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Foxx: New U.S. DOT Bike/Ped Initiative “Critical to Future of the Country”

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx just announced to the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference in Pittsburgh that the department is “putting together the most comprehensive, forward-leaning initiative U.S. DOT has ever put forward on bike/ped issues.” He said the initiative “is critical to the future of the country.”

Photo: Wikipedia

The top priority, he said, will be closing gaps in walking and biking networks where “even if people are following the rules, the risk of a crash is too high.” He said dangerous street conditions are especially severe in low-income communities, where pedestrians are killed at twice the rate as in high-income areas, often because they lack sidewalks, lighting, and safe places to cross the street. He noted that when he was mayor of Charlotte, a child was hit by a driver because the road he was walking on with his mother had no sidewalk, and overgrown bushes pushed them into the street.

In its announcement today, U.S. DOT noted that pedestrian and cyclist deaths have been rising faster than overall traffic fatalities since 2009.

As Foxx often mentions when discussing street safety issues, he himself has been the victim of a crash. He was hit by a right-turning driver while jogging one morning during his first term as mayor.

As part of the initiative, U.S. DOT just wrapped up bike/ped assessments in Boston, Fort Worth, and Lansing, Michigan. They’ll be leading similar assessments in every state in the country.

Without going into detail, Foxx also said the department plans “to re-examine our policies and practices that without intending to do so have occasionally resulted in road designs that shut out people on foot and on bicycle.” Certainly, there is a wide variety of federal transportation policies and practices that warrant examination on that front.

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PS 41 Parents and Staff Build Momentum for Protected Bike Lane on 7th Ave

What began as a push to extend a neighborhood slow zone has grown into a complete streets request for Seventh Avenue. Image: PS 41 Parents

What began as a push to extend a neighborhood slow zone has grown into a complete streets request for Seventh Avenue. Image: PS 41 Parents [PDF]

Manhattan community boards have already asked DOT to study protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands for Amsterdam, Fifth, and Sixth Avenues. Now a coalition of public school parents, teachers, and administrators is making headway in a campaign to redesign Seventh Avenue with a complete streets focus that protects pedestrians and cyclists.

Last Thursday, CB 2′s transportation committee unanimously passed a resolution asking DOT to study the avenue below 14th Street. CB 4′s transportation committee, covering Chelsea, is likely to take up the request next month.

The push for complete streets on Seventh Avenue began with concerns about intersections on Seventh Avenue South, which runs through the West Village from 11th Street until it becomes Varick Street at the intersection of Clarkson and Carmine. Built along with the IRT subway, the avenue opened in 1919, slashing across the West Village’s diagonal street grid and creating multi-leg intersections that continue to pose a threat to pedestrians.

It’s these intersections that worry a group led by PS 41 principal Kelly Shannon and Heather Campbell, chair of the school’s Parents’ Action Committee. The group had asked DOT to extend the West Village neighborhood slow zone eastward to cover schools between Seventh and Sixth Avenues. After the city rejected that request in July, the parents came back to CB 2′s transportation committee last week, focused on improving safety at multi-leg intersections along Seventh Avenue South.

They presented a complete streets redesign featuring a protected bike lane, pedestrian islands, and a northward extension of the median made out of flexible posts that currently divides traffic on Varick Street approaching the Holland Tunnel [PDF]. The group has also received a letter of support from State Senator Brad Hoylman.

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Four Mayors on Why They’re Building Out Their Cities’ Bike Networks

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Mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, AC Wharton of Memphis, Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh, and Jennifer Selin of Morgantown, WV, kicked off the Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference today.

A growing number of mayors want to make big strides on bike policy, and they need smart advocates to help them do it.

Mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh, Jennifer Selin of Morgantown, and A.C. Wharton of Memphis addressed the opening session at the 2014 Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference, now underway in Pittsburgh. The mayors highlighted their own cities’ efforts to create safer conditions for biking and walking, and shared their thoughts about how their cities have overcome key obstacles and how advocates can make an impact.

In all four cities, mayors called investment in walking and cycling infrastructure a smart long-term policy with numerous community benefits. “It’s healthy, it’s good for the economy and our citizens,” said Philadelphia’s Nutter. They each cited constructive partnerships with advocates, and intensive listening to community concerns, as keys to advancement. Selin of Morgantown said, “I enjoy bicycling, but I can’t put it forth as my own agenda. It has to come from the community.”

Each mayor also highlighted how their bike networks will bridge social divides within their cities, and they pointed out that city mayors, unlike legislators, are obliged to make things work: “We’re the government of last resort,” said Memphis’s Wharton. “We can’t pass our responsibilities down to anyone else.”

Martha Roskowski from PeopleForBikes led off by introducing Isabella, a fictional 12-year-old girl. She urged planners and advocates in the audience to design bikeways that people like Isabella would enjoy — and highlighted how protected bike lanes have multiplied across the country. Yet in city after city, advocates alone can’t build new bike networks. “The single determinant” that best ensures success, Roskowski said, “is a really great mayor.”

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Cyclists and Pedestrians Now Make Up a Huge Share of Flushing Ave Traffic

Flushing Avenue before and after the installation of buffered bike lanes. Photos: NYC DOT

Flushing Avenue before and after the installation of buffered bike lanes. Photos: NYC DOT

Biking has skyrocketed on Flushing Avenue by the Brooklyn Navy Yard since the installation of bike infrastructure in 2010, according to new counts released by the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. The route is slated for more biking and walking upgrades as the city builds out the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway.

Cyclists and pedestrians comprised 25 percent of traffic on Flushing Avenue at Waverly Street on June 20, a Friday, and 41 percent of total traffic on August 16, a Saturday.

Bike traffic has risen with the addition of cycling infrastructure on Flushing Avenue and Williamsburg Street West, where preliminary segments of the greenway have been installed. Before any bike lanes existed on Flushing, DOT counted “more than 300″ cyclists on a summer weekday. A combination of buffered and protected lanes were installed in 2010, and this June, Right of Way counted nearly 3,000 cyclists in 14 hours of closed circuit TV footage of Flushing and Waverly.

From the BGI press release:

On June 22, 2014, 2,966 bikes passed this stretch between 7:00 am and 9:00 pm. During the same period 1,030 pedestrians and runners passed and 12,046 vehicles passed.

In the August weekend count, Right of Way tallied more than 4,000 cyclists and a combined bike/ped mode share of 41 percent.

Next up is a major capital project, in the works for several years, which will bring a mile-long two-way bikeway to Flushing Avenue that will connect the Manhattan Bridge approach, DUMBO, and Farragut Houses to Williamsburg Street West, Kent Avenue, and Williamsburg/Greenpoint. The project will also narrow pedestrian crossing distances by around 20 percent.

“Each time new improvements like this occur and new connections are made we see a jump in greenway user volumes,” said BGI co-founder Milton Puryear in the release. “We anticipate another big jump when the Flushing Avenue capital project is completed.”

The Department of Design and Construction website says work on the project will start this fall, but Puryear told Streetsblog he’s expecting construction to begin in 2015.

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Eyes on the Street: It’s Not Easy, Being the Right Shade of Green

Photo: Julia Day

Does something seem… off? It’s not just you: This is not the standard color DOT uses for bike lanes. Photo: Julia Day

With construction on the massive Third Water Tunnel shifting east along Grand Street, the section of the street through Soho, Little Italy, and Chinatown is getting repaved for the first time in years. Along with the new surface comes restoration of Grand Street’s protected bike lane — this time with a twist: Unlike other NYC bike lanes, this lane is being repainted in a bright, Kermit the Frog shade of green.

DOT, which lays down a more bluish-green color on its bike lanes, directed questions about the hue to the Department of Design and Construction, which is in charge of the Grand Street reconstruction. (DDC hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment.) While this color scheme may be closer to the green on display in some other cities, it appears to be the DDC’s shade, not the new standard in bike lane tinting here in New York.

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

I am green. And it’ll do fine. It’s beautiful! And I think it’s what I want to be. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

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One City, By Bike: Getting It Done, or Why the Bikelash Is Behind Us

This is the final piece in a five-part series by former NYC DOT policy director Jon Orcutt about the de Blasio administration’s opportunities to expand and improve cycling in New York. Read part onepart two, part three, and part four.

New bike lanes geared to Citi Bike expansion, bringing safer and more appealing cycling conditions to more neighborhoods, integrating the Harlem River bridges into the city cycling network: It all sounds great. But is it on the radar of new leadership at NYC DOT? Does the consensus-oriented de Blasio City Hall have the chops to make it happen in New York’s NIMBY-rich environment?

Antonio Reynoso, Brad Lander, and Carlos Menchaca are part of a large and influential bike-friendly cohort on the City Council. Photo: StreetsPAC

To a surprising degree, NYC’s cycling future looks bright regardless of the answers to these questions.

The main reason for that is today’s City Council. The Council slates elected in 2009 and 2013 included strong advocates of safe and bike-friendly streets, and their ranks grew from one election cycle to the next. Most of these Council members represent areas that are natural territory for the next phases of bike network growth. Many of them have already been vocal this year in demanding Citi Bike expansion to their districts.

Equally important, the de Blasio administration wants city agencies to work closely with and meet reasonable requests from local elected officials. If Council members want bike-share and additional bike lanes, City Hall will listen.

And finally, the cycling community today enjoys strong relationships with City Hall and much of the Council. The deft work of Transportation Alternatives led directly to the inclusion of Vision Zero and ambitious cycling goals in Mayor de Blasio’s campaign agenda. StreetsPAC, a new force in the city’s electoral landscape, endorsed and stays in touch with most of the Council’s bike-oriented cohort.

Last month, the Daily News chronicled the cycling habits of Brooklyn Council members Antonio Reynoso, Carlos Menchaca, and Robert Cornegy. In addition, consider the Council members representing areas spotlighted in parts twothree, and four of this series:

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New DOT Report: Protected Bike Lanes Improve Safety for Everyone

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Injuries are down across the board on protected bike lane segments with at least three years of post-implementation crash data. The total number of injuries for cyclists dropped slightly even as the volume of cyclists on these streets increased, leading to big drops in what DOT calls “cyclist risk.” Chart: NYC DOT

In sync with Bicycling Magazine naming New York America’s best biking city, DOT released a report this week full of stats on the safety impact of protected bike lanes. It’s the most robust data the city has released about this type of street design, and the results prove that protected bike lanes make streets safer not just for cyclists, but pedestrians and drivers as well.

Segments of protected bike lanes in green had six years of before-and-after data for the study. Image: DOT

Segments of protected bike lanes in green had at least three years of post-implementation data and were part of this analysis. Image: DOT

For this analysis [PDF], DOT looked at protected bike lanes in Manhattan with at least three years of post-implementation crash data: segments of Broadway and First, Second, Eighth, Ninth, and Columbus Avenues. These streets saw big growth in cycling and major improvements in cyclist safety. The safety benefits extended to all road users, with total traffic injuries dropping 20 percent and pedestrian injuries down 22 percent.

The biggest improvement on these streets is in the diminished likelihood that a cyclist will suffer an injury — a metric DOT calls “cyclist risk.” Because injuries tended to fall or hold steady while cycling increased, most of the streets saw cyclist risk drop by more than a third. On Broadway from 59th Street to 47th Street, for example, bike volumes jumped 108 percent while crashes with injuries fell 18 percent.

The best results were on Ninth Avenue between 23rd and 16th Streets, where cyclists were 65 percent less likely to be hurt after the protected bike lane was installed. Only one of eight segments, Broadway between 23rd and 18th Streets, saw an increase in cyclist risk.

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Hoylman to New York State DMV: Stop Unlawfully Penalizing NYC Cyclists

State Senator Brad Hoylman is asking the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to stop issuing improper fines and adding drivers license points for bicycling tickets.

State Senator Brad Hoylman

State Senator Brad Hoylman

Hoylman also wants DMV to refund money to cyclists who were wrongly fined, and rescind points that should not have been attached to their licenses.

In an August “Street Justice” column, attorney Steve Vaccaro reported that the DMV online ticket payment system does not distinguish between bikes and motor vehicles. This means that cyclists who plead guilty and pay traffic tickets online are billed an $88 surcharge that doesn’t apply to bike violations, and get points on their drivers licenses that don’t legally apply.

The DMV acknowledged in a letter to Vaccaro that the agency was violating the law, and agreed to refund the improper surcharge for two of Vaccaro’s clients, but did not indicate that it would do the same for other cyclists, or change its procedures going forward.

Hoylman, who represents a large swath of Manhattan, is the ranking member of the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee. Hoylman wrote in a September 2 letter to DMV Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala [PDF]:

I am asking that DMV immediately end the practice of unlawfully charging bicyclists surcharge fees and levying points on their driver licenses, and that the agency alter its online payment system and pre-printed traffic summons forms to clearly reflect bicyclists’ exemption from surcharge fees and driver license points.

