New York’s Sidewalks Are So Packed, Pedestrians Are Taking to the Streets
Ivette Singh hardly bothers to walk on the sidewalk on her way to work in Midtown Manhattan anymore. Too many people, too little space. Not enough patience.
Instead, Ms. Singh can be found on the wrong side of the curb as she makes her way from Pennsylvania Station to her job on Third Avenue near 40th Street, and then back again. She prefers dodging yellow cabs and bicyclists to navigating sidewalks teeming with commuters, tourists and cart-pushing vendors, all jostling for elbow room.
“I don’t mind the walk, it’s just the people,” Ms. Singh, an account coordinator for the Univision television network, said. “Sometimes, they’re rude. They’re on top of you, no personal space. They’re smoking. It’s tough.”
Ms. Singh is just one among many pedestrians experiencing a growing phenomenon in New York City: sidewalk gridlock.
While crowding is hardly a new problem in the city, the sidewalks that cemented New York’s reputation as a world-class walking city have become obstacle courses as more people than ever live and work in the city and tourism surges. The problem is particularly acute in Manhattan. Around Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, two of the city’s main transit hubs, commuters clutching coffee cups and briefcases squeeze by one another during the morning and evening rushes. Throngs of shoppers and visitors sometimes bring swaths of Lower Manhattan to a standstill, prompting some residents of the area to cite clogged sidewalks as their biggest problem in a recent community survey.
Foot traffic has slowed to a shuffle along some of the city’s most famous corridors. On Fifth Avenue, between 54th and 55th Streets, 26,831 pedestrians — enough to fill Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall combined — passed through in three hours on a weekday in May 2015, up from 20,639 the year before, according to city data.
Transportation officials are taking measures to alleviate the congestion. To help accommodate foot traffic, they are adding more pedestrian plazas around the city, expanding the presence of a streetscape feature first embraced by the Bloomberg administration. One is scheduled to open soon on 33rd Street near Penn Station. There are also plans to widen a half-dozen sidewalks in Flushing, Queens, in the next year (the city’s sidewalks vary in width, but must be at least five feet wide).
While a crowded sidewalk is simply a symptom of a crowded city, it resonates deeply because it affects almost everyone. Unlike overstuffed subways or tourist attractions like, say, Times Square, there is no going around the sidewalks. They are to New York what freeways are to Los Angeles: an essential part of the city’s infrastructure. Sidewalks not only get people from Point A to Point B, but also serve as a shared public space for rich and poor, native and tourist alike.
“Sidewalks are the unifying glue of the city,” said Mitchell L. Moss, director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University. “It’s the one part of the city that everyone has to use. You cannot avoid sidewalks.”
“人行道是城市的粘合剂，”纽约大学鲁丁交通政策和管理中心(Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University)主任米切尔·L·莫斯(Mitchell L. Moss)说。“是城市里所有人都会使用的地方。根本避不开人行道。”
Crowded sidewalks are not just a New York problem. They have created bottlenecks and logistical hurdles and have raised safety concerns in cities across the country. Since 2013, public works officials in San Francisco have widened two sidewalks in Fisherman’s Wharf and the Castro, popular tourist areas with a lot of foot traffic. A third sidewalk project is planned for Second Street, one of the main routes to AT&T Park, the baseball stadium where the Giants play.
In Seattle, a busy stretch of East Pike Street in the Capitol Hill neighborhood that is lined with restaurants, bars and clubs was closed to cars on three Saturday nights last summer to make room for pedestrians overflowing from the sidewalks. “It just feels so jammed with humanity it becomes a rough situation,” said Joel Sisolak, sustainability and planning director for Capitol Hill Housing, a community development corporation that has worked with city officials to address the issue of crowded sidewalks.
在西雅图，东派克街经过国会山地区的路段交通繁忙，路两边遍布着餐馆、酒吧和夜总会。去年夏天，为了给被挤出人行道的行人留出空间，该路段有三个周六的晚上禁止车辆通行。“就感觉太挤了，环境变得很恶劣，”社区发展公司国会山住房(Capitol Hill Housing)的可持续与规划总监乔尔·西索拉克(Joel Sisolak)说。该公司与市政官员合作，在解决人行道拥挤问题。
Space on New York City’s sidewalks is at a premium at a time when the city’s population of 8.5 million is higher than ever. Add in the record 59.7 million visitors who are expected to descend on the city this year, up from 48.8 million in 2010, and it’s a recipe for thoroughfares packed like sardine cans. Chris Heywood, a spokesman for NYC & Company, which oversees the city’s tourism efforts, said his group was increasingly highlighting attractions outside Manhattan in hopes of dispersing visitors across the city.
随着纽约城人口突破850万，人行道的稀缺程度达到前所未有的水平。2010年有4880万游客前来纽约观光，预计这个数字今年将达到创纪录的5970万，所以交通要道就像沙丁鱼罐头一样拥挤。克里斯·海伍德(Chris Heywood)在市里负责旅游事务的纽约城公司(NYC & Company)担任发言人，他说，公司团队在加强对曼哈顿之外景点的宣传，希望将游客分流到城市各处。
Scott Gastel, a spokesman for the Transportation Department, said the department had conducted research into pedestrian behavior at crosswalks and had monitored pedestrian volumes at 100 street locations around the city to track long-term trends in neighborhood commercial corridors. Along bustling 34th Street, the city has added about 20,000 square feet of pedestrian space in recent years, including so-called bus bulbs that extend the sidewalk pavement to give bus riders more room to wait.
