be the city you wish to see. ask me how!
Pedaling down Second Avenue through Manhattan's East Village on a recent sweltering Sunday afternoon, I spotted this couple, lounging drowsily against a tree on someone's curb cast-away couch cushions. I quickly veered off to cheer their spontaneous appropriation of refuse/space, requesting to snap a photo. Christina and her boyfriend agreed, and I took down her email address, to send it along later.
The couple's quick fix for a quintessential human need--for seating and shade to recover from heat island effected-summer conditions--was whimsical. But it was also powerful and prescient. It demonstrated how simply a tree may become a backrest, trash may become seating, human bodies made to buffer passing ped traffic on one side from much quicker-moving bicycle traffic on the other. Surely Second Avenue could use more sidewalk seating for weary butts. And given the growing volume of bicycle traffic coaxed by the Avenue's southbound protected bike lane, perhaps built-in treeskirt seats could serve a peacekeeping function between sidewalk and bicycle traffic.
I'd wager a bet that if all the treepits on Second had rectangular benches built around them, with gaps of no more than a couple feet from one bench's end to its neighbor's beginning, mid-block pedestrian street crossings would significantly decrease. Less likely to startle and so [by extension] to anger each other, treeskirt benches could direct pedestrian crossing to where it's safest on these elaborately-carved streetscapes of (from left to right): sidewalk-->protected bike lane-->floating parking/turn lane-->moving car lanes-->bus-only lane-->sidewalk.
Maybe a pilot project funded by a few blocks' worth of Second Avenue restauranteurs could provide some preliminary data on the possimobilities?
Lean against a tree. You never know what gap-filling solution might fall from it...