Skip to content

Posts from the "Transportation Alternatives" Category

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…

5 Comments

TA Poll: Majority of Citi Bike Users Want Protected Car-Free Bike Lanes

Image: Transportation Alternatives

In the latest issue of “StreetBeat,” Transportation Alternatives shares the results of the first in a series of online “flash polls” of Citi Bike riders. The polls are intended to gauge how members use the system, and how they’d like to see Citi Bike, and city streets, made better. Over 2,200 people responded to the first poll, TA reports.

“The idea is to continue to dig into the issues that are coming up for folks,” says TA spokesperson Brian Zumhagen.

Here are the findings of the first poll:

  • 64 percent of Citi Bike riders’ most common complaint is finding an empty station when they want to take out a Citi Bike or a full station when they need to return a Citi Bike
  • 84 percent of Citi Bike riders feel safest when riding in a physically separated bike lane
  • 51 percent of Citi Bike riders said “better enforcement against parking in the bike lane” should be a top NYPD priority
  • 91 percent of Citi Bike riders want the system expanded

Issues like keeping stations balanced and program expansion are indicators of bike-share’s popularity. Survey responses also point to the city’s obligation to create and maintain a safe environment for cycling, through engineering and traffic enforcement.

As Citi Bike approaches 100,000 members after five months of operation, DOT is set to release its own survey of approximately 1,000 users, which will examine how bike-share has changed travel behaviors. The Department of Health is conducting a long-term study on effects of the program on members’ health.

In the meantime, Citi Bike users can take TA’s Flash Poll #2, which “delves into solutions to the problems Citi Bike riders identified as most critical.” A third poll will be posted before year’s end, Zumhagen says, and will be followed by a summary report.

3 Comments

TA: NYPD Enforcement Priorities Don’t Match Its Own Street Safety Data

Only nine precincts, in yellow and green, issued more tickets for speeding than excessive window tint in 2011. NYPD has defended window tint summonses on traffic safety grounds, even though its own crash reports do not support that argument. Map: Transportation Alternatives

Yesterday, Transportation Alternatives released a report [PDF] highlighting the mismatch between what causes fatal and serious crashes, according to NYPD crash reports, and what police choose to prioritize when it comes to traffic enforcement.

The report lists some statistics to illustrate the public safety crisis on the city’s streets: One New Yorker suffers a traffic-related injury every eight minutes, has a traffic-related injury resulting in permanent disability or disfigurement every three hours, and is killed in a car crash every 33 hours. Nearly a third of New Yorkers know someone who has been seriously injured or killed in a crash. Motor vehicle crashes are the top cause of injury-related death for NYC children, and number two for seniors.

These crashes are caused by rule violations that, if enforced, could prevent crashes from occurring, the report says. Six in 10 crashes are caused by a driver who committed at least one traffic violation, with half of those crashes involving speeding or failure to yield to a pedestrian. Speeding drivers are the top cause of fatal crashes, killing more New Yorkers than drunk drivers or drivers on cell phones combined.

But instead of focusing on local streets where pedestrians are most vulnerable and speeding is rampant, 73 percent of speeding summonses in 2012 were issued by the NYPD Highway Unit, and 66 of 76 precincts issued less than one speeding summons a day.

Failure to yield to pedestrians was the leading cause of crashes resulting in injuries in 2011, but on average, NYPD precincts issued fewer than 12 failure to yield summonses each month last year, the report says.

Read more…

24 Comments

Informed of Safety Benefits, Most NYC Voters Want Protected Bike Lanes

Image: TransAlt/Penn Schoen Berland

A poll released by Transportation Alternatives today [PDF] sheds some new light on how NYC voters feel about street redesigns and automated enforcement when the policies are framed in terms of safety benefits.

Opinion polls by Marist, Quinnipiac, and the New York Times have consistently shown that New Yorkers support bike lanes by a large margin. The new poll that TA commissioned from firm Penn Schoen Berland is different in a few ways. It surveyed the subset of New Yorkers who are likely to vote, and on the question of bike infrastructure, it asked specifically how people feel about protected bike lanes in their neighborhood, given the improvements in safety that have been observed on NYC streets. The responses from 875 likely voters (polled via land lines and cell phones September 11-18) indicate broad support for this type of redesign when the safety benefits are front and center, and that running against bike lanes isn’t a winning position for candidates seeking citywide office.

While the survey sample included a higher proportion of car owners (61 percent) than the city as a whole (46 percent), the poll still found a wide margin of support for speed cameras. Focusing on likely voters also skewed the pool to long-time residents — 83 percent said they have lived in the city for at least 20 years — and the survey yielded some intriguing information about their travel behaviors and experiences with traffic violence.

