During the pandemic lockdown, New York City’s relentless site visitors nearly disappeared, leaving an unlimited expanse of asphalt up for grabs in one among the world’s most crowded cities.
Neighborhood arteries as soon as jammed with vehicles teemed with folks keen to flee tiny residences. Packs of recent cyclists staked their declare. Sidewalk curbs have been repurposed with tables and chairs for outside eating.
But as New York recovers and site visitors returns, there’s a rising tug of battle over who will get to make use of this big stock of open area: the metropolis’s 6,000 miles of streets. The way forward for such contested area has turn out to be a key subject in the race for the subsequent mayor, who will probably be accountable for managing the streets.
“People talk about streets in the context of the future of the city and what the city will look like,” stated George Arzt, a political guide and former press secretary to Mayor Edward I. Koch. “They want more parks and bike lanes. They want a better quality of life.”
Still, the subject turns into “a real migraine for candidates,” Mr. Arzt added, as a result of the subsequent mayor must strike a stability between the push for a extra livable metropolis and the each day calls for of companies, emergency companies and New Yorkers who rely on vehicles to get round, particularly in transit deserts outdoors Manhattan.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, below stress from transportation advocates and others, has expanded and made everlasting an Open Streets program, a pandemic initiative that briefly closed as much as 83 miles of streets to site visitors to permit for extra strolling, biking and outside eating.
But one among Mr. de Blasio’s signature transportation insurance policies, which goals to scale back site visitors fatalities, has faltered partially as a result of some drivers have taken benefit of fewer vehicles on the highway to hurry and drag race.
There have been 99 traffic-related fatalities reported as of May 31, the highest quantity in that five-month interval since 2013, based on metropolis information.
Eight main Democratic mayoral candidates, in response to written questions from The New York Times, shared their plans for making metropolis streets safer, much less gridlocked and extra equitable, from creating extra protected bike lanes and open streets to utilizing congestion charges to discourage automobile use and scale back automobile emissions.
“We are a city of pedestrians, cyclists, skaters, drivers and mass transit riders,” stated Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president. “The use of our streets must reflect all of those uses safely while encouraging forms of movement that reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.”
Or as Kathryn Garcia, a former metropolis sanitation commissioner, put it: “Today our streets and sidewalks are a losing battle between competing uses.”
Here’s what the candidates stated they might do:
Push congestion pricing to get vehicles off the highway.
The candidates stated they might use a congestion pricing plan accepted for New York to maneuver vehicles off the roads. Credit…Brittainy Newman for The New York Times
All the candidates again a state-approved congestion pricing plan that’s anticipated to scale back site visitors by charging charges for driving into the busiest elements of Manhattan, from 60th Street all the way down to The Battery.
New York would comply with different cities round the world, however could be the first American metropolis to impose such a charge.
“We have to lean into this nation-leading change and view it as a chance to further cut down on car traffic,” stated Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate.
Shaun Donovan, a former federal housing secretary, and Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mr. de Blasio, stated they deliberate to work with state and federal officers to roll out congestion pricing, which requires federal approval and had stalled below the Trump administration, as quickly as doable.
Revenues from congestion charges will assist pay for transit enhancements. Raymond McGuire, a former Wall Street government, stated he would make sure that cash was not wasted, saying, “We need to make sure the revenue is being invested in the most transit-starved neighborhoods.”
Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit government, stated that she would discover increasing congestion pricing to different areas and providing subsidies and tax breaks to individuals who take alternate options to vehicles.
Build extra lanes for bikes.
During the pandemic, the metropolis skilled a biking increase, which the candidates stated they might encourage by constructing extra bike lanes and increasing the bike share program.Credit…Jordan Gale for The New York Times
Cycling took off in the pandemic as virus-wary folks averted the subway and as an alternative hit the bike lanes.
All the candidates stated they might construct extra bike lanes, with a concentrate on creating an interconnected community of protected lanes linking the metropolis.
“The rollout of new bike lanes and pedestrian areas has been far too slow,” stated Mr. Yang, who has biked along with his kids to highschool. “We need a break from the past to start making real progress on bike and pedestrian safety and infrastructure.”
Scott Stringer, the metropolis comptroller, has referred to as for 350 miles of recent bike lanes in 5 years, together with 75 miles round colleges.
Mr. Adams would construct 300 miles of recent protected bike lanes in 4 years, together with “bicycle superhighways” utilizing highway area below elevated highways and railways. Ms. Garcia desires at the very least 250 miles of recent protected lanes.
Ms. Morales, who just lately purchased a motorcycle, stated she would construct 500 miles of recent protected bike lanes, which is a part of NYC 25×25, a name by an influential advocacy group, Transportation Alternatives, to reimagine a car-centric streetscape by 2025.
“I’ve been able to gain a firsthand understanding of the issues for cyclists in New York City,” Ms. Morales stated.
To maintain bike lanes away from vehicles, Mr. Stringer and Mr. Yang stated they might set up automated cameras to assist subject tickets to drivers caught blocking bike lanes. Ms. Garcia stated she would additionally enhance enforcement of motorbike lane violations.
In addition, Mr. Yang and Mr. Adams stated they might guarantee that bike lanes have been cleared of snow as shortly as automobile lanes, a frequent grievance amongst bikers. Ms Garcia stated she would get tools to plow and clear trash from bike lanes extra successfully.
Increase New Yorkers’ entry to bikes.
Four candidates — Mr. Adams, Mr. Stringer, Ms. Wiley and Mr. McGuire — stated they might broaden the metropolis’s standard bike share program, Citi Bike, to get extra New Yorkers on bikes, particularly in poor and minority communities.
Mr. McGuire added that he would develop a citywide grasp bike plan “rather than the piecemeal community board approach that has dominated in the past.”
Ms. Morales referred to as for shifting towards a municipal-controlled bike share program, which might be free to metropolis residents and prioritize docking stations in transit deserts.
Mr. Adams additionally proposed a brand new citywide community of shared electrical bikes and scooters, particularly in transit deserts, whereas Mr. Stringer stated he would provide subsidies for bike share charges and e-bike purchases.
Five candidates — Mr. Adams, Mr. Stringer, Mr. Yang, Ms. Wiley and Ms. Garcia — stated they might additionally enhance bike parking round the metropolis, together with close to bus stops and subway and practice stations. Mr. Yang desires to transform automobile parking spots in entrance of faculties and public libraries into bike corrals.
Open extra streets for folks.
At least three candidates — Mr. Stringer, Mr. Adams and Mr. Yang — would construct on the success of the Open Streets program by increasing it to extra low-income and minority neighborhoods with a dearth of open area.
Mr. Yang stated he would go even additional and comply with the metropolis of Barcelona’s lead in creating “superblocks,” by which contiguous blocks are largely closed to site visitors and streets are become plazas, playgrounds and gardens.
“The program has been a huge success in Barcelona,” Mr. Yang stated, “and it will also be a great way to draw tourists back to the city and to support small businesses.”
Ms. Wiley stated she would create an workplace of public area administration to work with communities “to permanently and safely reallocate road space to cycling infrastructure, protected bike lanes, walking, community gatherings, and green urban design projects.”
Ms. Garcia, who desires to “prioritize the public in our city’s public spaces,” and Mr. Adams stated they might convert 25 % of the area at present used for vehicles to area for folks, which can also be a part of the name for NYC 25×25.
Rethink deliveries and highways.
Finding methods to scale back truck site visitors and handle deliveries is essential to bettering the metropolis’s streets, the mayoral candidates stated. Credit…Andrew Seng for The New York Times
The pandemic despatched on-line procuring surging, bringing extra deliveries to a metropolis already choked by vehicles and vans.
Mr. Adams stated he would search to shift extra truck deliveries to off hours, and Ms. Garcia stated she would discover methods to scale back truck congestion and enhance security for supply employees.
Mr. Donovan and Mr. Stringer stated they might add extra cargo loading zones to chop down on double parking. “By reimagining how we allocate curb space, we can make our streets more fair, less congested, and far more efficient,” Mr. Donovan stated.
In addition, Mr. Stringer stated he wished to reduce the measurement of growing old highways like the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway which can be scheduled for renovation or substitute, and to restrict massive S.U.V.s by working with state officers to extend their registration charges.
“The next mayor must kick-start massive reform of our transportation system that gets cars and trucks off the road,” Mr. Stringer stated, “because taking on climate change and improving public health must be a central pillar in our recovery from Covid.”
Design safer streets and broaden expertise.
Ms. Wiley stated she would fast-track efforts to revamp a few of the metropolis’s most harmful streets, together with Queens Boulevard.
Intersections, she stated, may very well be made safer by putting in extra islands for ready pedestrians and cyclists, and designating no-parking zones at curbs in entrance of crosswalks to make it simpler to see pedestrians.
Mr. McGuire stated he would add at the very least 100 velocity bumps to decelerate drivers and add 25 million ft of roadway security markings citywide. Mr. Donovan stated that “envisioning new street design delivered in a more cost-effective way can promote safe cycling.”
Several candidates stated additionally they deliberate to make use of expertise to enhance the streets. Mr. Adams stated he would accomplice with tech firms to watch site visitors patterns in actual time and search for methods to scale back congestion.
Ms. Garcia and Mr. Donovan stated they might broaden the use of enforcement cameras, which assist subject tickets for dashing and reckless driving.
“With more strategic and consistent automated enforcement,” Mr. Donovan stated, “we can make streets safer and stop traffic violence in New York City.”