Observed: Open Streets – A Failure

Open Streets is a policy intervention to open streets for Social Distancing in New York City, and other cities worldwide. The concept aims to close or slow the street traffic to give people more room to be safe, especially since vehicle traffic is way down during the pandemic. The policy is outlined on the website as,

Open Streets are available daily, 8 am to 8 pm (unless otherwise noted) for pedestrians and cyclists to use the roadbed of the street while maintaining social distancing. Opening hours may vary by location due to NYPD staffing. No through traffic permitted while Open Streets are in effect. Vehicle traffic is limited to local deliveries, pick-ups/drop-offs, necessary city service vehicles, utility vehicles and emergency vehicles only.

Open Streets website

New York City only opened 40 miles of streets to allow for greater social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis, with a plan to expand to a total of 100 miles. This is pitiful. And this morning I was at Court Square and the Open Street was completely inoperative, with construction equipment and private cars zooming up and down the street.

This was a failure.

And it’s not just in Long Island City. Recently Sasha Aickin, who is a board member at YIMBY Action, visited 112 blocks that were supposed to be closed to thru-traffic as part of Open Streets — but 57 percent of those blocks were not closed to traffic.

We can do better than this.


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