by Barry Benepe

HOW TO FIND OUR WAY. What if we replaced the words “one way” with the name of the street? Photo by Ede Rothaus.

I propose a radical idea: Let us get rid of free curbside car parking. Though admittedly not as radical as George Capsis’ proposal that there be a hospital within walking distance of everyone’s home, it is radical nonetheless. Free parking adds to the congestion caused by drivers cruising around looking for parking spaces.

As a follow-up proposal I want to address the issue of urban legibility. How do we know where we are? An obvious answer is that we look up at the street signs, but they are often so high as to be out of sight. Often there is only one sign on one of four corners. The signs are often missing altogether, having been removed and not replaced by the NYC Department of Transportation. 

The signs that are clearly visible and ubiquitous, placed within clear view of passing pedestrians, bus, and cab riders are the “ONE WAY” arrows. They not only point vehicular traffic direction with the depiction of a white arrow on a black background, but unnecessarily add the redundant words, “ONE WAY.”

What if we replaced the words “ONE WAY” with the name of the street? This would truly help us know where we are. We would not only know the direction of motor vehicles, but what street we are traveling on as well. NYC could undertake this task from a mobile van equipped with a workshop to make the change on site without having to take the signs to some remote location to repaint them. 

The overall goal is to make it easier as well as safer to find our way around the city. This is the primary responsibility of NYC DOT, which has to look from their legs as well as their driver’s seat. Virtually every driver is a pedestrian when entering or leaving their car. Leaving streets free of walls of parked cars makes them safer as pedestrians crossing them will be more visible to passing drivers. Even more important, the architecture of our city will be more visible to all of us.