New York City is a city of pedestrians, but as our population is growing and tourism is booming, some of the city's most overpopulated sidewalks are spilling out into the streets. While some people have tried handy D.I.Y. solutions, a new bill from Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez would get the Department of Transportation to fix the problem by identifying the most congested sidewalks in the city and offering up safety and traffic flow solutions for the areas.
Rodriguez's bill, set to be introduced in the City Council, this afternoon would require the Department of Transportation to identify the ten most-trafficked pedestrian areas in the city, based on their two most recent pedestrian count studies. Then, the DOT would be required to develop some ideas to improve safety and pedestrian traffic flow by April 2017.
Rodriguez told amNewYork that bill is about trying to "make sidewalks more walkable and safer" and giving pedestrians priority over cars.
Russell Murphy, a spokesman for Rodriguez, further explained that any solutions for overloaded sidewalks would be left to the DOT, but that sidewalk expansion in some areas could be considered a good solution. Russell also suggested that a data-based study is the best way to identify the places where "we see a confined space on our streets."
Murphy and Joseph Cutrufo of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign both suggested that sidewalks on Seventh and Eighth Avenues in the Penn Station/Times Square area could use traffic flow and safety improvements. But outside of those areas, Murphy suggested sidewalks in the Flushing/Main Street area as needing safety improvements, and Cutrofo said that he had seen pedestrians spilling out onto the streets in the area around Broadway and Fulton Street during rush hour.
Cutrufo also pointed out that overcrowded sidewalks on Eighth Avenue near Penn Station also lead to unsafe conditions for cyclists when pedestrians are forced into bike lanes, an issue he brought attention to in 2014 with a YouTube video showing his commute in the area on a bike.
And, as we found out over the summer, nothing has changed: Jeff Seal documented his treacherous journey on the 8th Avenue bike lane from 42nd to 50th Streets and deemed it a "shitshow... I think it's probably a confluence of a bunch of factors: tourists spilling over from Times Square and its theaters, the line at Shake Shack hogging the sidewalk, and actual New Yorkers trying to get wherever they're going while staring at their phones. Whatever the reason is, people treat that bike line like it's an extension of the sidewalk and walk on it like it's the goddamn Yellow Brick Road."
A DOT spokesperson said that the department looks forward to reviewing the legislation. Department spokesperson Scott Gastel said the DOT has added 20,000 square feet of pedestrian space along 34th Street, and will is already looking at widening a number of sidewalks in the Flushing/Main Street area.