On Friday, people swarmed across downtown Manhattan street while cars fled in the opposite direction. It was the first pilot session of the Great Lower Manhattan Car Experiment, which implemented a 5mph speed limit for cars and let the streets fill with pedestrians, street performers, bike valets, and pop up art studios.
More urban centers have implemented car-free zones that demonstrate the ideal of pedestrian-life, and this new experiment could be leading New York City on a similar path.
New York’s getting into the game cautiously. Demoting cars in lower Manhattan, through what the city’s DOT gently calls the “Shared Streets” initiative, is an experiment in the true sense of the word. City employees will track the movement of people, bicycles, and motor vehicles through the area, filming time lapses of key corridors. They will survey folks in the area on their thoughts. They’ll talk to local businesses too, who stand to be especially inconvenienced, since they rely on cars and trucks to make bulk deliveries.
Then, city officials will determine the feasibility of shooing vehicles from the area, maybe in a permanent sense, or at least more often. “Is this something we could repeat again and grow?” says Emily Weidenhof, NYC DOT’s director of public space. “It’s definitely something we’re looking into.”