市交通局发言人斯科特·加斯特尔(Scott Gastel)称，他们对人行横道上行人的行为进行了研究，在全市100处街头地点对社区商业走廊的长期趋势进行了追踪。近几年来，市里在繁华的34街增加了2万平方英尺左右的步行空间，其中包括“公共汽车等候处”(bus bulbs)。这指的是延伸到路上的人行道，可以让公交乘客有更多的空间来等车。
In Lower Manhattan, overcrowded sidewalks topped the list of residents’ concerns in a survey conducted last year for the local community board. The problem was aggravated in some areas by sidewalk clutter such as construction scaffolding, large garbage bags, vendors and fixtures like lights, signs, newsstands, benches, planters and recycling bins. “You add all that up, and it’s difficult to walk on the narrow sidewalk,” said Catherine McVay Hughes, the community board’s chairwoman.
在曼哈顿下城，地方社区委员会去年做的一项调查显示，在最受居民关注的问题中，拥挤的人行道位居榜首。人行道上的障碍物，比如施工脚手架、大垃圾袋、摊贩，以及路灯、招牌、报摊、长椅、花架和垃圾回收箱这些东西，让部分地区的这一问题更加严重。“所有这些加在一起，要在狭窄的人行道上走路就很困难了，”社区委员会主席凯瑟琳·麦克维恩·休斯(Catherine McVay Hughes)说。
If there is an epicenter of crowded sidewalks in New York, it is near Penn Station, where pedestrians, food carts and newsstands all vie for space. Only London and Tokyo have sidewalks as congested, said Daniel A. Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership, which oversees the business district in the area. As many as 14,000 pedestrians an hour walk in front of the Modell’s Sporting Goods store on Seventh Avenue near West 34th Street, according to 2015 data collected by the partnership.
如果说纽约拥挤的人行道上有个震中位置，那就是在宾州车站附近了。在这里，行人、食品车和报摊互相争夺空间。负责该地商务区的34街合作管理委员会(34th Street Partnership)主席丹尼尔·A·比德曼(Daniel A. Biederman)表示，这里人行道的拥挤程度只有伦敦和东京可以相提并论。他们2015年搜集的数据显示，每小时有至多1.4万行人走过第七大道近西34街的麦多体育用品店(Modell’s Sporting Goods)门前。
The commuter crowd is also growing. An average of 92,314 riders boarded New Jersey Transit trains at Penn Station each weekday in fiscal year 2015, up from 79,891 riders in fiscal year 2010. In the same period, average weekday boardings on New Jersey Transit buses at the Port Authority terminal also increased, to 78,006 riders from 72,506.
通勤人数也越来越多。在2015年财年，平均每个工作日有92314名乘客在宾州车站搭上新泽西公共交通(New Jersey Transit)列车，而在2010年财年这个数字为79891人。在同一时期，在港务局码头搭乘新泽西公共交通大巴的乘客也从72506人增加到78006人。
Veteran pedestrians have tried to adapt. They shoulder their way into bike lanes or walk purposefully on the street alongside cars — eyes ahead, earphones in — forming a de facto express lane. They move en masse along Seventh and Eighth Avenues like a storm system on a weather map, heading north in the mornings and south in the evenings.
“You know how the system works,” said Roque Santos, 48, a stagehand who commutes daily from Jersey City. “I cross the street even before the light changes to beat the crowd.”
Peter Raskin, a sports marketing executive, has made walking in the street part of his daily routine. He zipped north on Seventh Avenue the other morning, even when there was room on the sidewalk. “I’m used to it,” he said. “I stay in the street with my head down.”
But bad things can happen when foot traffic spills into the streets. In 2016, there have been 55 pedestrian fatalities as of Sunday; still, that was an improvement from the 79 fatalities for the same period in 2013.
Michael D’Angelo, an accountant who works in Midtown, said that in the past year he had seen a half-dozen pedestrians walking in the street struck by cyclists. Still, Mr. D’Angelo said he often had no choice but to step off the curb because he could not get by all the people along Eighth Avenue. His bus home to Pennsylvania leaves the Port Authority at 5:55 p.m., with or without him.
“Everybody is trying to beat everybody,” he said, “because everybody has someplace to go.”
Then there are the inattentive walkers, those who text on their phones or read newspapers while moving, and the meandering tourists who seem oblivious to the ways of the street. They stop midstride, step on someone’s heel or cut off people without warning. The result? Sidewalk rage.
“When you get out-of-towners and New Yorkers, it’s like mixing Clorox with ammonia, it doesn’t work — there’s a chemical reaction,” said Jato Jenkins, a street worker, as he swept a stretch of Seventh Avenue. “The New Yorkers walk their normal route, and the out-of-towners are going the opposite direction, like salmon going upstream.”
Mr. Jenkins said everyone was miserable and on edge, especially in the sweltering summer months, so that even the slightest bump could set off tempers. He said he had seen women cursing at each other and men pushing each other and grabbing each other’s shirts.
Virginia Garcia said she had been on the receiving end of such outbursts. “People are running around like crazy, and they don’t stop,” said Ms. Garcia, who stands at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and West 36th Street with a sign advertising a local pub. “They push you, they hit you and they don’t care.”
David Wentz, a mail carrier who pushes a 50-pound cart around the garment district, said he tried to arrange his day around the busiest times for foot traffic. “It’s chaotic,” he said. “It’s like Disney World down here.”
But for Mr. Moss, of the Rudin Center at N.Y.U., crowded sidewalks show how far the city has come. During the 1970s, he pointed out, people used to avoid the sidewalks in the East Village and other parts of the city for a different reason: They feared criminals and felt safer walking out in the open, down the middle of a street.
Today, “people want to be in New York,” he said. “A crowded sidewalk is a sign of vitality.”