Taking Back the Street

» The fact that street space is about more than just automobile movement has yet to be recognized by a big swath of the population.

The recent furor over the installation of bike lanes along Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West is indicative of the myopic perspective too many people continue to hold on to in regards to the use of the most basic transportation resource, the street.

Even in a city as progressive and transit-friendly as New York, the work of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to reapportion a very limited portion of total street space to pedestrians, bicyclists, and buses — usually in areas where people in automobiles are outnumbered — have been greeted by lawsuits and calls for the commissioner to resign.

The absurdity of these efforts is difficult to comprehend. Already, the majority of public space in this country is devoted to the circulation of automobiles. Is the integration of a few complete streets in a network of usually single-use roads so tough to accept?

Try taking a toy away from a child and telling her that — after years of playing alone — from now on she must share. That, in effect, is how automobilists must feel about their precious rights-of-way. Convinced of the importance of driving from place to place, they cannot imagine a world in which the street’s purpose is broadened to include fulfilling the needs of people relying on other vehicles. Who cares about the inefficiency of the fact that they hog the street all day and night? What difference does it make if other transportation modes are pushed away or greatly inconvenienced? The street, after all, is designed for the car.

If transportation alternatives must be offered, this crowd says, buy another toy — put them underground, out of sight, no matter the costs. The street must be preserved for the car’s advance.

This attitude must be fought. People who live in dense parts of cities like New York, or Boston, or San Francisco are pedestrians at heart. Their residents face the sidewalk and they rely on neighborhood stores for their daily needs. And yet too often they suffer the daily indignity of the poorly designed street. As automobiles pass in every direction, they are confined to sidewalks often too small and a dearth of public space. When they hop on their bikes, hoping to extend their trips, they are caught between fast-moving and dangerous cars, despite their pollution-free form of travel. When they get on the bus, they are stuck in congestion despite the fact that they take up far less of the overall travel corridor than their driving peers.

These are the problems that policies like those that have been implemented in New York are attempting to address.

For those reading this article, these points are likely more than obvious, and yet it is clear that the motivation for opening our streets to users other than those stuck behind the wheels of their private vehicles remains murky for a significant percentage of the population. Even in New York, where most people have corner stores to which to walk and transit lines on which to ride, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are desperately convinced that if you were to remove a car lane and replace it with something else like a pedestrian plaza or a bike lane, chaos would result: Congestion would overtake the streets.

The removal of automobile traffic from parts of Manhattan’s Broadway including Times Square has been delightfully trouble-free.

Compounding this problem is the fact that people who drive, despite often constituting a small percentage of overall users, frequently command a high degree of influence thanks to their greater wealth, which allows them not only to drive but also to pay lawyers able to sue transportation commissioners for doing their jobs well.

All this hoopla, however, may be just a predictable slowdown in what is inevitably a slow process. It may be obvious to some that bike and bus lanes are beneficial, but many will remain attached to their automobiles and fight any attempt to reduce their dominance for years to come. There is opposition to these improvements today, but there will be less of it as more and more people experience the benefits of good biking facilities, effective bus service, and comfortable pedestrian street space.

Image above: Mock up of a contraflow bus bike lane, from Boston Complete Streets

34 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Tom West

    I can give you an even worse example: Neighbor Battles Neighbor Over Footpaths… I quote:
    Claude Pagacz, a retired carpenter and longtime resident, successfully opposed sidewalks on his side of the street. “What concrete adds to the value of my house,” he says, “I have no idea.”

  • Part of it is surely attributable to the “us vs. them” mentality that is propagated by classifying people into one category or another (“bikers,” “automobilists,” those with “windshield perspective” etc.). The truth is that most people who ride a bike own at least one car (or have in the past, or will in the future), and everyone, even the most dedicated driver, is a pedestrian the minute they step out of their car.

    I think reporting on transportation projects frames road changes or improvements in a way that is designed to infuriate people rather than explain. I also think that part of the problem is insularity. I know that my circle of friends and acquaintances mostly consists of people who understand and appreciate alternate modes of transportation; but if we’re only ever talking to each other about these things, we’re not doing much to influence anyone – just preaching to the choir. It makes me want to start a “Transportation 101″ outreach program for schoolkids, because at least then we’d know that in ten years we’ll have an educated population ready to vote and support the needed changes.

