Saturday, May 16, 2009

Flatiron District

New York has done fantastic work in giving streets back to the people. I visited the Flatiron District to see the pedestrian square that the city made by taking away road space from cars. These before and after shots (courtesy of the NYDOT web site) give an idea of what they did.
What was a complex skewed intersection with the longest crossing in New York, has been transformed into a piazza that just hums with activity on a sunny day.
I took these photos on a recent visit to New York City where I was really impressed by what they are doing to increase public space, greening neighbourhoods and putting pedestrian safety first (their strategy)
The large pot plants create a pleasant environment while protecting people from stray vehicles. The tables, chairs, bins and umbrellas are provided by the city - not an eatery - and they are very busy.
The massive rocks make very attractive traffic bollards and double as benches when all the seats are taken. They also help tourists get an elevated viewpoint of the Flatiron building which is one of New York's major architectural attractions. Previously you had to take your life in your hands to get a good shot of the building.
The cost of the conversion was minimised by leaving the kerbs where they were. The conversion could be done in no time at all by just using a surface treatment similar to that used for the bike lanes. Most people don't even realise that they are sitting in the middle of what used to be a busy road. It feels just like a park.
The conversion of the intersection was used to improve the provision for bicycles by separating them from traffic. The highly visible bicycle lanes are great but I wonder how effective this bicycle lane is when pedestrian traffic picks up. More on that on my next post on the Times Square area.
Passing through the square on a rainy day was interesting. Someone is responsible for securing the chairs and tables at night and on rainy days they stay chained together. I don't know who has the responsibility in this case, but it could be a partnership between the city and local businesses.
You can see more detail on some websites linked to my last post on New York.

No comments: