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Posts from the Pedestrians Category

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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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Why Does Montreal Have So Many Beautiful Curb Extensions?

When I visited Montreal last week, I knew I was gonna produce Streetfilms on bicycling and the hugely wonderful pedestrianized streets program.

However, I always have been fascinated the ample and omnipresent curb extensions, neckdowns, gateways (whatever you want to call them) just about everywhere, especially in the neighborhoods. Thankfully, in the middle of filming I asked the CEO of Velo Quebec JR Rheault and he knew the answer how Montreal got so many (and continues to build them!)

Curb extensions/bulb outs/gateways/neckdowns
are vital for a number of reasons:

- They slow down cars
- Allow for better visibility of peds/bikes
- Space to make streets green/water management
- They are really pretty

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Experience the Gov. Mario Cuomo/Tappan Zee Bridge Path

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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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Future Streets: Little West 12th Street in NYC’s Meatpacking District

Little West 12th Street in the Meatpacking District has been transformed from an underused open street into a bustling, lively hangout thanks to 5,000 square feet of donated sod — Exhibit A in the open-and-shut case for more car-free streets in pedestrian-majority neighborhoods.

It’s a pleasant place to sit or stroll — and it’s good for business. “There’s an organic visual appeal — you see a street like this and you want to walk down it,” said Jeffrey LeFrancois, the executive director of the Meatpacking Business Improvement District, which created the one-block vision of utopia as part of the “Future Streets” collaboration of the American Institute of Architecture, the American Society of Landscape Architecture and the American Planning Association.

The block-long stretch between Washington and Greenwich streets has been largely transformed — first by the elimination of car storage (which still typically mars the de Blasio administration’s “open streets” program), then with the installation of tables and a large, grass-covered seating area on the western end of the block. That’s created foot traffic, which creates more business. “We’ve had twice the normal number of customers,” said Courtney McKamey, the manager of the Little West Wine and Spirits on the block, who provided a reminder that businesses that rely on walk-in customers have no need for streets filled with parked cars.

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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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The Streets Have Changed: A NYC Bicycle Journey During the Coronavirus

I hadn't been on my bicycle in over a week, choosing to walk and run for exercise during the Coronavirus (and observing recommended precautions) but I was curious what my normal commute looked like. So on Friday I chose to get my exercise by bicycling in to Manhattan and brought my camera along as I visited many spots I might typically do if scouting for great locales to film footage for a Streetfilm.

The amazing thing is I have so much archives of New York City that in many cases I had exact matching footage from the last few years of each location or spot, showing what it looks like typically (or in some cases showing what it looked like before the streets received an intervention from NYC DOT) and in some cases is pretty mind blowing.

I hope this Streetfilm (likely the final "new" one shot until the world heals) is entertaining, gives you hope and stretches your mind to what is still possible when we emerge from this pandemic.

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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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Madison Square Before & After Pedestrian Plazas (and more!)

Check out this video montage showing how horrible and inhumane Madison Square/Flatiron Building area was for pedestrians & cyclists in 2007 compared to now!

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Life on a Dutch Woonerf (Living Street)

When I posted I was headed to The Netherlands once again to visit (and for my first time to Utrecht,) as usual I got a lot of recommendations on what to look at. One of the first people to contact me was Rebecca Albrecht, who moved there with her husband Paul from Boston about three years ago and couldn't be more delighted to live there.

She mentioned she lived on a Dutch play street (woonerf) and when I looked at the photos she had snapped from the window of her bed & breakfast, my first thought was: maybe this would be an opportunity to get a unique angle from residents since I had ridden on so many similar streets in Amsterdam and in Copenhagen but didn't want to be too nosy.

When I arrived the street was full of neighbors and children and they wanted to talk to me about their lovely street. But this is not something exceptional as over 2 million Dutch people live on play/living streets. So take a gander but be warned: you will want the same thing for your block.

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Inside the Situation Room: The Making of the War on Cars

When my trio of friends Aaron Naparstek, Sarah Goodyear and Doug Gordon announced they were going to take on car culture in a podcast titled the "War on Cars" of course I was very intrigued. And after the first batch of episodes you know they had struck a nerve and it would be a success.

But as I talked to other people who were listeners, I was surprised that quite a few didn't even know much about the trio's pedigree in the transportation world. Many had never seen them in a photo or in person. So I decided we needed to remedy this situation. So Streetfilms put out the call.

Last week, I was invited to tape episode 17: Infiltrating the Auto Show and very briefly attend their pre-show meet up. As a person in media, it was not only great to get this first exclusive, but also being there to witness what makes a great podcast work, and how much time you need to put into it. I was actually surprised how it all works and how hard it is to balance being entertaining, funny and deadly serious.

So enjoy this very tiny look behind-the-scenes. As a personal note, this is my first time editing using Premiere Pro (after nearly 20 years on Final Cut Pro). So I am bound to look back on this with a more critical eye years from now. But I think everyone will love what they see!

You can sponsor the show on Patreon via www.thewaroncars.org

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Queens Fights to Keep their Car-Free Travers Park

“No cars in parks.”

That was one of the many signs carried by one of the hundreds of Jackson Heights residents and safe streets activists who rallied Saturday on 78th Street, which the city has long promised would be converted from a roadway into a park — only to apparently renege on that promise so a car dealership could use a portion of the street near deadly Northern Boulevard.

As Streetsblog reported earlier this month, the city may not finish the job of converting 78th Street into a park in deference to Koeppel Mazda, which operates a dealership on the corner of Northern and 78th Street and wants to keep using the northern end of the street for moving cars around. City officials have given us no answers — and Koeppel isn’t talking.

(above text written by Gersh Kuntzman, StreetsblogNYC)

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#AccessDenied: Christine

PSA #2 in a series of 4 produced with TransitCenter.

NYC has the least accessible subway in the country. Dustin wants you to know Governor Cuomo & the State Legislature can help parents and caregivers with children ride the subway by funding NYC Transit's Fast Forward plan for full accessibility.

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#AccessDenied: Dustin

PSA #1 in a series of 4 produced with TransitCenter.

NYC has the least accessible subway in the country. Dustin wants you to know Governor Cuomo & the State Legislature can help people with disabilities ride the subway by funding NYC Transit's Fast Forward plan for full accessibility.