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  • The work of a transportation commissioner

  • isn't just about stop signs and traffic signals.

  • It involves the design of cities

  • and the design of city streets.

  • Streets are some of the most valuable resources

  • that a city has, and yet it's an asset

  • that's largely hidden in plain sight.

  • And the lesson from New York

  • over the past six years

  • is that you can update this asset.

  • You can remake your streets quickly, inexpensively,

  • it can provide immediate benefits,

  • and it can be quite popular.

  • You just need to look at them a little differently.

  • This is important because we live in an urban age.

  • For the first time in history,

  • most people live in cities,

  • and the U.N. estimates that over the next 40 years,

  • the population is going to double on the planet.

  • So the design of cities is a key issue for our future.

  • Mayor Bloomberg recognized this

  • when he launched PlaNYC in 2007.

  • The plan recognized that cities

  • are in a global marketplace,

  • and that if we're going to continue to grow and thrive

  • and to attract the million more people

  • that are expected to move here,

  • we need to focus on the quality of life

  • and the efficiency of our infrastructure.

  • For many cities, our streets have been

  • in a kind of suspended animation for generations.

  • This is a picture of Times Square in the '50s,

  • and despite all of the technological innovation,

  • cultural changes, political changes,

  • this is Times Square in 2008.

  • Not much has changed in those 50 years.

  • So we worked hard to refocus our agenda,

  • to maximize efficient mobility,

  • providing more room for buses, more room for bikes,

  • more room for people to enjoy the city,

  • and to make our streets as safe as they can be

  • for everybody that uses them.

  • We set out a clear action plan

  • with goals and benchmarks.

  • Having goals is important,

  • because if you want to change and steer the ship

  • of a big city in a new direction,

  • you need to know where you're going and why.

  • The design of a street can tell you everything

  • about what's expected on it.

  • In this case, it's expected that you shelter in place.

  • The design of this street is really

  • to maximize the movement of cars

  • moving as quickly as possible

  • from point A to point B,

  • and it misses all the other ways

  • that a street is used.

  • When we started out, we did some early surveys

  • about how our streets were used,

  • and we found that New York City was largely

  • a city without seats.

  • Pictures like this, people perched

  • on a fire hydrant, not the mark of a world-class city.

  • (Laughter)

  • It's not great for parents with kids.

  • It's not great for seniors. It's not great for retailers.

  • It's probably not good for the fire hydrants.

  • Certainly not good for the police department.

  • So we worked hard to change that balance,

  • and probably the best example of our new approach

  • is in Times Square.

  • Three hundred and fifty thousand people a day

  • walk through Times Square,

  • and people had tried for years to make changes.

  • They changed signals, they changed lanes,

  • everything they could do to make Times Square work better.

  • It was dangerous, hard to cross the street.

  • It was chaotic.

  • And so, none of those approaches worked,

  • so we took a different approach, a bigger approach,

  • looked at our street differently.

  • And so we did a six-month pilot.

  • We closed Broadway from 42nd Street to 47th Street

  • and created two and a half acres

  • of new pedestrian space.

  • And the temporary materials are an important part

  • of the program, because we were able to show

  • how it worked.

  • And I work for a data-driven mayor, as you probably know.

  • So it was all about the data.

  • So if it worked better for traffic, if it was better for mobility,

  • if it was safer, better for business, we would keep it,

  • and if it didn't work, no harm, no foul,

  • we could put it back the way that it was,

  • because these were temporary materials.

  • And that was a very big part of the buy-in,

  • much less anxiety when you think that something

  • can be put back.

  • But the results were overwhelming.

  • Traffic moved better. It was much safer.

  • Five new flagship stores opened.

  • It's been a total home run.

  • Times Square is now one of the top 10

  • retail locations on the planet.

  • And this is an important lesson,

  • because it doesn't need to be a zero-sum game

  • between moving traffic and creating public space.

  • Every project has its surprises,

  • and one of the big surprises with Times Square

  • was how quickly people flocked to the space.

  • We put out the orange barrels,

  • and people just materialized immediately into the street.

  • It was like a Star Trek episode, you know?

  • They weren't there before, and then zzzzzt!

  • All the people arrived.

  • Where they'd been, I don't know, but they were there.

  • And this actually posed an immediate challenge for us,

  • because the street furniture had not yet arrived.

  • So we went to a hardware store

  • and bought hundreds of lawn chairs,

  • and we put those lawn chairs out on the street.

  • And the lawn chairs became the talk of the town.

  • It wasn't about that we'd closed Broadway to cars.

  • It was about those lawn chairs.

  • "What did you think about the lawn chairs?"

  • "Do you like the color of the lawn chairs?"

  • So if you've got a big, controversial project,

  • think about lawn chairs.

