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Families for Safe Streets and DOT Cut the Ribbon on Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza

DOT's new pedestrian plaza at the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub will save lives. Photo: David Meyer

The new pedestrian plaza at the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub will save lives. Photos: David Meyer

Members of Families for Safe Streets and DOT officials celebrated the completion of a new pedestrian plaza at the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub. The plaza, on the block of Wyckoff Avenue between Myrtle and Gates, is the centerpiece of a major safety project that will reduce conflicts between drivers and pedestrians at an intersection where three people were killed by motorists since 2009.

The installation of the plaza marks the culmination of a multi-year effort to fix the six-way Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection, which is the access point for two subway lines and six bus routes. Before the plaza, pedestrians, who outnumber motorists 3 to 1 during peak hours, were squeezed onto the margins. Now people can walk freely between the subway and the bus.

Members of Families for Safe Street and DOT staff cut the ribbon on the new plaza. Photo: David Meyer

Judy Kottick, third from left, cuts the ribbon on the new plaza.

The plaza also greatly simplifies complex turning movements that had jeopardized people’s lives. After an MTA bus driver killed 23-year-old Ella Bandes in 2013, DOT made some adjustments to eliminate some turning movements, but the changes were not enough to prevent another turning MTA bus driver from killing Edgar Torres the following year.

About 200 people attended a January 2014 vigil in memory of Bandes. Soon after, her parents, Judy Kottick and Ken Bandes, joined other people who had lost loved ones to traffic crashes to form Families for Safe Streets.

“Myrtle-Wyckoff has gone from being the fifth deadliest intersection in New York City to being the launching site of Families for Safe Streets, creating a pedestrian plaza that protects citizens and encourages a sense of community, and honors the people who had to lose their lives in order for this to happen,” said Kottick at today’s ceremony. “In their honor, Myrtle-Wyckoff can now be a beacon for street safety.”

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Monday: Tell CB 12 to Get on Board With Dyckman Street Upgrades Already

The DOT plan includes painted bike lanes on Dyckman Street between Broadway and Nagle Avenue and a protected bikeway between Nagle and 10th Avenue. Image: DOT

The DOT plan includes painted bike lanes on Dyckman Street between Broadway and Nagle Avenue and a protected bikeway between Nagle and 10th Avenue. Image: DOT

DOT will bring its plan for new bike lanes on Dyckman Street in Inwood back to Community Board 12 next Monday.

Local residents have been asking DOT for a protected bike lane on Dyckman, a major neighborhood thoroughfare that connects the east side and west side greenways, since 2008. CB 12 requested that DOT come up with a proposal for better bike infrastructure on the corridor — Dyckman currently has painted lanes on the east and west ends, but they don’t connect — in 2011 and 2012.

But when DOT put forth a plan last spring, CB 12 declined to support it. Instead, after years of talking around Dyckman improvements, the board’s transportation committee asked DOT for more meetings. Since then DOT has conducted site visits with CB 12 members to discuss the plan further, the agency told Streetsblog.

DOT has proposed a road diet for Dyckman between Broadway and Nagle Avenue, with a painted median and center turn lane flanked by one general traffic lane and a five-foot painted bike lane in each direction. Between Nagle and 10th Avenue, in place of existing painted bike lanes, DOT would install a nine-foot two-way protected bikeway on the south side of the street.

In addition to the bike lanes, the plan includes new median islands for pedestrians at Vermilyea and Post avenues and a painted curb extension and new crosswalk where Dyckman intersects with 10th Avenue, which right now is a vast expanse of asphalt.

The DOT plan for Dyckman is not the end-to-end bikeway that locals first proposed when George W. Bush was in the White House, but it would impose some order on a chaotic, heavily-trafficked street, acknowledging the presence of people on bikes and making intersections safer for walking.

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What Will It Take to Bring Bike-Share to Every Borough?

City Council members want bike-share to expand into their neighborhoods in a five-borough network. Officials at DOT and bike-share operator Motivate share that vision, but they said at a hearing today that it won’t come cheap.

