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Posts from the Car-Free Category

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London’s School Streets up close!

Sam Balto (or "Coach Balto" as he is known since he is a PE teacher in Portland, OR) is a very active member of the Twitterverse worldwide gaggle of advocates for safer & better streets.

He recently took a trip to London and shot quite a bit of photos & video clips of what their School Streets program feels like (an amazing 350 schools activated in just one year!) When he sent over a few clips I told him to send them all and record some dialogue of what he saw with his own eyes. His "special guest correspondent" label is something I hope to encourage others to do since travel is still not as easy in the age of Covid.

Check it out!

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A.U.T.O. Lobbyist Veronica Moss Visits Times Square (2022 Re-Mix)

After this winter FINALLY unearthing this raw footage I have been searching everywhere for the better part of ten years, I've finally been able to see all of the hilarious stuff left on the cutting room when Kate McKinnon played the fictional A.U.T.O. lobbyist Veronica Moss being overwhelmed visiting Times Square's new pedestrian plazas in this fun parody. It was so much fun filming it.

This certainly doesn't vary in tone and form compared to the original, but the bulk of the content in this new re-edit is an alternate take or brand new footage - mostly all improved by the great Kate McKinnon who has been the funniest performer on the SNL cast from the past ten years!

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NYC Mayor Eric Adams Visits 34th Avenue Open Street

Huge news! Both NYC Mayor Eric Adams and NYC DOT Commissioner visited the NYC Open Street on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens as guests of newly-elected councilman Shekar Krishnan (25th District) to tour just how much the street is appreciated by the local community and neighbors.

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Ode to The Netherlands: Streetfilms’ Favorite Dutch Bike Things

See....

-Amsterdam's bike ferries to North Amsterdam

-Utrecht's Vredenburg: The busiest Dutch bike path

-Groningen's Circulation Plan and how it led to a 60% bike mode share

-Rotterdam's Trams on Grass (need I say more?)

-Arnhem-Nijmegen Bike Highway - 18km of uninterrupted, car-free riding

& so much more!

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Talking Public Spaces with Mark Gorton: Episode One with Meatpacking BID Jeffrey LeFrancois

Here's an absolutely great interview between Open Plans' Mark Gorton and NYC's Meatpacking BID Director Jeffrey LeFrancois. Intended to be the first of an on-going series with Mark Gorton where he interviews neighborhood leaders, BID directors and elected officials about how to manage open streets & open spaces and how much effort needs to be going on behind the scenes to pull it off successfully, he and Jeffrey chat about how this grid of streets in NYC has become more friendly to people.

This is a wonderful, enlightening interview that is filled with so much incredible footage of great events & everyday footage in NYC's Meatpacking District. For anyone who wants to make their city, neighborhood or BID more friendly to people this video is a MUST! Enjoy!

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Spend Saturdays in October at “Little Prince Plaza”

A new temporary (Saturdays in October) plaza in SoHo is called "LIttle Prince Plaza"

This stat just says it all:

Cars
Last known vehicular count: 4,639 a day (2019)

Little Prince Plaza 2pm - 5pm
Bike: 398 people cycling
Ped: 8,916 people walking

 

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Clarence in Streetfilms 2000-2021 (Montage)

So following my 1,000th Streetfilm I put together a quick montage sample of all the Streetfilms/bikeTV to prepare for some media. I will be joining John Simmerman for his 100th podcast interview and it just seemed the time to let people see what I have been doing over the years.

Just so you know this is only a sample montage. I am sure I have missed some of my best appearances, but this at least gives a look into my work - sometimes skinnier, sometimes younger - but fun to check out my metamorphosis and the places I have been!

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Montreal’s Popular Pedestrian Open Streets

No wonder they call it the Great White North.

Last month, I journeyed to Montréal, a city I have visited many times in the last three decades, to see how much progress it has made in reining in the car culture, creating more livable communities, encouraging cycling, making roadways safer and, most important, bringing back freedom to inhabitants long oppressed by car drivers.

