Via Streetsblog, by Ben Fried:
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and leaders from the Midtown business community announced this morning that the new public spaces along Broadway will become permanent features of the city’s landscape now that an eight-month trial period has ended. The city will seek to build on the trial project’s success by creating, in the mayor’s words, “an enduring, world-class” street in the heart of Manhattan.
After weighing a dramatic decline in traffic injuries and data from millions of taxi trips showing an average seven percent increase in west Midtown traffic speeds, Bloomberg characterized the results of the trial as very encouraging. Safety improvements alone, he noted, were “reason enough to make this permanent.”
In a rather extraordinary Q&A session that followed the announcement, Bloomberg fended off several questions from reporters who expressed skepticism that overall traffic speeds had improved. The mayor did not shy from the chance to frame pedestrian, bicycle and transit improvements in a way that New Yorkers rarely hear from their elected officials.
“Are the roads for multiple uses — everybody, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists,” he asked, “or are they just for motorists?” When it comes to streets that safely serve all users and create vibrant public spaces, he suggested, New York has fallen behind its competitor cities around the globe.
Data from the trial period indicates that the changes in Midtown are helping NYC to catch up. Pedestrian injuries along the project corridor declined 35 percent compared to average injury levels from 2006 through 2008. The safety improvements were most dramatic at the major pedestrian plazas in Times Square and Herald Square, where injuries dropped by 40 percent and 53 percent, even as more people walked to those destinations.