Not too long ago, New York City was like many major American cities where the prime directive of the transportation department was moving cars. That began to change in 2007, however, when the Bloomberg administration released a citywide sustainability blueprint, PlaNYC 2030. The plan sparked a major public discussion about the city’s transportation problems and how to solve them. This in turn led to the adoption of the city’s first strategic transportation plan, which set specific benchmarks to implement transit-priority corridors, reduce traffic deaths, and increase bicycling. Under the visionary leadership of Bloomberg’s transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and often with little more than paint and planters, streets and intersections across the city underwent a radical redesign from car-choked to people-oriented. The protected bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, “pop-up” cafes, and bike-sharing system were not without their critics, but in many ways responded to neighborhood groups that had been calling for more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly streets for years. Subsequent polling indicates that New Yorkers love their more livable streets. Perhaps the greatest sign of success is the extent to which the ideas first tested in New York City have spread across the country. Protected bike lanes are the most prominent example – almost non-existent in American cities just a few years ago, now dozens of cities have built bike lanes with physical buffers protecting cyclists from adjacent motor vehicle traffic.
The before-and-after photos below dramatically illustrate the major transformation of New York City’s streets that has taken place over the last several years. We hope they will continue to inspire other U.S. cities to imagine what is possible.
Allen and Pike Streets in the Lower East Side
Broadway at Times Square
Delancey Street in the Lower East Side
All photos courtesy of New York City Department of Transportation.