A Plan for Open Streets

Transportation Alternatives leads effort to reallocate 25 percent of public space for pedestrians

| 24 Mar 2021 | 10:37

As NYC slowly recovers from the pandemic, a coalition of over 80 advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations recently laid out a plan to transform public space in the five boroughs.

Spearheaded by Transportation Alternatives, the coalition released NYC 25x25, which calls on the next mayoral administration to allocate 25 percent of the street space by 2025 into pedestrian space.

If adopted, this policy could hypothetically create:

· 500 lane miles of new protected bus-only lanes, so every New Yorker lives within a quarter mile of a protected bus lane

· 1,000 lane miles of permanent Open Streets

· 780,000 spaces for car-share parking and paid parking spaces (converted from free parking) with the potential to generate, by the most conservative estimate, at least one billion dollars annually

· 19.4 million square feet of bike parking spaces, including racks, secure bike parking, bike share and other micromobility uses, so that Citi Bike access can stretch citywide and nearly every New York City block will host bike parking

· “Universal daylighting” — removing car parking directly adjacent to an intersection in order to increase visibility and decrease the likelihood of a crash — at every one of New York City’s 39,000 intersections

· A one-block-long car-free multi-use space for play, student drop-off and pick-up and outdoor learning outside each of New York City’s 1,700 public schools

· At least one 80-foot-long zone on every block for deliveries, e-cargo bikes, for-hire-vehicle and taxi passenger drop-off, and trash collection, so trash bags are off the sidewalk.

One supporter of this plan is Councilman Ben Kallos. The lawmaker, who is running for borough president, is one of the few elected officials who does not own a car and commutes on his bike.

“I’m about making the city livable and walkable and all about public transportation,” he told Our Town.

Positive Feedback

According to Kallos, only 20 percent of NYC residents own cars, so he questions why the public space is geared towards them. He noted when the Open Streets Program launched last year due to the pandemic, his office was flooded with positive feedback.

Kallos recalled this was one of the first times he has seen parking spots taken away without a fight.

However, he understands that for those who do have a vehicle, parking is limited. Kallos hopes that in the future the council will examine mandating that new construction have parking garages. Prior to the 1980s, they were required with new buildings, but legislation deemed it an accessory.

“Having a car is a luxury more than anything else,” he said.

The council member said people often complain how the sidewalks on the Upper East Side are too crowded, so allocating 25 percent of street space for pedestrians would be a major boost for the city.

People should not have to fear riding on their bike or walking. In a city full of commuters, Kallos said, it is time the administration adapts to its people.