Skip to content

Posts from the "Transportation Alternatives" Category

No Comments

Van Bramer: Deadly Northern Boulevard Should Be a Vision Zero Priority

Advocates and fellow electeds with City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer on Northern Boulevard, in front of a bus stop where five people were injured by a curb-jumping driver this month. Photo: Brad Aaron

Advocates and fellow electeds with City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer on Northern Boulevard, in front of a bus stop where five people were injured by a curb-jumping driver this month. Photo: Brad Aaron

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, state electeds, and advocates gathered in Queens this morning to call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to make Northern Boulevard a Vision Zero priority by making hazardous intersections safer for pedestrians.

Standing next to a recently repaired bus shelter at Northern and 48th Street, which was nearly destroyed by a curb-jumping hit-and-run driver who seriously injured five people on February 1, Van Bramer also singled out dangerous crossings at Northern and 42nd Street, 43rd Street, 52nd Street, and 62nd Street, where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed by an unlicensed truck driver.

“We’re asking the administration today to include this series of intersections on Northern Boulevard so that no child is ever killed trying to cross the street to go to school, that no 7-year-old girl is ever sent to Elmhurst Hospital waiting for a bus, or excited to have just come out of Old Navy with some new clothes,” said Van Bramer, referring to Nahian and one of the victims struck last weekend.

De Blasio has said he wants to revamp at least 50 corridors and intersections a year, but has not yet announced where the first round of improvements will take place. Van Bramer said the administration has asked for recommendations from council members. De Blasio has also directed the city’s police, transportation, taxi, and health commissioners to produce a pedestrian safety plan by February 15. De Blasio’s Vision Zero launch event was held at PS 152, where Nahian attended school.

Northern Boulevard is a hostile, wide street lined with retail and grocery stores. Throughout today’s street safety presser, speakers were drowned out or interrupted by loud trucks and honking motorists, who whipped by just a few feet away. Van Bramer cited a report from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign that found that five pedestrians were killed on the boulevard from 2010 to 2012. That number does not include Nahian or Olvin Jahir Figueroa, age 3, who was hit by an alleged drunk driver while crossing with his mother at Northern and Junction Boulevard in 2013. Since 2011, NYPD data reports put the number of pedestrians injured by drivers on Northern Boulevard in the hundreds.

“As we often say, ‘It is too late to wait,’” said Van Bramer. “The time to act is now.” Van Bramer said he has a ”pretty extensive list” of streets targeted for improvement in his district, and would make it available to the public soon. ”There are far more than 50 [intersections] that deserve this recognition,” he said.

Read more…

7 Comments

These Are NYC’s Most Dangerous Streets. Will de Blasio Fix Them?

The 2013 citywide data on traffic fatalities is out, and a pair of number-crunching reports from street safety advocates confirm what New Yorkers know in their gut: Wide, car-centric streets are the most dangerous places to walk in New York City. Now, the question is whether Mayor Bill de Blasio will use the release of his Vision Zero strategy later this month to put the full power of his administration behind fixing the city’s most dangerous streets.

It’s going to take a lot more than signs to drastically reduce the death toll on streets like Queens Boulevard.

“Arterial streets make up only 10 percent of our city’s road network, but these multi-lane speedways are the site of more than half of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said in a statement yesterday. TA crunched the recently-released 2013 numbers from NYPD, which showed that traffic violence claimed the lives of 286 New Yorkers and injured nearly 55,000. Pedestrians and cyclists accounted for 178 deaths and more than 16,000 injuries.

Last September, a TA poll [PDF] asked New Yorkers to identify the most dangerous street in their borough. The results aren’t surprising: Queens Boulevard, Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Manhattan were the top suggestions. Last year, on these five roads alone, drivers killed 18 people and injured 2,671, including 305 cyclists and 762 pedestrians.

These numbers are up compared to 2012, when this selection of streets saw 51 fewer injuries and three fewer deaths. Other areas with high numbers of fatalities and injuries according to TA’s analysis include 125th Street and 14th Street in Manhattan, Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, and Broadway in Williamsburg.

Also today, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign released its annual report on the region’s most dangerous roads for walking, compiling federal data on pedestrian fatalities from 2010 to 2012. On top of the dangerous streets identified by TA’s analysis, Tri-State’s report highlights even more streets in the city that need life-saving safety measures.

On the six most dangerous roads in Brooklyn, a total of 27 pedestrians died over three years. In Queens, drivers on the four most dangerous roads killed 23 pedestrians. In the Bronx, 16 pedestrians died on the four most dangerous roads. These streets often appear on Streetsblog as sites of motor vehicle mayhem: Woodhaven Boulevard, Northern Boulevard, Flatbush Avenue, Ocean Parkway, Grand Concourse. The list goes on.

City Hall is probably well aware of the danger these streets pose. In its pedestrian safety action plan from 2010, DOT analyzed injury and fatality data and also found that the highest rates of traffic violence are concentrated on these major roads.

Read more…

2 Comments

A Bronx Blast From the Past: Car-Free Grand Concourse Gets CB 4 Support


It’s been an on-again, off-again tradition for at least two decades: Turning the center lanes of the Grand Concourse into a car-free space for stress-free walking, biking and exercise. With an overwhelming vote of support from Community Board 4 earlier this week, it seems this tradition is poised for a return this summer.

In the early 1990s, then-Borough President Fernando Ferrer supported car-free Sundays on the Grand Concourse, giving Broxnites a chance to enjoy three-and-a-half miles of the borough’s main boulevard. The program, which started in July and August, was extended through November due to its popularity, but the Giuliani administration stopped the program in 1996. A limited version was brought back by Adolfo Carrión, Ferrer’s successor, in 2006, and was documented in this Streetfilm before again fading out a couple years later.

Now, the program is set for a return — if only for a few blocks and a few hours. On Tuesday, Bronx Community Board 4 lent its support with a 27-1 vote in favor of a proposal led by Transportation Alternatives, the Bronx Museum of Art, and a host of local health, cultural, neighborhood and business partners.

The groups are applying to DOT’s Weekend Walks program to open the center lanes of the Grand Concourse between 165th and 167th Streets to walking, biking and public events on three consecutive Sundays in August. Last year, there were three Weekend Walks events in the Bronx, but none on the Grand Concourse.

The event, called “Boogie on the Boulevard,” is scheduled for August 3, 10 and 17 — the same days that Summer Streets, the city’s marquee open streets event, has traditionally been held in Manhattan. ”It’s definitely playing on an extension of Summer Streets, coming up to serve folks in the Bronx,” TA field organizing manager Jill Guidera said. ”People from the Bronx go down to Park Avenue to enjoy their city in that way, and they were wondering where theirs was.”

Read more…

9 Comments

Manhattan Bus Routes Sweep the 2013 Pokey and Schleppie Awards

The Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives today handed out their annual awards for the slowest and least reliable NYC buses, with Manhattan routes taking the honors.

Photo: ##http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/12/01/manhattans-m50-crosstown-bus-wins-pokey-award/##WCBS##

Photo: WCBS

The M42 and the M50 tied for the 2013 Pokey award. Each crosstown bus was clocked at 3.4 miles per hour at noon on a weekday. That’s slower than a wooden row boat “in still water without wind,” according to a press release announcing the awards. In 2012, the M42 and M50 transported 14,829 and 3,383 riders, respectively, on an average weekday.

The B41 Limited (5.7 mph), the Bx19 (4.9 mph), the Q58 (7 mph), and the S48 (7.7 mph) were the slowest buses in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island.

Taking home the Schleppie for least reliable bus this year was the M101/2/3. More than 30 percent of the route’s buses were bunched or separated by gaps, Straphangers and TA said.

In 2012, the M101 moved 29,341 riders on an average weekday, the M102 had 15,284 riders, and the M103 transported 12,548 people.

Other least reliable buses, according to Straphangers and TA: the Bx55 in the Bronx, the S74 in Staten Island, the B44 in Brooklyn, and the Q85 in Queens.

The Pokeys always make for a theatrical set piece underscoring the need to upgrade conventional bus routes. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has pledged to build a Bus Rapid Transit network of more than 20 lines. This week the Pratt Center for Community Development unveiled a plan for eight potential routes featuring separated busways with platform-level boarding.

