Bike-Ped Committee: Sidewalks next?  Remember this event?

C L U B    W E S T O N    1 9 9 4 :
Trail-blazing recreation/pedestrian program revived for Sunday, August 28, 2011 - click here.  Try again (...if at first...) Sunday, September 9, 2012



DEVELOPING A PEDESTRIAN-FRIENDLY WESTON, ON A GLORIOUS AFTERNOON, SEPTEMBER 9, 2012 STARTED HERE...

Remember the tropical storm in August 2011?
It was a new year, and a hopeful crew manned the barricades!  Sunday, September 9, 2012 was super!!! 
Early on, this was the view at Lord's H'way end of School Road.  Bike-Ped Volunteer (r)


Weston Big Bike/Pedi Event is Sunday
Weston FORUM
By Kimberly Donnelly on September 8, 2012

School Road will be closed to all motorized traffic on Sunday, Sept. 9, from noon to 5 for the Big Bike/Pedi Event, sponsored by the Weston Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee. The event will take place rain or shine.

The road will be open to all for vehicle-free biking, scooter-riding, walking, and jogging. Due to a school policy, however, no skateboarding is allowed.

The Weston Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee was formed to promote safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities and activities in town, and to educate the public about proper safety techniques and to encourage residents to walk and bicycle.

On Sunday, there will also be organized sports activities for all ages.

The Weston Soccer Club is holding a jamboree from noon to 2 on the Administration Field; Weston Travel Basketball is holding a three-on-three tournament on the outdoor court behind central office from 2 to 3; and Weston Little League is hosting a youth home run derby on Coley Field from 2 to 4.

According to Dave Ungar, director of Parks and Recreation, girls softball is scheduled to be playing at one end of the street (North House Field near Hurlbutt Elementary School) and Babe Ruth baseball may be playing on the other end, at Revson Field near the middle school. Spectators are welcome at both.

The Booster Barn at Weston High School will be open for refreshments. People are also welcome to pack picnics.

Cycle Dynamics of Westport will be on hand to provide technical support for all cyclists. Bike helmets are required for riders.

Parking will be available at the middle school and Hurlbutt lots.

For more information, visit westonbikeped.com or contact Louise Hastings, event director, at louisehastings@optonline.net or Ray Rauth, Bike and Pedestrian Committee chairman, rayrauth@optonline.net.




Aerial view of the HighlineHow does closing School Road to traffic on weekends relate to this space?  
Ans.  Where density creates high rise buildings there is need for "green space" - such as Central Park or the Highline (shown above).  Conversely, in Weston, where there is low density, centrality works.




Club Weston 2012 new and improved!
In August 1994, before the additions to Hurlbutt and Town Hall Annex, School Road was closed at High School Parking lot entrance leaving access to tennis courts open.


School Road in Weston to close Sept. 9 and 23 for community events
Weston FORUM
20 August 2012

The town plans to close School Road twice next month — once to promote and encourage bicycling and walking, and once for an event to benefit the Weston Senior Center.


On Sunday, Sept. 9, the road will be closed to motorized traffic from the parking lot at Hurlbutt Elementary on the south end to the parking lot at Weston Middle School at the north end. The road will be open to bicycles, scooters, roller skaters, joggers, and all pedestrians.

All of the town’s sports leagues plan to host events on the school playing fields or elsewhere along School Road, and local community organizations are being invited to set up tents and host activities.

“We are really turning it into a day focused on healthy lifestyles,” said Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein.

The event is being sponsored by the Weston Bike and Pedestrian Committee, which will be providing further details in the upcoming weeks.

The committee had planned to do the same thing last year, but was foiled by the arrival of Tropical Storm Irene, which knocked out power and caused dangerous road conditions throughout most of the town.

The event will go on rain or shine — but another hurricane would cancel it, Ms. Weinstein joked.

Car show

On Sunday, Sept. 23, the town will again close School Road to through traffic for a classic car show to benefit the Weston Senior Activities Center.

Vintage cars and motorcycles will be on display at the Alden Sherman Classic from 10 to 3. The show will showcase premier cars and motorcycles from the collections of classic car enthusiasts from all over the region.

Anyone attending the show will have an opportunity to vote for his or her favorites in the exhibition. “People’s Choice” awards will recognize cars in the different decades represented at the show, from pre-war to present day, as well as a special category for motorcycles.