The changes are amazing — and they are the subject of two new Streetfilms, my 1,000th and 1,001st of my career. The first one is about open streets. The other is about cycling. Both will make New Yorkers drool … or book tickets.

Of course, Montréal has fewer open streets than New York City does, but the open streets in the Paris of North America are much better. Montréal’s 13 open streets are much longer and operate almost entirely car-free — car-free, meaning no parking, either! — 24 hours a day, all summer long.

“It’s about making the city accessible for everyone,” Montréal’s mayor Valérie Plante told me. “There has to be more room for cyclists and pedestrians, and arts and parklets.”

On Montréal’s open streets, you don’t just see people walking or biking as you see in New York, but also art installations, benches, bioswales, swings (with cupholders!), play areas for kids and bollards to keep out the cars.

Bollards to keep out the cars.

“It just brings so much joy and fun and, of course, safe spaces for our kids,” Plante added.

And local business owners confirm that pedestrianized zones bring in more money for struggling merchants.

A 1.5-mile stretch of Mont Royal Avenue is fully pedestrianized, including some side streets. That’s about the same length as New York’s best open street — 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights — but in New York, the open street is still filled with parked cars and only open between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., limiting what residents can do, how many can do it and how long they can do it for. There’s a movement to make the open street permanent and 24 hours — a position supported by incoming mayor Eric Adams — but opponents in the neighborhood want the open street reduced or even eliminated.

Montréal proves that the real solution should be to double-down on open streets. Barricades keep the cars out — and don’t require a massive volunteer effort. And instead of dismissing older adults’ worries about getting around, the city provides transportation (via pedicabs) for them.

One final note for all us nerds: Make sure you check out the appearance of former Streetsblog contributor Steven Miller in the Montreal open streets vid

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What do you like about 34th Ave open street?

It was once again time to ask people how much they enjoy the 34th Ave open street in Jackson Heights, so I went out for about an hour yesterday to ask folks to tell me. It wasn't hard to find people to talk since it is one of the most popular things ever in the neighborhood. I only asked that one simple question. Nothing more. But I couldn't believe how many times people used "community" in their answer, I think nearly everyone. (But I had to edit some out due to length constraints.) I think you'd likely find the same answers in just about every open street across NYC. Also: in unsurprising news, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the open streets legislation passed by the NYC Council keeping the open streets program running.

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NYC Restaurants Need Open Streets NOW

StreetFilms latest release is "NYC Restaurants Need Open Streets NOW". Produced and hosted by Henry Rinehart.

Open Streets NOW takes us on a bike ride around NYC to hear from some of the city’s finest restaurateurs and chefs about how open streets meet the needs of an industry in crisis.
Henry Rinehart on Open Streets for Restaurants

“My people and I are hurting. My city is hurting. Our leaders are not creating the safety and certainty that our lives, and our jobs require.“

“When the weather changes, after 100 days of solitude, we are all going to be desperate to be together, but to be safe. All we know now is that safety requires space. There is available public space in front of every door. Restaurant people are planners and doers. We do not sit alone in silence well. Give restaurants access to open streets and they will bring us all hope and sustenance.”

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Miracle on 34th Avenue: NYC’s Best Open Street is in Queens

The Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst areas of Queens were among the hardest hit in the United States by the Covid-19 epidemic. This film looks at the months-long struggle in Jackson Heights to get an open street on its beautiful tree-lined 34th Avenue. Featuring two-way streets separated by a median, it was the perfect place in the neighborhood to allow more social distancing, allow people to get some exercise and have better mental health due to the virus' long shadow on our city.

Now that the open street runs for 1.3 miles every day from 8am to 8pm, you will see children, families, exercisers, seniors and people using it that need to shop & run vital errands. It was a unique partnership from the city and neighborhood alliances. And in these days where we could use some good news and inspiration, the folks that made this happen should be applauded!

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Coronavirus Has Changed Our Streets And We Need To Heed Those Lessons

I live in NYC's Jackson Heights, 11372. Which is currently among the hardest hit zip-codes in the USA for Coronavirus cases and fatalities.

