‘We are able to use this second to place ourselves in ways in which finest serve New Yorkers—those that have stayed, those that will return, and the newcomers who will energy New York’s subsequent cycle of progress.’
The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the tides in city mobility. When New York hit “pause” that gave us all a second to replicate on how and why we transfer across the metropolis. Streets emptied of vehicles; subways and buses emptied of riders. As quiet overtook New York we heard extra birds and the air was cleaner than it had been in many years.
With so few vehicles on the streets in these early days, driving was enjoyable once more. It was quick and it was simple. It was additionally harmful, unsustainable, and fleeting. Visitors deaths soared.
The constraints of COVID have put into stark reduction the competing calls for for avenue area. Faculties are utilizing streets to carry lessons. Restaurateurs and their patrons use the area for eating. Bicycling has elevated as New Yorkers discover new methods to journey underneath new circumstances. Folks have used avenue area in dozens of inventive methods.
Unchecked, streets at the moment are approaching pre-COVID ranges of peak-hour gridlock. Every day several people are injured by cars; on common, the town sees two or three pedestrian deaths every week, and about two bike owner fatalities every month. Although the mayor’s workplace has had a Imaginative and prescient Zero coverage since 2014—aspiring to attain zero annual site visitors fatalities or severe accidents—that objective stays stubbornly out of attain.
As a substitute of returning to what we had, we’ve an opportunity to do higher. We are able to use this second to place ourselves in ways in which finest serve New Yorkers—those that have stayed, those that will return, and the newcomers who will energy New York’s subsequent cycle of progress.
On our streets, this may require that we offer the identical lodging and incentives to sustainable, space-efficient transport that we offer to vehicles. There are 10,000 miles of automobile lanes in NYC and an estimated 3 million parking areas. In contrast, there are just one,240 miles of motorbike lanes and solely 500 miles are protected. Our metropolis streets are designed for vehicles even when greater than half of New York households don’t personal vehicles.
Different cities are making significant security progress by way of avenue redesign. These cities have seen a proliferation of bicycling and different two-wheeled mobility, together with e-bikes, e-scooters, and e-mopeds. Within the COVID period, Paris accelerated building of 400 miles of motorbike lanes, and Bogotá added a 52-kilometer emergency bike community in March, growing their community by 15 p.c, to guard important employees. Oslo made headlines final yr for being the first major city to have zero traffic fatalities. And London has seen pedestrian and bike owner deaths lower annually even with growing ridership.
New York can obtain comparable outcomes with coverage change and infrastructure funding. Regional Plan Affiliation’s current Five Borough Bikeway Plan, which requires a 425-mile linked, protected biking community, is an instance of the place we would begin.
A transition to safer, extra equitable streets would require the town to embrace a extra balanced strategy to regulating electrical micromobility as effectively. A yr or two in the past, New York was caught flat-footed by the emergence of e-scooter firms like Hen, Spin and Lime. Town struggled to securely and successfully combine these companies onto our streets. Whereas cities like Los Angeles and Washington DC embraced e-scooters, clocking tens of tens of millions of rides, New York threw up the purple tape.
Thus far, micromobility has been held to a considerably greater normal than non-public vehicles in New York. It took several years of organizing by teams like Make The Highway New York to legalize electrical bikes, which for years have powered our Metropolis’s supply employees. In the meantime, full-size SUVs—which in recent times have accounted for a growing portion of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities— roll on, unabated.
Shared mopeds, like Revel, have turn out to be a reliable mode for essential workers looking for socially-distanced transport choices. These light-weight, speed-capped autos have been working in New York since 2018 and have been widespread in locations like Northern Manhattan and the Bronx, the place Citibike doesn’t but function and the subway is commonly laborious to entry.
In a time the place deadly crashes are up throughout the town, three Revel customers tragically misplaced their lives, the primary fatalities seen on the service. The corporate paused operations and has since adopted stringent security protocols. Excessive requirements and skepticism are prudent when introducing new know-how, however the requirements needs to be roughly equal to these for present modes.
We applaud the de Blasio administration for his or her current progress—together with lowering the town’s pace restrict and increasing the pace digital camera program—however the administration and future New York leaders should take vital and decisive steps now to ask extra bicycles and micromobility choices to make our streets safer and more healthy for all street customers.
It’s time to cease privileging one mode over the others and align our infrastructure to steadiness the wants of auto and non-auto customers alike. Changing non-public car journeys is important to assembly our local weather and security objectives, with the additional benefit of offering critically wanted area for social distancing on our streets.
As COVID adjustments transportation in our metropolis, let’s be certain it adjustments for the higher.
Rachel Weinberger is a Senior Fellow for Transportation with Regional Plan Affiliation, and the Founding Principal of Weinberger & Associates, LLC.