“This will be a wonderful opportunity for classic car and motorcycle collectors to share their passion with other enthusiasts and the greater community for a worthwhile cause,” said Wendy Petty, director of the Senior Center, who is organizing the event along with car enthusiast Alden Sherman.

For more information, including tax-deductible sponsorship opportunities and car and motorcycle applications, visit aldenshermanclassic.com or call Ms. Petty at 203-222-2608.



From left, Mason Hastings, Sophie Angus, Krista Park, Julie Sidhu (committee member), Bridget Angus, Callie Collins, Rebecca Strouch, Katie Park, Alycia Angus (committee member), Bernie Park (committee member), Louise Hastings (committee member), and Ray Rauth (committee chairman) are getting ready to close down School Road to motorized traffic this Sunday, Aug. 28, for the Big Bike/Ped Event.
Weston’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee is gearing up to slow things down this weekend with the first Big Bike/Ped Event on Sunday, Aug. 28.


Bike Day is coming to Weston in September
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Sunday, 05 August 2012 00:00

Weston's Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee is planning to close School Road for a day on Sunday, Sept. 9, to allow the public to enjoy sports, bike riding, and leisure activities.  First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said planning for the special event is still under way. A similar event was scheduled last year but was canceled due to bad weather.

For more information call the selectmen's office at 203-222-2656.



And then Hurricane Irene showed up...and spoiled the party.

Organizers gearing up for the Big Bike/Ped Event

Weston FORUM
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Wednesday, 24 August 2011 11:13

The committee has arranged to have the approximately one-mile long School Road closed to motorized traffic on Sunday, Aug. 28, from noon to 4 so cyclists and pedestrians of all ages may enjoy themselves without having to worry about cars and trucks.

“It’s all about creating a safe environment for kids and adults to do anything that’s non-vehicle oriented,” said Louise Hastings, a member of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, and the point person for the Big Bike/Ped Event.

“And it’s free!” she added.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee was formed by the Board of Selectmen at the end of last year to explore ways to enhance pedestrian and bicycle access throughout Weston.

When the committee first got together last year, Ms. Hastings said, the members did not have a clear agenda. “We just knew we wanted to do something that would enlighten people about biking and walking,” she said.

Weston presents some tricky issues when it comes to cycling or anything pedestrian-oriented, Ms. Hastings said. “It can be tough. The roads are narrow and windy with lots of cures and hills. Many of them were originally just cart paths” — and some of them still feel that way.

But the committee wants Westonites to know it is possible to bike and walk and run in Weston — and that doing so can be both healthy and safe.

The idea of closing down School Road is not a new one. The town had done it once a long time ago, and First Selectman Gayle Weinstein mentioned it to the committee as something it might be interested in looking into.

“We thought it might be a good way to raise awareness about biking and pedestrian issues and also to get our name out there, so we said, ‘let’s try this,’” Ms/ Hastings said.

The committee has no budget, so Ms. Hastings said she has tried to keep the event as simple as possible. A few volunteers — recognizable on Sunday by their special T-shirts — will be on hand to keep things running smoothly, but otherwise, the Big Bike/Ped Event is really just an open invitation for people to come out and play.

First Selectman Weinstein urged Westonites to take advantage of the road closure on this last weekend before school opens for the new year. “It’s a great chance to come together as a community,” she said.

Thanks to barricades donated by the Weston Volunteer Fire Department, School Road will be closed off between Hurlbutt Elementary School on the south end and Weston Middle School on the north end. Parking is available at either of those school lots.

Skateboarding and pets are not allowed. Cyclists must wear helmets. Technical support for cyclists will be available courtesy of Cycle Dynamics in Westport.

While the main focus is Big Bike/Ped Event is biking, walking and running and the benefits of outdoor exercise, the event is also about giving people a place to gather, relax, and enjoy the outdoors. People are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs, games, Frisbees®, picnic baskets, cameras, or a good book.

Pick-up basketball and kickball games will take place at the courts and fields along School Road during the event.

Since people will likely be working up an appetite, the Booster Barn at Weston High School will be open and serving refreshments. Some donations of water and juice boxes have also been made, Ms. Hastings said.

The Big Bike/Ped Event will take place rain or shine.

Ms. Hastings said she hopes the Big Bike/Ped Event is successful enough to repeat at some point. “Once a month would be great,” she said, but even less often would be OK, as long as the idea doesn’t get lost. “We’re not trying to get things done tomorrow, but we don’t want to lose momentum,” she said.

