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Turn Times Square Back Into Traffic Hell? Tell Bratton and de Blasio: No Way

Replacing people with cars? Not a good idea, public space advocates say. Photo: Nicolas Vollmer/Flickr

Try to picture ramming a road through this crowd and cramming them onto the sidewalk. Photo: Nicolas Vollmer/Flickr

Since Mayor Bill de Blasio won’t rule out the threat of removing the Times Square plazas, first raised by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, it’s time to take action. Two petitions are circulating to urge the mayor not to give Times Square back to cars.

One petition organized by the Design Trust for Public Space and backed by the Municipal Art Society and a similar petition from Transportation Alternatives call on Bratton and de Blasio to do the right thing by the hundreds of thousands of people who walk in Times Square every day.

“Commissioner Bratton and Mayor de Blasio want to rip up the pedestrian plazas. We can’t let that happen,” the Design Trust’s petition says. “Aggressive street performers and ‘desnudas’ are an enforcement problem. They aren’t a plaza problem.”

Here’s what some of the signatories are saying…

Read more…

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The Queens Boulevard Protected Bike Lane Celebration Ride

If Queens Boulevard can get a protected bike lane, you can probably put one on almost any street in the country.

Yesterday, the Queens Transportation Alternatives Committee hosted the first of what it hopes are many celebratory bike rides down Queens Boulevard, trying out the first 10 blocks of the bike lane installed this month by NYC DOT. When complete, this project will run 1.3 miles from Roosevelt Avenue to 73rd Street. It’s the first phase in what the city has promised will be a thorough overhaul of the “Boulevard of Death,” which is also the most direct east-west route in the borough.

Over the years, many lives have been lost on Queens Boulevard. I spoke to riders yesterday about all the hard work that volunteers and advocates put it in to make this bike lane happen.

Streetsblog.net
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Detroit Riders Share Their Transit Horror Stories

Detroit’s transit system is in crisis.

The region’s fractious transit network was highlighted last year by the story of James Robertson — “Detroit’s walking man” — whose one-way, 23-mile commute consists of two bus routes and 10-plus miles of walking.

The Detroit region has been struggling to create a unified city-suburb regional transit agency for the last few years. Next year voters will be asked to approve a tax increase to ensure transit service in the region functions at a basic level again.

In the meantime, Detroiters who count on transit are suffering. Network blog We Are Mode Shift points to a new site, DitchedbyDDOT, where riders air their grievances. We’ve collected some of the more unbelievable examples below [emphasis ours]:

  • “More than 10, less than 15 people waiting for the Dexter 16, outbound. One says he’s been waiting so long his transfer expired. The bus scheduled to stop rolls past without stopping. It’s 6:15 pm and freezing.”
  • “During the ride, a fellow passenger got an angry call from what I assume was his boss. He pleaded with the man on the phone, saying that he had been waiting on the bus since 5:50 and would be there soon. From the way the other riders nodded their heads, I knew he wasn’t the only one. When the bus dropped me off downtown, the snow on the sidewalk was almost up to the parking meters. I walked the rest of the way to work in the street.”

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • De Blasio’s Transportation Record: Progress That Still Leaves Advocates Scratching Their Heads (WSJ)
  • Tim Tompkins and Corey Johnson Tell Errol Louis Why the Times Square Plaza Should Stay (NY1)
  • Mayor Defends Slow Zone Program, Also Defends Canceling Midland Beach Slow Zone (Advance)
  • Hudson Yards Subway to Open September 13 at 1 p.m. (AMNY, News, 2nd Ave Sagas)
  • People Who Detest Rude Cyclists Should Be the Biggest Boosters of Protected Bike Lanes (NY Mag)
  • With Uncertainty Over Development Plan, Willets Point Businesses Want to Know What’s Next (NYT)
  • WSJ Visits the New Plaza on 33rd Street, Finds a Pedestrian Oasis — and Salsa Dancing
  • No, the High Bridge Is Not the High Line — It Has Its Own Charm (NYT)
  • DOT Mistakenly Stripes Incorrect Arrows on Lexington Avenue (DNA)
  • Citi Bike Expansion Now Has the System Over 400 Stations (Citi Bike Blog)
  • Meet the Guy Who Got on a Citi Bike, Headed West, and Never Stopped (Velojoy)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Before Riding the New Queens Blvd, Go Down Memory Lane With Streetfilms

A celebratory bike ride this evening will mark the installation of bike lanes on Queens Boulevard — a safety improvement years in the making.

Take a ride down Queens Boulevard in 2009 with this Streetfilm featuring the “bike pool,” organized to encourage safety in numbers for cyclists on the Boulevard of Death.

Things will look quite different on tonight’s ride. Bike lanes have been striped along 1.3 miles of the Queens Boulevard service road in Woodside, and DOT will begin planning for sections farther east later this year and next year.

For all its risks, Queens Boulevard has always provided the most direct route across the borough. That’s one reason the new bike lane — and future segments — are so important.

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Bratton Won’t Stop Talking About Removing Times Square Plazas

It wasn’t just an offhand remark. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has reiterated his desire to eliminate the public plazas at Times Square and go back to the days when people were spilling off the sidewalk into the path of traffic. This time, he’s insisting that taking away space for people won’t just cure Times Square of topless women and costumed characters — it’ll actually improve traffic safety.

He's the Energizer bunny of car-centric thinking. Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr

He’s the Energizer bunny of windshield perspective. Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr

The year after the plazas were installed, pedestrian injuries fell 40 percent at Times Square, and injuries to car drivers and passengers dropped 63 percent along Broadway in Midtown, according to a 2010 DOT report [PDF]. At the same time, pedestrian volumes in Times Square increased 11 percent after the plaza opened.

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal crunched the numbers and found that total traffic injuries in Times Square have fallen nearly 25 percent in the five years since the redesign compared to the five previous years. Times Square is safer now than it was before the plazas were installed.

Not so, says Bratton.

“That story was really, very inappropriate in its findings. It took a look at Seventh Avenue and Broadway. It didn’t look at the cross streets, it didn’t look at the larger Times Square area,” he said on WGTK-AM 970, reports Politico. “When you look at the larger Times Square area, actually, accidents have gone up. So, all the traffic that has been pushed into the side street… it tells a very different story.”

Whatever stats Bratton is referring to, they clearly don’t account for the huge growth in foot traffic to Times Square since the plazas arrived. Even if injuries haven’t declined — and all indications are that they have — with all the added people walking in Times Square now, the average person is clearly safer from traffic.

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No Charges for Driver Who Killed Jadann Williams, 8, on Flatbush Cul-de-Sac

Eight year-old Jadann Williams, who neighbors say loved sports and wanted to become a basketball star, was playing on a dead-end street just steps from her Flatbush home yesterday afternoon when a driver struck and killed her.

Jadann Williams. Photo via WABC

Jadann Williams. Photo via WABC

Police say Williams was playing near the back end of a double-parked box truck on the east side of E. 22nd Street just north of Ditmas Avenue at 5:10 p.m. yesterday afternoon. The driver of a southbound Toyota SUV struck her when she stepped further out into the narrow two-way street. Williams suffered severe head trauma and died at Kings County Hospital.

“He tried to press the brake, but went 15 to 20 feet before he stopped,” volunteer NYPD clergy liaison Mohammad Nasir, 53, told the Daily News. The News identified the driver as 35-year-old Reginald Auguste and reported that he “lived on the block and was known for having a lead foot.”

“The guy was a known speeder,” a witness told the Daily News. “You know the children are present. You have to drive at a decent speed.”

The driver does not face any charges. The investigation by the Collision Investigation Squad is ongoing.

Neighbors say speeding is a regular problem on the street, despite the regular presence of children playing. “We’ve been asking for a speed bump on this block, and this is what it has come to?” neighbor and family friend Tanisha Brown told WNBC.

While the driver wasn’t arrested, someone else was: Ryan Romans, 25, of Staten Island — who knew Williams, according to the Daily News — punched the driver after the collision. He was tackled to the ground by police and charged with assault.

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What Planet Is DOT Living On?

Last week, Henry Melcher at the Architect’s Newspaper ran a thoughtful piece about the state of NYC DOT’s bike program that got buried almost immediately by comments from Bill Bratton and Mayor de Blasio about the Times Square plazas.

DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo. Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo. Photo: Stephen Miller

Melcher asked why DOT so often passes up the chance to add bike lanes in its street safety projects. He elicited this response from DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo:

Russo explained that while certain road diets may exclude bike lanes, they can be the first step in convincing skeptical communities that precarious streets can become complete streets. “We have to get people from A to C,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean every single street has to have a bike lane initially or when you do a project.” In the Vision Zero era, he continued, redesigning a dangerous intersection might initially get priority over a bike lane. The idea is that once a street is made safer for all users (cyclists included), the DOT can go back to a community board with a more substantial focus on cyclist safety.

At a press conference where Russo announced safety improvements at an Atlantic Avenue intersection earlier this week, Streetsblog’s Stephen Miller questioned this line of thinking. In the exchange, Russo repeatedly asserted that DOT is doing everything it feasibly can to make streets safer for biking given the local politics of community boards and City Council members.

Before I get to the specifics of what was said, it’s important to keep in mind that Ryan Russo has been instrumental to the street design renaissance that began at DOT with the appointment of commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in 2007. He played a leading role in introducing protected bike lanes to New York City streets and in major projects like the Times Square plazas. After Bill de Blasio was elected and put Polly Trottenberg in charge of DOT, advocates saw Russo’s elevation to deputy commissioner for transportation planning and management — a post second only to the commissioner — as an important sign that the agency would retain its capacity to make change happen.

And when it wants to, DOT remains perfectly capable of putting out great street redesigns — the changes this month on Queens Boulevard are proof of that. But there’s a huge gap between the de Blasio administration’s ambitious Vision Zero goals and DOT’s tentative decisions about bike infrastructure. Getting the agency to, for instance, propose a protected bike lane for Amsterdam Avenue — a major void in the bike network with a high injury rate — has been like pulling teeth, despite ample support from local electeds. There’s a political calculus behind these DOT decisions, and as deputy commissioner Russo is more responsible than ever for formulating it.

Read more…

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Louisville Police Officer Strikes Pedestrian During City’s Big Safety Push

Louisville's three-year pedestrian safety campaign is called "Look Alive Louisville." Image: Broken Sidewalk

Louisville’s three-year pedestrian safety campaign is called “Look Alive Louisville.” Image: Broken Sidewalk

Louisville is trying to get a handle on pedestrian safety. An average of 16 pedestrians are killed on the city’s streets annually, and the last few years have been getting worse. The city has received funding from the federal government for a three-year safety campaign dubbed “Look Alive Louisville.”

Branden Klayko at Network blog Broken Sidewalk has been running a series about the initiative. While the objective is admirable, so far the city’s tactics are a mixed bag at best. Law enforcement has been ticketing pedestrians for “jaywalking” and warning them about the dangers of dark clothing. On a more positive note, some of the messaging is aimed at drivers, and Dixie Highway, where 20 percent of collisions involving pedestrians occur, is due for a design “do-over.”

In the midst of the campaign, Klayko reports, an off-duty police office struck a pedestrian — an incident the encapsulates, in some ways, how “Look Alive Louisville” comes up short:

One of five dangerous target intersections being watched by the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) as part of the city’s Look Alive Louisville pedestrian safety campaign is at Fourth Street and Broadway. On Monday night one block west, a pedestrian was struck by an off-duty LMPD officer who failed to yield to the unnamed person crossing Broadway in a crosswalk.

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Today’s Headlines

  • SUV Driver Kills Jadann Williams, 8, on Cul-de-Sac in Flatbush (NYT, News, WCBS)
  • Constantinides, Betty Jean DiBiaso’s Family Urge Traffic Calming Around Astoria Park (Q Gazette)
  • Municipal Art Society Joins Effort to Get de Blasio to Support Times Square Plazas (Politico)
  • Disability Advocates: Wait Time for Accessible Vehicles Is Growing With Rise of Uber (West Side Spirit)
  • Meet the New App on the Block: It’s Like Uber, But for Taxis (Crain’s)
  • DOT, MTA Tour Woodhaven Blvd With Elected Officials Whose Constituents Fear SBS (TL)
  • Alleged Drunk Driver Arrested After Running Red, Crashing Into Police Car in Queens (WNBC)
  • Maria Torres-Springer, de Blasio’s New EDC Chief, Picks New Real Estate Deputy (Crain’s)
  • Anthony Weiner Makes the Case for the State to Give More Power to the City (NYT)
  • Allan Rosen Isn’t Sure Pedestrian Fatalities Are All That Important (Sheepshead Bites)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA