Better streets in New York instructive for Marin

Nobody wants Marin to turn into a New York City – it’s a great city but we like our quiet just fine thankyouverymuch – but that most pedestrian of places has become a laboratory for how to redesign streets with people in mind. From Redwood Boulevard to Alexander Avenue, there are myriad ways to actually improve the flow of traffic while giving space to those on foot or bike.

Janette Sadik-Khan, chief of NYC’s Department of Transportation, was the architect of so much of of this change and enshrined it in a planning guide for the rest of the country. At its most basic, her concern was for simplicity: simple intersections, simple crosswalks, simple interchanges, and so on. The Department of Transportation released a report, Making Streets Safer (PDF), detailing how to apply the principals it has pursued for 6 years.

Formed in the concrete canyons, these are principals we can apply to our much quieter county. Downtown Mill Valley, for example, is a tangle of streets, intersections, and crosswalks. You’re never quite sure who can go next at the stop signs or where pedestrians are going to come from next or even where the parking actually is. The San Anselmo Hub, too, is a bit of a mess, with long delays at rush hour and a bus turn that relies on the goodness of drivers to navigate.

Streetfilms profiled the dramatic transformation New York underwent during Sadik-Khan’s tenure. It is worth a few minutes of your day.

NYC Streets Metamorphosis from Streetfilms on Vimeo.


About David Edmondson
A native Marinite working in Washington, DC, I am fascinated by how one might apply smart-growth and urbanist thinking to the low-density towns of my home.

2 Responses to Better streets in New York instructive for Marin

  1. Franz Listen says:

    You let San Rafael off the hook this time. As you alluded to in a previous post, it can be profoundly pedestrian-unfriendly. It’s so obvious in places that even visiting relatives and friends who are urban planning laypeople point it out. Nearly every key decision the city makes about roadway and signal design is intended to maximize automobile throughput regardless of the trade-offs, like: pedestrian deaths, reduced quality of life, a degraded environment, a worsened place for downtown living and economic investment, diminished efficacy of transportation alternatives, etc.

    Maybe the traffic engineers think that they are just doing their job and maybe we shouldn’t expect them to have a contemporary balanced view of transportation like so many of their peers. However, the balance needs to at least come from the City Manager and/or the City Council. They should not allow the Public Works Department to bully them into thinking that the City’s transportation network must be just the way it is. The town leaders are making a lot of bad policy choices by default, simply by being so deferential. The kinds of bold and dramatic changes that happened in NYC and made the city a better place can’t happen here without a combination of inspiration, leadership, and a willingness to confront the biases of the bureaucracy.

  2. Nancy Edmondson says:

    New York looks so much more useful to people! Proof is in the way people are really enjoying their new outdoor community spaces.

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