For more information, contact Louise Hastings, Big Bike/Ped Event director, at louisehastings@optonline.net , or Ray Rauth, chairman of the Weston Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, rayrauth@optonline.net .



Interest grows in car-free pedestrian plaza for downtown Missoula

By KEILA SZPALLER of the Missoulian | Posted: Monday, June 13, 2011 6:30 am

Missoula closes off some streets for one farmers market and the people's market on Saturdays.

And crowds flock there.

The town partied recently on Higgins Avenue during Sunday Streets Missoula, when much of downtown was temporarily closed to vehicle traffic. An estimated 6,000 people attended the event this spring, up from 3,500 in the fall during the first Sunday Streets, according to Missoula In Motion.

"We want to look at growing," said the group's Alex Stokman.

A permanent plaza and walking greenway are noted in the Missoula Downtown Master Plan, and talk of a piazza has been a hot topic at Free Cycles. So more downtown space dedicated to walkers and maybe pedalers seems certain to be in Missoula's future.

Where? And how much? All that's still up in the air, as long as it isn't like Helena's Last Chance Gulch.

***

Missoulians seem generally warm to the idea of a more permanent outdoor gathering space downtown. Linda McCarthy, with the Missoula Downtown Association, notes a plan for developing the heart of the city calls for such a space at the northeast corner of Higgins Avenue and Spruce Street.

"It's called Depot Square, and the concept is to make it a focal point of activity," McCarthy said.

The Missoula Downtown Master Plan refers to the area as "the city's living room" surrounded by homes, offices and commercial space. It's one of multiple ideas in the plan for more pedestrian areas.

Another concept in the plan is pushing the median landscaped grass on Pine Street west of Higgins Avenue, McCarthy said. That strip would create a more friendly walking zone connecting the Missoula Art Museum, Adventure Cycling, Sean Kelly's, City Hall and the Mountain Line transfer station.

The second Sunday Streets Missoula saw a huge jump in attendance, and some cities have permanent retail corridors just for pedestrians. Not all of them are successes, and folks in Missoula don't want the heart of downtown to end up looking like Last Chance Gulch.

Councilman Jason Wiener, who represents the downtown area, said he would be curious to see what would make a more permanent space work. He figured transit, or "some kind of dedicated people mover," would be an ingredient.

"Part of what makes Sunday Streets work is it's a festival," Wiener said.

When he goes to Helena, he often stays at a Holiday Inn on Last Chance Gulch, which is blocked from all vehicle traffic. But only on one of his most recent - and more leisurely - trips there did he actually spend time visiting.

"It's never struck me as a particularly vibrant downtown space," Wiener said.

Scott Laisy, who owns Butterfly Herbs, also noted Last Chance Gulch as an example of what Missoula doesn't need. On the other hand, he could support having a plaza that doesn't cordon off streets.

"That would be a really excellent addition to the community," Laisy said of a plaza.

He initially didn't think Sunday Streets would boost his business, but he said both of them did, and he pointed to business neighbor Scott Sproull, of Hide and Sole, as a knowledgeable source on the topic.

Sproull said Missoula backed off of the idea of a plaza in the 1980s after Helena lost retail, and he said it's apparent that Montanans want to drive and park pretty close to their destination.

"They keep talking about Pine Street," Sproull said of a plaza. "As long as you don't shut off all of Higgins, there are probably areas that would work out pretty well."

Stokman, of Missoula In Motion, said the next Sunday Streets will be Sept. 11. She wants to have at least two a year and maybe grow, but she isn't sure if that's possible.

***


Across the United States, pedestrian malls had their boom and more of them have failed than succeeded, Stokman said. In one place, adding bus service helped. In Missoula, she said it might be possible to create some corner piazzas with tables, chairs, benches and plants - public spaces that aren't connected to any restaurants.

Bob Giordano, with Free Cycles of the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation, created a temporary plaza on part of Pine Street during Sunday Streets. He said Missoula should explore other places for a plaza in addition to the Depot Square location noted in the downtown plan.

Walking malls have failed in places that haven't created spaces friendly to walkers, bikers and bus riders, he said. Downtown Missoula already is teeming with such infrastructure and poised for success when it comes to a piazza or - in Stokman's words - "a public resting place."

Said Giordano, who senses a resurgence of interest in such an area: "We do have a wonderful park system, but we don't have that plaza, piazza."

Boulder, Colo., has one of the successful models in its Pearl Street Mall.

