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Posts from the Public Space 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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Washington, DC: A Biking Streetfilms Adventure!

At the end of March, The League of American Bicyclists tried out a hybrid style Bike Summit 2022 due to the pandemic's still uncertain effect on daily life. I liked that some of it was on-line and a good deal of it I could do outdoors. So I sojourned to Washington, D.C. to attend and also see what has happened with infrastructure one of the better biking cities in the nation during Covid.

Truth is D.C. is doing a lot! I enjoyed quite a few solid, protected lanes that are new in the past two years and a bridge (Frederick Douglass) that while still not fully finished is already opened to the public for those on foot, bike and scooters with a 20-foot wide path (and on the other side another path will open later this year.) I believe that it could be a record for a multi-use path in terms of width since the two sides will equal 40-feet combined!!

D.C. has a lot of cool stuff going on. One thing I really like is that when they decide to build protected bike lanes they utilize many barriers and strategies and they work extremely well. You will see many styles sprinkled in amongst the footage as we got to talk to Citifi's Gabe Klein (who is a previous head of DC DOT), DC Cycling Concierge's Jeff Miller and Fionnuala Quinn the Director of the wonderful Discover Traffic Gardens who guide us on our fun journey to see a lot in just 48 hours.

One drawback was the weather. I had planned an even far more extensive film but with brutally cold temperatures (there was a windchill of low 20s for our Cherry Blossom ride on Monday morning) some precipitation and frequent 30+ mph wind gusts it made filming a real chore the entire a trip with frozen fingers. So a small apology for being able to hear the wind quite a bit at times. The usual temps in DC are 60 degrees at this time.

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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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Rotterdam Central: A Peaceful Transportation Hive of Human Activity

Last week on the same day I found myself visiting both Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station with my son due to a fun multi-train/subway/bus sojourn all over the city. And while I am appreciating some of the measures the city/state/MTA are taking to making it nicer around our most important hubs, it still compares to every single Dutch train station.

It made me recall my Rotterdam experience a few years ago. I thought having a hotel room overlooking Rotterdam Central made me extra appreciate the lack of cars and the safety for people on all other modes. I also recently picked out my favorite dozen things in all Dutch cities for a short video which Rotterdam Central also made. So I figured why not revisit my footage to give some proper montage love to my favorite.

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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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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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PSA “Secret Mission” with Janette Sadik-Khan

Here is one we really should have released a long time ago!

A few years ago "Streetopia" in NYC was conceived as an idea to get people motivated to take back their streets and change our streets for the better. The event was held at the Museum of the City of New York and Janette Sadik-Khan and Seth Solomonow along with Clarence Eckerson Jr. were asked to put together this fun PSA we called "Secret Mission" to show to the hundreds of invited guests that night.

It was a huge, hysterical hit. But we never released it to the public even though we fully intended to! I'm sure JSK's fans will love it. I love it. I watch it a few times per year while looking through archives and since we are about to hit 1,000 Streetfilms I have always considered it one of the fun gems I loved to making. You know when you are out giggling and laughing between takes with your subject you are making something special.

 

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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

StreetFilms
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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