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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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3 Ways NYC Can Avoid Future Snow Removal Travesties for Peds and Cyclists

grand_snow

The Grand Street bike lane. Photo: Ben Fried

Here we are a whole work week after Winter Storm Jonas dumped two feet of snow on New York, and the streets are still not passable for a lot of New Yorkers who get around without driving.

In the beginning of the week, the biggest travesties were the snow barriers at street corners and the uncleared bus stops that compelled people to wait in the street. Today, the worst accumulation seems to be in the city’s protected bike lanes and greenways.

These are supposed to be transportation arteries that give people a refuge from biking next to motorized traffic, but a lot of them are still barricaded by snow and next to useless. Without some action from the Department of Sanitation, we’ll be lucky if the rain melts the stuff away and the city loses no more than a week of useful bikeway time.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s always going to be some level of inconvenience after a big NYC snowstorm, but there’s no reason it should be this wretched or last this long.

In his assessment of the post-Jonas streetscape, Justin Davidson at New York Mag pointed to Montreal as a city that’s mastered the science of snow clearance. City Hall should send a fact-finding crew across the border and bring back lessons for the next big storm.

Not that we need to venture far afield to figure out what needs to improve. Here are three suggestions that would make a big difference for walking, biking, and riding the bus after a snowstorm. This is by no means a comprehensive list — it’s just the obvious stuff.

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Levine to CB 7: Support the Amsterdam Avenue Protected Bike Lane

Next Tuesday, Community Board 7 is slated to vote on the Amsterdam Avenue protected bike lane, and Council Member Mark Levine wants to be crystal clear: The street needs a redesign that includes a protected bike lane.

In a letter sent to CB 7 members today, Levine makes the case that by shortening crossing distances, reducing speeding, and adding a protected bike lane, DOT’s plan will bring Amsterdam Avenue “to a neighborhood scale,” making it safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicle occupants.

Council Member Mark Levine. Photo: William Alatriste

Council Member Mark Levine. Photo: William Alatriste

“The current design fails to meet the needs of the community and all users of this critical corridor, and poses a persistent threat to the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike,” Levine writes.

Levine represents the northern part of the project area, which goes from 72nd Street to 110th Street. Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who represents the rest of the project area, is also on the record supporting a protected bike lane for Amsterdam.

Earlier this month, the CB 7 transportation committee failed to endorse a resolution supporting DOT’s proposal, splitting 4-4. The two committee chairs, Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert, have consistently opposed street redesign efforts in the neighborhood since the 1990s.

The protected bike lane plan enjoys wide support among Upper West Side residents and business owners. Transportation Alternatives’ People First on Amsterdam Avenue campaign has collected 3,500 signatures and endorsement letters from more than 200 business along the corridor.

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DOT Plans East-West Bike Connections in Crown Heights

DOT wants to install dedicated bike lanes on St. Johns Place and Sterling Place in Crown Heights. Image: DOT

DOT wants to install painted bike lanes on St. Johns Place and Sterling Place in Crown Heights [PDF]. Image: DOT

DOT presented plans for east-west bike lanes in Prospect Heights and Crown Heights to the Brooklyn CB 8 transportation committee earlier this week [PDF].

The proposal calls for painted lanes on St. Johns Place from Plaza Street East to Rogers Avenue and from New York Avenue to Ralph Avenue, with sharrows on the narrow one-way strip in between. St. Johns fluctuates between two-way and one-way traffic flow, and will have eastbound-only bike markings between Washington Avenue and Kingston Avenue. Signage will route westbound cyclists to Sterling Place one block north, where DOT plans to paint a lane from Kingston to Vanderbilt Avenue.

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There are currently no markings to differentiate space on Sterling Place. Image: DOT

Speeding is a problem on these side streets, with 47 percent of drivers on the corridor traveling over the speed limit, according to DOT. Within the project limits, 47 people were severely injured in the five years from 2010 through 2014. On Sterling, which is 34 feet wide, there is currently no striping to differentiate lanes.