  • Ocean Railroader

    I did a report on this idea once and the report was based off of the idea that the car was a living creature and that everything around them was built for them as their natural habait in the suburbs. The pedestrain and the biker can’t win when it comes to competing with such as large and powerful creature and that is why you don’t see any bikers or pedestrains in the car’s natural habait. As for what happens to the Pedestrain anomily in the downtown areas the downtown areas in older cites start to fall apart as they try to convert the sidewalk and bike and streetcar based downtowns into car habait which ends up killing the cites in the process.

  • PeakVT

    It’s really the public right of way that we’re trying to take back. Cars on paved streets have come to be seen by many as the only reason for public ROWs to exist, but cars are simply one method of moving people and goods around. Feet, bikes, buses, trolleys, and railroads are all valid ways of moving people and stuff, too, and should be given equal consideration, or selected as the primary user, whenever appropriate.

  • Ocean Railroader

    With this topic I’m not about removing cars compelty from cities but I would like to see something different though then the mono car only culture thinking going on. Such as I don’t mind some cars being around but I would like to see something different though along with the cars.

  • Dan Berez

    What is the minimum width for a road that contains two automobile lanes (one in each direction), a center median busway (also two lanes), and bike lanes?

    • Felipe

      I think it goes like this:

      3m sidewalk
      3m two-way bike lane
      3m vehicle lane
      6m 2 bus lanes
      3m vehicle lane
      3m sidewalk

      Total: 21m

      That’s the bare minimum. Ideally you might want some space for some trees, or some grass separating the bike-lane from the cars and the sidewalk from the bike lane. Then it would go up to 25m.

      • Adirondacker12800

        3 meter vehicle lanes would be seriously substandard. Buses, trucks and emergency vehicles would have difficulty navigating them. Minimum width for a vehicle lane is 12 feet or 3.66 meters except in extraordinary circumstances.

      • There needs to be some physical separation between the bus lanes and the car lanes, if only to create some platform space for passengers to board buses from.

        In addition, Dutch standards for bike lanes call for 4-meter two-way lanes, and 2.5-meter one-way lanes, with 1.5-meter separation from car traffic.

  • Andrew D. Smith

    You guys are being at least as illogically emotional about this as the kookiest of the car lobby. The object of transportation right-of-ways is to move people and they should be used such that they move the most people in the least amount of time.

    Bike lanes are stupid, in New York at least, because they take space that can move hundreds of drivers per hour and use it to move no one. They sit empty pretty much all the time because we have really lousy weather here and riding a bike sucks. They simply throw away a valuable resource. (And no, they don’t make the world any greener. By forcing cars to spend longer to get the same amount of distance, they increase carbon emissions.)

    Taking car lanes to create wider sidewalks or bus lanes may well be a good idea, depending upon how many people will suffer and how many will benefit in each particular instance. (And I realize it’s a much harder calculation than just maximizing total traveler miles. Urban walkers can achieve the same ends as drivers without traveling nearly as far.) But it is a case-by-case cost-benefit calculation.

    The whole “cars are bad and all other transit is good” mindset here is just childish. No space in this country “is devoted to the circulation of automobiles.” It’s dedicated to the circulation of people. There are, in fact, people in those cars and, yes, they really are people, even though none of them properly worship Mother Earth the way you do and a little more than half of them vote Republican.

    I can only speak for New York, but taking space from those drivers and spending tens of millions of dollars to convert that space for bicycle lanes that would obviously go unused was an astonishingly stupid idea, one that really should disqualify you from being a transportation chief. And when folks here defend stuff like that, it just undermines your credibility to the point that no one will listen when you defend better ideas, like bus lanes.

    • Beta Magellan

      Andrew, do you have any data showing that the bike lanes are poorly utilized, or is this a “I didn’t see any cyclists when looking outside my window” sort of thing?

      The point about cars is interesting, but it brings up the question as to what sort of trips are taken via bike lanes–is it mostly induced demand, or does is it mostly people who would otherwise used other modes? If you’re going to make a claim–pro or counter–it helps to have evidence.

      With regards to bike lanes versus transitways or subways, it’s worth noting that even if the total number of people carried is less, the cost-per-user is typically much less as well. I’ve heard this from people at Chicago’s Department of Transportation, and according to Drunk Engineer, a reliable source for all things northern California, bike lanes are an “orders-of-magnitude” more cost-effective way of reducing car trips by FTA standards, and don’t require new publicly-owned vehicles, drivers or mechanics, either.

      Finally, although there is a culture war side to this issue–witness the UN/Hickenlooper axis claims from Colorado in the last election–I think the politics in New York, at least, are more muddied with different fractions of the Democratic Party plus Bloomberg, who’s kind of a wildcard/liberal Republican, so I think drawing this as a straight Democratic-Republican issue is off. And no one was talking about pantheism here until you brought it up.

      • Andrew D. Smith

        1. Calling for data on this particular issue is a bit silly because the utilization differentials are so high. I’ve never measured the volume of water in the pond near my apartment or the volume of water in the Atlantic Ocean but I can tell by eyeballing it that the ocean is bigger. You can watch the bike lanes on Eighth Ave for an hour on a pretty nice day without seeing a single bike go by but you’ll never watch the same stretch for an hour without seeing many hundreds of cars.

        2. As for what percentage of bike lane users would have otherwise driven, I’d guess that it’s wildly low, less than one in ten, but I’m far happier to admit that’s a total guess and should be studied. (Here’s a better breakdown from observation: The biggest single group of users are bike delivery people who would have otherwise used their bikes in traffic. The next biggest group is people who have taken to using the bike lanes rather than elliptical trainers on nice days. These two groups, I’d guess, constitute more than 80 percent of the very meager bike lane use. The next group biggest group would have taken public transit and then, at the very distant rear, is folks who would have driven.) Whatever the actual totals, your observation that at least some bike lane users will not be people who are switching from driving (or buses that also use regular roads) further undermines the case for devoting really scarce space to them.

        3. You friend in Chicago is either stupid or insane or really pulling your leg. Assuming, just to help the bike cost case, that the weight of automobiles causes 80 percent of road damage and the weather causes just 20 percent of it — a laughable assumption, particularly in Chicago, — bike lanes would still cost more per user to maintain if they carried fewer than one fifth as many users. Given that they probably carry less than a hundredth as many users, the numbers get silly. And, of course, if the bike lanes are not getting cars off the road, they’re not saving any money because the damage done by cars is just being concentrated onto fewer miles of road. They just create a new cost. (Things might be very different in Northern California, which has a lot of very nice weather. I think a lot more people there would consider using bikes as a way to get around. Also, except in downtown San Francisco, there’s basically no place in Northern California where space is so packed that bike lane construction necessarily takes space from over-utilized roads. I’m not against bike lanes. I’m against bike lanes in parts of Manhattan where the bike lanes are never used and the car lanes are.)

        4. I have wrongly used Republican-Democrat as shorthand for a more complex culture war, but culture is a huge part of this. There’s a near religious belief on transit fori about cars being evil (it’s usually cars, somehow, rather than drivers) and it makes people here suggest very silly things. These ideas could not be “Democrat” ideas, though, because the Democratic party could not maintain major status if it got firmly behind the beliefs of a tiny constituency: white (with some Asian), urban, college educated, crunchy, small-family. For a lot of people here, it’s not about devising intelligent ideas to maximize both practical welfare and resource utilization. It’s about demonstrating virtue to themselves by supporting the “right” ideas. It’s often better if those ideas make life worse because religions always believe that people must suffer to atone for their sins. I’m not seriously expecting rational argument to sway many of those folks but I have my hopes of causing one or two to wake up. Religion causes people to do really stupid things, whether it be supporting Sarah Palin or supporting Al Gore.

        Sorry. Too long. Bad comment etiquette.

        • Mmmh. I think that New York doesn’t have as many bike riders as they could have. There are cities with significant fractions of bike riders, and there the resource utilization (ROW/maintenance) is clearly in favor of the bike – it’s much cheaper. Note how bike lanes are much less wide, so if there are one order of magnitude less bikers, who also take an order of magnitude less space, then the resource utilization is still much better than for car users.

          I have no data to back this up, either, but it seems to me that the number of bikers in New York is increasing. And also anecdotally, it seems that New York can be a real tough place to bike, compared to, say, Montreal. But bicycling gets easier the more bicyclists and bike lanes there are.

          So maybe the current reality is that the bike lanes in New are somewhat underutilized. But the decision to build them was not just based on current realities, but also the desire to create a large mode share by inducing demand. If you then factor in that bike lanes are cheaper to maintain per biker (once you have sufficiently many), utilize much fewer resources, and tend to be more compatible with pedestrians (of which there are more than drivers in Manhattan), and are actually not too expensive to install, the planning decision should seem less silly.