Hoylman also asked that DMV supply his office with data on how many cyclists were illegally billed and penalized with license points in the last five years, and that DMV “immediately refund any such overpayments and rescind improperly levied points.”

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Tonight: Important Complete Streets Meetings in Manhattan and Queens

Tonight’s a big night for livable streets events, with community board meetings on proposals for Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, and Long Island City. Plus, join Streetsblog at ARTCRANK if you’re looking for some fun.

Key community board meetings tonight are:

  • Manhattan Community Board 2′s transportation committee will consider a resolution requesting that DOT study complete street treatments for Seventh Avenue South, including protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands. The board has already requested similar changes to Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The effort for Seventh Avenue South grew out of a failed attempt to extend the West Village Slow Zone. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
  • On the East Side, Manhattan Community Board 3′s transportation committee will hear presentations on the Move NY fair tolling plan and a proposal from DOT to tweak the Clinton Street approach to the Williamsburg Bridge, which is used heavily by bicyclists coming to and from Grand Street. The Lower East Side Business Improvement District will also be presenting its proposals for streetscape improvements on Orchard Street. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
  • The general meeting of Queens Community Board 2 will hear a presentation from DOT on planned pedestrian safety improvements in Long Island City, covering the Hunter/Crescent Area Triangle. The plan for this area, between Queens Plaza South and 44th Drive, would convert some streets to two-way travel, enlarge pedestrian islands, and add painted curb extensions. DOT already presented an earlier version of the plan to CB 2′s transportation committee in March [PDF]. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Not in the mood for a community board meeting? Join Streetsblog at Brooklyn Brewery tonight for ARTCRANK, a celebration of bike culture featuring hand-made, bike-inspired posters created by New York area artists. Plus, there will be food and drink. Limited edition, signed copied of all posters will be available for sale. Admission is free and Streetsblog will be raffling off accessories from Timbuk2 and Shinola, so come show your support.

In other community board news: On Tuesday evening, Manhattan Community Board 7 voted overwhelmingly in support of the West End Avenue road diet. The plan now includes pedestrian islands at 72nd and 79th Streets, in addition to those already planned at 95th and 97th Streets, according to West Side Rag. Milling and paving on West End Avenue has already begun, and Council Member Helen Rosenthal says the new striping will be complete by the end of October.

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One City, By Bike: Unlocking Uptown Cycling With the Harlem River Bridges

This is part four of a five-part series by former NYC DOT policy director Jon Orcutt about the de Blasio administration’s opportunities to expand and improve cycling in New York. Read part onepart two, and part three.

Photo: Stephen Miller

Biking onto the Madison Avenue Bridge from the Bronx. Bike access to and from Harlem River bridges ranges from inconvenient to very dangerous. Photo: Stephen Miller

Forging good cycling routes across the Harlem River represents a strong organizing principle for a multi-year program to deliver better cycling to Harlem, Washington Heights, and the Bronx.

Just as many of the bike lanes in Brooklyn north of Prospect Park and Manhattan south of 14th Street emerged around the bikeways on the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, the Harlem River bridges present natural focal points for bike network development. A comprehensive set of improvements here would be a major contribution to the “Bill de Blasio bike network” I began to outline in part three of this series. It could also go hand-in-hand with Citi Bike expansion into the Bronx.

While most of the pathways on the Harlem River spans are good or at least decent for cycling, connections from the bridges to Manhattan and Bronx streets run the gamut from inconvenient and unwelcoming to very dangerous. A bike network program for the Harlem River bridges would create safer, more attractive access and egress routes, linking the bridges to ongoing bike network development in the southern Bronx and upper Manhattan. A few examples:

  • The connection from First Avenue to the Willis Avenue Bridge needs traffic calming, longer crossing times and more room for cyclists and pedestrians to protect them from heavy traffic turning from First Avenue onto 125th Street.
  • The Bronx side of the Third Avenue Bridge is characterized by very heavy traffic coming from several directions, with poor design and inadequate signal time for pedestrians and cyclists getting to or from the path. The bridge itself still features “cyclist dismount” signs. Painted bike lanes on Third Avenue in the Bronx are severely worn and require cyclists to negotiate extremely intimidating traffic.

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