Traffic Calming on West 3rd and Bleecker, between LaGuardia Place and Mercer Str.
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We are asking for traffic calming designs on Bleecker and West 3rd, in the sections between LaGuardia Place and Mercer street. Specifically, we are asking for the narrowing of the West 3rd, in the section between LaGuardia Place and Mercer street, to make it both pedestrian-friendly, and more compatible with the width of the surrounding streets. We also ask to add midblock pedestrian crossing lanes on Bleecker and West 3rd, in the sections between LaGuardia Place and Mercer street, to improve the ability of pedestrians to cross these streets. Given that drivers currently ignore the existing midblock crossing lane, these crossing lanes should be protected by a traffic light, or a raised crossing lane, or through a speed bump.
Currently both West 3rd and Bleecker street pose significant hazards for pedestrians. West 3rd becomes a defacto parking place for big trucks, which obstruct pedestrian visibility and make pedestrian crossing hazardous. The drivers speed and habitually ignore the pedestrian lanes, which are not easily noticeable. Bleecker street lacks any midblock pedestrian crossing, even though it is the natural path for foot traffic and pedestrians habitually cross Bleecker in the middle of the block. This is hazardous and can lead to accidents.
The proposed traffic calming measures will alleviate these problems, without affecting vehicular traffic. This is consistent with the Vision Zero laid out by the NYC which is "making a bold new commitment to improve street safety in every neighborhood and in every borough – with expanded enforcement against dangerous moving violations like speeding and failing to yield to pedestrians, new street designs and configurations to improve safety."
The designs of both Bleecker street and West 3rd between LaGuardia and Mercer are a remnant of the urban renewal efforts in the 1950's by Robert Moses. (See New York Times articles: 1, 2.). That design envisioned a very different urban environment. The plan was to expand Fifth Avenue to run through Washington Square, and continue to south Manhattan, through what is now LaGuardia Place. As part of that design, West 3rd, Mercer, and what is now LaGuardia Place were widened. Also, Wooster and Greene streets were eliminated between Houston Street and West 4th Street, to accommodate the superblock design.
The remnants of the urban renewal efforts, now defunct and largely discredited by urban planners, continue to affect the life of New Yorkers that live and work around the superblocks.
When the plans for the extension of 5th Avenue were abandoned, LaGuardia Place and Mercer were narrowed again, with the Mercer Park and LaGuardia Gardens occupying the reclaimed width. Unfortunately, the narrowing did not happen for West 3rd, which remains a “pedestrian wasteland.” The section of West 3rd between Mercer and LaGuardia is much wider than the width of West 3rd before and after the superblocks. Furthermore, the pedestrian crosswalks that existed on Greene and Wooster streets are effectively eliminated on Bleecker and West 3rd. The lack of midblock crossing lanes affect negatively the life of New Yorkers that work and live around the superblocks.
On West 3rd street, the sudden widening of the street after Mercer St. causes the drivers to speed up. This is not only dangerous but useless as well, as again the street narrows after LaGuardia place. Despite the nominal existence of midblock pedestrian crossing lanes, the drivers systematically ignore the crossing lanes. West 3rd is used as a defacto parking place for big trucks, which obstruct pedestrian visibility and make pedestrian crossing hazardous. West 3rd street is widely used by students and faculty that live in the superblocks south of West 3rd and work at the NYU buildings north of West 3rd. Many people have noticed accidents or near-accidents happening on that street.
On Bleecker street, the complete lack of midblock crossings is similarly affecting the life of the residents. The superblocks are host to two preschool centers and three daycare programs (University Plaza Nursery School, University Settlement/Creative Steps, Kaleidoscope Kids, Happy Feet Daycare, Mama Sompets Family Daycare). The children that attend these schools regularly need to cross Bleecker Street to use the open spaces in either side of the street. The lack of midblock pedestrian crossings forces 2-year olds to walk the equivalent of 5-6 city blocks to cross the street. Similarly, many elderly residents of 505 LaGuardia Place cross Bleecker to use the open spaces in the Washington Square Village block. The current constructions at 180 Mercer as plan of NYU 2031, make this crossing even more hazardous, as the crossing near Mercer Street is significantly more hazardous during the construction.
Proposed Traffic Calming Measures
We propose a set of traffic calming measures on West 3rd that can easily improve the current setting, without affecting traffic at all. Based on the options listed by DOT, we propose:
For West 3rd:
- Street Narrowing: West 3rd between Mercer and LaGuardia is a prime candidate for narrowing. This will make the crossings shorter, and will discourage sudden speeding behavior.
- Protect the Midblock Pedestrian Crossings: Ideally, a traffic light or a raised crosswalk should be installed to the existing midblock pedestrian crossings at the Greene and Wooster intersections. This will make the crossings visible, and prevent drivers from effectively ignoring the related signage.
- Add Midblock Pedestrian Crossings: We propose to add midblock pedestrian crossings on Bleecker at the places where Wooster Street and Greene Street used to be.
- Protect the Midblock Pedestrian Crossings: Ideally, a traffic light or a raised crosswalk should be installed, to actively encourage drivers to keep their speed down, instead of rushing to the traffic light on Mercer. At a minimum, other speed calming measures should be used; judging from the experience on West 3rd street, drivers continuously ignore the existing mid-block pedestrian crossings and do not stop. This can be especially problematic when the users of the crossing lanes are young toddlers or elderly senior people.
We believe that the establishment of these traffic calming measures would improve significantly the pedestrian access to the superblocks, without any material effect on traffic on West 3rd and Bleecker streets.
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