        • Casey

          No, I think the other posters had it right. The overwhelming obsession in our transportion policy for cars over all other modes of transportation is the issue here, not any supposed “religious” type of feelings about cars, drivers, or the supposed evil of the two. Nice ad hominem. Quite simply, you’re wrong about the fundamentals of the issue; human transit. You see transportation as essentially enabled by the automobile above all else (primarily because post-WW2 American transportation policy has prioritized spending in this arena above anything else, therefore it naturally has the greatest number of users and the largest mode share), when others can see the boarder picture of transportation being the moving of people and goods to their destinations by multiple means; autos, buses, subways, trains, walking, biking.

          The indignation that motorists feel when a tiny portion of roads are reapportioned for bike lanes supports the idea of car drivers having an entitlement mentality when it comes to our city streets.

          The northeast has bad weather? Really? I’ve always found it quite pleasant. We do get some hot summers and snowy winters. I’d say this is a matter of taste. The south is hot and sticky. The west is dry and windy. Southern California is hot and smoggy. The northwest gets a near constant drizzle most of the year. To each their own…cars for some, bikes for others.

          Oh, and nice attempt to try to paint the lifestyle of those who don’t entirely rely on the automobile as being an insignificant fringe. Your “Republican vs. Democrat” shorthand is inaccurate and overly broad. Higher fuel prices will bring about a change in national transportation priorities if nothing else does. The “drive everywhere all the time” mentality won’t survive $9.00 a gallon gasoline.

        • Eric G

          Andrew,

          I think there are some merits to your argument, but I’m not entirely comfortable with your complete rejection of the street-use data that’s produced by various studies. Eyeballing alone doesn’t give you the complete picture.

          I do think that your bicycle argument is valid (that it’s too cold in cities like New York or Chicago for bicycling to be a viable year-round commuting option, and that it’s -for many if not most cyclists- just a recreational activity). However, your declaration that streets “should be more dedicated to modes of transportaion that move the most people” is actually supportive of dedicated lanes for buses (or light rail). Cars hardly carry a lot of people, in that you need a lot of space to move -most of the time- just one person. I would assume, that you are supportive of bus-only lanes. It once took me almost 2 hours to get from Morningside Heights to Laguardia on the M60 bus. Utterly ridiculous (and the major reason that I HATE using LGA, and try to fly into/out of EWR or JFK if I can). Of course, there will *always* be a need for cars…but the article argues that our streets give too much to cars, and are unfair to other modes of transportation.

          As for bike lanes and pedestrianization creating more traffic chaos: well the article itself states that the pedestrianization of Times Square didn’t create any of the anticipated traffic chaos. So, none of that came to fruition. And Chicago, where I live, has a very large bicycle-lane network…I don’t recall any streets being reduced from two lanes to one, just to give the bicyclists a lane. I don’t know about NYC on *this* particular issue, but in Chicago: on most streets that have bike lanes, there was enough room to fit a bicycle lane between the parking lane and the existing driving lanes (in most cases, there’s only one driving lane, but there *always* was just one driving lane, even before the bicycle lane was added). There was no need to take away a driving lane. Perhaps parts of Manhattan as you mention, aren’t suited for this…but isn’t this article about Brooklyn?

          • Andrew D. Smith

            1. I’m not sure why everyone assumes that my being anti-bike lane — in NYC only — means I’m also anti bus and pro car, particularly when I state otherwise. Let me try again.

            I think analysis will show a lot of times where it makes sense to take lanes from cars and give them exclusively to buses. Indeed, one of my primary objections to bike lanes is they allow driving advocates to paint any challenge to the car as crazy.

            2. Most of Brooklyn seems to have the same space restrictions that make bike lanes a terrible idea in Manhattan. This picture says it all, and this what you generally see at any rush hour in any NYC venue that has bike lanes.

    • Thanks Andrew for providing the perfect argument against on-street parking. Why should public space be tied up by one empty car that isn’t moving anybody around when that same public space could be used by hundreds or even thousands of people per day riding bicycles. According to your own logic, pretty much all on-street parking should be replaced by bike lanes or wider sidewalks.

      • Andrew D. Smith

        Agreed. Certainly no cars should be parked on street at any time when there’s any real traffic.

        • Andrew D. Smith

          Well, agreed that parking should be prohibited. In most cases I’d probably give the space to extra car traffic lanes, but in cases where more sidewalks or bus lanes would get the most utilization, I’d go there. Hell, if you could show me a case where bike lanes would get the most utilization, I’d readily go there. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not against the bike, I’m just against wasting precious space. If we had a culture of biking for transit — as in Holland — then my tone would be different. It’s just that we don’t have that culture and I don’t think there’s any possibility that we can create one by building bike lanes to encourage it.