It has been a tough month for many of our neighbors and friends. I get outside for a socially distanced hour every day so I can get footage to show how drastically our streetscape has been altered by the virus — and to make the case that once this is all over, we should never accept how we allocate public space in favor of car drivers rather than the majority of New Yorkers who get around on narrow sidewalks, unprotected bike routes or on buses that are constantly being delayed by people in their own private vehicles.

Under normal circumstances, the world is upside-down — as a result of a minority of NYC car owners, the rest of us are breathing toxic exhaust, getting stuck in their traffic, being killed by their reckless use of steel cages, being terrified just to cross a street, etc. So let's change that. When you see my before-and-after videos, you can see that no one will want to return to the pre-virus status quo. The first step will be to eliminate all unnecessary car trips. Then we can redesign our streets to prioritize long-suffering bus riders, cyclists and pedestrians, who are fighting over crumbs. So many U.S. cities are leading.

It's time for Mayor de Blasio to allow his best city planners take over from do-nothing bureaucrats and allowing the police (most of whom live in the suburbs) to dictate streets policy.

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The Innovative Way Ghent, Belgium Removed Cars From The City

Witness the transformation of Ghent, Belgium, who instituted the Traffic Circulation Plan in April 2017, which completely changed the way nearly every resident gets around the city and has inspired unheard of mode shifts. It encourages less car use, more bicycling and more transit use by splitting the city into  seven distinct zones: a mostly car-free city center core surrounded by six zones which have been cordoned off with concrete or controlled by cameras. The only way to reach them is to travel to the ring road on the city outskirts, thus making it not impossible to use a car but motivates those shorter trips to be done via human power or mass transit. Bike mode share in 2012 was 22%, now it is 35% and growing!

This swift, creative strategy of turning Ghent in to a place for people is such a phenomenal story it's a mystery as to why it has not gotten more attention worldwide. It is a city of 262,000 residents, so not a large metropolis, but not a small city either. The metamorphosis was achieved thru a sort of tactical urbanism approach by throwing concrete barriers and planters here and there (some backed by enforcement cameras) and altering the gateways into public spaces and safer places to walk and bike. (There are now 40% fewer cars on bicycle priority streets than before the plan!)

Their main inspirations were the cities of Groningen and Utrecht, both in The Netherlands. And as Vice Mayor, Filip Watteeuw explains they did not have the funds or the time to spend 10, 20 or 30 years to catch up to where they were. So they improvised with interesting tactics and treatments and The Traffic Circulation Plan. And as I have said before what happened was stunning: almost never has their been such a rapid metamorphosis occurred in such a short time. And Ghent isn't stopping there.

Ghent was a fabulous city for many reasons. I highly recommend a visit. It is quiet and lovely and nearly everywhere is attainable by multiple modes of transportation. You can even use a car if you like - but just remember it is a little more complicated.

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Ghent’s Political & Media Obstacles to Implementing the Traffic Circulation Plan

SUPPLEMENTAL CONTENT!

We had to cut out so much from our Ghent Streetfilm on The Circulation Plan and how wonderful it was for the country. We probably could have released a 30 minute version!!

But we had to take out over half of the section on the political obstacles and negative media sensationalism that led up to (and during) the first days. So this was important to retain more of this story in an additional release for those curious. After all, we all know the usual story that occurs when a city, state or country tries to implement an innovative transportation scheme: there are often community scare tactics, the opposing political party tries to take advantage or not support it and - usually standard - the media tries to drum up controversy and say the plans will not work and cause difficulty.

Thus it is a valuable tool to make this expanded story from Ghent as you will hear about some of these (including "death threats" to the Vice Mayor Filip Watteeuw and even Dutch planners, yes the Dutch(!) saying the plans were "political suicide".

But as we know in most cases well-thought plans do work and the public ends up liking it more than the media ever assumes.

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The Climate March: A Streets Perspective (2019)

Where can you find the ONLY coverage of NYC's Climate Strike including a Manhattan march, a group bike ride and PARKing Day 2019 all wrapped in one tidy package?

(And also shot only by human power over 5 hours at dozens of locations?)

Well right here on Streetfilms my friends. Enjoy!