Posted on April 25, 2020 at 3:37 p.m. by West Sider
Photo by John Gillespie.
One of the most significant urban movements of the past decade has been the habitable streets movement – aimed at making the city streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists and less car-oriented.
This movement is not without controversy. In fact, fighting on bike paths and parking rules has been arguably the most controversial in the neighborhood. Hundreds of parking spaces have been removed from the neighborhood in recent years to make room for bike paths or delivery and taxi pick-up points.
Now the coronavirus adds new complexity to the debate. On the one hand, there are almost no cars on the street because of the lockout and members of the city council are pressing for these streets to be open to other uses – the most important for pedestrians to have room to walk outside while staying six feet away from each of them. Cars seem to be an obstacle to this.
Broadway at rush hour on a recent day. Photo of Jack.
On the other hand, some people who have resisted buying cars now say they want one. Others, who have argued for reducing the number of cars, say they are seeing more use now. (The implicit concern here is that the coronavirus is easily spread on public transportation, a claim that has not been proven but which has clearly raised concerns in some people.)
“Cars challenge the city because they disperse people. COVID-19 threatens the city because it cloisters us, “wrote the Upper West Side real estate broker, activist and philanthropist in a recent Daily News editorial. “The car brings freedom. COVID-19 is our jailer. Cars allow exploration. COVID-19 requires social distancing. “
Haber writes that he is in favor of making cars “more compatible with city life” by adding cycle lanes and tolls on city tolls on the streets. He has long been a critic of Robert Moses, whose changes in the city often gave priority to cars at the expense of other modes of transport.
New York Times reporter Emma Fitzsimmons wrote on Twitter that she reluctantly obtained a car now that she has two children and that she was worried about Covid-19.
If you know me, you know that I love the metro and that I didn’t want to own a car.
With two young children and the uncertainty of public transportation, we buy a used car.
It will be interesting to see how the pandemic changes where people live and how they move.
– Emma G. Fitzsimmons (@emmagf) April 20, 2020
Streetsblog first criticized her for her contribution to a “less livable city”, before softening the criticism to a criticism of bad public policy: “The problem is the mayor and the other elected officials whose decisions today – and those taken over the 10 decades of Automobile Age – has made cars the easy choice for so many American families (even those in New York). “
Groups that try not to insist on cars in the neighborhood, such as Streetopia UWS, are now particularly focused on making it easier for people to have space to walk and cycle during the pandemic. This could include temporary bike lanes, a policy for which the local community council voted.
In the long run, cars are almost certainly incompatible with a city poised to be affected by climate change in the decades to come – and where too many people are still dying because they have been hit by cars. In the shorter term, the question of whether it makes sense to own a car in the city seems more complicated.