Broken Sidewalk Archives
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Check out this video of Market Street in San Francisco in 1905, just before the city was destroyed by the famous 1906 earthquake set to a relaxing Air soundtrack. What’s really great about the footage, taken from the front of a streetcar, is that you can find just about every type of transportation available.
Pedestrians are everywhere, including elegantly dressed ladies, delivery men, and some children running in front of trolleys and cars. Horses and wagons, early cars, bikes, cable cars, and trolleys are also plentiful. Note as well how slow traffic moves on such a wide and busy thoroughfare. Pedestrians don’t cross at crosswalks or run for their lives across the middle of the street. Also interesting is how the street apparently functions in chaos without any real rules.
“To see a car in the park is like seeing someone coat the Mona Lisa with mud.”
- Randy Cohen, The Ethicist, NY Times Magazine
StreetFilms recently took a bike ride with New York Times Magazine Ethicist Randy Cohen to discuss how we get around the city. Cohen passionately supports the work of NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn – such as closing down traffic lanes for pedestrians and bikes – but assures us he’s not a Sadik-Kahn groupie.
The Ethicist suggests that city planners should consider how many people we move per minute, not just how many cars. In the end it creates a much more efficient city. Streets are fundamentally public spaces and shouldn’t be considered simply “conduits for travel.” He instead says we need to more deeply consider public space allocation as “it’s not just how do we get around but what do we do when we get there.”
Cohen also remarks on bike etiquette. He says the ethical thing to do is to consider the effects of your own actions on others in deciding how to behave on a bike – or pretty much any other time.
For example, it’s unethical to ride the wrong direction in a bike lane as you are endangering cyclists following the rules who are pushed out into traffic. Cohen warns, “You can’t buy your convenience at the expense of someone else’s safety.”
Interestingly, that argument also means that it’s ethical for cyclists to safely run red lights as long as no one is put in danger by the action. The Ethicist says, “I almost never stop at a red light – except when I might endanger another person or myself.”
[ Thanks, StreetFilms! ]