Pedestrian Sprawl Alert: Hoboken's New "Plaza"

Ian Sacs's picture

As if all this inclement weather hasn't been hassle enough for those of us who cherish our cars, I practically careened into another tragic loss for the rightfully auto-minded recently in Hoboken, New Jersey.  It seems the needs of lofty pedestrians have once again been imprudently prioritized over us drivers in a result that is sure to make your muffler ratlle: a one-block segment of an historic belgian block street has been closed off to the ideal form of personal mobility (read: car) so that silly people with nothing better to do than run around frivolously in streets have another place off the sidewalk to inconvenience the driving majority of our great nation. To make the change seem authentic, they're calling this space a "pedestrian plaza"; blah, blah, blah, what about our freedoms?  Isn't it enough that they strut through crosswalks at every intersection?  Why can't we leave streets as they are; if people want to walk in them, go ahead (if you're feeling lucky, wink wink)?

It wouldn't have been so bad if the closed street didn't totally run me out of my way for three entire minutes while I made random turns and gave my GPS unit a workout, which, by the way, passive-aggressively releases frustration by cheerily telling me in a digitally rendered Australian accent it's "recalculating route".  Well Crikey!  Should we drivers really have to put up with this kind of nonsense - closed streets, lost freedoms, lectures from disgruntled electronic devices - all for the sake of some minimalist ninnies who outright refuse to just get in a car to go somewhere?

This example of driver's-rights-rampantly-disintegrated is so bad, that one local blog with enough sense to recognize good streets gone bad even commented that there were too many bike racks provided.  Thank you!  Finally, a voice of reason in the morass of footed anarchy!  If you can get a blogger to proclaim, with photographic documentation, that a cinema has too much bicycle parking, you know something must be amiss.  This isn't about quality of life or "safe streets"; no, this is an assault on all that has been good in our the world for over a century by people who are jealous that we can love our cars so much and they can't understand.

Too many bike racks, you can't make this stuff up!  (Photo Courtesy of HobokenFour11)

The last time I posted about unchecked, incessant pedestrian sprawl it didn't hit so close to home; if New York City wants to throw a bone to their perpetually barking pedestrians, let them, and the best of Europe can be readily experienced at Epcot Center anyway so who cares what they do over there.  But for goodness sake, this is in New Jersey!  Autophiles the world over look to New Jersey as the shining levee holding back the tides of carless urban insanity.  Highways, exit ramps, and shopping malls converge here to serve as the pinnacle example of Le Corbusier's dream.  World-controlling Manhattanites who refuse to leave New York City other than by air and possess the ability to prattle mindlessly about complex financial instruments turn pale when confronted with the prospect of navigating New Jersey in car via highway signage.  We're the home of the jughandle, the strip mall, the Jersey barrier!  Sure, sexy Los Angeles gets all the attention for catering to the car, but New Jersey is where the revolution began, people!  It's like, you do know, "All roads lead to New Jersey", don't you?  If pedestrian sprawl takes hold here, the car is done for.  Next thing they'll be handing out Segways and telling us we can write off sneakers on our taxes!  If we don't rise up against the onslaught, where, pray-tell, will it end?

Ian Sacs, P.E. is a worldwide transportation solutions consultant based in Finland.



Bike racks

That's a pretty cool bike rack. I've never seen one in orange.

But it's not a good one

These racks should be avoided wherever possible, since they only support the bicycle frame at one point. A good rack will support the frame at two points, so the bike won't fall over. More bicycle parking guidance, including recommended bicycle rack desgins, can be found here:

Greg Redeker

Helpful info

Wow, that's quite a manual for bike parking. I wasn't aware that the topic had been analyzed to such an extent.

The undesirable "comb" model is what I used at a former university I studied at. It was a pain lifting my bike up and over the bar, but it did provide a good upper body work out. Fortunately, no one ever stole parts or my whole bike- but it wasn't fancy and it was a "safe" campus.

Colorful rack designs

Again, I liked that it was orange.

How about designing racks with various colors etc to make them objects of interest? Not tacky, just interesting. Maybe hand painted by artists in the community?

The standard silver metal isn't interesting.

There are lots of designs...

...all it takes is some money and a little creativity. See this for some examples:

A counter-response ;)

The free market is working! The people are expressing freedom, liberty, and individual self-determination through their free choices for mobility. The car-loving crowd with their taxpayer-financed subsidies, free parking, underpriced gas tax, and taxpayer-funded bailouts for car manufacture, sale, and use will have to stop whining--the free market has spoken, and that free market is based on the individual!

Indeed, when has any GOVERNMENT-run highway systems ever turned a profit? Is there any single street, highway, byway, parkway, freeway, or interstate that has EVER turned a PROFIT? No--these socialist, Soviet-style, taxpayer-funded ROADS should go the way of communism--in the ashcan of history. We don't need socialized automobile travel! Say no to socialism--ditch your car today!

I call on all true Patriots and Tea Baggers to similarly reject the GOVERNMENT-run highway system--a system that has NEVER TURNED A PROFIT by the way--and instead take part in the freedom and liberty afforded by walking and bicycling.

End the taxpayer-funded subsidies and bailouts to car manufacturers, car sellers, and car users! Car lovers: get out of your loser cruisers (SUVs and cars), stop crying in your lattes, and step into the world of freedom and individual choice!

Fuming with Elation

Wonderful inverted rant, Ian!
If you want to get really furious, even delirious with anger look at Strasbourg and Montpellier in this photostream.
Montpellier turned 200 acres of the old centre into a gigantic "plaza".
Keep the pedestrian adrenalin flowing.

Where do people park?


Where do people park prior to walking to the plaza? On the streets or in garages? I know some will have traveled to the plaza without a car.

There is more talk here about creating car free spaces in town but so many Americans want to be within feet of wherever they parked their car prior to shopping etc.

Rewarding Research

I wish I had the planning consultant's final report to the City of Montpellier to share with you (in French). Somewhere in there all these technical/economic aspects must have been addressed, given the decisive departure from common practice. (It has been in operation since 2004.)
Even better, and more enjoyable, a visit to the city will provide an American planner answers and, importantly, inspiration.
What I do know is that the district can be traversed in 10 min; that is five minutes from the centre to the peripheral road. And rail and busses run to it and through it. Plenty of options it seems.
That would be a rewarding research project, particularly for planning students.

tax write offs

Ian, you are a clever writer. I really enjoy reading your stuff. I actually agree that commuter write-offs will encourage people to get outta their cars and take public transit. Consider this, if we balance our checkbooks and conduct work on our laptops/phones/PDAs, etc while on transit, we should be able to deduct that space and expense as if it were a home office.

It's the fact that a public ROW was given to a private interest

I think more of what people take issue to with this particular "plaza" is that a public right-of-way was given away to a private interest, Clearview Cinemas, aka the Cablevision Systems Corp. Granted, in a few years that entire street will be closed during the reconstruction of the viaduct and the eventual transformation into whatever park space is planned, but right now the movie theater basically received a public street with no give-back to the community in return. How about in exchange for this ROW they were conditioned to resurface the horribly neglected streets in the general vicinity that movie theater that their patrons utilize. Something would have been nice.

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