New York City isn’t exactly known for being a pedestrian-friendly city. Crossing the street without a walk signal and expecting cars to stop for you is tantamount to volunteering to spend the next two weeks in the hospital. Next month, however, New York will convert 40 miles of city streets into pedestrian streets to allow residents to spend more time outdoors and allow for more social-distancing space. The goal is to have 100 miles of streets open to pedestrians.
NYC mayor Bill de Blasio says, “I’ve said consistently we want to see if there’s new approaches, but we have to make sure they are safe and there will be enforcement. City Council came forward, I believe it was Wednesday, with a vision of how we could come up with a plan to open up more streets, do it over time and do it in a way that was responsive from the core concerns we have heard from the NYPD, for example, about safety and enforcement.”
The city will open streets in and around parks to prevent overcrowding as the weather gets warmer, and for others, sidewalks will be expanded or streets will be entirely shut off to traffic. The exact streets that will be pedestrianized haven’t been announced yet, but the City Council, mayor’s office, and city Department of Transportation will work together to make that determination. Law enforcement presence will be key to ensuring that the streets remain car-free and safe for pedestrians.
The decision comes after a lengthy pressure campaign to introduce more pedestrian areas and open public spaces, so New Yorkers have more room for social distancing in the warm weather. According to Transportation Alternatives spokesman Joe Cutrufo, “If we’re going to adhere to physical distancing guidelines while we’re getting exercise and fresh air, we need more open space.”