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Posts from the Public Space 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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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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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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Letting Citizens Redesign Their Streets: Mark Gorton Talks with Amsterdam’s Rocco Piers

This is essentially a follow-up from our smashingly popular Streetfilm from earlier this year where Amsterdam's new government announced they were removing 10,000 parking spaces from the streets.

Mark Gorton, the Chairman of Open Plans was curious to the exact decision process came about to remove on-street parking in the Frans Halsbuurt neighborhood , so he flew to Amsterdam to meet with Rocco Piers, the district alderman who is helping usher in a new way of allowing residents of streets to get together and re-design them the way they would like to see.

Of course the neighbors overwhelmingly favor: more green, more play areas, tons of bike parking and environmentally-friendly practices while also preserving limited access for cars and retaining ample loading zones on each block for residents to still use a car for when the need arises.

The original Streetfilm "Amsterdam's Removing 10,000 Parking Spaces: See what's possible!" can be found at this link: vimeo.com/339735964

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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.

StreetFilms
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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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10 Years Later the Pedestrian Crush on NYC’s 34th Street is Still Chaos

Sidewalks around Penn Station are not wide enough to handle the number of people who walk in the area. That was the case in 2009, when Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson and Streetsblog Publisher Mark Gorton surveyed the pedestrian crush at 34th Street and Seventh Avenue, and it’s no less true today.

Last spring DOT announced plans to add sidewalk space on Seventh between 42nd and 34th. Nearly 300 people were injured in crashes on that stretch between 2010 and 2014. One hundred thirty-eight of those victims were pedestrians — 12 of whom sustained severe injuries.

A year later, that project has not materialized. Clarence and Mark recently returned to 34th and Seventh to show how the city is still forcing people to walk in the street, even as motorists steal public space next to the curb.

“We filmed this exact intersection to show the sidewalk overcrowding, to show how we need more space for people,” says Gorton. “And in those 10 years nothing has happened. If anything it’s gotten worse.”

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Rotterdam: A Post-War Central City Moves Beyond the Automobile

On a trip to the Netherlands this summer for the VeloCity conference in Nijmegen-Arnhem, I had one extra day on my itinerary. So I asked the Streetfilms Twitterverse what I should do with my 24 hours, and I heard loud and clear from people in Rotterdam that I should come see their wonderful city. I'm glad I did.

Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands. Because so much of the city was razed during a World War II carpet bombing, Rotterdam lacks a historic central district. Its newness makes it an interesting comparison to American cities. Even though much of central Rotterdam was built during the era of mass motoring, the city is still taking major steps to shift away from cars and toward transit, biking, and walking.

Traffic and parking are on the wane in Rotterdam as the city actively encourages more efficient modes of travel, with an extensive tram system and improving bike network (bicycling mode share currently stands at 20 percent and it's rising quickly). The city even has rain and heat sensors at traffic lights that give cyclists more green time during tough weather.

My guide to the city was José Besselink, a planner and one of the leaders of Rotterdam's "City Lounge" initiative, which makes public spaces in the central city more active and inviting for people. The program has been transforming parking lots and other underused spaces since 2008, and the results are impressive.

Perhaps the most stunning change is around the majestic Rotterdam Centraal Station. A 2014 overhaul reallocated huge amounts of space around the station, limiting car access while opening up more room for pedestrians and cyclists and laying down a "green carpet" for trams.

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Meet Some of the “100 Most Influential Urbanists” via Streetfilms!

Recently, Planetizen named their 100 Most Influential Urbanists of all-time, based on public voting off of a list of 200 nominees. Jane Jacobs won. As she should have.

Whether you believe the list is correct or has some people ranked too kindly or not at all, it has been circulating like mad on Facebook and other social media. Of course, when I took a look at the list, my first thought was how cool it was that Streetfilms had interviewed or featured dozens of them.  So if you want to learn or see many of these individuals in action, take a gander at the films below!

2. Jamie Lerner

The renowned urban planner became mayor of Curitiba and implemented their BRT system which we explore in this popular Streetfilm. But I selected the more intimate video we did on the story of Curitiba's first pedestrian street since it has lots of him.

 

4. Jan Gehl

In fact, there are many Streetfilms that have featured Gehl over the years. The film below is one of four I made - in five days - while in Copenhagen in 2010.  But our first with him was the most important: an influential video we cut of him  evaluating a horribly un-friendly-to-people Times Square in 2005 with Mark Gorton! In many ways it helped ignite the livable streets renaissance that NYC has been moving towards since.

 

10. Charles Mahron

About five years ago, Streetfilms first met Chuck, and we could tell he was an original thinker with ideas about our cities we needed to help spread. I thought he would make an interesting subject and followed him to a few cities.

 

12. William H. Whyte

Holly Whyte passed before I became deeply immersed making videos about urbanism and transportation. But since I always admired the simple language he used in his book "The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces", I wanted to honor him with this montage of my favorite shots that matched the words in his book.

 

13. Donald Shoup

The undisputed expert of parking policy was part of our plan early on to highlight how ample free parking was a hurdle to having better cities. We interviewed him the first time he came to NYC and the 2nd time we did I decided it was time to take out some matchbox cars and show visually some of his concepts.

 

16. Janette Sadik-Khan

As NYC DOT Commissioner, we were perfectly positioned to watch the meteoric rise of Janette Sadik-Khan and how she introduced progressive public space initiatives and changed Times Square, Madison Square & brought us Summer Streets and more! She easily holds the record for appearing in more Streetfilms than any other person and  you might as well chalk all of this up to her,  Here we feature one of her first sit down interviews in 2008 with Mark Gorton about her work.

Read more...

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Just a Great Big Pile of August Kudos for NYC DOT

NYC DOT is on a very productive roll recently with many innovative projects going on in New York City. I guess this is my way of saying thanks.

I was away when NYC DOT officially debuted the new shared space (5 mph) street on Broadway near Madison Square Park. So I decided to get a quick look on Friday and, well, it works extremely well for NYC's big foray in to a new kind of street design! It'll be interesting to see where they might try this in the next few years. (And of a quick reference, check out this nearly ancient Streetfilm from when Madison Square Plaza was first created back in 2010!)

Another debut I missed due to travel was the fantastic two blocks on Broadway that have been transformed into car-free urban oases. It's called the Garment District Urban Garden and has been in the ground for nearly two months. I don't know why it took me so long to get over there (maybe because Broadway's eventual foregone destiny is to be car-free?) but the installation ends on September 1st. So get your posterior over there to see it. Lunchtime is fantastic!

To many, this green-paint-delineated, Queens Boulevard bridge path over the Sunnyside rail yards might night seem like a really big deal, but for those of us who ride it we've been made very, very happy. It's been many years coming and now that it is properly marked with #freshkermit, pedestrians are sticking to their posted side making the riding experience much less frustrating and smooth. For reference: if you are not familiar - this section is a direct link to the Queensboro (NOT Ed Koch!) Bridge ped-bike path. See some history on that here via this short Streetfilm!

And finally NYC DOT's amazing Summer Streets continues! An event I have never missed getting out to and enjoying since 2008! (Even being in tremendous pain for 2011 and 2012 following a hip injury due to a car crash and resulting surgery, blood clot and compartment syndrome!) We've even brought my son each year since he was born.

The above compliation is really just the result of cruising down on my way to another shoot. I picked up about 20 shots and threw together this montage for future b-roll use, so figured why not share! The only suggestion I have is one I have every year: there needs to be more events and the course needs to be significantly lengthened. It's popular! It's getting ridiculously crowded at some bottlenecks. I hope Commissioner Trottenberg can give us something even more great in 2018!

screenshot989

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Transform Your City With Tactical Urbanism

Tired of waiting for local governments to fix dangerous conditions, in many cities everyday citizens are practicing DIY traffic-calming to make streets safer for walking and biking. Some are forming “Departments of Transformation” to show others how to implement low-cost interventions, like traffic cones, to slow drivers down.

Often these installations are quickly removed by local DOTs, but in other cases, cities are embracing what’s come to be known as “tactical urbanism.” Some cities are making citizen-generated improvements permanent, while others are encouraging the movement by sanctioning, and even sponsoring, tactical urbanism projects.

Watch as we check in with people who are making this happen around the world!

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Streetopia: Reclaim Your Streets! (Streetopia Kickoff Promo)

Welcome to Streetopia the new push to drastically reimagine our city streets as places for people, with more efficient transport and safety for children & seniors to recreate and live. This is the "kickoff" promo, one of five we produced for the event.

The below paragraphs were so excellently written by Streetsblog's David Meyer in the article "Envisioning NYC Next Streets Revolution" that I'll now just lift those paragraphs below to describe some of why Streetopia is upon us.

About 12 years ago, a coalition of advocates under the banner of the New York City Streets Renaissance set out to transform city transportation policy away from the car-oriented status quo and toward people-first streets. Streetsblog and Streetfilms have their origins in that campaign, propelling a growing public awareness that NYC doesn’t need to settle for dangerous, traffic-choked streets.

While small interventions like signal changes, pedestrian islands, and safer markings have touched many neighborhoods, only a sliver of a fraction of city street space has been reallocated from cars to other modes. You’re less likely to lose your life in traffic now than 12 years ago, but New York still doesn’t have streets where, say, parents feel comfortable letting a child in elementary school walk a few blocks on their own to a friend’s house.

New York can be a city where everyone from young kids to elderly seniors can get around without fear, where neighborhood streets can be places of congregation and activity instead of motorways. To become that city, we’ll have to shift a lot more street space from cars to transit, biking, and walking.

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Showcasing Great Policies to Help Minimize Car Ownership

At Streetfilms we've got 800+ videos now of all sorts. All available for you to show or screen for your community or elected leaders and to enlighten and change minds.

One thing we are always looking for is trying to explain or implement policies that help create a lower car ownership rates, that of course is the primary goal in cities as the fewer cars there are the more space for people and efficient forms of transportation.

So we're always jumping into the archives looking to clump together videos to help. Thus here are some good best practices from the vault!

MAKE IT HARD TO OWN A CAR. 

 

MAKE IT EXPENSIVE AND DIFFICULT TO GET A LICENSE. ALSO: IMPLEMENT CONGESTION PRICING.

 

CAP THE NUMBER OF PARKING SPACES IN YOUR CITY AND NEVER ALLOW ANY MORE! EVER! NEVER! LIKE FOR OVER 20 YEARS!

 

MAKE IT FASTER & SAFER TO GO BY BIKE, AND SLOWER & MORE ANNOYING IN A CAR.

 

MAKE A HUGE NETWORK OF SHARED STREETS VERY, VERY SLOW AND ONLY FOR LOCAL RESIDENTS & BUSINESSES WITH PERMITS!

 

START BUILDING BRIDGES ONLY FOR BIKES. PEDESTRIANS & TRANSIT!

 

MAKE YOUR CITY A ROBUST MULTI-MODAL CITY FOR ALL AGES!