39 Comments

CB 5 Closes in on Requesting Complete Streets Study for 5th and 6th Avenues

Fifth Avenue at 48th Street: Lots of space for cars; bike riders and walkers on the margins. Photo: Google Maps

Fifth Avenue at 48th Street: Lots of space for cars, with people walking and biking on the margins. Photo: Google Maps

The campaign for a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly design on crowded Fifth and Sixth Avenues has crossed its first major milestone, with Community Board 5′s transportation committee advancing a resolution asking DOT for a complete streets study.

The resolution, which passed the committee last Monday in a unanimous vote, is set to be taken up by the full board on December 12. “It’s just acknowledging that there’s a problem and that they need to be studied,” said Transportation Alternatives volunteer Janet Liff. “The proposal is really to take a look at the concept of a complete street, which includes pedestrian space, bulb outs, bike lanes, and express bus service.”

TA’s campaign for to make Fifth and Sixth Avenues safer is “emphasizing that pedestrians do come first,” Liff said. Committee chair Raju Mann also told Streetsblog that discussion of the resolution last month focused primarily on pedestrians.

Even with scarce accommodations for bicycling, Fifth and Sixth Avenues continue to rank among the busiest Manhattan avenues for cyclists. Over an 18-hour period in September 2012, DOT counted more than 5,000 people biking on the pair of avenues, exceeding every other northbound/southbound pair in Manhattan, though Eighth and Ninth Avenues, which have protected bike lanes, sometimes do see more bicycle traffic [PDF].

When activist group Right of Way painted guerrilla bike lanes on Sixth Avenue in September, DOT spokesperson Seth Solomonow said the agency would consider street design requests from the local community board. Monday’s vote puts CB 5 closer to making that request happen.

Short stretches of Fifth and Sixth Avenue are also part of Community Boards 2 and 4. Caroline Samponaro, TA’s senior director of campaigns and organizing, said approaching those boards would be a “next step” after securing support from CB 5. In addition to a coalition letter signed by block associations, commercial landlords, and small businesses, TA’s online petition for the complete streets study has garnered more than 10,000 signatures. “People are aware that on just two avenues in each direction there are these improvements,” she said. “They’re asking: ‘What about us?’”

Read more…

3 Comments

TA Outlines a Traffic Enforcement Strategy as NYPD Feels the Heat

Following up on its report highlighting NYPD’s lack of meaningful traffic enforcement and a street safety forum featuring former police commissioner Bill Bratton, Transportation Alternatives released a report yesterday [PDF] outlining case studies of effective traffic enforcement. The report gives Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and his next police commissioner a broad strategy to help achieve de Blasio’s stated goal of eliminating traffic fatalities within 10 years.

Will the mayor-elect's police department use its megaphone to combat dangerous driving? Photo: Kevin Case/Flickr

Will Bill de Blasio’s police department use its megaphone to combat dangerous driving? Photo: Kevin Case/Flickr

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers are injured in traffic every year, and hundreds are killed. NYPD data show that speeding and failure to yield are the top two causes of fatal and injury-causing crashes. But violating the speed limit remains incredibly common, and only a tiny fraction of speeding motorists are cited by police. Last year, NYPD issued 31 percent fewer tickets for speeding and failure to yield than it did for tinted windows and defective headlights, according to TA.

TA recommends an approach that involves highly visible, sustained enforcement — including expanded camera enforcement — against the most dangerous violations at locations with the highest crash rates, as well as a broader effort to capture the public’s attention.

The report distinguishes between two types of enforcement: “Specific deterrence” (citing individual motorists for violations) and “general deterrence” (getting the message out that people will get caught if they break certain rules). The report suggests that “specific deterrence” should target the most dangerous offenses, while the police launch an aggressive “general deterrence” education and media campaign.

The report includes several case studies that point the way for NYPD’s traffic enforcement efforts. Here are a few:

  • NYPD’s own 24-hour “enforcement blitz” against cell phone violations in March 2011 resulted in 6,200 summonses and garnered lots of media attention. Police in Hartford, Connecticut, decreased illegal cell phone use by as much as 75 percent by repeating similar ticket blitzes multiple times each year, the report says.
  • In Washington, DC, police launch “waves of enforcement” that start off with education on the first day, warnings on the second, and summonses on the third.
  • Plainclothes officers in Somerville, Massachusetts, launched stings against drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk as part of an overall increase in moving violations summonses. The increase in ticketing heightened awareness among drivers, and serious crashes overall fell by 24 percent in 2012 compared to the year before.
  • When the Chicago DOT plans a new piece of pedestrian infrastructure, like a crosswalk, the agency notifies the police, who begin an educational and enforcement campaign after it is installed.

The report also features some whimsical yet effective tactics, such as cardboard cut-outs of police officers in India.

In a sign that it may be feeling pressure to pay more attention to street safety, NYPD issued a press release just hours after TA sent out its report, trumpeting the results of a five-day pedestrian safety campaign last week during morning and evening rush hours in high-crash locations.

Read more…

24 Comments

Bringing “Broken Windows” to Street Safety: Bratton Talks Traffic at Forum

Bill Bratton speaks with the press before this morning's event on NYPD's traffic enforcement. Photo: Transportation Alternatives

Bill Bratton speaks with the press before this morning’s event on NYPD’s traffic enforcement. Photo: Transportation Alternatives

At a Transportation Alternatives forum this morning on reforming the agency’s approach to traffic enforcement, former NYPD commissioner (and current contender for his old job) Bill Bratton said street safety deserves more attention from the police. The former chief was followed by a panel discussion featuring one of the creators of the “broken windows” theory of policing Bratton is credited with executing, who argued that the approach should also be applied to traffic violence.

With speculation swirling about Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s pick for police commissioner, pressure is mounting from street safety advocates who want to see NYPD play a stronger role in reducing crash-related deaths and injuries.

“The Bloomberg administration has spent a significant amount of time and focus on redesigning the streets,” Bratton said. Of police traffic enforcement, he said, “More can be done in this critical area. The time for this issue has come.”

Bratton’s history with traffic enforcement dates to his childhood: He served on his elementary school’s walk-to-school safety patrol, and his first assignment in the Boston Police Department was directing traffic. Bratton spoke highly of aggressive “jaywalking” ticketing in Los Angeles, where he served as police chief, but his emphasis shifted when he began to talk about New York. ”One of the great things about this city is that it is so much a walking city. Similar to what occurred in the 90s on crime, more can be done to deal with this issue,” he said. ”I’d like to walk the streets and ride the streets on a bicycle on occasion…I don’t feel comfortable riding a bicycle on the city streets.”

“We now know precisely which modern street designs work to reduce death and injury,” Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White said, mentioning protected bike lanes, pedestrian islands, increased crossing time, and curb extensions. ”Our next DOT commissioner needs to make safely-designed streets the rule, not the exception,” he said. ”If that is what the DOT is doing differently to achieve Vision Zero, what is the NYPD going to do to achieve Vision Zero?”

White then pointed to infractions like speeding and failure to yield, which are top contributors to fatal crashes. ”These violations are not meaningfully enforced today in New York City,” he said. ”We’re not making progress anymore. Traffic injuries and fatalities were going down, but they’ve plateaued.”

Read more…

21 Comments

At City Council Hearing, Impassioned Appeals for Lower Speed Limits

City Council reps and members of the public spoke unanimously today in support of a bill to lower speed limits to a life-saving 20 miles per hour in neighborhoods citywide. But if the council adopts the measure, it will do so over the objection of DOT, which said the proposal would create conflicts with state law.

The family of Samuel Cohen Eckstein testified at today's hearing. Photo: @bradlander

During an emotional two-hour hearing, council members on the transportation committee heard from advocates, neighborhood groups, and individual citizens, virtually all of whom implored lawmakers to see the bill passed.

Proposed by Council Member David Greenfield, Intro 535 would require DOT to set speed limits no higher than 20 miles per hour, down from the current citywide 30 mph limit, “on all streets fewer than sixty feet wide in areas zoned for residential purposes.”

Kate Slevin, assistant commissioner for intergovernmental affairs, and Ryan Russo, assistant commissioner for traffic management, testified on behalf of DOT. Slevin said 20 mph speeds in tandem with other traffic-calming measures is not only “a common sense approach to saving lives,” it’s a required combination under state law. State traffic code allows New York City to set speeds from 15 to 24 miles per hour, Slevin said, only if other physical traffic-calming treatments are also implemented, or the street in question is within a quarter-mile of a school.

“Unfortunately, not every residential street is appropriate for speed bumps, roadway narrowing, or other traffic calming treatments,” said Slevin. “As such, DOT would be unable to comply with Intro 535 as currently drafted.” Slevin and Russo did not specify how DOT or state law define “other traffic calming treatments” — whether they include paint, for instance, or other low-cost improvements.

