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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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Creating Safer Streets Linking the South Bronx to Randall’s Island

Current conditions on 132nd Street, which will provide access to the Randall’s Island Connector greenway segment. All photos and renderings by Civitas courtesy of New York Restoration Project

132nd Street as envisioned in The Haven Project recommendations.

The South Bronx neighborhoods of Port Morris and Mott Haven are a stone’s throw from 480-acre Randall’s Island, but a ring of highways and industry separates residents from all that parkland. Now, the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) is working with local advocates and health researchers to create better walking and biking connections between the South Bronx and Randall’s Island, taking advantage of a long-planned greenway segment set to open this summer.

The South Bronx has high rates of asthma, diabetes, and obesity, making it especially urgent to provide opportunities for physical activity. The Randall’s Island Connector, a nearly-complete greenway segment running beneath the Hell Gate Bridge, will help by linking the South Bronx to Randall’s Island with a car-free path. But to reach the connector after it opens, residents will still have to navigate streets overrun by trucks and lined with industrial uses.

That’s where NYRP and its initiative, The Haven Project, come in. Launched after a community meeting last June, the project aims to create safer access to the greenway. The first round of recommendations has been released [PDF] — including plans for waterfront greenways, new street trees, protected bike lanes, and safer pedestrian crossings — and a full report is scheduled for June.

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Ride With Clarence on the Tour de Staten Island


Close to 2,000 people turned out Sunday for Transportation Alternatives’ 2015 Tour de Staten Island. For the event’s fifth year, riders were treated to areas of the new Fresh Kills Park that aren’t yet open to the public. Other highlights included oceanside riding and views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, where the Harbor Ring Committee continues to advocate for bike and pedestrian access.

Naturally, Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson was there.

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Helen Rosenthal Asks DOT to Install Protected Bike Lane on Amsterdam Ave

Council Member Helen Rosenthal has come out strongly for a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue, sending a letter to DOT this week asking for a plan to calm traffic and provide a northbound complement to the Columbus Avenue bike lane.

Council Member Helen Rosenthal. Photo: NYC Council

Upper West Side Council Member Helen Rosenthal. Photo: NYC Council

“We need to make Amsterdam Avenue safer for families, and that’s just what this street redesign would do. I’ve seen it work on Columbus Avenue,” Rosenthal told Streetsblog yesterday. “It’s something that’s important to me, for my district.”

What prompted the letter? “It’s something that I knew I wanted to do from comments I’ve heard throughout the years from residents along Amsterdam Avenue,” said Rosenthal, whose district stretches from 54th Street to 96th Street on the West Side. She was especially inspired by the recent release of an anti-reckless driving video from Families for Safe Streets and the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Street safety advocates have spent years trying to bring protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands to Amsterdam Avenue.

Although DOT installed (and then expanded) a bike lane on Columbus Avenue in recent years, with another extension proposed earlier this year near Lincoln Center, Amsterdam Avenue remains unchanged.

Any street redesign plan must be sent to the community board for advisory review. The hitch: DOT is reluctant to act without community board support and CB 7 has a track record of stalling when it comes time to implement protected bike lanes. In particular, procedural maneuvering by its two longtime transportation committee chairs, Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig, has led to a pattern of stasis and inaction.

Rosenthal, herself a former CB 7 chair, now recommends board members for appointment as a council member. She is confident that CB 7 will quickly support a protected bike lane plan.

“At the end of the day, the community board is advisory. I’m always interested in hearing from the community board. They always have insights, kernels of truth. I’m sure they’ll have some idea of tweaking DOT’s plan,” Rosenthal said. “I’m sure they’ll have some tweaks here and there, but I’m sure this will sail through.”

Updated 2:58 p.m.: DOT says it is “reviewing possible safety enhancements” on Amsterdam Avenue and will work with Rosenthal and CB 7 to discuss next steps.

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It’s April. Where’s the NYC DOT Bike Count From Last Year?

Did cycling in New York City continue to rise in 2014? We still don’t know, because NYC DOT has yet to release its annual count.

2014_question_marks

What happened?

Usually, by this time of year, NYC DOT has released its screenline bike count showing the year-over-year trend in cycling in the city core (specifically, the screenline count measures cyclists on the East River bridges, on the Hudson River Greenway at 50th Street, and at the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal). We’re more than a quarter of the way through 2015, though, and the agency hasn’t posted its stats yet.

For several years, DOT released the screenline count the same year the data was gathered, since the agency focuses on cycling activity during the peak months of April through October. The 2008 count came out in October, 2008. The 2009 count was released in November, the 2010 count in December, and the 2011 count in December as well.

The 2012 bike count came out in the middle of March, 2013, with the addition of stats measuring winter cycling activity. Then last year DOT didn’t release it until Streetsblog posted an unauthorized copy in July.

It would not be shocking if center-city cycling plateaued or dipped slightly in 2014. The city didn’t expand the bike network as much as in previous years, and the bike-share system stayed the same size.

DOT has not responded to Streetsblog’s requests for the 2014 bike count, so for now, we’re in the dark.

The screenline count has its shortcomings, since it doesn’t capture bike activity outside the city core. At a New York Cycle Club event last September, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said DOT has to improve the way it tracks bicycling throughout the city. With significant bike infrastructure upgrades in the works for streets like Queens Boulevard, 111th Street in Corona, and Bruckner Boulevard, developing better citywide metrics is increasingly urgent.

But the screenline count remains important and useful. It’s the only hard and fast measurement of cycling activity that DOT conducts every year, providing a continuous benchmark stretching back to the 1980s.

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Expecting DOT Street Safety Projects to Deliver More Than the Minimum

Spring Street in Soho is getting striped bike lanes -- but street safety won't come at the expense of on-street parking. Image: DOT [PDF]

Spring Street in Soho is getting striped bike lanes and sharrows, which doesn’t prioritize safety above the preservation of on-street car parking. Image: DOT [PDF]

A DOT plan to add painted bike lanes and sharrows to Spring Street [PDF] doesn’t go far enough to prioritize walking and biking, says Community Board 2 transportation vice-chair Maury Schott.

Last Thursday, DOT presented the proposal to the CB 2 transportation committee. Two-thirds of the audience supported the plan, meeting attendees said, and neighborhood NIMBY ringleader Sean Sweeney was a no-show. In the end, the plan received a unanimous 10-0 vote.

The lack of opposition, however, may be a sign of DOT timidity more than anything else. “The proposal by DOT was, to say the least, minimally intrusive,” Schott told Streetsblog. “It was as much as you could hope to do without making the commitment to remove parking on at least one side of the street.”

Although DOT has been on a roll this year with proposals for road diets and protected bike lanes, the agency’s designs usually don’t subtract much parking. Avoiding the removal of car storage may head off small-scale political fights, but it also limits the impact of the city’s street safety projects.

Schott said he wants to see DOT prioritize safe walking and biking over on-street parking, rather than the other way around. In Lower Manhattan, where about 80 percent of households are car-free, the politics should be especially favorable for major changes. Many people at last week’s meeting, Schott said, were also frustrated by “half-measures” from the agency.

“So far, many people feel that Vision Zero is a lot more talk than it is action,” Schott said. “The whole rhetoric of Vision Zero is that New York is a pedestrian-friendly or a pedestrian-dominated city. If you want to say that, then the first thing you have to realistically do is say that supporting the private ownership of private automobiles should not be a priority in any way.”

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DOT Safety Plan for Corona’s 111th Street Faces Uphill Battle at Queens CB 4

This road diet and protected bike lane is too much for Queens CB 4 to handle. Image: DOT [PDF]

This road diet and protected bike lane, which will improve connections between Corona residents and Flushing Meadows Corona Park, doesn’t have enough car lanes for some Queens CB 4 members. Image: DOT [PDF]

A dangerous street that Corona residents have to cross to get to Flushing Meadows Corona Park is in line for a serious traffic-calming plan, complete with a two-way protected bike lane [PDF], but local community board members are balking at the proposal.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the largest park in Queens, is ringed by highways that cut off access from the neighborhoods around it. The one exception is 111th Street on the west side of the park. But instead of functioning as a welcoming entrance to the park, 111th Street is designed like a surface highway, with three southbound car lanes divided from two northbound lanes by a planted median. Residents have to walk up to 1,300 feet, or five blocks, before finding a marked crosswalk, and 84 percent of cyclists ride on the sidewalk, according to DOT.

Last year, Make the Road New York, Immigrant Movement International, the Queens Museum, and Transportation Alternatives organized for better walking and biking access to the park. Council Member Julissa Ferreras signed on, asking DOT last fall to install bike lanes throughout her district, including on 111th Street [PDF].

The DOT proposal delivers: It would calm the street by narrowing it to one lane of car traffic in each direction. The edge of the street along the park would receive a two-way parking-protected bikeway with pedestrian islands. Moving lanes would be replaced by parking along the median on the southbound side. At intersections, median extensions would shorten crossing distances for pedestrians, which currently stretch up to 94 feet.

This seems to be too much for some key members of Queens Community Board 4.

DOT presented its plan to three members of CB 4 at a special meeting of its transportation committee last Tuesday. “It was definitely a heated, emotional meeting,” said Amy Richards, who coordinates the Partnership for a Healthier Queens program at Make the Road New York. The board members were very “change-averse,” Richards said. “The meeting was tricky.”

“It’s a tough call,” CB 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol said of the plan. “We told them to go back to the drawing board and change a couple of the small issues we were questioning.” DOT says it used the feedback to draft minor changes the original plan, which Cassagnol received this morning.

Board members last week were actually looking for major changes to the DOT plan. The big complaint from transportation committee members was “not enough traffic lanes, basically,” Cassagnol said. “That seems to be the main thing.”

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Streetsblog USA
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Harvard Researcher Calls for Better Police Reporting of Bike Crashes

A chart like this on police reports, designed after car collision recording forms, could help researchers understand better what causes bike collisions. Image: Journal of Injury Prevention

Adding standardized ways to report the circumstances of a bike crash, like this chart modeled after car collision forms, could advance understanding of how to prevent injuries and deaths. Image: Journal of Injury Prevention

Police departments need to improve the way they investigate, document, and convey information about crashes involving cyclists, according to a new study by Harvard public health researcher Anne Luskin in the Journal of Injury Prevention.

While police reports are standardized to record relatively detailed information about car collisions, the same is not true of collisions involving bikes. Better police investigations of bike collisions would help researchers, policy makers, and street designers understand what puts cyclists at risk and improve safety, according to the authors.

Lusk analyzed police crash reporting techniques in all 50 states. She also examined 3,350 police crash reports of bike collisions in New York City.

The information in the reports tended to be scarce and insufficient to determine what caused the crash. Police only consistently reported whether a cyclist was involved and whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet, her team found. Police did not consistently report factors like street conditions, angle of impact, and other information that would be useful in understanding what contributes to collisions and injuries.

Lusk recommends that police reports be modified “to include bicycle-crash-scene reporting fields.” Right now, information that is recorded about bike crashes isn’t specially coded for entry into a spreadsheet — the type of standardization that makes data widely accessible. Police forms should include information like what type of bike infrastructure, if any, exists at the crash location; whether either person involved in the crash was turning; and the points of impact on the car and the bike.

There is less room for error if crash reports are filled in not by hand but with handheld tablets, the authors note. Many state police departments are already moving in that direction.

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After a Fatal Crash, NYPD’s Initial Version of Events Often Turns Out Wrong

158_concourse

The intersection where a U-Haul driver struck and killed a cyclist Sunday afternoon. Image: Google Maps

Yesterday, the 24-year-old driver of a U-Haul van struck and killed a 43-year-old cyclist at the Grand Concourse and 158th Street in the Bronx. Police investigators have made a preliminary determination that the van driver had the right of way, according to NYPD, but the agency has yet to reveal the basis for that conclusion.

NYPD’s public information office told Streetsblog the driver was traveling southbound on the Grand Concourse but did not know the cyclist’s direction of travel. Nor did police have information on the driver’s speed, saying the investigation is ongoing.

The preliminary findings of police are what get reported and broadcast to the public the day after someone is killed in traffic, but in several cases, early NYPD accounts blaming the victim of a deadly crash later turned out to be erroneous.

When 3-year-old Allison Liao was struck and killed by a turning SUV driver in 2013, the initial Daily News report cited anonymous police sources who said she was hit “after she broke free from her grandmother.” Video later showed that at the moment of the collision, Allison was holding her grandmother’s hand, walking with the signal in a marked crosswalk.

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Streetsblog LA
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Los Angeles Gets Its First Protected Bike Lanes

Reseda Boulevard now has parking-protected bike lanes! A Los Angeles first! Photo via @LADOTBikeProg Twitter

Reseda Boulevard now has parking-protected bike lanes, a Los Angeles first. Photo via @LADOTBikeProg Twitter

Implementation of the very first parking-protected bike lanes in Los Angeles is underway on Reseda Boulevard in Northridge.

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Streetsblog USA
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Detroit Breaks Ground on First Protected Bike Lane Project

Detroit broke ground this week on its first protected bike lane. Image: Jefferson East Inc.

A parking-protected bike lane is coming to Jefferson Avenue in Detroit. Image: Jefferson East Inc.

The Motor City is getting its first taste of on-street protected bike infrastructure. Work has begun on a street redesign that will bring Detroit its very first bike lane where parked cars will protect riders from motor vehicle traffic.

The bike lane is part of a road diet for Jefferson Avenue in the historic Jefferson-Chalmers business district. Construction crews have begun adding landscaped islands to the street, and later in the year, the road will be resurfaced and protected bike lanes will be added, reports Jefferson East Inc., the nonprofit group helping lead the planning process.

“It will be the first in the city and, I believe, the state,” said Justin Fried, who manages the project for Jefferson East. “The goal is to calm the street, narrow the road and improve safety.”

The intersection of Jefferson and Chalmers has been a particular problem, according to Jefferson East, with a number of crashes injuring pedestrians. The first phase of the project is only seven blocks, but a second phase will extend it three miles to Grand Boulevard.

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