The Dividing Line

2010 May 24
by ASHP Staff

Tourist LaneSo New York’s blogs and papers have been abuzz with talk of the line drawn on Fifth Avenue and 22nd Street. The line is a piece of street graffiti which creates “lanes” on the sidewalk: one for New Yorkers, and one for tourists. Nearly everyone in the city (except the Mayor) understands it to be a reference to the frustration many working New Yorkers feel when gawking tourists stop with their cameras in the middle of the sidewalk, or stop dead in the middle of a moving crowd to check their subway map.

The only thing is that while New York is talking about this idea as if it were a joke or some social experiment, many cities have been working to actually implement these sort of sidewalk lanes.

Oxford Street in Oxford England was the target for a group of citizens who participated in Pavement Rage Awareness Week, which sought to create a three mile per hour minimum fast lane on the street, and implement fines for those caught disobeying it. This lane, by the way, never manifested due to lack of support from key groups, but it hasn’t stopped other municipalities from looking at Pedestrian fast lanes in a serious light.

Portland, Oregon is attempting a similar approach with support from Mayor Sam Adams. The idea is by adding a fast lane and managing a sidewalk in the same way a street is managed, they can create a better pedestrian experience for all. Critics allege that this is a roundabout way of forcing panhandlers and the homeless out of Portland’s downtown (and I think their critiques are very legitimate); however, here we have another example of a city looking at this sort of sidewalk management.

Where do we go from here?
Sidewalk management isn’t new, and neither is New Yorker’s frustration with tourists, but it’s also worth noting that the problem isn’t unique to New York. Though frustrated residents are likely to support such an initiative, difficulty in enforcement and difficulties in managing accessibility would likely result in this sort of thing never being able to be implemented.

As for the creator of the lane? I’m pretty sure its more likely to be related to these Cliche Photo street paintings which have been popping up around New York City rather than this “Banksy” guy that just showed up. There’s a certain irony in New York proclaiming this street graffiti the work of a tourist rather than acknowledging the artistic work of a home-grown street artist….

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