It’s no secret, Ridgewood isn’t exactly the best town to shop around in. It’s full of great businesses and places people want to go, but shoppers are restricted to the slim sidewalks and dangerous crosswalks while lumbering motorists roar through the streets. Wouldn’t it be pleasant for Ridgewood citizens to safely shop throughout downtown Ridgewood without the worry of getting hit by a car? It’s hard for an educated, thoughtful person to disagree that Ridgewood Avenue should be a pedestrian-only plaza.
Have you ever needed to cross Ridgewood Avenue? It’s frustrating because you have to walk 50 feet up to a crosswalk, then pray for some merciful, kind driver to notice you, slow down, and allow you to cross, before walking back down. Such a distance just to go somewhere that’s 20 feet away. What’s more, accidents are not uncommon on Ridgewood Avenue, in fact in September three people were struck by cars in three weeks on this main road. One of the victims died from the serious injuries caused by the accident. Making a pedestrian plaza will inevitably make Ridgewood safer and a more livable place for all citizens crossing Ridgewood Avenue.
Anyone who has been to Amsterdam will know how it’s nearly impossible to get around by car, but for the pedestrian or cyclist, it’s heaven. In the 1960’s Amsterdam, like most cities in the developed world, was riding the automobile wave, converting the canal-side pathways that had served the city since its birth into motorways and car-friendly streets. With this change, however, came an increase in pedestrian mortalities. Unlike many other cities, including Ridgewood, the Dutch refused to accept this new way of cars and quick transport if it meant injuring or killing walkers and bikers. A large citizen lead campaign called Stop de Kindermoord (Stop the Child Murder) pushed the city planners to return to a mostly car-free environment. Taking this idea and adding it to Ridgewood Avenues busy environment would potentially stop the danger of crossing the street, creating a more enjoyable downtown space for children and their family’s.
Today cities and towns across the world are taking steps to help pedestrians remain safe while boosting economic productivity in downtown areas. Yes, it’s true, car-free streets make more money than traditional roadways. Think of it as a mall. If Paramus Park had cars running through it at all times would you go there to shop? Shopping malls provide a safe walkable pocket of stores and businesses that people love hanging out in. To boost our downtown economy, Ridgewood needs to change its urban core to support the businesses and business-goers, the best way to do that is to mimic the places people want to go and create more pedestrian traffic.
According to Cologne, Germany’s Tourist Office, data collected by Jones Lang LaSalle showed that the pedestrian plaza Schildergasse brought 13,280 visitors just between one and two in the afternoon on April 10, 2010. Encouraging pedestrian traffic can create an opportunity for a shopping emporium, which will stimulate a platform for economic development. For example, New York’s DOT (Department of Transportation) conducted a study that showed that after receiving pedestrian safety islands, Columbus Avenue stores saw a 20 percent increase in sales. Ridgewood’s pedestrian plaza can generate foot traffic which will cause this economic growth that is described above. This will overall make our town even more successful.
Getting rid of the traffic all together is one of the best solutions to Downtown Ridgewood’s safety problem. Across the world, cities and towns are seeing the benefit in walkable areas. Although this will make it harder to drive around in town, most people do not shop in their cars. Making Ridgewood Avenue a pedestrian-only plaza will make Ridgewood much less dangerous, and much more walkable and fun to shop in. It can generate foot traffic to shops, which will cause economic growth for the town. Creating a safe and secure environment for local citizens should be Ridgewoods priority, and turning Ridgewood Avenue into a pedestrian-only plaza will definitely improve this from happening.