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Architecture & Design

New York’s Park Avenue once included a walkable park lane

New York City Park Avenue in 1920s

Park Avenue in New York City used to have a dedicated park lane that ran down the middle of 5th Avenue. Hence the name “Park” Avenue.

Even more, the term parking was first referenced in association with trees, not driving lines.

From The Etymology of Parking:

According to the 41st Congress, the proper way to park in cities was on the side of the streets with the roadway running down the center. Of course, in 1870 the members of the Senate were discussing the parking of trees and smaller plants, not automobiles. The first parking system was an early street tree system where parking defined the planting of trees, grasses, and flowers along the side of roadways and the creation of sidewalks for pedestrians.

But given the ubiquity and priority of cars, the park gradually narrowed to make more room for vehicles.

An aerial shot of Manhattan in 1924 with the walkable parks included

As a consequence of the automobile explosion, lawmakers also passed laws to forbid jaywalking. Cars officially ruled the road, not pedestrians. And crosswalks bloomed.

As someone who used to work in New York, remnants of these ambulatory streets are still there, especially around mid-town. Some of the small islands create a little space for statues and decorations, especially around Christmas time.

Hat tip to Adam Fisher-Cox on Twitter

By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger and curious explorer of the world who connects the dots between life, arts, and knowledge.

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