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Bronx CB 4 Wants the Grand Concourse to Work for Walking, Biking, Transit

Bronx Community Board 4 has endorsed a proposal to make the Grand Concourse a complete street.

Traffic collisions have injured more than 1,000 people, and killed 13, on the Concourse in the last four years, according to city data. The Transportation Alternatives “Complete the Concourse” campaign calls on the city to install protected bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, and improvements to crosswalks and sidewalks along the entire street.

The TA campaign has the backing of City Council members Vanessa Gibson, Fernando Cabrera, Ritchie Torres, Rafael Salamanca, and Andrew Cohen. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has urged DOT to study protected bike lanes for the southernmost segment of the Concourse, which she represents, but has not endorsed the whole Complete the Concourse campaign.

The CB 4 resolution, approved last night, supports protected bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, and pedestrian islands, according to TA Bronx Organizer Erwin Figueroa. CB 4 covers the Concourse between the Cross-Bronx Expressway and E. 149th Street, which includes nearly all of the blocks that currently have no bike lanes at all.

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Families of Crash Victims Pledge Action to Save Lives on Day of Remembrance

Family members of victims of fatal traffic crashes hold up the photos of the lost loved ones. Photo: David Meyer

Family members of victims of fatal traffic crashes hold up the photos of the lost loved ones. Photo: David Meyer

New Yorkers who lost loved ones to traffic violence gathered at City Hall Park yesterday to mark World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. They called on Mayor de Blasio as well as elected officials in Albany to do more to prevent the hundreds of deaths that happen on NYC streets each year.

“Collectively, our story is one that’s impossible to ignore,” said Hank Miller, whose 30-year-old sister Victoria Nicodemus was killed by an unlicensed curb-jumping driver in Fort Greene last December. “We have to work together with our elected officials to prevent these tragedies, and to make sure no other families have to come up here and talk about their loved one lost to preventable tragedies.”

Under Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” initiative, traffic fatalities in NYC reached a record low in 2015, but this year the number of lives lost is escalating. At the current rate of progress, the city won’t come close to achieving the goal of zero traffic deaths by 2024. Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives, and the City Council leadership have all called on de Blasio to increase funding for street safety redesigns, but the mayor has not adjusted his budget in response.

Meanwhile, this year Governor Cuomo and state legislative leaders failed to advance legislation to expand the city’s automated speed camera program.

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Sunday: NYC Observes Day of Remembrance for Traffic Violence Victims

Image: Transportation Alternatives. Click to enlarge

Image: Transportation Alternatives. Click to enlarge

Sunday is World Day of Remembrance for victims of traffic violence. Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives will hold an observance at City Hall Park at noon.

“We are gathering to remember and honor those who have been killed or severely injured by aggressive or reckless driving and dangerous conditions on our streets, and we will stand together to remind New Yorkers that we can create a safer city for everyone,” said Sofia Russo of Families for Safe Streets in a statement. Russo’s 4-year-old daughter Ariel was killed by a motorist on a Manhattan sidewalk in 2013.

Participants who are walking and biking to City Hall will gather beforehand at locations in all five boroughs. We’ve posted times and locations below.

After a few years in a row when deaths declined, New York City pedestrian and cyclist fatalities are up in 2016 compared to last year. TA and the City Council have urged Mayor de Blasio to fund street redesigns at the level prescribed by his 10-year Vision Zero timetable, but the mayor has not done so.

“We stand with New Yorkers who have lost loved ones or been injured in crashes to tell our city and the world that traffic violence is preventable,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White. “The World Day of Remembrance is an opportunity for all of us to renew our Vision Zero commitment to keep working to change the culture of reckless and careless driving, and to rebuild our streets so they’re safer for everyone who uses them.”

Here’s the meet-up list:

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TA: Traffic Justice Must Align With Racial Justice

With the incoming president running on a “law and order” message that includes promoting unconstitutional and ineffective stop-and-frisk practices on American city streets, civil rights groups associated with the Black Lives Matter movement are anticipating difficult fights ahead.

In a letter to their members yesterday, the leadership of Transportation Alternatives expressed commitment to the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement and laid out a set of guiding principles for integrating racial justice into their efforts to make NYC streets safe for walking and biking.