Tony Distasi, general manager of a shoe store called the Pedestrian Corporation, said the mall's success relies in part on diversity. It mixes interesting shops with fun eateries, high-end restaurants, ice cream carts and taco carts, so it feels like a fun destination and place to hang out.

"When people come down and they can walk on the open air mall, it's like a street fair," Distasi said.

The vacancy rate is low even though the recession led to much turnover on the mall. But when a shop closed, another one quickly took its space, and Distasi said rents have crept up.

The environment there isn't necessarily typical, though, Distasi said. The district works partly because of Boulder's affluence and its college - it's a city of doctors and astrophysicists.

Like Missoula, parking is an issue. Distasi said he doesn't think it's a problem and neither do other folks from places like San Francisco and New York. But people from smaller areas find it "a little crazy," even though public and private garages are available.

"The city of Boulder does really well to try and get people here and keep people here and to try and make it friendly," both for business folks and tourists, he said.

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at @KeilaSzpaller, 523-5262, keila.szpaller@missoulian.com or on MissoulaRedTape.com.



Second Street will close for Friday Fair
South Whidbey RECORD
Jun 12 2011, 10:11 AM

Langley will start a “Friday Fair” of vendor booths in a short stretch of Second Street this summer.

Organizers got an approving nod from the city council on Monday. Kent Ratekin will be the manager of the “village market,” and will collect the fees from the 14 vendors who have already agreed to take part.

The idea is to close a portion of Second Street from the end of the Star Store parking lot to the Langley firehouse from 3 to 7 p.m. Fridays. It won’t be a farmers market, however, because the focus won’t be mainly on produce.

Submitted vendor applications so far include ones for handmade soap, books, art and jewelry, flowers, fresh produce and a pizza booth.

Market planners hope to kick off the fairs on June 24, and hold them every weekend except the Friday during Choochokam (July 8) through the last Saturday in October. If the markets start that soon, it would give vendors two times to establish the event before it has to take a one-week hiatus for Choochokam.

Ratekin said drawing people downtown for a little street shopping may help boost business for merchants. The market will close on Fridays just as music events get underway nearby, at Island Coffeehouse and Useless Bay Coffee Company.

“It just would be kind of a kick to the weekend,” he said.

Booth fees have been set at $25, or 15 percent of sales, according to organizers.

Ratekin said the city would sponsor the fairs, and he told the council the city could help market the effort. Vendors would be expected to have business licenses through city hall, he added.

Ratekin said there is the hope that, eventually, the street market could be turned over to the Main Street effort in the future.



Weston Town Plan 2010 revives the idea!
  "About Town" ahead of the curve, so to speak, on this and other planning concepts!



DOWNTOWN PEDESTRIAN MALL?  How about a replay for this coming August?  Weston tried this in 1994.   Town Plan of C&D revives the idea!

Nothing new for Weston--only we now have Bisceglie Park, instead.  Below, Bogota bikers now, N.Y.C. "Summer Streets" program to take place in August 2009 - check it out here!  Times Square suntan!


NEW IN 2010 - IMPLEMENTING TOWN PLAN RECOMMENDATION - BICYCLE-PEDESTRIAN COMMITTEE  APPOINTED BY SELECTMEN

First steps, try to reuse or recycle old good ideas...like the "Parcours" in Bisceglie Park, which, over the years has lost its cache.  The more you think about it, Bisceglie is a real with it place for all ages.  Sit in the shade and watch the kids in the pond, then play Little League baseball and now revive the idea of doing exercise between walks around this lovely, wooded park!!!


AS CLOSE TO CLUB WESTON AS YOU'RE GOING TO GET (TEMPORARY CLOSING)...BUT NYC CHARGES RENT!

NYC Street Closings 2009: 
those plastic chairs don't look good for long (I had them in yellow and blue).   Guess what?  NYC rents rights to sell/advertise on foot in the mall!




BROADWAY PEDESTRIAN MALLS GET PERMANENT TABLES, CHAIRS
By TOM NAMAKO, TRANSIT REPORTER
August 17, 2009

Broadway officially became a walkway today after city crews set up a slew of new long-term tables, chairs, and umbrellas along recently closed-down sections of Times and Herald squares.

Department of Transportation bigs also began collecting numbers on the effect the massive pedestrian plazas are having on traffic flow.

The DOT will count the number of cars passing though each intersection and will survey drivers about their origins and destinations -- all for a report to be presented to Mayor Bloomberg by the end of the year, said Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

The new furniture finally ditches the dingy plastic lawn seats and replaces them with red and gray metal tables and chairs in Times Square, along with red umbrellas.

The chairs and tables in Herald Square are lime green and made from a special resin.

The cost of the new additions -- including new planters and a coating of sand-colored gravel on the roads -- is about $1.5 million.

The new plazas already reduced traffic-related injuries in the area by 50 percent, Sadik-Khan said


Broadway’s Car-Free Zones: This Space for Rent
NYTIMES
By LIBBY NELSON
July 9, 2009

When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced plans in February to close stretches of Broadway to traffic to create pedestrian plazas, it was billed as a way to ease Midtown congestion and create oases for walkers, people watchers, idlers (chairs and tables were provided) and cyclists. Since the car-free zones were opened in May, they have been home to predictable urban vignettes: tourists resting with their shopping bags, New Yorkers pausing with their cellphones as buses go by a few feet away.

But the plazas have also found a role that was never publicly trumpeted by the administration: They make money for the city.

All or any of them can be rented by private companies, which pay substantial fees to the city — the highest is $38,500. Commercial requests that have been approved have included a Glidden Paint promotion, as well as promotions for “Top Chef,” the cooking competition on the Bravo network, and “The Great Debate,” a series on VH1. The car-free streets have also been the scene of Hula-Hooping classes and a simulcast of the Tony Awards.

Permits have also been issued — and fees charged — for classes in yoga and capoeira (a Brazilian martial art), for a woodwind performance and for “Come Out and Play,” a festival dedicated to street games.

The fees go to the city’s general fund. Street permits, which are also charged for the use of sidewalks and open streets, bring in “a significant amount” of revenue, said Evelyn Erskine, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bloomberg.

City officials would not say whether they considered the plazas’ moneymaking potential while planning the changes to Broadway. The Department of Transportation referred all inquiries to the Street Activity Permit Office. That office administers the permits and in June adjusted its fees — which were already charged for the use of streets and sidewalks — to include the plazas, but it was not involved with the planning process.

The city has received 28 requests to use the pedestrian plazas. Twenty have been granted since the plazas opened in May — a rate of more than one per week.

Holding events has the benefit of making public space more visible, but it bears risks as well, said Fred Kent, founder and president of the Project for Public Spaces.

“If it’s a public event, then that’s O.K., but what can happen very quickly is they can be privatized and limit public use and public access,” Mr. Kent said. He cited the Bryant Park fashion show as an example of the latter, calling it “the most egregious private use of public space anywhere in the world.”

Pedestrian plazas are on Broadway at Times Square from 47th to 42nd Street, at Herald Square from 35th to 33rd Street, and where Broadway and Fifth Avenue meet between 22nd and 25th Streets. Smaller plazas, called Broadway Boulevard, take up one lane of Broadway between 42nd Street and Herald Square.

At 23rd and Broadway last weekend, one public space was focused on paint. Just behind the planters that separate the plaza from traffic stood four large purple cylinders, each stocked with brochures and color swatches from Glidden Paint. Three young men and women in bright T-shirts stopped passers-by to hand out paint chips and chat about colors.

“Paint usually gets a good response,” said Kristina Hurlburt, a Glidden representative who said she had sold all types of products. About one in every 15 pedestrians stopped to talk or glance through brochures filled with steel blue and deepest aqua.

The company paid about $2,600 per day for the right to erect its barrel-shaped displays.

Permits for events or activities on the plazas can range from $200 per day, for events that are not intended to draw the attention of passers-by; to $6,200 for “medium-size events,” which include significant setup, equipment and coordination; to $38,500 for large events that require big tents or street closings.

Those wanting to set up at Times Square or Herald Square will pay a premium: $8,950 for a small event and $20,250 for a medium-size event.

Mr. Bloomberg’s deputy press secretary, Mark LaVorgna, emphasized that clearing Midtown traffic congestion was the major motivation for the project. “The reason the project was instituted was part of an effort to unclog traffic, and that is what the project’s primary focus is,” Mr. LaVorgna said.

The permit fees are fair because events place a burden on city services, he said.

“You are using the city’s assets and it requires the use of city services to clean up afterward,” Mr. LaVorgna said. “You’re getting a city asset, so it’s paid for. It’s not irregular in that regard.”

New Yorkers pausing on the plazas Tuesday said that some events could be good, but they said they hoped the city would choose carefully.

