By Maria Rocha-Buschel
A block on Broadway between West 24th and 25th Streets adjacent to Madison Square Park has been redesigned, with the aim of making the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
The Department of Transportation piloted a similar “Shared Streets” model in Lower Manhattan for a single Saturday last August and decided to implement the model in the Flatiron District permanently. The city made this one permanent because pedestrians outnumber vehicles on this particular block of Broadway by an 18:1 margin during peak evening hours.
The DOT has been working with the Flatiron BID and the Madison Square Park Conservancy on clarifying the often-chaotic intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue and made the adjustments by instituting a new five-mile-per-hour speed limit, changing the color of the asphalt and adding crosswalks and protected bike lanes.
“The main issue at that intersection is that you have three significant traffic corridors and there’s the overlay of thousands of pedestrians, so issues start to occur,” said David Breen, deputy director of public space for DOT. Breen said that the problems couldn’t be resolved with crosswalks alone so the intersection needed to be reconfigured.
“We went through this internal process on how to mitigate those issues and we landed on idea of taking Broadway traffic out of intersection one way southbound and made it one way northbound,” he said.
Rather than cars going south on Broadway from West 25th Street, cars can instead can loop around to the newly-paved “shared” Broadway from Fifth Avenue going north, then can turn left onto West 25th Street.
“It’s designed as a slow maneuver so traffic is forced to slow down, so by design we’re regulating the lower speed limit,” Breen said. “We also used a different surface material so it clearly articulates that it’s a different sort of surface, so from a visual perspective, drivers can tell that the space is different.”
Cars going south on Broadway coming from the direction of 30th Street would be able to continue in that direction by turning left onto West 26th Street to get to Fifth Avenue, and could head south from there.
Breen noted that from a pedestrian perspective, especially considering those who are blind, there have been significant improvements to the intersection because of the addition of tactile indicators, to help blind pedestrians be more aware of their surroundings.
Breen said that the only change that has not yet been implemented is the different placement for the Citibike dock. Currently, the dock is on the asphalt near 24th Street but will eventually be moved along the east side of the shared street.
The Shared Street debuted officially last Wednesday.