Two legs finally good for getting about Manhattan

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's mission to make New York walkable is beginning to take shape

The bag lady with the woolly hat and plastic sandals would normally be facing certain death as she pedals her raggedy bicycle the wrong way up the centre of Broadway in the morning rush-hour. Likewise the doorman from the Radisson Hotel, jiving to the rhythm of his own whistle in the middle of the avenue as he tries to flag down a cab.

But these people are not as crazy as they appear: they have noticed that Broadway is a lot different from how it used to be. Thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to give foot traffic primacy over car traffic in the heart of Manhattan, it is no longer the five-lane torrent of taxis, trucks and double-decker tour buses it once was.

They call it America's most walkable city, but in truth New York has for ever been choked by the internal combustion engine, the oasis of Central Park notwithstanding. But several happy developments in the past few weeks strongly suggest that the ambulatory age is making a comeback in Gotham.

If whiling away the afternoon in a deckchair with a book on the asphalt of Broadway seems an unlikely proposition – but yes, it is doable now – then so does sunbathing among the flowers on an abandoned elevated railway track. Welcome to New York's other new option for urban idling: the High Line Park.

It is hard to say which of these two changes in the city is more miraculous. The opening last week of the first phase of the High Line in the meat-packing district – a ribbon of green with wild flowers, cement paving and groovy wooden seats and lounges facing the rippling Hudson River atop the rusting legs of a long defunct elevated freight railway – was the culmination of 10 years of campaigning and fund-raising by far-sighted volunteers.

The transformation of parts of Broadway happened far more quickly but is somehow equally exhilarating. It was only in February that Mr Bloomberg, who is looking to be elected for a third term this autumn, unveiled his plan to close much of the legendary street to traffic. Where it remains accessible to cars, they must share it with a bicycle path and a narrow pedestrian promenade decorated with planters, chairs and tables with bright umbrellas.

As with the High Line, which for now is open from Gansevoort Street up to 20th Street and 10th Avenue, the Broadway project is still unfolding. Even yesterday, grit-spitting machines were erasing old white-line markings to make way for new ones south of Times Square, and forests of orange and white plastic bollards were at every junction to tell baffled drivers where they should and should not be going.

There has been debate, of course. "Turning the ... vibrant, frenetic, centre of the universe into a butt-littered suburban parking lot" is "ferociously dumb", writes Andrea Peyser, a gruff columnist at The New York Post. Taxi drivers and couriers are disgusted, but the grouches are outnumbered by locals who see Ella Fitzgerald's promise – "we'll turn Manhattan into an isle of joy" – coming true before their eyes.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Manager

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced marketeer is req...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - Enterprise, M2M & IOT Hardware

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - Enterprise, M2M & IOT Hardware

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Food Production / Operations Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a large and well ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas