“There’s a direct relation between how people get around and how much money they spend,” Ms. Sadik-Khan said. “A pedestrian can just stop and walk into a store, which means more feet in the door and across the threshold.”

Walking, she said, “is the most affordable way to get around, better for your health, for the planet. We continue to engineer our streets to make them safer for pedestrians.”
In fact, having more people walking the streets has not made them more dangerous.

Traffic fatalities involving pedestrians have declined 21 percent over the past decade, transportation officials say.


December 7th, 2011, 12:55 AM
"you don’t live here unless you like people."

Silly remark, which I've thoroughly disproved.

December 7th, 2011, 02:46 AM
I'd like to see 3rd Avenue narrowed by one traffic lane for widened sidewalks. It's as wide as 7 lanes in places, even up in Harlem.

December 7th, 2011, 07:11 AM
Silly remark, which I've thoroughly disproved.

LOL! That doesn't include your cyber buddies, I hope ;).

December 7th, 2011, 11:14 AM
Crowded sidewalks are one thing, but what really plugs up the system is the alarming quantity of zombie freaks who now walk with their heads down while both hands are busy texting and eyes are staring into handheld devices instead of where they're going. It's very irksome.

December 7th, 2011, 12:00 PM
Plus the habitually clueless European tourists.

December 7th, 2011, 01:21 PM
LOL! That doesn't include your cyber buddies, I hope ;).

I should qualify my statement: I LOVE people from afar.

December 7th, 2011, 03:12 PM
Crowded sidewalks are one thing, but what really plugs up the system is the alarming quantity of zombie freaks who now walk with their heads down while both hands are busy texting and eyes are staring into handheld devices instead of where they're going. It's very irksome.

December 7th, 2011, 03:32 PM
I just don't understand the attraction of being constantly online, especially while walking!

I savor my moments away from the internet. That's my time to look at architecture, observe nature, see all the interesting people around me, and feel alive; "in the moment". I have so far resisted buying a "smart phone" or similar device because I don't want to be a zombie. I enjoy you guys and the other cyber acquaintances I keep, but it's good to know when to tune out for a while. For example, the middle of a crosswalk is a good place to start, LOL!

Plus the habitually clueless European tourists.

They do seem to be here in ever greater numbers. Not that I have a problem with them in small doses, but it's the large families/groups that become a nuisance for sure!

December 7th, 2011, 03:39 PM
Bloomberg went on his kick about planting trees. All well and good. But to do this, at least in my neighborhood, they had to cut a bunch of new treewells. Along the avenues, there are a lot of restaurants with sidewalk cafe' permits. No one thought of correlating the two. The consequence is that in high traffic area on what are otherwise broad sidewalks, they've created narrow choke points that are really no more than two people wide, causing significant pedestrian traffic problems.

December 8th, 2011, 11:00 AM
I just don't understand the attraction of being constantly online, especially while walking!They do seem to be here in ever greater numbers. Not that I have a problem with them in small doses, but it's the large families/groups that become a nuisance for sure!

I live on 42nd close to Time Square and can attest to how annoying it is.

December 8th, 2011, 02:36 PM
I often walk over to your neck of the woods to shop for vegetables at Stiles Farmers Market, so I experience that area a few times a week. I try to go at weird times to avoid some of the throngs, but the numbers are just staggering. The sidewalks need to be wider there, period. Not just the pedestrian plazas, but all along 42nd.

December 9th, 2011, 03:34 PM
Stiles is an eddhead fave!

think this (or any variation of the theme) will ever become a reality?

www.vision42.org (http://www.vision42.org)

December 9th, 2011, 03:44 PM
I've always wished that plan would come to fruition, but unfortunately I haven't heard any buzz about it in quite some time :(

Let's hope the idea gets revived some day and overcomes the typical resistance to such measures; I really don't understand why so many New Yorkers are anti-pedestrianization when they're all out walking so much.

Stiles is an eddhead fave!
I love that place!! You're a lucky guy...If I lived as close as you, I'd be there almost every day!!

December 12th, 2011, 10:41 AM
Whenever you think your neighborhood is crowded, go to Chinatown.....

The place where stepping off the sidewalk can get you ankle-deep in something you really do not want to know about and should really see a doctor for very soon.

Not saying that one is NOT "comfy cozy", but if there is one place I hate walking in more than TS it would definitely be Mott/etc.

June 17th, 2014, 08:17 AM
Want Your Job to Scare You? Try Studying Distracted Driving

"I'm terrified when I walk," says one researcher.

Sarah Goodyear Jun 16, 2014


Peter Tuckel, a sociology professor at Hunter College at the City University of New York, studies the habits of motorists. It is not a reassuring pastime.

“I’m terrified when I walk,” says Tuckel, who lives in a bucolic Connecticut suburb. “I’m wary when I see cars because I’m always thinking, the person is on a cell phone and not thinking of my presence as a pedestrian.”

Tuckel hasn’t done a formal investigation of distracted driving in his town specifically, but he knows the national figures. Next time you’re going about your business on a typical day in the United States, whether on foot, on a bike, or in a car, you can think about them too: at any random moment during daylight hours across the country, according to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, about 660,000 American drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices while behind the wheel.

It is kind of terrifying, isn’t it?

Now Tuckel and William Milczarski, from Hunter’s Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, have finished a new study focusing on New York City drivers [PDF] (http://silo-public.hunter.cuny.edu/8dfe86373c3477df412802e84c68df8baf19ebe1/Distracted-Driving-and-Seat-Belt-Use-in-New-York-City.pdf). And it shows that motorists in the least car-oriented city in the country are no exception when it comes to their attachment to electronics. As a matter of fact, they’re worse than the average.

The survey was conducted under Tuckel and Milczarski’s supervision by Hunter College students at 52 different locations throughout New York City. Ten of the locations had been flagged as the most dangerous in the city by New York's transportation department, while the other 42 provided a representative sample. The students looked for a variety of distracting behaviors among drivers, as well as whether or not they were wearing seat belts.

What they found was not exactly reassuring. Of the 2,988 drivers they observed, 7.4 percent were talking on handheld cell phones or texting, both of which are against New York State law. Some 5.9 percent were using hands-free electronic devices such as Bluetooth headsets, which are legal in New York State but have been shown to “place a high cognitive burden” (https://www.aaafoundation.org/measuring-cognitive-distractions) on drivers. Truck drivers were among the worst offenders.

“I think the findings are somewhat mixed,” says Tuckel, who conducted a study on distracted driving in New York in 2007 that was not directly comparable to this one, but that provides some context. “On the one hand, you still find a high proportion of drivers using handheld devices, somewhat above the national average,” which is about 5 percent. That is an improvement over the results of the previous study, which showed 12 percent of motorists using hands-free devices and 12 percent on handheld devices, but it still causes the researcher concern. “Cell phone use is still phenomenally high, it’s at dangerous levels,” says Tuckel. “That’s troubling, especially in a state that bans handheld devices.”

Tuckel was, however, impressed by the rate of compliance with the state’s seat belt law, which was nearly 90 percent (cab and limo drivers are not required to wear seat belts, and about 45 percent were not).

He also noted the low rate of smoking, which was recorded as a distraction; only 2.6 percent of the drivers were puffing away, compared to 5.7 percent in 2007. Tuckel hypothesizes that the decline in smoking while driving might be thanks to the broad attitudinal shift toward the habit, the product of a decades-long, multi-pronged effort to address a serious public health threat (especially in New York City (http://www.citylab.com/politics/2013/10/new-york-city-considering-raising-age-buy-cigarettes-21/7416/)). Even automakers don’t accommodate smokers the way they used to, with ashtrays and lighters as standard equipment.

Tuckel says that a similar deep-rooted shift will have to take place if we want to reduce incidence of using distracting devices in any meaningful way. Ticket blitzes, like the ones being conducted by the NYPD over the past several weeks, can be helpful, but hardly decisive. And the integration of various communications devices into the structure of cars is actually taking things in the wrong direction, he says.

“My understanding of these phenomena is that you have to have enforcement, yes, but you have to internalize the message,” says Tuckel. “The thing that really drove down smoking is that it became a stigmatized form of behavior. We haven’t reached that threshold with distracted driving, where we’ve internalized the message, where it’s not condoned. We need more intrinsic disincentives.”

Copyright 2014 The Atlantic Monthly Group