  • (Laughter)

  • This is the final design for Times Square,

  • and it will create a level surface,

  • sidewalk to sidewalk,

  • beautiful pavers that have studs in them

  • to reflect the light from the billboards,

  • creating a great new energy on the street,

  • and we think it's going to really create

  • a great place, a new crossroads of the world

  • that is worthy of its name.

  • And we will be cutting the ribbon on this,

  • the first phase, this December.

  • With all of our projects, our public space projects,

  • we work closely with local businesses

  • and local merchant groups

  • who maintain the spaces, move the furniture,

  • take care of the plants.

  • This is in front of Macy's, and they were

  • a big supporter of this new approach,

  • because they understood that more people on foot

  • is better for business.

  • And we've done these projects all across the city

  • in all kinds of neighborhoods.

  • This is in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn,

  • and you can see the short leg that was there,

  • used for cars, that's not really needed.

  • So what we did is we painted over the street,

  • put down epoxy gravel, and connected the triangle

  • to the storefronts on Grand Avenue,

  • created a great new public space,

  • and it's been great for businesses

  • along Grand Avenue.

  • We did the same thing in DUMBO, in Brooklyn,

  • and this is one of our first projects that we did,

  • and we took an underutilized,

  • pretty dingy-looking parking lot

  • and used some paint and planters

  • to transform it over a weekend.

  • And in the three years since we've implemented the project,

  • retail sales have increased 172 percent.

  • And that's twice that of adjacent areas in the same neighborhood.

  • We've moved very, very quickly

  • with paint and temporary materials.

  • Instead of waiting

  • through years of planning studies

  • and computer models to get something done,

  • we've done it with paint and temporary materials.

  • And the proof is not in a computer model.

  • It is in the real-world performance of the street.

  • You can have fun with paint.

  • All told, we've created over 50 pedestrian plazas

  • in all five boroughs across the city.

  • We've repurposed 26 acres of active car lanes

  • and turned them into new pedestrian space.

  • I think one of the successes is in its emulation.

  • You're seeing this kind of approach,

  • since we've painted Times Square,

  • you've seen this approach in Boston, in Chicago,

  • in San Francisco, in Mexico City,

  • Buenos Aires, you name it.

  • This is actually in Los Angeles,

  • and they actually copied even the green dots

  • that we had on the streets.

  • But I can't underscore enough

  • how much more quickly this enables you to move

  • over traditional construction methods.

  • We also brought this quick-acting approach

  • to our cycling program,

  • and in six years turned cycling

  • into a real transportation option in New York.

  • I think it's fair to say --

  • (Applause) --

  • it used to be a fairly scary place to ride a bike,

  • and now New York has become

  • one of the cycling capitals in the United States.

  • And we moved quickly to create an interconnected

  • network of lanes.

  • You can see the map in 2007.

  • This is how it looked in 2013

  • after we built out 350 miles of on-street bike lanes.

  • I love this because it looks so easy.

  • You just click it, and they're there.

  • We also brought new designs to the street.

  • We created the first parking-protected bike lane

  • in the United States.

  • (Applause)

  • We protected bikers by floating parking lanes,

  • and it's been great.

  • Bike volumes have spiked.

  • Injuries to all users, pedestrians, cyclists, drivers,

  • are all down 50 percent.

  • And we've built 30 miles of these protected bike lanes,

  • and now you're seeing them pop up

  • all over the country.

  • And you can see here that this strategy has worked.

  • The blue line is the number of cyclists,

  • soaring.

  • The green line is the number of bike lanes.

  • And the yellow line is the number of injuries,

  • which has remained essentially flat.

  • After this big expansion, you've seen

  • no net increase in injuries,

  • and so there is something to that axiom

  • that there is safety in numbers.

  • Not everybody liked the new bike lanes,

  • and there was a lawsuit and somewhat

  • of a media frenzy a couple years ago.

  • One Brooklyn paper called this bike lane

  • that we have on Prospect Park West

  • "the most contested piece of land

  • outside of the Gaza Strip."

  • (Laughter)

  • And this is what we had done.

  • So if you dig below the headlines, though,

  • you'll see that the people were far ahead of the press,

  • far ahead of the politicians.

  • In fact, I think most politicians would be happy

  • to have those kind of poll numbers.

  • Sixty-four percent of New Yorkers support these bike lanes.

  • This summer, we launched Citi Bike,

  • the largest bike share program in the United States,

  • with 6,000 bikes

  • and 330 stations located next to one another.

  • Since we've launched the program,

  • three million trips have been taken.

  • People have ridden seven million miles.

  • That's 280 times around the globe.

  • And so with this little blue key,

  • you can unlock the keys to the city

  • and this brand new transportation option.

  • And daily usage just continues to soar.

  • What has happened is the average daily ridership

  • on the streets of New York is 36,000 people.

  • The high that we've had so far is 44,000 in August.