Skip to content

SB event logo 580x200

Posts from the Transportation Alternatives Category


A Look Back at Ken Thompson’s 2015 Interview With TransAlt

Photo: Transportation Alternatives/Reclaim

Photo: Transportation Alternatives/Reclaim

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson died from cancer on Sunday just a few days after publicly announcing his illness. Thompson, who took office in 2014, was considered a leader among NYC district attorneys in taking reckless driving seriously. In 2015 Transportation Alternatives spoke with Thompson about street safety and traffic justice. Streetsblog reposted this interview from TA’s Reclaim magazine.

As Brooklyn District Attorney, Ken Thompson is determined to make New York City’s streets safe and just. Reclaim sat down to discuss how he thinks that change is going to happen, what inspired him to get involved and where the fight for livable streets is going.

What put this issue on your radar?

I’ll tell you what put it on my radar. There was an incident in November of 2013 in my neighborhood. It involved a young child named Lucian Merryweather. He was only nine. It was November. It was a Saturday. It was a clear day. It was a beautiful day. He was walking down the street with his mother and his five-year-old brother. They were on the sidewalk near DeKalb Avenue. A man named Anthony Byrd ran him over and killed him.

I have a daughter who is ten and a son who is eight. I felt for the parents of Lucian Merryweather. And so I believe that we can do better as a borough and a city in making our streets safer.

I met with Lucian Merryweather’s parents after I took office. It might have been January of 2014. It was shortly after I took office. No matter what I said to them, they were inconsolable. I will never forget that meeting — just like when I met with the father of Mohammed Uddin, the 14-year-old brilliant young boy from Brooklyn Tech, who was killed in November of 2014.

I believe there’s a greater role for district attorneys to play in keeping our streets safe. I think that, in the past, some have argued that when these incidents happen, they’re an accident. Quite often, the victim is blamed for the incident without a real full-blown investigation. I think we need to change that. That is what motivated me as a father, as a concerned citizen and as the D.A. That is what prompted me to act.

And then I had Council Member Brad Lander, who I have great respect for, reach out to me. He brought Mohammed Uddin’s father to see me. Mr. Uddin cried through that whole meeting. Brad and I had some follow up conversations about what we could do. The takeaway was that we should bring folks together — safety advocates, members of the NYPD, members of my office and others — to see if we could do better in Brooklyn. That’s what we’re trying to do with the Driver Accountability Taskforce we created.

Read more…


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.

Read more…


People on Bikes Take Over Fifth Ave to Demand Safe Streets From de Blasio


Photo: Michael Nigro. (You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter: @nigrotime.)

New Yorkers on bikes took over Fifth Avenue yesterday evening to demand stronger action from Mayor de Blasio to implement life-saving street redesigns essential to achieving his goal of zero traffic deaths by 2024. Organizers estimate that more than a thousand people participated.

As they rode from Grand Army Plaza at 59th Street to Washington Square Park, demonstrators from across the five boroughs chanted “Safe streets now!” and “We are traffic!” The full procession stretched for blocks, clocking in at over four minutes from the vanguard to the tail.

Before the ride, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White called on the mayor to “fund and fast-track” safety improvements for walking and biking at the hundreds of dangerous streets and intersections identified by DOT in its Vision Zero action plans.

The reduction of traffic deaths in NYC has stalled this year, and more people on bikes were killed in traffic in the first eight months of 2016 than all of 2015. “We are here to say that Vision Zero, to be real, must be funded,” White said. “[People] are dying because of bad design that the mayor’s not fixing.”

Read more…


Tonight: Tell Mayor de Blasio to Step Up for Vision Zero

With New York City losing ground in the effort to eliminate traffic deaths, officials will join street safety advocates and victims of traffic violence tonight for Transportation Alternatives’ mass bike ride on Fifth Avenue.

The event is intended to prod Mayor de Blasio to “fund and fast-track” priority pedestrian improvements and protected bike lanes, and to urge to the mayor to direct NYPD to improve traffic enforcement and stop blaming victims of traffic crashes.

Elected officials expected to attend include Broooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Helen Rosenthal.

Participants will gather at 6 p.m. at Fifth and E. 59th Street, and will ride to Washington Square Park. If you don’t ride, you can still represent at the beginning or end of the route. Wear something yellow if you can.

No Comments

Fill Out the BikeNYC 2020 Survey and Help Shape the Future of Cycling in NYC

Transportation Alternatives wants to hear from New Yorkers of all stripes for its BikeNYC 2020 Campaign. Image: Transportation Alternatives

Transportation Alternatives wants to hear from New Yorkers for its BikeNYC 2020 campaign. Image: Transportation Alternatives

Transportation Alternatives is setting out create a vision for the future of biking in NYC, and it wants your help. Over the next six months, TA will be collecting ideas from thousands of New Yorkers, starting with an online survey launched last week.

The BikeNYC 2020 campaign aims to understand the bike infrastructure priorities of the 778,000 New Yorkers who say they bike regularly — as well as those who may be interested in biking but choose not to ride on city streets.

Executive Director Paul Steely White said TA hopes to channel New Yorkers’ feelings about biking in the city into safe streets advocacy. “There’s so many New Yorkers that are cycling now, and many, perhaps most, are not plugged into the movement, to the advocacy initiatives that we and others are undertaking,” he said. “We’re trying to cast as wide a net as possible and really capture the hopes and dreams of New Yorkers who are already biking or are interested in biking.”

TA plans to release a report in the second quarter of 2017 based on the survey results. White said the initiative won’t create a “master plan” for NYC’s bike network. Instead, the intention is to develop a better understanding of what New Yorkers want from bicycling in the city.

Read more…


TA Calls on de Blasio to Act After Driver Kills Cyclist, 78, on Northern Blvd

NYPD filed no charges and issued no summonses after a driver struck and killed Michael Schenkman, 78, while he biked on Northern Boulevard in Bayside.

Michael Schenkman was the 16th cyclist killed by a New York City motorist this year. Photo via Facebook

Michael Schenkman was the 16th cyclist killed by a New York City motorist this year. Photo via Facebook

New York City motorists have now killed 16 cyclists this year, compared to 14 cyclist fatalities in all of 2015, according to city crash data. After yesterday’s crash, Transportation Alternatives called on Mayor de Blasio to pick up the pace of Vision Zero safety improvements.

Schenkman was eastbound on Northern Boulevard near 223rd Street at around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday when a motorist traveling in the same direction hit him with a Chevrolet sedan. Schenkman, who lived in Flushing, sustained head and body trauma and died from his injuries at North Shore Manhasset Hospital, police said.

The NYPD public information office said Schenkman “collided in the left lane” with the car. A photo published by the Daily News shows the car with a dented hood and a large hole in the windshield — the type of damage that would occur in a high-speed collision. Information released by NYPD did not mention driver speed.

As is customary when police don’t ticket or charge a motorist who kills a person, NYPD withheld the driver’s name, identifying him only as a 25-year-old man. The department said the investigation was ongoing as of this afternoon.

Schenkman was a driver for former public advocate Betsy Gotbaum, the Daily News reported, as well as a long-time cyclist and member of Transportation Alternatives. “Every morning he got on his bike and rode 15 or 20 miles,” Peter Schenkman, the victim’s son, told the News.

“Michael, who was passionate about bicycling, was a beloved Transportation Alternatives member who joined us on many of our bike tours and supported our work to make New York City streets safer for all road users,” said TA Executive Director Paul White in a statement released today. “We are dedicating our upcoming NYC Century Bike Tour on September 10th to his memory.”

In addition, TA has scheduled a “Ride for Mayoral Action” on September 15. In his statement, White noted that a large share of cyclist fatalities this year happened on streets that the city knows are dangerous:

Read more…


DOT Will Study Widening the Brooklyn Bridge Walking and Biking Path

Rendering: NYC DOT

What a wider Brooklyn Bridge promenade might look like. Rendering: NYC DOT

The days of pedestrians and cyclists fighting for scraps of space on the Brooklyn Bridge may be numbered.

NYC DOT has initiated a study of expanding the narrow promenade, which is too crowded to work well for pedestrians or cyclists for most of the year. The Times reports that the city has retained engineering firm AECOM to study the feasibility of widening the pathway, which has not been expanded since the bridge opened in 1883.

Stories about conflict between walkers and bikers on the cramped promenade have become a rite of spring in New York City. As soon as the city thaws out from winter, people head out to walk or bike across the Brooklyn Bridge in numbers that the path, which is as narrow as 10 feet on some sections, cannot comfortably support.

Pedestrian counts on peak days tripled between 2008 and 2015, and bike counts nearly doubled, according to the Times. Typical weekday traffic is now 10,000 pedestrians and 3,500 cyclists. Still, those numbers probably don’t come close to capturing how many people would bike or walk across the bridge if the path were not so cramped.

Read more…


TA: Unfocused, Ineffective NYPD Enforcement Isn’t Helping With Vision Zero

NYPD precincts that issued more tickets for tinted windows than for speeding and failure to yield combined from January through May 2016. Image: TA

NYPD precincts that issued more tickets for tinted windows than for speeding and failure to yield combined from January through May 2016. Image: TA

Since the launch of Vision Zero more than two years ago, NYPD has yet to develop a comprehensive strategy to target dangerous driver behaviors that are known to cause most injuries and deaths. To the contrary, a new Transportation Alternatives report finds that NYPD enforcement often targets the people most vulnerable to traffic violence, while motorist violations like speeding, failure to yield, and even leaving the scene of a crash go unchecked.

“Death, Danger and Ignoring the Data: How the NYPD is Getting Vision Zero Wrong” [PDF] notes that injuries to pedestrians and cyclists increased by 11 percent the first five months of this year relative to the same time frame in 2015. While there was a slight decline in the number of people killed by drivers while walking, cyclist deaths more than doubled.

TA says scattershot traffic enforcement is a big part of the problem.

“The NYPD is falling short on its commitment to consistent, appropriate policing to deter the most deadly driving violations,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White in a statement accompanying the report. “Commissioner Bratton and other top police officials don’t even seem to have a clear plan for participation in Vision Zero, and their allocation of traffic enforcement resources does not appear to be based on actual conditions on New York City streets.”

Though the majority of cyclists who lost their lives this year were killed by drivers breaking traffic laws, NYPD tends to respond to cyclist fatalities by cracking down on cyclists and publicly blaming victims for their own deaths. This approach epitomizes the department’s failure to direct resources toward enforcement that would actually save lives, says TA.

In addition, enforcement priorities vary widely from precinct to precinct. While some precincts have stepped up enforcement against speeding and failure to yield, others are issuing fewer such tickets this year than in 2015, the report says.

TA found there are eight precincts where cyclists are more likely to receive a criminal court summons — which can lead to jail time and barriers to employment — than a moving violation for riding on the sidewalk. In the apparent absence of guidance from department brass, precinct COs are free to aggressively target relatively low-risk cycling offenses as motorists kill people in crosswalks.

Other findings from the report:

Read more…

No Comments

Advocates Call for Safer Streets, Better Transit Along All of Richmond Terrace

Advocates in Staten Island want safer infrastructure and better transit along the western portion of Richmond Terrace, pictured here at the intersection with Simonson Avenue where a drunk off-duty NYPD officer killed a pedestrian in 2013. Photo: Google Maps

A drunk off-duty NYPD officer killed a pedestrian on Richmond Terrace at the intersection with Simonson Avenue in 2013. Photo: Google Maps

As development transforms the eastern neighborhoods along Staten Island’s North Shore, advocates want to ensure the city doesn’t overlook the transit and street safety needs of the western neighborhoods.

In November, the de Blasio administration launched a multi-agency effort to study transportation and traffic safety on the North Shore, but so far the project has been limited to areas east of Port Richmond Avenue, which tend to be more affluent than the neighborhoods to the west. Now Transportation Alternatives, the Elm Park Civic Association, Island Voice, and Do Me A Faber are calling on the city to expand the project.

Richmond Terrace stretches the length of the North Shore, but the city’s study does not touch on the western 2.7 miles. The western part of the street is a “speedway,” TA says, where more than 30 percent of motorists exceed the speed limit [PDF]. Since 2010, drivers have killed three pedestrians on this section of Richmond Terrace.

Transportation Alternatives says that the lower-income, transit-poor residents of "western Richmond Terrace" are being excluded from the city's efforts to make North Shore streets safer and more efficient for bikes and transit. Image: TransAlt

The residents of western Richmond Terrace tend to be poorer and ride transit more than residents to the east. Image: TransAlt

Read more…


NYC Needs a Car-Free 14th Street When the L Closes — And When It Returns

In 2019, the L train west of Williamsburg will be shut down so the MTA can repair Sandy-related damage to subway tunnels under the East River. Hundreds of thousands of people will have to find other ways to get around, and there’s no conceivable way to do that without dedicating a lot of street space to buses, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Enter the “PeopleWay,” Transportation Alternatives’ concept for a 14th Street solely for transit, cycling, and walking. Yesterday staff and volunteers with TA and the Riders Alliance were out at Union Square making the case for the PeopleWay and gathering signatures for an overhaul of the street. The campaign calls for improvements to be made permanent after the L resumes full service.

Even with a fully functional L train, bus service on 14th Street carries more than 32,000 weekday trips. Car traffic slows them down and leads to unreliable service. Sidewalks are too crowded. Biking without protection next to cabs, trucks, and buses is terrifying.

Now add L train riders to the mix. On a typical day, 50,000 passengers make L train trips that start and end along 14th Street. Another 230,000 ride between Brooklyn and 14th Street. To help all these people get around without the train, optimizing 14th Street for the most spatially efficient modes of travel isn’t a choice so much as a necessity.

TA estimates that a redesign with dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and more pedestrian space can double the capacity of 14th Street.

Read more…