“They’ll make more money, and I think it’s nice to engage the passers-by,” said Pamela Pekerman, a freelance writer. But the city should take into account the crowds that events would draw, she said.

“Would I have Mariah Carey here performing?” Ms. Pekerman asked. “Probably not.”

Michael O’Donnell, eating his lunch at the plaza just south of 39th Street, said he thought more space for pedestrians in Midtown would be ideal.

“I think they should be public space,” Mr. O’Donnell said, adding that he thought the size of the plazas constrained the possibilities. “Free concerts like in the park? That would be great.”

Evan Korn, director of the Mayor’s Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management, said the permits office was being “diligent” in looking at the applications; though some are still processing, none have been rejected.

Wiley Norvell, the communications director for Transportation Alternatives, a group that strongly supported the plazas’ creation, said that maintaining the pedestrian areas could be expensive and that events would generate revenue for maintenance.

“We definitely see a place for these sorts of events, to help find the revenue stream to keep these spaces operating,” Mr. Norvell said.

He added that he hoped the city was keeping the communities’ interests in mind.

“It’s really important to strike a balance,” he said. “To do these things in very close consultation with the communities who actually use the spaces, so we don’t end up with public space that’s perpetually being occupied by events and not available to the residents that it was installed for in the first place.”


Big City: A Times Square for Our Time, Pedestrian in More Ways Than One
NYTIMES
By SUSAN DOMINUS
July 1, 2009

Note to the Department of Transportation: We all appreciate the merits of fast and cheap these days, but surely you can do better by Times Square.

Open since late May, the pedestrian mall at Times Square, where the city boldly closed off traffic, has a rough, slipshod feel — if anything, more slipshod now that the folding lawn chairs the Times Square Alliance provides are starting to show wear and tear, their plastic strips poking out below seats that sag so much they all but touch the ground. With yellow tape roping off discrete areas and the tacky chairs inviting passers-by to have a seat, sections of Broadway now look like something between a crime scene and an audience, which may be an inadvertent tribute to the culture of the space, but does not offer much in the way of aesthetics.

Granted, the chairs and orange barrels demarcating the pedestrian space are temporary. In fact, the entire project may be temporary: the city will not decide until December whether to keep the street closed to traffic. In any case, on Tuesday workers began painting parts of the pavement red, and there are plans to add a gravel surface in the coming weeks.

But right now, the pedestrian mall, it must be said, looks a little unworthy of New York. The city may be reeling from recession, but the huge orange plastic containers and tatty hardware-store chairs give the sense that it’s already letting itself go, like some Lehman Brothers wife who has not just forsaken her golden highlights, but given up on grooming altogether. Surely someone at Ikea could have helped the city ease this transition — maybe some witty, oversize umbrellas (sure, weighed down), or at least chairs that do not look like they are lonely for the company of pink flamingos.

Or maybe the problem is not the quality of the seats. Maybe the problem is all the people sitting in them. New York is a city of walkers, not sitters; a city of motion, not repose. In Times Square, tourists should be looking at New York, caught up in the swarm of activity and lights and commerce and theater; instead, New Yorkers find themselves looking at the tourists, a cordoned-off display of the temporarily sedentary.

“Is that what you think?” asked Gulshan Mia, 30, who was sitting on one of those chairs between 43rd and 44th Streets one recent morning, listening to music on her iPod. “But that’s because you’re from New York.” Ms. Mia is from South Africa, and was living up until a few months ago in Taiwan; even now, with an apartment in Jersey City, she would not necessarily call herself a New Yorker.

But she is not a tourist, either. Ms. Mia works at Toys R Us in Times Square, and is what you might call a pedestrian mall regular. She wakes up every morning a half an hour early just so she can get to Times Square, sit in one of those seats, listen to music and people-watch. She comes there on her work breaks, too.

She said she enjoyed the meandering pace of the tourists, and the international sign language of couples bickering over who gets the one chair that’s open at any given time. She watches global diplomacy in action as the Germans bum cigarettes from the Italians and the Italians bum a light from the British. At lunchtime, she makes eye contact with fellow nontourists on their lunch breaks. “I don’t know if you know the nod,” she said. “I’m starting to feel like I belong now that I get the nod.”