“Because we fight to protect New Yorkers in every community, our fight for Vision Zero must also be a fight against institutional, individual and implicit racism,” the letter says. “Transportation Alternatives stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.”

The letter begins by noting striking racial imbalances: People of color are disproportionately likely to be harmed by traffic violence, while black drivers are also stopped, ticketed, and searched by police at five times the rate of white drivers, according to a 2015 New York Times report.

TA outlines five commitments:

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TA Celebrates Manhattan’s New Protected Bike Lanes With Local Electeds

T.A. activists riding in the recently-inaugurated protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue. Photo: David Meyer

TA activists riding in the recently-completed protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue. Photo: David Meyer

Advocates won some hard-fought battles for safer bike infrastructure this year, and on Sunday they celebrated with a ride on Manhattan’s newest protected bike lanes, starting at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge  and ending at Amsterdam Avenue and West 105th Street, thanking supporters along the way.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Margaret Chin, Assembly Member Deborah Glick, and State Senator Brad Hoylman all joined for parts of the ride, which traversed new protected lanes on Chrystie Street, Sixth Avenue, and Amsterdam Avenue.

“We want to make sure people are safe — pedestrians and bikers — and if the city can do something to make that happen, we must do that,” Council Member Margaret Chin told riders at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge. Chin supported the Chrystie Street two-way parking-protected bike lane in her district, which DOT is in the process of installing between Canal Street and Houston Street.

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De Blasio Says He’s Fully Funding Vision Zero Priority Projects. He Isn’t.

Despite what Mayor de Blasio says, NYC is not funding street redesigns at the rate prescribed by Vision Zero.

Despite what Mayor de Blasio says, NYC is not funding street redesigns at the rate prescribed by Vision Zero. Image: Transportation Alternatives

On his weekly Brian Lehrer show appearance this morning, Mayor de Blasio said the city is fully funding Vision Zero street redesigns. The numbers tell a different story.

During the Q&A segment, Families for Safe Streets member Mary Beth Kelly told de Blasio 204 people walking and biking have been killed by drivers on Vision Zero priority corridors since January 2015, and that only a fourth of those corridors have received redesign treatments. Kelly asked the mayor to commit to speeding up funding for Vision Zero priority projects.

Here is de Blasio’s response in full:

I appreciate the question very much and I appreciate the work that you do and your colleagues do because it’s been decisive to Vision Zero, particularly in terms of the fights you’ve waged in Albany to get us things like the speed cameras around schools. And we want to do even more of that, and I’m very hopeful there is a Democratic Senate. There’ll be a willingness to go farther with us in protecting kids and seniors and implementing Vision Zero.

We are very aggressively moving those safety redesign efforts. There’s no lack of funding, and there’s no lack of will. And you know Queens Boulevard is a huge example of this, a place we used call the ‘Boulevard of Death’ and thank god we have not fatalities the last two years because we’re doing redesign, because of bike lanes, because of the reduction in speed limit, because we’re enforcing the speed limit with the NYPD. So we’re very, very adamant about moving these as quickly as possible. I’ll talk to Commissioner Trottenberg to see if there’s anything else that she needs to continue to speed things up, but she’s gotten the order from me to do everything as quickly as humanly possible.

We will also be doing more enforcement. The NYPD is continuing to ratchet up enforcement on speeding and on failure to yield, and you’re going to see more checkpoints as well to inhibit drunk driving. So there’s a lot of Vision Zero pieces that are going to be growing, and the redesigns are absolutely a priority.

Budget figures don’t back up the mayor’s claims. As Streetsblog has reported, last spring Transportation Alternatives found that at the current rate of funding it will take almost 40 years to redesign the priority corridors identified in the DOT’s pedestrian safety action plans — a timetable that stretches decades beyond the Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024.

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Advocates Call on Mayor to Fund Safe Streets After the Loss of Two Children

Families for Safe Streets' Sufio Russo speaking outside City Hall last night. Photo: David Meyer

Families for Safe Streets’ Sofia Russo speaking outside City Hall last night. Photo: David Meyer

In the wake of two fatal crashes that claimed the lives of children in Queens last week, members of Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets gathered on the steps of City Hall yesterday evening to call on Mayor de Blasio to increase funding for life-saving street redesigns.

