In Brooklyn, the No. 3 subway line ends at New Lots Avenue, where passengers descend from the elevated tracks to what used to be a nasty intersection, trafficked by prostitutes, drug dealers — “You name it,” as Eddie Di Benedetto, the owner of Caterina’s Pizzeria, put it the other day.
Not long ago, a coalition of local merchants and community leaders turned to the New York City Department of Transportation, which runs a program to make traffic circles, triangles and streets into pedestrian plazas. The department brought in some potted trees and chairs, closed off a short street and voilà, what had been a problem became a boon. Since the plaza opened last summer, crime has plummeted, Mr. Di Benedetto told me, crediting the local police precinct. He heads the New Lots Avenue Triangle Merchants Association.
“People use the place all the time now, meaning the area is watched and safe,” he said. “I’ve had my pizzeria since 1971, so I can tell you, this is a renaissance.”
From: “A Street Corner Serenade for the Public Plaza” by Michael Kimmelman, New York Times, June 2, 2013.
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/02/arts/design/a-prescription-for-plazas-and-public-spaces.html?_r=0
The late Hans Monderman was a Dutch traffic engineer and former driving instructor. His work in redesigning roads redefined the relationship between pedestrians and drivers.
He knew that drivers were more reliant on road markings, signs, and signals than on their common sense and intelligence. If drivers face more uncertainty and have to choose who has ‘right of way’, they are more likely to slow down. Everyone, pedestrian and drivers alike, become more responsible. “A wide road with a lot of signs is telling a story,” Monderman said. “It’s saying, go ahead, don’t worry, go as fast as you want, there’s no need to pay attention to your surroundings. And that’s a very dangerous message.” (Quoted in: http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/2004/12/18/roads-gone-wild/)
Monderman’s simple roads featured public art, landscape and lighting. His early success in reducing vehicle speed in the Dutch village of Oudehaske attracted further work in more than 100 towns and villages. His redesign of complex intersections and shopping streets caught the attention of professionals and politicians beyond the Netherlands. The EU initiated a “shared space” program based on his planning principles.
TV journalists would interview the humble Monderman in the middle of a busy stream of traffic. He would demonstrate his confidence in the responsible adaptability of drivers by walking backwards into the traffic.
He died from cancer, aged 62.
Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_space