When I was growing up in Manhattan, the city’s auto-choked streets and crappy public spaces were something to be taken for granted. Dealing with the pollution and noise and danger without complaining was just another way of proving you were a tough New Yorker.

The streets of New York are still plenty gritty, don’t get me wrong. But things are changing fast — including people’s expectations for space that is designed to accommodate humans rather than personal vehicles.

The last three years have seen an incredible transformation of the city’s streetscape. More than 200 miles of bike lanes have been created. Times Square and many other formerly car-clogged spaces have been turned into havens for pedestrians, complete with café tables, flowers, and street art. And the city is experimenting with innovations in bus transportation as well.

It is all shockingly civilized.

This short video from EMBARQ (the World Resources Institute’s Center for Sustainable Transport) gives a great overview of the change happening in New York. It includes comments from the city’s trailblazing transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Watch it. It’s filled with ideas that could transform other American cities as well. And it’s proof that you don’t have to take the status quo for granted.

Hat tip to The City Fix.