The landscape designer Diana Balmori said she thought of the makeshift mall as a kind of “tidal marsh,” a place where the land and water push up against each other, and it is not clear which will take over. For Ms. Balmori, the phrase represents Broadway’s new tentative divide between a street for cars and a space for people. It’s also an apt description for Times Square itself, a space half-defined by the city and half-defined by the tourists who inhabit it. And it captures the people like Ms. Mia, someone living in New York but not of it, like a few of the other self-described regulars parked in Times Square that morning: a restaurant manager with a thick Argentine accent, a hitchhiker lounging on a chaise who said he lived in New Orleans but summered in Manhattan.

Sitting beside Ms. Mia, I was starting to rethink my impression of the pedestrian mall, appreciating some of its merits, messy though they may be. But only for a minute.

“I just really like it here,” she said. “I find it strangely peaceful.”

We’ve come to accept the multitudes of adjectives that rotate in and out of use for Times Square depending on the era: gritty, dangerous, commercial, touristy, kitschy, overpriced, overcrowded, flashy, tacky, corporate. But peaceful?

That’s just wrong.



Op-Ed Columnist - note that Seattle is one of the five most popular metro areas!  Those who live in Seattle drink a lot of coffee (it rains a lot - few truly sunny days, except in July and maybe August)

I Dream of Denver
By DAVID BROOKS
February 17, 2009

You may not know it to look at them, but urban planners are human and have dreams. One dream many share is that Americans will give up their love affair with suburban sprawl and will rediscover denser, more environmentally friendly, less auto-dependent ways of living.

Those dreams have been aroused over the past few months. The economic crisis has devastated the fast-growing developments on the far suburban fringe. Americans now taste the bitter fruit of their overconsumption.

The time has finally come, some writers are predicting, when Americans will finally repent. They’ll move back to the urban core. They will ride more bicycles, have smaller homes and tinier fridges and rediscover the joys of dense community — and maybe even superior beer...




Town closes beach roads to cars on Sunday mornings

Greenwich TIME
By Meredith Blake, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/24/2008 07:55:20 AM EST

Having witnessed a cyclist get hit by a car at Greenwich Point and countless more vehicles whizzing through the narrow street that loops around the beach, Old Greenwich resident Bernadette Mazzella looks forward to the Sundays when the town closes it off to vehicles.

"It's very dangerous," she said. " I think they should close it all the time."

Starting Nov. 16 and running through April 12, traffic is restricted at Greenwich Point between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to allow bikers, rollerbladers, and walkers to move around without contending with vehicles, according to Amy Burke, a member of the board of directors of Friends of Greenwich Point. Individuals who need handicapped access or have boat permits can still drive through.

"It's so much fun to have those open roads," she said. "People look forward to it every year."

The program started 10 years ago by Friends of Greenwich Point that thought it would be beneficial. Children could learn to bike there and more people could use it, Burke said.

Old Greenwich resident Laura Parisi, 53, runs six miles from her house and around the loop several days a week.

"It is nicer to run when there is no traffic. People don't always drive the speed limit," she said.

For her, running at the Point is very peaceful and serene. With less cars, it is a little more manageable, she said.

Riverside resident Bouha Ddada, 51, who has walked the Point every week for 24 years, agrees.

"I feel better when it's closed to cars," he said.

But Old Greenwich resident, Alison Haney, 78, who bikes around the loop almost everyday, said that closing it often invites more biker and rollerbladers, making it crowded on the streets.

"It's busier, but I guess that's the whole point," she said.

Greenwich Point caretaker Mike Henry said that closing off the road does mean more people are out taking advantage of the streets, but with the lower temperatures, it's already much quieter than normal.

By 11 a.m. yesterday only approximately 50 people had entered the restricted access area, which begins by the last parking lot at the beach.

The Friends of Greenwich Point chose Sundays because it the lowest traffic time of the week and in the morning because it is the quietest time of day, said Burke.

Henry said some people do give him a hard time, saying they just want to go and park by the second beach to either picnic or enjoy the view, he said.

Cos Cob residents Giovanna and Alejandro Gillioti like to drive directly to the point and then walk around.

"It's a little annoying when they close it off," she said, " We're just used to starting off there and seeing the view and then walking."

But all agree, that whether its open or closed to traffic, it is a privilege to have such a beautiful location to walk or bike around.

"It's quiet and beautiful place. We're very fortunate. A great reprieve from the lunacy," Mazzella said.









Project for Public Spaces Inc.
      