Two-thirds of respondents expressed support for protected bike lanes in their neighborhood after the pollsters read this question:

The city of New York has built protected bicycle lanes and pedestrian islands on major roads in Midtown Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn. They have been proven to reduce injuries to pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and passengers by nearly 50%.

Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose bringing protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands to your neighborhood?

Among New Yorkers who plan to vote for Joe Lhota, the spread was a smaller but still a sizable 53-42 in favor of protected bike lanes.

Read more…

14 Comments

Verrazano Bridge Path Advocates Release Map, Ask MTA to Commit to Study

The Harbor Ring Committee, a coalition working to complete the missing link in a route around New York Harbor with a bicycle and pedestrian path across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, has released a map of the bike route, a 50-mile loop across four boroughs and Hudson County, New Jersey. Meanwhile, advocates are trying to get the MTA to firmly commit to a feasibility study they hope could pave the way for building the bridge path.

Advocates for a biking and walking path on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge have released a map for the Harbor Loop, a 50-mile route with a key missing link. Image: Harbor Loop Committee

In the spring, advocates circulated a petition calling on Governor Cuomo to support a bridge path. While the governor hasn’t come out with an endorsement, it did get the attention of MTA Bridges and Tunnels. “A feasibility study, addressing a host of issues including cost, structural issues, operational issues and impact on the surrounding neighborhoods would have to be conducted,” spokesperson Judie Glave said, adding that the agency “is considering studying this issue as part of a future reconstruction project” that would not begin until 2014 or later.

Advocates, who have been in touch with MTA Bridges and Tunnels President James Ferrara, say they hope the planned relocation of ramps on the Brooklyn side between the bridge and the Belt Parkway will include a path feasibility study. A separate ongoing capital project that could affect plans for a bike/ped path involves replacing and widening the upper deck to accommodate a bus and carpool lane.

“Honestly, this study I think would be a formality,” Harbor Ring Committee member David Wenger told Streetsblog. The bridge, designed by architects Ammann & Whitney, includes space for paths, but they were never built. In 1997, the same firm prepared a feasibility study for the Department of City Planning, including a preferred option for a path design that was similar to the path on the George Washington Bridge, another Amman & Whitney project.

The new feasibility study would likely update the old one, including more information about security and how the ramp would interact with reconfigured Brooklyn-side ramps. ”There should be no reason why this should not be feasible,” Wenger said.

As advocates push for a study next year, the online petition has gathered more than 2,000 signatures, plus about 500 signatures on paper. Comments from petition signers have been very helpful in convincing elected officials and the MTA of the path’s value, Wenger said. Nearly a quarter of all commenters say they would use the path as part of their daily commute.

In the meantime, the effort continues to rack up endorsements from elected officials, including Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, State Senator Marty Golden, and City Council members Deborah Rose and Vincent Gentile. Democratic City Council nominee John Mancuso has also endorsed the plan. The Harbor Ring Committee will soon reach out to borough president candidates, as well as more state legislators in both Staten Island and Brooklyn, Meredith Sladek of Transportation Alternatives said.

With the completion of a multi-use path on the new Goethals Bridge scheduled for 2017, Sladek said that the group might look at extending the loop route to include more of New Jersey, as well as the George Washington Bridge.

For those who can’t wait until a bridge path is built, the committee has already organized rides on the route and will soon print up to 5,000 copies of its newly-released Harbor Ring map for distribution to local bike shops. The map includes detailed information about the route, local bike shops, and transit. There’s just one pesky gap.

1 Comment

Ride Citi Bike? TA Wants to Know What You Think

Citi Bike user? Transportation Alternatives wants to hear from you. Photo Photo copyright Dmitry Gudkov.

Transportation Alternatives has launched a series of surveys asking Citi Bike riders what they think of the bike-share program. The aim is to better inform TA’s activism and introduce the advocacy group to bike-share users who may not already be familiar with ways they can help improve cycling in New York.

“We don’t want this to be just for our members,” TA’s Caroline Samponaro said. “We want to be advocates for Citi Bike riders at large.”

The first survey asks users to rank the problems they most commonly face when using bike-share, where they’d like to see the service expand next, what type of bike facilities they feel are safest, and how the NYPD should focus its traffic enforcement efforts.

“We have four themes we’re hitting in terms of advocacy,” Samponaro said. “Street safety, how well does it work, enforcement, and expansion.” TA plans to show the survey results to elected officials, NYC Bicycle Share, DOT, NYPD, and community boards to give Citi Bike users a voice in decisions about enforcement and system expansion.