DOT also wants to prevent conflicts between turning drivers and pedestrians at the intersection of St. Johns and Utica Avenue, where seven pedestrians were severely injured between 2010 and 2014. Left turns from northbound Utica would be banned, while left turn lanes would be installed in both directions on St. Johns.

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The Transformation of Queens Boulevard, Block By Block

For many years, New York City’s Queens Boulevard was known as the “Boulevard of Death.” The street cuts through the heart of the Queens, expanding at some points to a chaotic 12 to 16 lanes of traffic — which makes it extremely dangerous for human beings. From 2003 to 2013, 38 pedestrians and cyclists were killed and 450 suffered severe injuries.

Last year, the New York City DOT announced a $100 million dollar commitment from the de Blasio administration to humanize Queens Boulevard and make it safer, a flagship project in the city’s Vision Zero initiative. Instead of waiting until the planned permanent reconstruction in 2018 to make any changes, DOT wanted to build in safety improvements immediately. After holding public workshops with communities along the corridor, 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard have been redesigned, and the changes are already making a huge difference.

If you’re an urban planner, transportation engineer, or advocate wondering just what can be done with what seems to be an irredeemably messed up street, then this is the Streetfilm for you. We got an exclusive tour of the changes with NYC DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo, going block-by-block over the creative solutions the DOT team implemented. Queens Boulevard is as complicated a roadway as there is: Nearly every block is different. To add a functional bike lane and pedestrian mall seemed highly unlikely. Yet here it is.

I’ll admit, I’m especially excited about this project since I’ve lived near Queens Boulevard for years. I was skeptical when the announcement was made that I would see any truly life-altering change, and even if the city pulled it off, it would take years and years. But the installation has been swift and extremely well thought out. The service road is noticeably slower, narrower, and easier to navigate for people walking or biking. So much so that I was motivated to document the transformation with this Streetfilm, which I hope will be a learning tool that people can put to use in their communities. If you can put a good protected bike lane on Queens Boulevard, then just about any street in America should be in play.

In 2015, no one was killed on Queens Boulevard.

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Evidence That Split-Phase Signals Are Safer Than Mixing Zones for Bike Lanes

Mixing zones, rendered above, are DOT's standard treatment for left-turns on corridors with protected bike lanes. Image: DOT

Mixing zones are DOT’s standard treatment for intersections where motor vehicle traffic turns across the path of protected bike lanes, but they are not as safe as intersections where pedestrians and cyclists get exclusive signal time. Image: DOT

When DOT presented plans for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue, one point of contention was the design of intersections. How many intersections will get split-phase signals, where cyclists and pedestrians crossing the street get a separate signal phase than turning drivers? And how many will get “mixing zones,” where pedestrians and cyclists negotiate the same space as turning drivers simultaneously?

DOT tends to opt for split-phase signals only at major intersections, like where Sixth Avenue crosses 14th Street and 23rd Street. At other cross streets with turning conflicts, the mixing zone is the go-to treatment. Manhattan Community Board 4 wants to change that, asking DOT to include more intersections with dedicated crossing time for pedestrians and cyclists in the Sixth Avenue project.

The evidence backs up CB 4’s assertion that split-phase signals are safer. Data from previous protected bike lane projects in Manhattan show that the reduction in injuries on streets that mostly received split-phase treatments was more than double the improvement on streets that mostly received mixing zones.

A 2014 DOT report [PDF] analyzed three years of before and after crash data from Manhattan’s protected bike lanes. The last section of the report shows the change in total crashes with injuries on 12 protected bike lane projects — six with primarily split-phase treatments (segments of Eighth Avenue and Ninth Avenue below 23rd Street, and two unconnected segments of Broadway in Midtown), and six with primarily mixing zones (segments of First Avenue, Second Avenue, Columbus Avenue, Broadway, and Eighth Avenue above 23rd Street). We don’t have access to the raw numbers DOT worked with, but the aggregate data strongly suggests that split phase treatments are significantly safer.

On average, crashes with injuries declined 30 percent on the six “split-phase” redesigns and 13 percent on the six “mixing zone” redesigns.

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DOT’s Astoria Park Safety Plan Calls for 3 Protected Bike Lanes

DOT wants to turn Shore Boulevard into a one-way street with a protected bike lane. Image: DOT

DOT wants to convert a motor vehicle lane on Shore Boulevard into a two-way protected bike lane [PDF]. Image: DOT

Last June, a hit-and-run driver killed 21-year-old Betty DiBiaso at the intersection of 19th Street and Ditmars Boulevard, next to Astoria Park. The loss of DiBiaso prompted a neighborhood-wide discussion about the need to improve street safety around one of Queens’ most visited parks, and on Tuesday night DOT showed Queens Community Board 2 its proposals for the area [PDF].

Despite all the pedestrian and bike traffic, streets near the park lack basic traffic-calming features and safe access for people walking or biking. Since 2009, more than a hundred people have been injured on streets around the park.

The plan DOT showed Tuesday calls for major changes to sections of Shore Boulevard, 20th Avenue, and Hoyt Avenue, with new two-way protected bike lanes on those streets. Separately, DOT is studying a number of other possible improvements for the area, including daylighting intersections and improving pedestrian crossings around the park’s borders and adding speed bumps by the intersection where DiBiaso was killed.

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DOT Planning Buffered Bike Lane on Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene

DOT's proposal would replace left-lane sharrows with a buffer-protected bike lane. Image: DOT

DOT’s proposal would replace sharrows with a buffered bike lane. Image: DOT

DOT plans to install a buffered bike lane this summer on Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn between Fulton Street and Classon Avenue.

The project, which the Brooklyn Community Board 2 transportation committee voted for unanimously last night, calls for a five-foot bike lane protected by a three-foot buffer zone [PDF]. It will be an upgrade from the current shared lane design but won’t be physically protected.

The buffered lane will create a better connection for cyclists heading from downtown Brooklyn to Fort Greene and points east, a route with significant bike traffic. There were five severe traffic injuries on the corridor between 2010 and 2014, with drivers often meandering between the two travel lanes and driving well over the speed limit. Outside of rush hour, DOT observed 24 percent of drivers speeding.

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Parks Department Proposes 9-Block Bike Detour on Hudson River Greenway

A Park Department proposal could prohibit cyclists from biking along the west side waterfront between 73rd Street and 82nd Street. Image: Flickr

The Parks Department is proposing to shunt cyclists away from this waterfront section of the Hudson River Greenway between 73rd Street and 82nd Street. Photo: Howard Brier/Flickr

Cyclists could be forced to take a winding, hilly detour away from the Hudson River Greenway between 73rd Street and 82nd Street, thanks to a proposal from the Parks Department that has the support of Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

As DNAinfo reported, Parks landscape architect Margaret Bracken presented the plan at Monday’s Manhattan Community Board 7 meeting. The proposal emerged from last year’s participatory budgeting process, which allocated $200,000 to reducing conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians on that part of the greenway. Overcrowding is a concern during the summer months, when usage increases dramatically.

CB 7 member Ken Coughlin said the participatory budgeting plan only intended the alternate bike route for “high-traffic summer months” [PDF]. Now, Coughlin and other people who bike on the greenway are concerned the detour will force cyclists into dark, steep paths that could be especially unsafe during the colder parts of the year.

Brachen and representatives from Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s office told attendees at Monday’s meeting that they did not want to have inconsistent rules guiding usage of the path. “My response to that is they’re taking a sometime problem and applying an all-the-time solution that puts cyclists at risk,” Coughlin told Streetsblog. “I only agreed to be an advocate for [the plan] on the condition that it would be seasonal. The crowding on the path is only a real problem during the summer and during the day.”

A Parks Department spokesperson argued that the new bike route “will not be a detour” because it will run parallel to the greenway. “The safety of all parkgoers is a top priority for NYC Parks,” Parks Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro said in an email statement to Streetsblog. “Working with cycling advocates, we are happy to move forward with adding additional pathway to The Hudson River Greenway so to better accommodate cycling traffic on this popular Manhattan destination.”

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Study: Sharrows Don’t Make Streets Safer for Cycling

Sharrows are the dregs of bike infrastructure — the scraps cities hand out when they can’t muster the will to implement exclusive space for bicycling. They may help with wayfinding, but do sharrows improve the safety of cycling at all? New research presented at the Transportation Review Board Annual Meeting suggests they don’t.

Sharrows are useless and perhaps even harmful, a new study found. Photo: University of Colorado Denver

Sharrows without traffic-calming won’t do much to make cycling safer. Photo: University of Colorado Denver

A study by University of Colorado Denver researchers Nick Ferenchak and Wesley Marshall examined safety outcomes for areas in Chicago that received bike lanes, sharrows, and no bicycling street treatments at all. (The study was conducted before Chicago had much in the way of protected bike lanes, so it did not distinguish between types of bike lanes.) The results suggest that bike lanes encourage more people to bike and make biking safer, while sharrows don’t do much of either.

Ferenchak and Marshall’s study divided Chicago into three geographic categories using Census block groups: areas where bike lanes were added between 2008 and 2010, areas where sharrows were added, and areas where no bike treatments were added. They then looked at how bike commuting and cyclist injuries changed in these areas over time.

They found that bike commute rates more than doubled in areas with new bike lanes, compared to a 27 percent increase in areas with new sharrows and a 43 percent increase in areas where nothing changed.

Meanwhile, the rate of cyclist injuries per bike commuter improved the most where bike lanes were striped, decreasing 42 percent. Areas that got sharrows saw the same metric fall about 20 percent –worse than areas where streets didn’t change (36 percent), although the difference was not great enough to be statistically significant.

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Amsterdam Bike Lane Will Get Full CB 7 Vote, Despite Transpo Committee

The proposed redesign of Amsterdam Avenue will repurpose a motor vehicle lane and parking spots to create safer conditions for biking and walking. Image: DOT

Upper West Siders may finally get a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue — but it won’t be due to the support of Manhattan Community Board 7’s transportation committee. Last night, in a split 4-4 vote, the committee failed to support a resolution in favor of DOT’s plan for a protected bike lane from 72nd Street to 110th Street. Despite that, CB 7 Chair Elizabeth Caputo said she would bring the proposal to the full board for a vote on February 2. DOT hopes to build the new design over the course of three months this spring.

Amsterdam is a neighborhood street passing through the Upper West Side’s residential and retail core, but its four northbound moving lanes encourage reckless driving speeds. First presented in NovemberDOT’s plan will repurpose a motor vehicle lane and about 25 percent of Amsterdam Avenue’s on-street parking to make room for a protected bike lane and raised concrete pedestrian islands, as well as left-turn bays at 79th Street, 86th Street, and 96th Street [PDF]. In response to concerns at November’s meeting about double-parked delivery vehicles, DOT added metered commercial parking at various points along the corridor.

Council members Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine have endorsed a protected bike lane for Amsterdam. Rosenthal and Caputo spoke in favor of the plan last night, and audience support was overwhelming — few people spoke against the proposal during the public comment section of the meeting. Yet the committee could not muster a majority vote in favor.

Co-chairs Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert bemoaned the loss of parking and pushing an endless list of alternative routes. Zweig, who was reappointed to the board by Rosenthal and Borough President Gale Brewer last year, put loss of parking at the top of his list of concerns.

Three-quarters of Upper West Side households don’t own cars, and a DOT survey of 436 people on Amsterdam found that only 10 arrived by driving. On nearby Columbus Avenue, retail continues to thrive after the installation of a protected bike lane, and injury crashes fell 25 percent, according to DOT [PDF]. Zweig wasn’t swayed and continued to request that DOT come back with a proposal for Amsterdam Avenue that excludes a bike lane, absurdly arguing that protected bike lanes would put pedestrians on sidewalks more at risk of getting hit by out-of-control drivers:

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