Snowy Weather Shows Us How To Make NYC Streets Safer For Pedestrians

Relentless snow, rain, ice, and cold temperatures the past few months have made streets in Northeast cities a pretty terrible place to be, but some see the winter landscape as a chance to learn about how traffic really works — and how it can be made better.

In a blog post earlier this month, Transportation Alternatives — which promotes cycling, walking, and public transit in New York City — argued that paths in the snow cleared by plows and cars reveal that vehicles don’t need as much room as they’re usually given:

Drive-lines provide a clear message about how streets can work better. The prospect of wider sidewalks, new public plazas and bike lanes are revealed in the space where no one has driven.

The wider a street, the safer drivers feel exceeding the speed limit. Streets narrowed by snow have the opposite effect, encouraging drivers to behave.

The post included this image of a snowy NYC street, annotated to show what can be done with the unused space:

Of course, limiting space for cars would slow down traffic — an explicit goal of Transportation Alternatives’. On its website, it says it “fights for the installation of infrastructure improvements that reduce speeding and traffic crashes, save lives and improve everyday transportation for all New Yorkers.”

With Bill de Blasio in office, that infrastructure is on the way. The new mayor plans to implement “Vision Zero,” a Swedish initiative to end traffic deaths with smarter street engineering and policy solutions.

He has pledged to redesign 50 locations each year, to make dangerous intersections safer, and is working to reduce the city-wide default speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph. So maybe de Blasio will take a cue from his snowy streets as he moves forward.

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