Our efforts yielded two big lessons. The first is that every improvement is a trade-off. Protecting bus lanes with concrete barriers, for example, would keep cars out, but it would also keep limited-stop buses from passing local ones. Our street incorporates a possible set of compromises. The second is that even simple tweaks imply a far-reaching organizational overhaul.
Many of these proposals are radical only in New York. Other cities — even big chaotic ones, like Barcelona and Paris — update their streets without losing their identities or going broke. When it comes to quality of life in the public realm, New York’s attitude should be competitive, not fatalistic.
It’s easy to forget that the street is the ultimate public open space, a space with the capacity to better serve many other functions if we can only agree to deprioritize the personal automobile. The proposals I enjoyed the most, and that I think have the biggest capacity for change in the shortest amount of time, are the continued reduction in automobile capacity by converting streets to plazas, and the dedication of micro-mobility spaces on every street.