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One City, By Bike: Huge Opportunities for NYC Cycling in the de Blasio Era

Jon Orcutt was NYC DOT’s policy director from 2007 to 2014. He developed DOT’s post-PlaNYC strategic plan, Sustainable Streets, oversaw creation of the Citi Bike program, and produced the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero Action Plan. In this five-part series, he looks at today’s opportunities to build on the breakthroughs in NYC cycling made during the Bloomberg administration.

Part 1 – What’s Next for New York City Cycling Policy?

Bike transportation in New York City unquestionably saw historic progress during the second half of the Bloomberg administration. For the first time, city government treated cycling as a serious mode of transportation and continually achieved new milestones: a bigger bike network, safer street designs, higher cycling levels, and a network of bike-share stations that received massive usage. NYC DOT, City Hall, and city cyclists endured and moved past the “bikelash.” But even after smashing so many barriers, cycling in New York is still relatively underdeveloped, with gigantic opportunities for growth ahead.

There are still many gaps in the bike network, like this harrowing connection from the Willis Avenue Bridge on 135th Street in the Bronx, where de Blasio administration can make tremendous progress by adding new infrastructure.

There are still many gaps in the bike network, like this harrowing connection from the Willis Avenue Bridge on 135th Street in the Bronx, where the de Blasio administration can make tremendous progress by adding new infrastructure.

2014 has not been without progress: This year, new bike networks began to take shape in Long Island City and East New York. New lanes on Hudson and Lafayette Streets added to Manhattan’s set of protected bikeways. A key Queens-Brooklyn bottleneck will be uncorked with the pending Pulaski Bridge dedicated bike lane. And NYC DOT has spent the year to date renegotiating the Citi Bike operating agreement to give the system stronger management and the resources needed for technological improvement and expansion.

But it’s important to recognize that what we’re seeing on the streets in 2014 are projects developed under the Bloomberg administration and Janette Sadik-Khan’s leadership at NYC DOT. DOT’s annual street improvement program takes shape during the fall and winter: Implementation begins in late winter and spring when weather becomes warm enough to resurface and repaint city streets. The 2015 program will be the first shaped by Mayor de Blasio’s administration and new DOT leadership. Will it have a strong bike lane component, and where are the additions to the bike network likely to be?

De Blasio’s campaign material promised significant progress, calling cycling a mainstream means of travel in the city. He stated that his administration would achieve a 6 percent bike mode share by 2020 by expanding bike lanes and bringing bike-share to the boroughs. Putting aside the problem of measuring mode share, the mayor was right to recognize that there are huge opportunities to take cycling in New York to new levels — the city can still achieve manifold increases over cycling’s role in NYC transportation in 2014.

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Chin Calls for Safety Fixes After Driver Injures Three Women on South Street

South Street at Rutgers Slip, before a traffic signal and crosswalks were installed last year. Photo: Google Maps

A driver seriously injured three women in the crosswalk at South Street at Rutgers Slip in Manhattan yesterday, and one of the victims is facing life-threatening injuries. In response, Council Member Margaret Chin called on DOT to study pedestrian safety along this stretch of South Street, where many residents of Chinatown and the Lower East Side cross beneath the FDR Drive to access the East River Esplanade.

DOT says it is conducting a safety review of the intersection, where it installed a traffic light and crosswalks last year. Meanwhile, NYPD says the women were crossing against the signal and that it does not suspect “any criminality” by the driver.

Yesterday at around 6:50 a.m., the three women were in the crosswalk at Rutgers Slip when a 34-year-old woman driving a Volvo northbound on South Street struck them. Two of the victims, age 60 and 67, were seriously injured, while a third, whom NYPD said is in her 70s, sustained life-threatening injuries. All three were taken to Bellevue Hospital.

It’s not known if the driver was distracted when she struck the three women in the road. She is not facing any charges and did not receive a summons for any traffic violations. The Collision Investigation Squad is investigating. ”It appeared the driver had the light,” NYPD’s press office said today. “Nothing here to indicate any criminality.”

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The Weekly Carnage

The Weekly Carnage is a Friday round-up of motor vehicle violence across the five boroughs. For more on the origins and purpose of this column, please read About the Weekly Carnage.

The intersection of Park Avenue and 108th Street, where unlicensed driver Nojeem Odunfa killed cyclist Jerrison Garcia. Image: Google Maps

Fatal Crashes (5 Killed Since Aug. 15; 127 This Year*)

  • Midtown: 62-Year-Old Man Struck by SUV Driver While Crossing Avenue P (DNA)
  • East Harlem: Jerrison Garcia, 25, Struck on Bicycle at Park Avenue and E. 108th Street (Streetsblog)
  • Maspeth: Karoll Grzegorczyk, 32, Struck by Hit-and-Run Driver (NewsNY1)
  • Spuyten Duyvil: 24-Year-Old Motorcyclist Crashes on the Major Deegan Expressway (News)
  • Crown Heights: Michelle Migmott, 32, Killed in Backseat of Car in Drunk Driving Crash on Eastern Parkway (NewsAMNY)**

Injuries, Arrests, and Property Damage

  • Morningside Heights: Driver Critically Injures Pedestrian Crossing Amsterdam (DNA)
  • Mott Haven: Woman Critical After Hit-and-Run Driver Intentionally Rams Her; Driver Charged With Attempted Murder (DNA 1, 2, NewsWCBSWNBC)
  • Brighton Beach: Cyclist Critically Injured on Ocean Parkway (Bklyn Daily)
  • Corona: Parks Dept. Sanitation Truck Driver Strikes Cyclist and Her Dog (DNAFDNY)
  • LES: Driver Injures Three Women in Their 60s, One Critically; No Charges (DNA)
  • Harlem: Drunk Driver Sends Car Carrying Newborn Baby Onto Sidewalk; Five Injured (WNBC, News)**
  • Ozone Park: SUV Driver Jumps Curb, Smashing Into Pizzeria Storefront (Forum)
  • Springfield Gardens: Driver Crashes Into Post on Rockaway Turnpike; CIS Requested (@NYScanner)
  • Queensboro Bridge: Taxi Bursts Into Flames on Upper Level of Bridge (DNA)
  • St. George: Tractor-Trailer Jackknifes, Crashes Into Parked Car (Advance)
  • Travis-Chelsea: Drunk Driver’s Arrest for Sideswiping Vehicle Was Second DWI in a Month (Advance)

* Based on latest available reports
** Incident in which a vehicle left the roadway

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Eyes on the Street: Our Long PPW Bike Lane Nightmare Is Almost Over

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Repaved sections of Prospect Park West are being striped, with orange barrels marking the bike lane in the meantime. Until now, the lane had been erased, pushing northbound cyclists onto the sidewalk or into head-on traffic. Photo: Heather Boyer/Twitter

Lesson learned? Last week, DOT wiped away the Prospect Park West bike lane for street repaving without installing any temporary cones to preserve the bike route during construction. Drivers parked at the curb, pushing northbound cyclists into oncoming traffic or onto the sidewalk. Now, DOT has demarcated the bike lane with orange cones as it re-stripes the road.

There can be a gap of at least a month between repaving and restriping lanes and markings, including bike lanes. The wait on PPW should be shorter. Word on the street is that DOT expedited the job in response to complaints.

As of today, some but not all of the striping is back on the avenue’s northern blocks, with orange cones to the south. The cones direct drivers to the correct lane for parking and clear the bike lane to cyclists — something DOT should have done from the start.

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In Austin, Posts and Paint Bring a New Bike Bridge From Good to Great

All photos: Nathan Wilkes

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Here are a few images from Austin bikeway engineer Nathan Wilkes that show how a protected lane can cheaply add a lot of value to a larger project.

The bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Little Walnut Creek, visible in the top right background above, officially opened Monday after 17 years of planning. It created a direct link between Hart Elementary School and the residential neighborhood to the north — but the link also required pedaling on a wide street that many people would see as unsuitable for children.

Furness Drive before the new bike lanes. Image: Google Street View

The new bidirectional protected bike lane, Wilkes wrote in an email, “is on both sides of the bridge and makes seamless transitions between on and off-street infrastructure.” The 1.1-mile biking improvement cost $20,000, compared to $1.2 million for the bridge itself.

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The Small Indiana City That’s Embracing Livable Streets

Kokomo, Indiana, has put a lot of money and energy into developing streetscape features like bumpouts, Aaron Renn reports. Photo: Urbanophile

Kokomo, Indiana, has put resources and energy into developing streetscape features to calm traffic and provide more space for walking and biking, Aaron Renn reports. Photo: Urbanophile

With a population of about 60,000 and a formerly industrial economy, Kokomo, Indiana, is not the type of city that recent economic trends have favored.

But Aaron Renn at the Urbanophile says the city has embraced some tenets of urbanism as an economic and quality-of-life strategy, thanks in large part to the leadership of Mayor Greg Goodnight. When Renn visited recently, he was impressed with the new downtown bike trail and pedestrian infrastructure. And thanks to careful budgeting and prioritization, the city is making these improvements without taking on any debt. Renn says:

They’ve deconverted every one way street downtown back to two way, removed every stop light and parking meter in the core of downtown, are building a mixed-use downtown parking garage with a new YMCA across the street, have a pretty extensive program of pedestrian friendly street treatments like bumpouts, as well as landscaping and beautification, a new baseball stadium under construction, a few apartment developments in the works, and even a more urban feel to its public housing.

I think they’ve done a number of good things, and I especially appreciate the attention to detail that went into them. You clearly get the feel of them walking downtown streets. I would say the commercial and residential development lags the infrastructure, however. That’s to be expected. They do have an Irish Pub, a coffee shop, a few restaurants, and other assorted downtown type of businesses. This will be an area to watch as some of these investments mature.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Man Who Used Car As Weapon in Bronx Hit-and-Run Faces Attempted Murder Charges (DNA)
  • Driver Injures Three Women, One Critically, Beneath FDR Downtown (GothamistDNA)
  • Driver Smashes Jeep Into Ozone Park Pizzeria (Forum)
  • State, Brookfield Point Fingers Over Downtown Greenway Closure Begun in 2007 (Downtown Express)
  • Without Work Rule Reform, LIRR Union Deal Is Nothing to Celebrate (PlaNYourCity)
  • Ticketed for Driving in the Bus Lane Multiple Times? It’s OK: City Will Cancel All But One (Bklyn Paper)
  • Citi Bike Working With Cornell Data Scientist to Improve Rebalancing (CityLab)
  • Precinct Begins Towing Illegally-Parked Big Rigs in Marine Park and Mill Basin (Bklyn Daily)
  • City Begins Work to Replace Walkway Linking Hamilton Beach With Train Station (Forum)
  • Sheepshead Bay Leaders Want TLC to Ticket Illegally-Parked Cabbies at Subway Station (Bklyn Daily)
  • “He Was Tired Of Walking, So He Stole a Car” (Advance)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Planning For Growth and Safer Streets at Bronx Metro-North Stations

Once the MTA’s East Side Access project is finally complete, a few additional upgrades will allow Metro-North’s New Haven Line trains to stop at new stations in the East Bronx and cross the Hell Gate Bridge before heading to Penn Station. The Bronx is also expected to grow faster than any other borough in the coming years. With both factors in mind, the Department of City Planning has released a new report on the potential for transit-oriented development at Metro-North stations in the Bronx.

The study examined the development opportunities and street safety needs aroudn eight existing and proposed Metro-North stations. Image: DCP

The study examined development opportunities and street safety needs around eight existing and proposed Metro-North stations. Image: DCP

The study examines not only potential development but also how to improve access to train stations in neighborhoods divided by highways, rail lines, hills, and superblocks.

The plan focuses on eight Metro-North stations: University Heights and Morris Heights on the Hudson Line; Williams Bridge, Fordham, Tremont, and Melrose on the Harlem Line; and Morris Park and Parkchester/Van Nest on the proposed Hell Gate Line.

“The reason we chose these stations is because they had the greatest capacity for growth,” DCP project manager Shawn Brede told the City Planning Commission during a presentation last week. The borough is projected to have the fastest growth rate in the city, with nearly 200,000 additional residents by 2040, a 14 percent increase over today.

DCP hopes to focus much of that growth in transit-accessible areas, and shifts already underway in the borough’s commuting patterns show why Metro-North stations could be especially important. “The Bronx has the largest reverse commute [population] in the nation, and likely the fastest-growing,” said Carol Samol, director of DCP’s Bronx office. Nearly one in ten working Bronx residents commutes north of the city, according to Census data cited by DCP, and the highest concentration of jobs is along the New Haven Line.

