By Len Maniace
Who would have thought that some of the most dramatic environmental changes in a decade would come from an agency in charge of New York City’s streets and bridges? But that’s what happened after Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Janette Sadik-Khan New York’s Transportation Commissioner – bikeways and pedestrian plazas bloomed across the city.
A flurry of recent activity shows that the revolution is not abating under Mayor Bill de Blasio and his Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Earlier this year they launched Vision Zero, a European traffic-safety program whose goal is to eliminate deaths due to motor vehicles. Part of that effort calls for reducing the speed limit to 25 miles per hour on 25 of the city’s most dangerous arterial roadways. Here’s the latest:
* Today the city announced 10 more of these slow zones, including Northern Boulevard, Queens Boulevard, Rockaway Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue, all in Queens; Southern Boulevard and Gun Hill Road in the Bronx; Canal Street and upper Broadway in Manhattan; Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn; and Forest Avenue in Staten Island. The city announced McGuiness Boulevard in Brooklyn last week, and Grand Concourse in the Bronx and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, earlier this year.
* This week the city Department of Transportation unveiled an interactive map to identify dangerous areas through crowd sourcing. New Yorkers can lodge complaints covering 10 issues such as speeding, red-light running, too little time to cross streets and cyclist behavior. From the look of map and it’s multi-colored dots, New Yorkers aren’t being shy about complaining about traffic safety.
* The state Legislature agreed Wednesday to add 120 speed-cameras to city streets as a tool reduce speeding. The speed-cameras are to operate near schools and during school hours.
DOT also is expanding an earlier program to redesign dangerous intersections and travel corridors: pushing out sidewalks at corners to provide pedestrians with greater safety while crossing streets; taking away traffic lanes on streets with little traffic; and adding bike lanes.
Called Complete Streets, the program is slated for 50 locations around the city. The aim is not only to tame motor vehicles and reduce deaths and injuries, but to encourage healthy and nonpolluting travel alternatives such as walking and cycling. The DOT’s website lists 26 such projects begun, with fully half of being unveiled before community boards this year.
There are other ways for the public to participate. The DOT is holding Zero Vision workshops around the city. It’s already had 10 sessions and another 10 are planned through June, as of today.
When one realizes that city streets and adjoining sidewalks comprise 80 percent of New York’s public space, according to the DOT, it becomes clear how profound these changes can be for the city’s environment.
As a result of the city’s Million Trees Program, which is greening city Streets, and the above-mentioned DOT programs, New York’s streets are becoming less mean every day.