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Crowded NYC Sidewalks Force Commuters Into the Street

In the 1970s, the fear of getting mugged had some NYC pedestrians walking in the street. Nowadays, commuters are sharing space with cars for a very different reason: the sidewalks are too crowded.
July 7, 2016, 8am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Winnie Hu reports on a very New York phenomenon: veteran sidewalkers moving onto the street to bypass the crowd. One commuter reports that she "prefers dodging yellow cabs and bicyclists to navigating sidewalks teeming with commuters, tourists and cart-pushing vendors, all jostling for elbow room."

The problem is acute in Manhattan, where residents, commuters, and tourists mingle to take advantage of the nation's one truly pedestrian-focused city. As the city continues its boom, crowding has pushed many sidewalks to the limit. 

The city has responded by "adding more pedestrian plazas across the city, expanding the presence of a streetscape feature first embraced by the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. One is scheduled to open soon on 33rd Street near Penn Station. There are also plans to widen a half-dozen sidewalks in Flushing, Queens, in the next year."

On one hand, sidewalks are a shared space where all kinds of people can interact, making for a more cosmopolitan city. On the other, overcrowding can foul those waters. "Space on New York's sidewalks is at a premium at a time when the city's population of 8.5 million is higher than ever. Add in the record 59.7 million visitors who are expected to descend on the city this year, up from 48.8 million in 2010, and it is a recipe for thoroughfares packed like sardine cans." 

And any urban pedestrian knows that other people aren't the only obstacle. "The problem was aggravated in some areas by sidewalk clutter such as construction scaffolding, large garbage bags, vendors and fixtures like lights, signs, newsstands, benches, planters and recycling bins."

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, June 30, 2016 in The New York Times
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