Slevin said that, instead of passing the Greenfield bill, the council might consider lobbying the state for permission to lower the speed limit citywide.

Committee Chair James Vacca told Slevin and Russo he is frustrated by the gradual pace of the Slow Zone rollout — the timetable for currently approved zones now stretches to 2016 — the limited number of approved zones, and the backlog of requested speed bumps. He pledged to push the next mayor to accelerate the implementation of Slow Zones, but in the meantime, Vacca asked if DOT could lower speeds on certain streets to 25 miles per hour. Slevin replied that DOT could do that, but said the department prefers a more holistic approach. Slevin said DOT meets frequently with other agencies, including the Department of Education, the Department of Health, and especially NYPD, to address traffic safety — a process Vacca said should be formalized.

Council Member Brad Lander requested that DOT provide information on what could be done to lower speeds under current law, including an analysis of streets that are now eligible for 20 miles per hour speeds.

Vacca and Lander acknowledged that NYPD, which did not send anyone to the hearing, does not prioritize traffic enforcement. Lander complained that offenses including speeding, red-light running, and failure to yield are rampant. Of NYPD’s enforcement stats, Lander said, “Anyone who took street safety seriously and believed in data would be appalled.”

Read more…

5 Comments

Lentol: DOT Will Finalize Design for Pulaski Protected Bike Lane This Year

DOT is drawing up plans for a dedicated bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge, according to the office of Assembly Member Joe Lentol, and should have a final design ready before the end of the year

The current layout of this Queens-Brooklyn link squeezes pedestrians and cyclists onto a narrow shared path, while motorists speed along on six lanes for auto traffic. A year ago, Lentol asked DOT to consider adding a two-way protected bike lane, and has since worked with Transportation Alternatives staff and volunteers to build support for the project. After the proposal cleared a traffic analysis, DOT conducted an engineering study, presumably focusing on how to protect cyclists from car traffic and make it safe to bike across the bridge’s wide expansion joints.

Today Lentol announced the final design will be presented to Community Board 1 in Brooklyn and CB 2 in Queens before the year is out. ”The bike lane construction slated to begin in late spring or early summer of 2014 will allow for cyclists and pedestrians to be enjoying a safer journey over the bridge sooner rather than later,” Lentol said in a press release.

“We have been working on obtaining a dedicated bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge for over a year now and I am happy to say it is finally coming to fruition,” Assemblyman Lentol added. “The safety of bike riders and pedestrians on the bridge has always been of my utmost concern.”

“I applaud Commissioner Sadik-Khan for her vision in creating a more pedestrian and cyclist friendly transportation infrastructure for New York City,” Lentol concluded.

We’ve asked DOT to confirm the project timeline, and will update here when we hear back.

12 Comments

NYPD Charges 0.7 Percent of Drivers Who Injure and Kill With Careless Driving

Graphic by Carly Clark. Citation data obtained by Transportation Alternatives.

Three years after Albany established the offense of careless driving, NYPD continues to apply the law in only a tiny fraction of crashes that result in the death or injury of pedestrians and cyclists.

There were 152 pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in the city in 2012, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, and 14,327 injuries. Of those 14,479 crashes, DMV data show NYPD cited 101 motorists for careless driving. That’s a citation rate of less than 1 percent.

It’s also the most careless driving citations issued by NYPD in a single year since Hayley and Diego’s Law took effect in 2010, when police wrote 99 summonses. In 2011, the first full year NYPD had the new law as part of its traffic enforcement toolkit, it was applied just 87 times.

The careless driving statute, part of Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1146, is named after Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, toddlers who were killed in 2009 when a van, left unattended and idling, rolled onto a sidewalk in Chinatown. The driver was not charged by NYPD, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, or his successor Cy Vance.

Careless driving was intended as a minimum penalty to hold drivers who injure and kill accountable, in lieu of a more serious criminal charge. Under the law, drivers who injure pedestrians or cyclists while failing to exercise due care are subject to mandatory drivers’ ed, and could be sentenced to fines of up to $750, jail time of up to 15 days, and a license suspension of up to six months.

Graphic by Carly Clark. Citation data obtained by Transportation Alternatives.

Read more…