What Will Become of Fifth Avenue?

Visitors to the iconic shopping street overwhelmingly arrive by walking, transit, or bike. Why are bike and pedestrian infrastructure improvement lagging so far behind another famous NYC street, Broadway?

2 minute read

October 4, 2023, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Street sign for Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Rawf8 / Adobe Stock

Writing in Streetsblog NYC, Barak Friedman, Paul Krikler, and Janet Liff compare the adaptations of two iconic New York City streets to 21st century conditions: “while Broadway continues to transform into a world class destination, becoming more pedestrian and bike friendly, Fifth Avenue struggles.”

While Broadway is becoming increasingly pedestrianized and bike-friendly, Fifth Avenue languishes as e-commerce and commercial real estate vacancies leave the fabled shopping street emptier and emptier. According to the authors, former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s devision to nix a ‘compelte street’ plan for Fifth Avenue in 2021 “is sabotaging business interests and hurting the larger midtown post-pandemic recovery.”

A recent survey shows that crowded sidewalks make visitors to Fifth Avenue less likely to linger and shop. The same survey reveals that “Of the 226 people surveyed on Fifth Avenue, only 3 percent of people (seven people total) reached Fifth Avenue by using a private car or ride share. Some 97 percent of people walked, used public transit, or cycled.” And “Almost 70 percent of respondents indicated that they would be “more inclined” to cycle on Fifth Avenue with the addition of a protected bike lane.”

The authors conclude that in this case, more than others, “the interests of safety activists, the interests of business stakeholders, and the greater benefit to New York City are aligned.” Improved bike and pedestrian infrastructure on Fifth Avenue would benefit visitors, businesses, and Midtown Manhattan as a whole.

Monday, October 2, 2023 in StreetsBlog NYC

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