  • Terri G.

    Andrew W. Smith,
    Where to start? No, NYC doesn’t have lousy weather, no more than anywhere else in the northeastern U.S. and riding a bike doesn’t “suck”. Cars aren’t somehow inherently entitled to public road space. If making car trips becomes more difficult because of dedicated bike lanes/bus lanes and this encourages to make people consider transportation alternatives, than I’m all for it. As a nation, we’ve shown far too much deference to autos and accommodating them over the past 60 years and it’s high time this was reversed.

    • Andrew D. Smith

      1. No, NYC doesn’t have any worse weather than the rest of the northeast, but that hardly proves your point. The whole northeast has lousy weather.

      2. Cars aren’t entitled to anything. They’re intimate objects. Even drivers aren’t entitled to things in any cosmic sense, but good transport policy means using wildly scarce transportation space to transport people rather than to sit empty.

      3. We’re not deferential to autos and we don’t accomodate them — again because they’re intimate objects. We are deferential in formulating the transport policy of this democracy to the overwhelming majority of voters who get around by car. I’d agree with most readers of this blog that transport policy is sometimes irrationally pro-car — that there are times when reducing car space to boost other transport provides more people with better transport at lower costs — but again, asserting that’s the case with bike lanes is silly and it makes it easier for irrationally pro-car people to dismiss you as a crank.

      • Beta Magellan

        Andrew, you really have to provide more evidence than “it’s silly” on bicycle versus other transportation infrastructure. I have a very hard time believing that bike lanes are more expensive per new user than investments like the 34th Street transitway, even if you factor in an off season for winter.

        I’m also not convinced by the “overwhelming majority of voters” argument. Was bike infrastructure really such a large issue in the last election? From what I’ve gleaned about this topic (and I’m not in New York so feel free to correct me), it seems like this only became a huge issue recently because a couple of investments passed by some influential houses plus some simmering resentment about Janette Sadik-Khan bubbling over. Also, are Manhattan and Brooklyn (where most of the bike infrastructure seems to be) voters have higher car ownership rates than the overall populations of these boroughs? It wouldn’t surprise me, but I doubt it would qualify as an overwhelming majority (especially if this were a higher-turnout election).

  • Chris

    (1) Whatever other motivations might be at stake, allocation of space to cars vs. bikes is just not a good way to approach the difference in environmental impact between the two means of transit. Mainly because the variation among individual cars (depending on the type of engine and # of occupants) is far more significant than between cars generally and bikes – we’d be better off creating hybrid/carpool than bike lanes.

    (2) The system of regulation and permitting has been designed from the ground up to permit minorities with vocal opinions to exert excess influence over a generally unmobilized majority. This potential exists in almost any social system, but over the past 50 years we have added stumbling block upon stumbling block. Automobile users are for the most part dead right that these projects are to their personal detriment so you can’t really complain that they’re taking action against them. It’s the choice of modern society to maximize the number of venues they have for doing so.

  • Ocean Railroader

    VA is building bike lanes on a lot of roads but what they do is repave the road and then add say a four foot wide shoulder to it and paint a bike lane marker on it. I do like the bike lanes in that they at least push the cars four or five feet back away from the sidewalks which keeps the cars further away from the pedestrains.

  • thedofc

    @ Yonah: “Image above: Mock up of a contraflow bike lane, from Boston Complete Streets”
    It might just be me, but it looks like only the bus lane is contraflow.

    “The fact that street space is about more than just automobile movement has yet to be recognized by a big swath of the population.”
    -A sad, but honest statement about my daily life.

  • Buckeyeman

    Everything I’ve read so far here has caused to to recall an article in National Geographic back in 1969 or 1970 titled “The Coming Revolution in Transprotation.” One thing that was predicted which, needless to say, was putting all roads and streets underground I was also remeinded of the early 1970s when Toronto decided to close several blocks of Yonge Street in the Downtown area. Tjhat didn’t last too many years at all because, if I’m not mistaken, a lot of seedy sex-oriented businesses started filling up storefronts and upstairs spaces. Then there’s Buffalo with it’s downtown transit mall which, the last I knew, was being torn up with at least the non-LRT lanes being restored to car traffic. I’ve always liked the idea of streets closed to traffic in favor of pedestrian malls but it almost never seems to work here in the U.S. or Canada. I don’t know what it is that’s done wrong that they don’t work in North America but I would think that surely there’s something we could do to make that concept work.

