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Eyes on the Street: New Bike Lanes Around Union Square

DOT crews installing a new protected bike lane on 4th Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets earlier this week. Photo: NYC DOT

DOT crews installing a new protected bike lane on Fourth Avenue between 12th and 13th streets earlier this week. Photo: NYC DOT

DOT began installing new bike lanes leading to and around Union Square this week.

The project — which will eventually include a two-way protected lane around the park’s eastern and northern edges — is not nearly complete, but fresh paint along Fourth Avenue between 12th and 15th heralds bigger changes on the way.

In addition to the new protected lanes, the project adds painted lanes on 15th Street between First Avenue and Union Square East, on 16th Street between Stuyvesant Square and Union Square East, and on 17th Street between Union Square West and Sixth Avenue.

Riding on Fourth Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets. Photo: David Meyer

Fourth Avenue between 14th and 15th streets. Photo: David Meyer

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Streetsblog USA
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Adieu, Cars: Paris Riverfront to Be Permanently Returned to the People

A rendering of the Right Bank of the Seine -- sans highway. Rendering: Luxigon

A rendering of the Right Bank of the Seine — sans highway. Credit: Luxigon

After years of experimentation, the Paris City Council this week committed to the permanent conversion of two miles of the Georges Pompidou expressway along the River Seine into a waterfront park.

The 1960s expressway carried two lanes of traffic and about 43,000 vehicles a day along the Right Bank of the river. But beginning in 2011, the highway had been converted for part of the summer each year to a beach and waterfront promenade. The “Paris-Plages,” as it was called, was popular with tourists and locals as well, seeing as many as four million visitors annually.

The Georges Pompidou expressway carried about 43,000 vehicles daily. Photo: Preservation Institute

The Georges Pompidou expressway carried about 43,000 vehicles daily. Photo: Preservation Institute

During the past few months, Mayor Anne Hidalgo piloted a temporary closure to test conditions for permanently opening the space to pedestrians and cyclists.

Although there was some outcry from motorists, they were overshadowed by supporters of the conversion. According to the UK Independent, 55 percent of Parisians supported the conversion plan. Support for the project reflects Paris’ progress in shifting away from motor vehicles. According to Slate‘s Henry Grabar, 60 percent of Parisians do not own cars. That’s up from 40 percent just 15 years ago.

The conversion to a park will cost about $50 million, an investment that is expected to benefit the city’s tourism-based economy.

The park plan is part of a wider set of efforts by Mayor Hidalgo aimed at reducing air pollution and dependence on cars. She has also presided over the city’s first car-free days and intends to eventually limit the famous Champs-Élysées to electric vehicles only. Her predecessor, Bertrand Delanoë was the original proponent of converting the highway into a park, and was responsible for beginning the “Paris-Plages.”

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How to Keep Buses Moving on the 14th Street PeopleWay

Passing lanes, spread out stops, off-board fare collection, and at-level boarding could all help keep buses moving on 14th Street. Image: BRT Planning International

This rendering of a potential eastbound BRT stop at 14th Street and Irving Plaza includes a lane for buses to pass each other. Image: BRT Planning International

As the city and MTA consider how to move thousands of L train passengers across Manhattan when the subway line shuts down for Sandy-related repairs, momentum is growing for a 14th Street “PeopleWay” free of private motor vehicles. But with 10,000 passengers during the peak hour in the peak direction, prohibiting cars alone won’t prevent 14th Street from becoming a bus parking lot, according to Annie Weinstock and Walter Hook at BRT Planning International.

Weinstock and Hook say bus stop design will be key to keeping buses moving.  The above image shows their proposed design for a station at 14th Street and Irving Plaza, which they anticipate will be the busiest westbound stop on the corridor. The stop has space for four buses, with a passing lane so buses that have completed their stops don’t get stuck behind those that are still boarding. To make space for passing lanes, the corresponding eastbound stop would be on another block.

A bus with no passengers takes about 18 seconds to pull up to a stop and open and close its doors. With about 85 buses an hour needed to meet the demand created by the L train closure, according to Weinstock and Hook, bus stops will be occupied 25 minutes out of the hour, leading to congestion along the corridor.

Even with passing lanes and effective stop placement, Weinstock and Hook’s analysis shows that buses would be delayed at almost every major intersection. To further improve bus speeds, they suggest at-level boarding and off-board fare collection, ideally with pre-paid fare zones rather than ticket inspectors.

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Want Better Bus Service? Share Your “Woes on the Bus” With NYC Electeds

NYC's buses are the slowest in the nation. Image: TransitCenter

NYC’s buses are the slowest in the nation. Image: TransitCenter

If you’ve ever taken a New York City bus, you probably have a horror story. Maybe you were late to school thanks to a double-parked motorist idling in the bus lane, or missed an appointment after you waited 20 minutes for a bus to show up, then three arrived all at the same time, already packed with riders. Now you can tell your elected representatives to fix these problems via the Riders Alliance’s “Woes on the Bus” campaign.

With an average speed of 7.4 miles per hour, NYC’s buses are the slowest in the nation. The good news is that there are lots of proven ideas to turn around the system. A coalition of transit advocates is calling for “tap and go” fare collection and all-door boarding, more dedicated bus lanes, improved dispatching and scheduling practices, and the redesign of the city’s bus network, which hasn’t changed much since the streetcar era.

To win those improvements, advocates have to convince elected officials to make them happen, but a lot of New York pols don’t have bus horror stories, because they don’t ride the bus. If they did, they wouldn’t be promoting Wi-Fi and charging stations as “21st century transportation” or attempting to thwart dedicated bus lanes.

As part of the campaign to turn around NYC bus service, the Riders Alliance wants to hear your “Woes on the Bus” horror stories, which will help make the case for change to elected officials.

You can submit your stories on the Riders Alliance website, and they’ll be compiled and shared with elected officials.

In the meantime, stay tuned next Thursday, when the City Council transportation committee will hold an important oversight hearing on NYC bus service.

Streetsblog.net
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Why Are American Traffic Fatalities Rising So Quickly?

What's causing the steep rise in traffic fatalities? Graph: State Smart Transportation Initiative

What’s causing the steep rise in traffic fatalities? Graph: State Smart Transportation Initiative

Summer is barely over but this much is already clear: Traffic safety on American streets is taking a big step backward in 2016.

During the first five months of the year, traffic deaths rose 9 percent over 2015 levels, reports Bill Holloway at the State Smart Transportation Campaign. It’s even worse if you compare to 2014 — traffic deaths have increased a staggering 17 percent since then.

One factor is that people are driving more as gas prices plunge and the economy grows. But the increase in mileage isn’t large enough to fully explain the mounting death toll. And in a disturbing related trend, pedestrian and cycling deaths are rising faster than overall traffic fatalities.

What is going on? Holloway searches for potential explanations:

Although there is no good data available on bicycle and pedestrian miles traveled, the number of bike and pedestrian commuters estimated in the American Community Survey shows the rough magnitude of changes in bike and pedestrian activity in recent years. Between 2010 and 2015 the number of bicycle commuters in the U.S. increased by 30 percent, climbing from 685,000 to 890,000; while the number of people walking to and from work increased by 8 percent, from 3,834,000 in 2010 to 4,153,000 in 2015 — a roughly 11.5 percent gain in total non-motorized commuters. However, during this same period, while total annual VMT climbed by only 4.9 percent, the number of fatal crashes involving bikers and walkers climbed by 27 percent, according to SSTI’s analysis of FARS data.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Cuomo Pledges New Penn Station by 2020 (PoliticoNYT, Crain’s, GothamistAMNY)
  • De Blasio Plan to Cut Carbon Emissions Includes Transit, Biking, Walking, EV Charging Stations (Politico)
  • Ydanis Bill Would Require DOT to Rethink NYC’s Most Cramped Sidewalks (AMNY)
  • ATU Wants to Unionize Uber and Lyft Drivers (Crain’s, News)
  • Paul Vallone, Principals Get DOT to Install Slow Zone Where Flushing Driver Hit Kids (QNS)
  • DOT to Paint Bike Lanes in Ridgewood and Middle Village (Ridgewood Times)
  • Suffolk Prosecutors Obtain EDR Data to Help Convict Hit-and-Run Killer (AP)
  • Suspect Fleeing Cops Drives Toward Officer on Bed-Stuy Sidewalk, Is Shot (NYT, Post)
  • SUV Driver Crashes Into MTA Bus in Williamsburg, Critically Injuring 1 (DNANews, NY1)
  • Felony Charge for Staten Island DMV Employee Who Rang Motorist for a Date (Post)
  • Kabak Explains Why the Second Avenue Subway Might Not Be Ready in December (2AS)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Private Trash Haulers Pollute Low-Income NYC Neighborhoods of Color

The air quality in low-income communities of color in the South Bronx and North Brooklyn is severely impacted by the city's private trash carters. Image: Transform Don't Trash NYC

The air quality in low-income communities of color in the South Bronx and North Brooklyn is severely impacted by the city’s private trash carters. Image: Transform Don’t Trash NYC

With the city preparing reforms for the commercial waste carting industry, the Transform Don’t Trash NYC Coalition of labor and environmental justice groups released a report today calling attention to how private trash trucks disproportionately harm air quality in a few specific low-income communities of color [PDF].

The report, “Clearing the Air,” shows the high concentration of asthma-inducing pollutants at truck-heavy areas in the South Bronx and north and southwest Brooklyn, as well as inside the trucks themselves. To combat those dangerous emissions, the coalition is calling on the city to not only pursue “zone-based” commercial waste collection, but to further incentivize the use of clean-fuel technologies, barges, and trains.

More than 250 private carting companies handle commercial waste across the city (residential and government waste is collected by DSNY). But the city’s current commercial waste policies allow private carting companies to contract with businesses anywhere in the city, resulting in vast inefficiencies.

Last month, the city announced plans to shift the commercial waste collection to a zone-based system over the next six years. A report from the city’s Department of Sanitation and Business Integrity Commission released concurrently with the announcement found that zone-based collection would cut private carriers’ total annual miles travelled by 49 to 69 percent, or between 11.27 and 15.64 million miles per year.

The DSNY-BIC report also showed an overwhelming concentration of truck mileage in the areas studied by Transform Don’t Trash NYC.

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Streetsblog USA
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Seattle City Council Approves 20 MPH Speed Limit on Residential Streets

Residential streets in Seattle will have 20 mile per hour speed limits. Graphic: City of Seattle

Residential streets in Seattle will have 20 mile per hour speed limits. Graphic: City of Seattle

20 is plenty for Seattle.

The City Council voted unanimously yesterday to lower speed limits on residential streets to 20 miles per hour.

On all other streets, the default speed limit will be 25 mph, though speed limits may vary on major roadways.

The change is part of the city’s Vision Zero effort, aimed at eliminating traffic fatalities by 2030. Every year about 20 people are killed and 150 are injured in traffic crashes in Seattle. About 50 percent of victims in fatal crashes are people walking and biking.

Gordon Padelford, policy director with Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, which led the push for the legislation, said he’s thrilled with City Council’s decision.

“We’re already working on the city’s annual budget process to find additional funding for traffic-calming along arterials that will help implement the policy,” he said.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is asking for $1 million for “Vision Zero spot improvements” — traffic-calming elements in key locations.

The group is also seeking $2 million for a road diet on Rainier Avenue South — a particularly dangerous corridor.

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Bronx Electeds Call for “Complete” Concourse for Buses, Bikes, and People

Council Member Andrew Cohen speaks in favor of the "Complete the Concourse" in front of the Bronx County Courthouse. Photo: David Meyer

Council Member Andrew Cohen speaks in favor of making the Grand Concourse a complete street. Photo: David Meyer

With momentum building for a complete street and fully-protected bikeway along the Grand Concourse, Council Member Andrew Cohen joined Bronx activists on the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse this morning to call on the city to redesign the street thoroughly and expeditiously.

“The entire length of the Concourse… [represents] a design from the 1950s — all about moving cars as quickly as possible without regard for pedestrian safety.” Cohen said. “We really need to make sure that we’re getting the resources, our fair share of Vision Zero improvements to make this Concourse everything it has been in the past and everything it will be in the future.”

More than 1,000 people have been injured and 13 have been killed on the Concourse in the last four years, according to city data. In light of the staggering losses, Transportation Alternatives has called on the city to bring protected bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, and safer sidewalks and crosswalks to the entire length of the Grand Concourse. So far, more than 3,000 people have signed on to TA’s “Complete the Concourse” campaign.

The effort also has the support of the Bronx Health REACH Coalition, which aims to combat the high rates of diabetes and heart disease in the southwest Bronx. “We have one of the highest rates of obesity in the Bronx, and having a safe Concourse means people will want to get out, they’ll be able to ride their bikes and they’ll feel much safer,” said Amril Hamer, who lives near the Concourse at 165th Street and Gerard Avenue.

Hamer, who bikes in the neighborhood, said the Grand Concourse’s current un-protected bike lanes leave much to be desired. “They don’t have that bike lane infrastructure in place, so we’re competing with the double-parked cars, somebody maybe opening a car door on you or something like that, so it’s not safe at all,” she said.

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Streetsblog.net
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City Streets in State Officials’ Hands Can Be a Recipe for Disaster

Cyclists rally for a safer Carson Street in Pittsburgh. Photo: Bike PGH

People rally for a safer Carson Street in Pittsburgh. Photo: Bike PGH

Cities shouldn’t have to fight with state departments of transportation to ensure streets are safe for their residents. But too often that’s exactly the case, and when cities lose, the result can be deadly.

A tragic story from Pittsburgh illustrates the problem. Just a week after Pennsylvania DOT debuted a car-centric redesign of iconic Carson Street, a motorist struck and killed cyclist Dennis Flanagan there. More than 1,200 people have now signed a petition demanding a safer design. Here’s an excerpt from a letter from Bike PGH Executive Director Scott Bricker to PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards:

West Carson was closed for approximately two years, and while inconvenient for many, it did not create the predicted traffic nightmare associated with a typical blocked arterial. In the lead up to the closure and during construction, Mayor Bill Peduto, Councilwoman Kail-Smith, Senator Wayne Fontana, Representative Dan Deasy, community leaders, residents, City of Pittsburgh Departments of City Planning and Public Works, and Bike Pittsburgh unsuccessfully lobbied PennDOT District-11 to create a more inclusive design that would connect these communities via bike to other bicycle facilities only a stone’s throw away, namely the Station Square Trail and the Montour Trail to the Pittsburgh International Airport. In fact, the City of Pittsburgh pitched PennDOT District-11 a conceptual design eliminating the needless turning lane for most of the distance and using the remaining width for bike lanes, only to be silently rebuffed. Instead, PennDOT’s engineers decided to go against these wishes and charge ahead with a design that only exacerbates the speeding problem, and which gave no dedicated safe space for people who ride bikes to get around.

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