A confluence of forces economic, ecological, and social has given rise to a number of changes in cities throughout the US in the last few years. Mass transit systems are being overloaded and upgraded, formerly traffic-snarled streets are being turned in to weekend promenades for pedestrians, cyclists, vendors, performers, and all the other uses that arise when a street is no longer dominated by cars, and even the president is talking vaguely about doing something, someday.
The most important and impactful of these, however, is the painting of bike lines with this wonderful green color on some of New York City’s busiest streets. The idea, according to the admirably proactive NYC DOT, is “to raise drivers’ awareness of the presence of cyclists and bike lanes”. The pilot locations, such as Bleecker Street in Manhattan, are in place and currently being monitored for effectiveness. In addition to adding hundreds of miles of standard bike lanes throughout New York City, we could see a proliferation of sexy green bike lanes in the city’s most congested and contested streets as the DOT searches for ways to minimize accidents between cyclists and drivers.
Now, I don’t know about their effectiveness as a safety measure, but I do know that these bike lanes look good. It is truly shocking in this city of grey to see a city agency do something. At all. And when they do, beauty is to be avoided at all costs, lest people‘s expectations be raised above mediocre. But lo and behold, here comes Commissioner Sadik-Kahn and her army of cool kids from the Ivory League. Now, everyone knows that pastels are in and that commuting on a bike is en vogue. And here we have the NYC DOT shutting down avenues, expanding bike facilities and routes, and painting some of said lanes a lovely chartreuse color.
Compare that to the contributions of the supposed guardian of public space in the city- the Department of Parks and Recreation. They too have been making bold moves, spending exorbitant sums to ring open spaces with chain link fence and cover them in synthetic turf. In fact, their commissioner, along with some of their initiatives, was recently featured in a lovely puff piece by that bastion of hard-hitting journalism and critical though- Landscape Architecture Magazine.
SO, the DOT has taken the baton and decided they will be the bold ones of the city workers who are making our city an interesting and innovative place to live, working to actually improve the quality of our lives, not just to keep working. Three cheers for Commissioner Sadik-Kahn and her minions.
Now, if only the DOT can get the hapless, hebetudinous police officers to stop parking in all those bike lanes and start ticketing people who do, people may actually be able to use them.