Trying to stroll down Broadway in New York on a lovely summer evening used to be a nightmare.
There was traffic everywhere and huge crowds spilling over the pavement onto the streets.
"The crossroads of the world" felt exactly like that, with every language under the sun being used to curse and swear. Everyone jostled to try and stay on the pavement or to cross the street while the light was green.
When the Broadway shows let out around 11 0'Clock on a Friday or Saturday night the scene was pure bedlam.
It was wonderful in its own way but complete madness as thousands tried to walk in different directions at the same time as cab drivers screamed at them and motorists honked.
Now that has all vanished -- hey presto, like a magician's trick overnight.
I strolled up Broadway on Wednesday evening and an amazing sight met my eyes.
Right there are the center of the earth, at 42nd Street and Broadway, where sardines in cans would feel crowded, there was nothing but empty space.
Indeed,there were people sitting in the middle of the busiest street on earth in deck chairs, some sipping coffee, some eating and catching up with friends.
Imagine if you will the same scene in O'Connell Street at rush hour and you will get some small sense of what it looked like.
It is all part of a revolutionary idea by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to speed up traffic in the most crowded neighborhood in America by pedestrianising about 10 blocks.
It sounds crazy,but by banning vehicles from the Times Square area Bloomberg appears to have hit on a master plan to speed up traffic.
There were dire predictions,especially by cab drivers, that closing down the Times Square area to cars would cause complete chaos.
Well so far they have been proven wrong. I know the experiment only started this week,but it seems like Bloomberg has really hit on something.
It is addition by subtraction, By closing certain streets and letting green lights last longer on others, Bloomberg appears to have arrived at a magic formula that so far, has actually lessened traffic jams rather than made them worse.
I don't pretend to know how it works but I can tell you based on the traffic flow i saw on Wednesday evening at rush hour it certainly seems something is working
And the great news is that New Yorkers now have Times Square and the surrounding streets as their playground. On the first day several women showed up in bikinis to bask in the sun on the deck chairs-- that drew a crowd all on its own.
Some newspapers are already calling it the Broadway Miracle. Its not quite that just yet, but if you come to New York make sure you come and see it. It really is an awesome sight.
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”