Reclaiming the Sidewalks
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New York City pedestrians
need safe, spacious sidewalks free of moving cars, parked cars, clots of
newspaper boxes and garbage, seemingly permanent scaffolding, broken pavement
and illegal and intrusive vendors. But, as we all know, New York's sidewalks
are impossibly crowded, obstructed and narrow. T.A. has made an enormous
effort to make street crossings safer for pedestrians, but conditions on the
sidewalks are growing intolerable. Because of this, we are launching a
four-part advocacy campaign. Reclaiming the Sidewalks is rooted in the simple
premise that sidewalks are for walking, and that pedestrians deserve safe,
congenial conditions that respect their dignity and humanity.
1. Safe Sidewalks
Goal: Keep runaway vehicles off sidewalks, where they injure 500
pedestrians a year.
Target: Locations with high numbers of pedestrians and histories of
vehicles crashing on sidewalks.
- Steel and concrete
bollards installed along the curb at high risk locations by a DOT on-call
contractor, and as a routine part of the rebuilding of all arterial
- Increased speeding and red
light enforcement by police and automated cameras.
- New legislation imposing
automatic license revocation, $5000 fine and presumption of criminal
intent for driving on sidewalks.
2. Clear Sidewalks
Goal: Clear sidewalks of obstructions
- Cars parked on sidewalks
- Vending boxes narrowing
- Illegal and obstructive
- Excessively protruding
restaurant and store front porches
- A City law requiring that
pedestrians be provided with a basic level of service, guaranteeing
minimum sidewalk widths for given volumes. A grade of "C" (using
national standards) would be a good place to start.
- A City law raising the
fine for parking on sidewalks to $500 and automatic tow.
- Enforcement of existing
sidewalk parking laws by police. (Commissioner Kelly must make cops live
up to their credo of Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect by getting
their own cars off of the sidewalk!)
- A City law giving the DOT
the authority to regulate newspaper-vending boxes that block curb cuts and
- A City law giving the DOT
enforcement and regulatory authority over the duration of scaffolding.
Require each scaffolding site to have two signs easily visible to
pedestrians which include the name, phone, email and address for the
client, erector and City DOT enforcement as well as a description of the
work and the start and finish date of the permit.
- Install inexpensive,
attractive, anti-parking bollards where sidewalk parking is a perennial
- Ban permits for
restaurants and other commercial establishments which encroach upon scarce
sidewalk space - per legislation guaranteeing minimum sidewalk width.
- Enforce vending permits
and ban vendors from areas with inadequate sidewalk space - per
legislation guaranteeing minimum sidewalk width. Provide vending space by
taking one parking spot on each block in dense areas, or by creating
car-free streets. Millions of pedestrians should not suffer intolerable
crowding for the benefit of a relatively tiny number of vendors.
3. Wide Sidewalks
Goal: Widen the most crowded and highest volume sidewalks over the next
Target: Initially, sidewalks near transit and those carrying the very
highest volume of pedestrians.
- Create a DOT database of
Pedestrian Conditions, including crowding conditions based on complaints,
environmental studies, existing city studies and ad hoc surveys. Widen the
west side of 8th Ave. north of Penn Station, from 34th to 40th streets
where it is so crowded that large numbers of people walk in the busy
avenue during peak periods.
- Widen the east side of
Lexington Ave. between 60th Streets and 50th Streets, where eight feet of
sidewalk was shaved off.
- Widen the west side of 6th
Avenue between 23rd and 42nd streets by eliminating a full lane of
- Use attractive, sturdy
bollards as an inexpensive way to quickly widen sidewalks.
4. New Sidewalks
Goal: Fix poor sidewalk conditions which force pedestrians to detour
because of physical danger or extremely unpleasant environment. Get new
sidewalks built at all new commercial and residential developments.
Target: Sidewalks identified by elected officials, civic groups,
community boards and government surveyors and at all new developments.
- Collect information from
stakeholder groups above and place in the DOT Pedestrian Conditions
database. Form a DOT Pedestrian Conditions Task Force within the DOT's
non-motorized division and pay for new staff and inspectors with Federal
clean air and safety funds.
- Aggressively target
property owners who fail to repair broken sidewalks with higher fines as
well as build and bill projects. (This alone will save the City tens of
millions in "trip and fall" lawsuit settlements.)
- Pass a City law mandating
minimum four-foot sidewalks on both sides of the street at all new
commercial and residential developments. No exceptions grantable by city
- Change zoning and
permitting regulations to make installing curb cuts for commercial
driveways much more difficult to obtain. Likewise, change zoning codes to
essentially ban "drive-through" establishments like McDonald's.
- Change zoning and
permitting to require commercial establishments to require parking be
placed behind buildings, not in front of them. This drastically improves
safety and the overall pedestrian environment.
Two Things You Can Do!
- Call the Mayor's Quality
of Life Hotline at 888-677-LIFE/5433 and tell Mayor Bloomberg you are fed
up with cars parking on sidewalks, news boxes, illegal vendors, crowded
narrow sidewalks, broken pavement and missing curb cuts.
- E-mail the Mayor at firstname.lastname@example.org
and tell him the same thing.