Not Just A Joke

by Don Friedman on October 19, 2016


New York’s sidewalks are crowded. Not everywhere, but a lot of places. Much of Manhattan, downtown Brooklyn, central Jamaica and Flushing in Queens…it’s easy to find places where pedestrians will take to walking in the street to escape the crowds on the sidewalk. The 2010 joke in the picture above got laughs, but a lot of people said “if only we could” when they saw it.

This problem is no surprise. First of all, it’s been true since the 1800s. In the 1860s, a bridge was built to help pedestrians cross Broadway at Fulton Street because the volume of foot traffic and the volume of cart traffic were each so great as to stop the other dead.


Second, a city that relies heavily on mass transportation, as does New York, inevitably relies heavily on walking, since people have to get from the subway stations and bus stops to their actual destinations.

Third, tourist traffic keeps on increasing, passing 50,000,000 per year a few years ago.

Finally, and this may be less well-known than the other points, a lot of the sidewalks were reduced in width during the course of the twentieth century in order to provide more room for cars.

In this light, the recent bill that would force the Department of Transportation to address the issue is welcome, but only a first step. Until we all have jetpacks, I suspect that the DoT will be stuck playing catch-up to the numbers of pedestrians.

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