I spent last week in Manhattan. Although it is a very different place than New Westminster, I couldn’t help but notice a few things that our little burgh could borrow and make our own. With blistered feet and starry eyes, I’ve put together a wish list of five ideas I wish the Royal City would borrow from the Big Apple. Maybe not all of these are doable here, but a girl can dream!
5. A City bike-share program – Prices are reasonable, you don’t have to worry about your bike being stolen, and since you can drop it off anywhere, you don’t have to commit to making a return trip. I saw blue bike share bikes everywhere, used by both tourists and locals. Notably, for a city notorious for its gridlock, there are protected bike lanes throughout the city. The effect of these bike lanes on traffic? On some streets travel times are actually faster because cars turning left now have pockets to wait in without holding up traffic, pedestrian injuries have dropped an average of 22% on streets with bike lanes, cyclist injuries are down (by 65% on one particular avenue!), and local business has seen a boost in retail sales, new jobs and more tourists.
4. Mixing business with pleasure – Throughout public parks there are spaces for small businesses to offer refreshment and fun. In even the smallest park there are buskers and food carts, and in larger areas like Central Park, there are a variety of relevant businesses that enhance the park experience: boat rentals, carriage rides, gift shops with relevant books and souvenirs, cafes and activities. There are also many adjacent businesses, museums and attractions. On our walks Central Park we also stopped for a glass of wine at a cafe overlooking one of the lagoons, rented a remote control sailboat, visited two large museums and bought snacks. We have small concessions in Queens Park and Pier Park, but currently New West parks tend to be removed from our commercial areas. It would be interesting to plan to create more relevant opportunities for small business that can add to the park experience.
3. Street performers and public art – Crooners playing guitar on the subway. B-boys breakdancing in public squares. Cellists busking in Chelsea Market. Part of what makes the city come alive is the random discovery of talent as you move through the city. Parks are full of statues and wonderful art installations that make your walk through each area more memorable. New West could fill our streets with music in the summer with a call for performers, and support more murals and art installations in parks and commercial districts. We should do more to support emerging talent and strengthen our own base of local artists.
2. Neighbourhood parklets – There isn’t a lot of space for large parks, so NYC has found space in some unusual places. All around town, the City has reclaimed road space to create public places to sit and eat lunch or people-watch. People bring their brown-bag lunches or food cart finds and enjoy a bit of sun while they rest their feet. There are also many small public squares, playgrounds and teeny parklets where people can find a patch of green in the city. The most unusual one I have seen is Highline Park, which transformed an elevated train track into a narrow walkway above the city, lined with greenery and public art.
1. A walkable city – New York is the ultimate walkable city. Cars are a decidedly second-tier way of getting around unless you have a really good reason to use one. Pedestrians rule at crosswalks, and the city has done a fantastic job of supporting this through the creation of many public seating areas (to rest your tired feet), supporting distinctive neighbourhoods that can only truly be enjoyed on foot, and maintaining a fast and efficient subway system that makes it easy to zip across town when you need to go somewhere fast. In New West, we already enjoy a culture of walking but we could do more to make it more pleasant. I would like to see more cafe tables (public and private), more treed boulevards (especially in lower apartment blocks where green space and shade is lacking), and a pedestrians-first traffic policy.