    • If you close streets to traffic in an area without much pedestrian volume, it’ll fail. If you do the same in an area with plenty of pedestrians, it’ll succeed. That’s why the Times Square closures are such a success and the closures in Buffalo were not.

    • Woody

      Completely closing a street to traffic will usually doom a fully pedestrianized mall. That seems to take away some movement and perhaps a perception of safety from the mall. But if traffic is greatly reduced, say from 4 lanes to only 2, and the sidewalks greatly widened and decorated with street furniture and plantings, that model will usually succeed.

      The trick is to strike the right balance. Narrow sidewalks divided by 4 or 6 lanes of traffic is a pedestrian headache. Wide sidewalks and narrow traffic lanes allow coexistence. Through traffic should be diverted. But one-way traffic moving fairly slowly in a narrow roadway will allow buses, emergency vehicles, taxies, trucks, and private cars to pick up and drop off people and deliveries, without becoming traffic sewers filled with honking and other noises and odorous fumes that disturb walkers.

      In NYC, between 42nd and 34th Sts, the ‘Broadway Boulevard’ redesign narrowed Broadway by 2 lanes or so, while interrupting or diverting the flow of vehicular traffic at both ends. The effort was so successful in calming traffic that the section does not even need a ‘bike lane’ anymore. The growing numbers of pedestrians have annexed the bike lane to the adjoining sidewalk. It’s now much safer to bike in the street with its slow-moving cars and trucks. Meanwhile the stretch shows a growing number of pedestrians and businesses catering to the increased foot traffic.

  • Alex R.

    Buckeyeman,
    I’m not sure why. They seem to work pretty well here in Europe.

    • Buckeyeman

      Appaewntly the reason these closed off streets in Europe succeed because there’s the pedestrian traffic there in the first place, just like Alon said. I think North American planners must think that if you build it, they will come but it quite obviously isn’t that easy.

    • Woody

      A general perception of what is normal and safe? Americans have little experience with outdoor places where the only thing moving is people on foot. Often outdoor places can be downright scary, when people read about parking-lot car-jackings at the nearby SuperMall.

      That said, obviously there’s enormous pent-up demand in this country for good places to walk. Look at Las Vegas, where crowds often swarm their way along the Strip, or Waikiki where tourists work their way along the beach front at all hours, on what is actually not a particularly attractive strip of sidewalk, or along Bourbon Street or the whole French Quarter. The corn-fed, car-driving tourists from the hinterlands come to NYC and instantly get with the program that walking is the way to go, even when our city’s pedestrian experience could be greatly improved.

      Note that two of my examples, the Quarter and NYC, have many people living directly above the streets where out-of-towners like to promenade. The residents support the corner store, the little restaurant, the neighborhood bar etc. It is the residents who keep the streets alive beyond the daylight hours.

      Very few American cities encourage people to live downtown, and there’s strong resistance to any high-rise apartments anywhere in our cities at all. Even where planners and developers have tried to introduce ‘loft districts’ or a couple of high-rise condos, these residents may not be of the age or class most likely to enjoy walking the streets. But god forbid to bring in mixed-income housing, or even student housing — that could mean ni@@ers living in some buildings in or near downtown, and didn’t our nation’s cities spend billions on ‘urban renewal’ to accomplish ‘Negro removal’? Not gonna happen.

      btw I can assure you that in several cities I’ve visited, it’s obvious that the police have managed to create an almost ni@@er-free downtown experience. You just don’t see black youths, going to movies or someplace to eat, hanging out, whatever, walking the streets in the center of Fort Worth, to name one, like you see them in Times Square or the Village. Being hassled while black — “Let me see your I.D., OK, put your arms against the wall and spead your legs” — will usually discouraged the unwanted from joining the other folks downtown.

      And of course, every European city has public transit that brings people to the central district, while most American cities don’t. Instead, American cities too often feature block after block of parking lots and parking garages — with rare exceptions, these areas are boring at best, frightening at worst — lining streets widened to carry the maximum number of commuters in cars, and squeezing walkers onto narrow sidewalks bereft of trees or any shade at all. These freeways-with-stop-lights we have as downtown streets prevent any non-mobile use of the streets: the sidewalks are for walking to where you parked your car, the streets are for using your car to go away to where you live and eat and shop, and no street invites uses such a sidewalk cafes or even window-shopping or what they used to call ‘taking the air’ or ‘having a constitutional’ depending on your speed afoot..

      Yeah, it’s a long comment, rant included, but it’s a slow day. :-)

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