Traffic deaths in NYC are rising this year after declining the first two years of de Blasio’s term. “Vision Zero is off course,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White. “It’s just heartbraking to see the numbers creep back up again.”

In Ozone Park last Monday, a motorist killed 13-year-old Jazmine Marin as she crossed Cross Bay Boulevard with a friend on their way to school. Four days later, an unlicensed van driver backed into and killed 8-month-old Navraj Raju as his mother pushed him in a stroller on an Astoria Boulevard sidewalk.

Both fatalities happened in areas identified by DOT as priorities for Vision Zero street redesigns. According to TA, two-thirds of all traffic deaths since the beginning of 2015 have occurred in Vision Zero priority areas.

“The two kids who died last week died on streets that the mayor has already identified as dangerous, but the mayor has not fixed,” White said. “To identify dangerous streets and not fund fixes on those streets — that is not Vision Zero.”

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Tonight: Parents Call on de Blasio to Increase Funding for Safer Streets

Jazmine Marin, 13, and Navraj Raju, eight months, were killed by motorists in separate crashes in Queens last week.

Jazmine Marin, 13, and Navraj Raju, eight months, were killed by motorists in separate crashes in Queens last week.

Prompted by the recent deaths of two children at the hands of reckless drivers, Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets will lead a protest at City Hall this evening to call on Mayor de Blasio to accelerate the pace of life-saving street redesigns.

Last Monday, October 24, a motorist in a muscle car hit two teenage girls as they walked to school on Cross Bay Boulevard in Ozone Park, killing 13-year-old Jazmine Marin. On Friday an unlicensed van driver ran over 8-month-old Navraj Raju as his mother pushed him in a stroller on an Astoria Boulevard sidewalk. The first driver faces no charges or traffic violations, the second was charged with unlicensed operation — a low-level misdemeanor — but not for taking a life.

Cross Bay Boulevard is a Vision Zero priority corridor. According to TA, two-thirds of all traffic fatalities since the beginning of 2015 have occurred at locations identified by DOT as in urgent need of safety fixes. But de Blasio denied the City Council’s request to increase DOT funding for street improvements in the latest budget.

“It’s devastating to hear that another parent has lost a child in another sidewalk crash that could have been prevented,” said Sofia Russo, whose 4-year-old daughter Ariel was killed by a curb-jumping driver in Manhattan in 2013, in a statement. “The sidewalk should be sacred space. This is not Vision Zero. If the City is going to reach its goal, Mayor de Blasio has to dedicate real resources to fix the most dangerous streets in every community, and tell the public when those safety improvements are expected to be complete.”

Tonight’s event will begin on the City Hall steps at 6 p.m.

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TA Calls for Grand Street to Serve People, Not Cars, During L Shutdown

Transportation Alternatives Queens and Brooklyn activists rallied yesterday for a Grand Street "PeopleWay" during the L train shutdown dedicated to buses, bikes, and pedestrians. Photo: David Meyer

Transportation Alternatives volunteers rallied yesterday for a Grand Street “PeopleWay” to prioritize buses, biking, and walking. Photo: David Meyer

Volunteers from Transportation Alternatives rallied on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge last night to call on the city to prioritize Grand Street for buses, bicycling, and walking when the MTA shuts down the western portion of the L train for 18 months to make Sandy-related repairs.

Every day, New Yorkers make hundreds of thousands of trips on the portions of the L that will be affected. While some of these passengers can shift to other subways, there’s no way to accommodate all that travel without also repurposing street space for spatially efficient modes.

In Manhattan, TA has called for a car-free 14th Street “PeopleWay” exclusively for buses, bikes, and pedestrians, a concept that has the support of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

On the Brooklyn side, Borough President Eric Adams has called for dedicated bus lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge, but otherwise little attention has been paid to L train riders who’ll need better surface transportation options.

The Williamsburg Bridge also serves as the main link in the bike network between North Brooklyn and Manhattan, and is likely to experience increased bike traffic during the shutdown.

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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.

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