While many Bronxites are commuting to suburban jobs, making it from Metro-North to work often isn’t easy. “When people are going up to these job centers, they get off the train and they can’t make that last mile,” Brede said at last week’s presentation. Planners in Westchester and Connecticut are working on projects funded by the same federal planning grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to address these and other issues.

In addition to reverse commutes, the report looks at growing job centers within the Bronx that lack sufficient transit. The area around the proposed Metro-North station at Morris Park is a good example. “It doesn’t have a lot of transit access right now. The majority of people coming in are typically driving to this area,” Brede said.

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India’s Health Minister Wants Protected Bike Lanes Nationwide

There’s encouraging news out of India, where cities expect to add hundreds of millions of residents in the next few decades but are already choking on traffic congestion and auto exhaust.

The Indian government appears to be embracing bicycling. Photo: Wikipedia

A senior Indian government official wants the nation to embrace bicycling. Photo: Wikipedia

Dr. Harsh Vardhan was appointed to lead India’s health ministry by newly elected prime minister Narendra Modi this May, and he wants to promote bicycling as a way to improve public health and air quality while adding more transportation options, especially for low-income people.

According to the Indian news outlet First Post, Vardhan would like to see a nationwide effort to install protected bike lanes:

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said that he will approach the Surface Transport and Urban Development Ministries for the development of cycle tracks alongside roads to make cycling a “huge movement” in the country.

“I will personally write to Surface Transport and Urban Development Ministries to do whatever they can in this initiative and also ask them to develop cycle tracks,” Vardhan said as he released a study report titled “Peddling towards a Greener India: A Report on Promoting Cycling in the Country”, prepared by the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The report also recommended that India offer residents micro-loans to purchase bikes, as well as tax incentives to promote bicycling.

The health problems that auto emissions cause are now grave enough to threaten India’s economy, as the number of private vehicles has tripled to 130 million since 2003.

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City Begins to Reclaim Space for Pedestrians at Fordham Plaza

The multi-year project to improve Fordham Plaza in the Bronx — a critical transit hub — entered its latest phase yesterday with the groundbreaking for a bigger and better public space for pedestrians.

Each day, more than 80,000 pedestrians flow through Fordham Plaza, the crossroads of a dozen bus lines (including two Select Bus Service routes) and the fourth-busiest station in the Metro-North system. The adjacent intersection of Fordham Road and Webster Avenue ranked in 2010 as the city’s third most dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.

The plan realigns bus stops and increases pedestrian space by 25 percent. Image: DDC [PDF]

The plan realigns bus stops and increases pedestrian space by 25 percent. Image: DDC [PDF]

Once complete in fall 2015, the project will increase pedestrian space by more than a quarter and reduce the amount of asphalt by almost 40 percent. While yesterday marked the beginning of a new phase of construction, the event was really one of many milestones along the way to transforming the plaza.

A conceptual plan for the space was prepared for EDC by WXY Architecture + Urban Design in 2010. Later that year, DOT received a $10 million TIGER grant from the federal government, and the Department of Design and Construction began work soon after. The area has been in a near-permanent state of construction ever since as the project proceeds through various phases.

Earlier work focused on reconstructing nearby roadways, including the addition of new curb extensions. The latest round of improvements turns inward, to rebuild the plaza itself [PDF].

The plaza, constructed in the mid-1990s, is a rectangle between Fordham Road and East 189th Street, with Third Avenue running along its east side. Currently, bus stops and bus parking line Third Avenue, with an “L”-shaped brick driveway running through the plaza. Bus shelters, retail kiosks, and merchants’ tents sit in the middle of the plaza.

In the new design, buses will use a shorter driveway closer to Third Avenue, opening up a continuous pedestrian space in the middle of the rectangle that’s better connected to retail along the plaza’s western edge. The plan adds vegetation by installing two large concrete planters and ten smaller steel planters with attached wooden seating.

The new plaza will also include wayfinding signs, three kiosks for vendors, and a larger café structure with a canopy. This structure will replace the existing retail building at the north end of the plaza.

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