My recent posts at World-Architects


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Broadway Boulevard

One unintended consequence of hiring Jan Gehl as a consultant for improving New York City's streets -- beyond the intended consequence of actually improving the streets -- is that the plans being implemented spark discussion, they make it into the news. And discussion and exposure around urban design, to me, is a good thing.

[Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times | image source]

One plan underway is the closure of a portion of the west side of the roadway on Broadway between 42nd and 34th Streets, in order to create a bike lane and "pedestrian living rooms." The green strip above will become the bike lane, with planters taking the place of the orange and white striped construction bollards, to buffer people sitting on cafe chairs in the new pedestrian strip, per the rendering below.

[Broadway Boulevard rendering | image source (PDF link)]

Locating seating in a narrow strip between two types of fast-moving traffic is the most questionable and controversial aspect of the plan, over the apparent increase in congestion that people incorrectly anticipate with fewer lanes of southbound traffic. (If anything, examples around the city -- Greenwich Village in particular -- show that fewer lanes reduces congestion, while an increase in lanes leads to an increase in traffic and congestion, a fact many people fail to accept.) Parked cars, while less than desirable in some respects, work as a buffer between pedestrians and cars; in August, when the improvements are complete, we'll see how willing people are to do without that buffer.

[L:New York Times graphic | image source; R:Furniture Locations | image source (PDF link)]


  1. Richard Rogers has been talking about the phenomenon of "more lanes = more traffic" in his recent lecture tour; he specifically cites the example of Los Angeles, whose traffic congestion has risen on pace with the expansion of freeways and creation of new roads/freeways. It's an interesting idea and one that I admit even I had never really realized previously.

    This is an interesting proposal but I'm shocked/surprised at the low quality of the rendering! I can't imagine that image being a very good salesman / communicator of the idea to the public. Yeesh.

  2. didn't elizabeth plater-zyberk once say that "adding lanes of traffic to reduce congestion is like loosening your belt to lose weight"?

    i'm paraphrasing, and I could be wrong as to the source. But i've always liked the sentiment.

  3. myriam - The low quality of the rendering can probably be attributed to the fact the public was not persuaded in the plan, they were not even a part of it. The Mayor just kinda did it, or is doing it, to be more accurate. Probably because he didn't get his congestion pricing. He's also transforming the Broadway/Fifth/23rd Street area by Madison Square Park.

    Brian - Not sure either, but I like it too.

  4. We hope Clover Moore is
    successful in Sydney at implementing Jan's plans. Once a critical mass of pedestrians and cyclists is reached things get a lot safer, traffic slows up, this is the case where safer access for slower moving people increases numbers and so opens up more commersial opportunities and each feeds the other for a major win win. Currently a cyclist is akin to a piniota....just a matter of time

    James Stockwell

  5. You answered a lot more questions than the Department of Transporation's boilerplate. A photo of the new boulevard in action:


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