By Oleksandr Dudnyk and Joseph Langer    


As we have talked about many times in class, the way to decrease traffic congestion is not to build more roads, as this just invites more cars, but rather to put more of an emphasis on other modes of transportation. This is the idea behind a new pedestrian walkway, dubbed “sixth and a half avenue”, that runs between 6th and 7th avenues between 51st and 57th streets in midtown. In the past, the walkway was a secret that only a few locals knew about, but new legislation that calls for the inclusion of stop signs, speed bumps and pedestrian crosswalks can change that. The new legislation would let the secret out, so to say, and would make the route a safer one.

While we were reading this article, the intersection at Hillel Place and Campus Road came to mind. Last year, a traffic light was put in to replace the stop sign that was at the intersection. At first, it seems that a traffic light would make it more difficult for cars to cross the intersection. But, because the amount of pedestrian traffic is so great, it actually takes longer to wait for all of the students to cross the street than it does for the light to turn green. Perhaps traffic lights are a suitable alternative to a stop sign proposed for the Manhattan walkway.  Another alternative would be to place yield signs in middle of the blocks instead of stop signs. The benefit would be that cars would not have to stop if there are no pedestrians present. Whichever alternative the city decides to utilize, opponents will still argue that the walkway project will make the traffic problem worse.

Opponents to the plan say that stop signs in the middle of these blocks would put a chokehold on traffic, which is already a big problem in midtown Manhattan. The city argues that the affect of the stop sign would be negligible, as even during peak hours, less than 10 cars journey over those blocks. Additionally, since the pedestrians and the stop signs pose an inconvenience to cars, it makes sense that cars would try to avoid these streets, resulting in even less cars crossing those blocks than usual.

 In the work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, author Jane Jacobs writes, “Streets and their sidewalks, the main public places of a city, are its most vital organs. Think of a city and what comes to mind? Its streets. If a city’s streets look interesting, the city looks interesting; if they look dull, the city looks dull”(30). Jacobs underlines that sidewalks are an integral part of the city’s character. This confirms the need for the proposed crosswalk, which will enrich the city’s infrastructure, encourage growth of nearby businesses due to increased pedestrian traffic and possibly promote tourism.

According to Timothy Beatley in the article, “Planning for Sustainability in European Cities: A Review of Practices in Leading Cities,” of the Sustainable Urban Development Reader, leading European cities such as Denmark are pedestrianizing many areas such as parking spaces and shifting focus from accommodating cars to accommodating pedestrians(335). Beatley delineates that, “The experience of these European cities in pedestrianizing much of their urban centers has been a positive one, both economically and in terms of quality of life”(335).  Beatley highlights that creating more walking space for pedestrians will bring many benefits that will improve the experience of people who will use the proposed passageway. The Manhattan crosswalk would serve to bring people together and encourage social interaction, helping to eliminate the feelings of loneliness and isolation associated with a large industrialized city such as New York.

In conclusion, it is clear that 6th and a half Ave. is going to stir up a lot of controversy. However, this is a controversy that transcends just one avenue, it is a disagreement that has gone on between urban planners for many years.  This project represents what leading European cities have been doing for a while and what great urban planning thinkers such as Jane Jacobs have been advocating.  Through this project we can see that we are making a move to a new urbanism model of urban planning, where more of an emphasis is placed on pedestrians than cars. But, is the best way to accomplish this by stopping cars dead in their tracks (by using stop signs) or, are there other, better, alternatives?



                                          Works Cited:


Beatley,Timothy.  “Planning for Sustainability in European Cities: A Review   of Practices in Leading Cities.” The Sustainable Urban Development Reader. 2nd ed. Stephen Wheeler,   Tomothy Beatley. New York: Routledge.2009. Print.

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Vintage Books, 1992. Print.