Car-Free Streets, a Colombian Export, Inspire Debate
NYTIMES
By JAVIER C. HERNANDEZ
Published: June 24, 2008

When the crowds stream down Park Avenue and bicyclists have taken over Lafayette Street, the question may strike even the most ardent ambler: Whose idea was this, anyway?

Summer Streets — New York City’s recreational experiment that will convert 6.9 miles of Manhattan into a car-free park during parts of three Saturdays in August — originated in the Andes. It was born 32 years ago in Bogotá, Colombia, as the Ciclovía, or bicycle pathway, now a 70-mile route through the heart of the city that each Sunday attracts more than one million people on two wheels and two legs.

Bogotá’s model has inspired several cities to follow suit. From El Paso to Ottawa, exhaust pipes are becoming a target of disapproval, at least in some areas. Cars have been barred from Guadalajaran thoroughfares and alongside improvised Parisian beaches to make room for the helmeted hordes.

Gil Peñalosa, a pioneer of the car-free effort, flies from city to city planting the seeds of the Ciclovía, a program that he resuscitated a decade ago as Bogotá’s head of recreation.

When Mr. Peñalosa, 51, came into office in 1995, the Ciclovía, then eight miles long, was in decline and seemed to be on the verge of shutting down. Today, the weekly ride is nearly nine times longer and can draw up to 1.8 million participants on sunny days, Mr. Peñalosa said.

“It’s almost a magical thing that takes place when people go to the forbidden,” Mr. Peñalosa said in a telephone interview last week from Portland, Ore., where he addressed a conference on alternatives to car travel. “All of a sudden, the roads are filled with people and you have it to yourself.”

He spoke of the Ciclovía with a passion that lent itself to exclamation points: “There are no losers!” “It’s fantastic for business!” “It is the best thing Colombia has ever done!”

But the Ciclovía and similar experiments have critics. Business owners frequently complain that closing the streets reduces the flow of customers and hurts sales, and drivers gripe about inconvenience that results from sealing off major traffic arteries.

In New York City, where street fairs and parades already cause headaches for drivers this time of year, some worry that the new program, which will be in effect from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 9, 16, and 23, will make congestion intolerable.

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the 11,000-member New York Taxi Workers Alliance, called the program “ridiculous” and said it will make it difficult for cabdrivers to break even.

August is the slowest month for drivers, Ms. Desai said, with the number of fares about 10 percent lower than normal. In addition, drivers are already expecting lackluster demand during August’s annual parades in celebration of India and Pakistan.

“I think the administration should remember that Manhattan isn’t just a playground,” Ms. Desai said. “It’s a place of work for thousands of people.”

New York City has gained a reputation as a metropolis unfriendly to cyclists, but the city has laid out plans to improve safety over the next few years for the estimated 112,000 daily bike riders.

Barbara Ross came to the city 15 years ago and was too scared to brave streets lined with parked cars, where opening doors can bring a bike ride to a sudden and painful halt. Ms. Ross, 45, is now a regular cyclist and a spokeswoman for the environmental group Time’s Up.

She said Summer Streets was a step toward making cycling the preferred means of travel for many New Yorkers. She also said that she hoped the effort would be popular and persuade the city to offer more lanes for bicyclists.

“It’s O.K. to start slow, but the city is going to need to take more chances,” Ms. Ross said. “The more bikers you have out there, the safer it is going to be.”

But some people think bicycles themselves can be a hazard. Bette Dewing, who lives on the Upper East Side and is a longtime advocate for pedestrians, said she was concerned about the safety of residents, particularly the elderly and disabled, while hundreds of bicycles whizzed down the streets.

“They have certain lanes that they’re supposed to stay in but they don’t. It’s just a free-for-all,” Ms. Dewing added.

Increasingly, events like the Ciclovía are not just about bikes. In Bogotá, dancers, aerobic exercisers and skaters are common along a route that Mr. Peñalosa calls a “paved beach.” People sunbathe, practice yoga along the streets, or sip mandarin juice in the shade.

It is the spontaneity of interaction that results from bringing together a wide variety of people that fuels Mr. Peñalosa’s zeal.

“When people come together — young and old, and rich and poor, and male and female, and fat and skinny, and tall and short — everybody!” he shouted. “Then it becomes such a fantastic togetherness, and the complaints go away.”



Not the Brooklyn Bridge, but close!

Famous designer of Brooklyn Bridge did one in Cincinnati, too.  American Planning Association held its Convention in the historic Hilton in that city in 1979, where "About Town" was asked to present findings.