In addition to the online survey, TA staffers and volunteers on the street will pass out copies of the survey to bike-share riders they encounter. Survey participants are entered into a raffle to win a bike helmet.

A new poll will be posted next month. ”If you do take the survey this month,” Samponaro said, “Don’t think you’ve already taken it when you see it next month.”

15 Comments

Mayoral and City Council Candidates Respond to TA Questionnaire

Mayoral candidates Albanese, de Blasio, Gronowicz, Liu, Thompson, Quinn, and Weiner responded to a survey from Transportation Alternatives. Image: TA

This morning, Transportation Alternatives released the results of surveys it sent out to mayoral and City Council candidates. While council candidates expressed a wide variety of opinions, mayoral candidates primarily hammered home positions most of them have already discussed during the campaign, while revealing a few new details on their transportation and street safety policies.

Mayoral candidates Sal Albanese, Bill de Blasio, Anthony Gronowicz, John Liu, Bill Thompson, Christine Quinn, and Anthony Weiner responded to the survey. Adolfo Carrión, John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota, George McDonald, and Erick Salgade did not reply.

In its coverage of the survey, WNYC said, “Generally speaking, the debate over bike lanes is settled. Candidates want more of them and want to increase cycling.” What’s not settled is how the candidates would do that, or how seriously they would support cycling once in office. De Blasio, Thompson, and Quinn specifically emphasized community process and outreach in their responses.

Albanese, de Blasio, and Quinn brought up their support for speed cameras in response to a question about NYPD’s inattention to traffic enforcement, while Liu reiterated his call to significantly expand the Collision Investigation Squad.

Absent from the survey was a question on where the candidates stand on congestion pricing or bridge tolls. Except for Liu, who plugged his proposal to enact bridge tolls and exempt city residents from paying the fee, none of the candidates brought up the issue.

Quinn’s response to a question about pedestrian safety began by establishing her bona fides in fighting electric bicycles. “I’ll continue to build on work I did as Speaker,” she said, “making it easier to enforce e-bike regulations.”

According to Thompson, better lighting and smoother sidewalks would help improve pedestrian safety. “Sometimes, simple solutions can be innovative,” the candidate said. ”We need to ensure there is proper lighting and that our sidewalks are in good condition.”

Weiner added new details to a stance on parking minimums first reported by Streetsblog. “I propose mandating buildings be built with fewer parking spots and more bike spots,” he said in the questionnaire.

TA also released results of its City Council candidate surveys, after sending questionnaires to the 248 registered candidates vying for all 51 council seats. TA policy coordinator Alana Miller noted that many registered candidates do not have active campaigns. The group received 80 responses in return.

Read more…

4 Comments

At City Hall, Advocates Call on Mayoral Candidates to Tackle Street Safety

In the wake of a string of pedestrian fatalities, more than 100 people gathered on the steps of City Hall this morning at an event organized by Transportation Alternatives to demand that mayoral candidates step up to address street safety.

“Every 36 hours, a New Yorker dies in traffic,” TA Executive Director Paul Steely White said. In 60 percent of fatal crashes, drivers are breaking the law, White added, and most fatalities occur on major arterial streets. “Bike lanes, pedestrian refuge islands — all these safety improvements are not negotiable,” White said. “They’re not some window dressing. They’re not some flair. These are life-saving improvements.”

There were 451 pedestrian fatalities in New York City from 2009 to 2011, Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool told the crowd. “By 2014, we are on target to match that number, and we shouldn’t be,” she said, adding that traffic is the top cause of death for New York City children and number two for seniors. “Enough is enough.”

Greg Thompson, whose sister Renee was killed by a truck driver last week, joined his aunt and cousin at today’s demonstration. “I’m certainly going to miss my little sister,” he said. “It’s devastating.” After the event, he said that his sister’s death has changed the way he feels when crossing the street. “I am really afraid of the sound of cars now,” he said, noting that the family has not received a copy of the crash report from NYPD. “It’s something that I really didn’t think too hard about before.”

While the city’s transportation engineers have made safety a much higher priority in recent years, the same can’t be said of the NYPD. “It used to be that people thought this was an intractable problem. Streets are the way they are; people are going to die in traffic. It’s just life in the big city. DOT has proven otherwise,” White said. “We have yet to achieve that realization with our NYPD.” White said the belief that the police department is impervious to change is “unacceptable” and called on mayoral candidates to make NYPD reform part of their street safety agendas. ”They’re the boss of the city and they’re the boss of the police department,” he said.

Read more…