Citi Bike's planned expansions won't make it to the poorest parts of Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Upper Manhattan. Image: Citi Bike

Citi Bike’s planned expansions won’t make it to most of Queens, Brooklyn, or the Bronx. Image: Citi Bike

After a rough start, Citi Bike’s recent success has prompted a growing number of elected officials to call for expanding the bike-share network to more neighborhoods and to lower-income New Yorkers.

The current phase of expansion is set to wrap up next year, extending the service area to Harlem, Astoria, and Crown Heights. Beyond 2017, the growth of the system is uncertain.

But transportation committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez wants bike-share stations in every community board in the city by 2020. “It is imperative that we turn Citi Bike into a public good, a resource for our lowest-income communities, an opportunity for growth and human capital development,” he said.

That’s no small task: The capital cost of adding one bike to the system is $6,000 (including the dock and other hardware), and Motivate says installing stations in every community board in the city would require 70,000 to 80,000 bikes. So blanketing the city with bike-share would cost more than $400 million.

So far, Citi Bike has launched and expanded using sponsorship revenue, member fees, and other private sources — not public funds. That will probably have to change to bring bike-share beyond the 2017 expansion zone. Both DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Motivate CEO Jay Walder said today that public funding would likely be necessary to make citywide bike-share a reality.

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DOT, NYPD Open to Bill Allowing Cyclists to Proceed on LPIs

The City Council transportation committee heard testimony today concerning a package of bike and pedestrian safety bills, including one that would allow cyclists to follow pedestrian signals instead of car signals.

Intro 1072, introduced by Council Member Carlos Menchaca, would improve safety at intersections by making it legal for cyclists to proceed during leading pedestrian intervals — the head start that pedestrians receive at some crossings. People on bikes routinely follow LPI signals to avoid conflicts with motorists.

Turning drivers caused nearly a fourth of cyclist deaths at intersections between 2006 and 2014, according to city crash data. The bill highlights that both pedestrians and cyclists are “extremely vulnerable to turning cars at intersections,” said committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez.

Menchaca said the bill preserves the pedestrian right of way and codifies the way many people already ride, following their instinct to get a head start and be visible to drivers before the light turns green. “Cyclists know what they’re doing,” Menchaca said.

The city will have 1,500 LPIs online by the end of the year, mostly at intersections that see a high number of crashes, said DOT Director of Bike and Pedestrian Programs Sean Quinn. DOT “supports the intent” of the LPI bill, Quinn said, and wants to adjust it to allow for exemptions to be made at “select instances, such as exclusive pedestrian phases or locations with complicated geometries,” where DOT deems the cyclist head start to be unsafe.

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SBS Launches on 23rd Street – Placard Holders Remain Oblivious to Bus Lanes

"Flexible bollards" at Sixth Avenue aim to keep motorists out of buses way. Photo: David Meyer

At Sixth Avenue, “flexible bollards” keep motorists from violating the eastbound bus lane. Photo: David Meyer

Select Bus Service launched on 23rd Street in Manhattan this morning, the twelfth SBS route in the city and the sixth to start up under Mayor de Blasio.

With dedicated lanes, off-board fare collection, and consolidated stops, SBS should mean faster crosstown service for the riders who make 15,000 trips on the M23 on an average weekday.

The bus lanes extend eastbound from mid-block between Tenth and Ninth Avenues to Second Avenue, and westbound from mid-block betweens First and Second Avenues to Eighth Avenue. DOT’s initial 23rd Street proposal limited bus lane enforcement to either rush hours or 7 a.m to 7 p.m., but the agency adjusted its plans after local community boards asked for more bus lane hours. The bus lanes will be in effect 24/7, with the exception of a single westbound block between Seventh and Eighth avenues, which is a commercial loading zone outside of the morning and evening rush [PDF].

This morning riders took advantage of all-door boarding along the route, but illegally parked cars were a problem. Vehicles with government placards filled the north curb between First Avenue and Second Avenue, forcing delivery trucks into the bus lane and buses into the general travel lane.

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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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Eyes on the Street: Eastern Parkway Gets Removable Rubber Ped Islands

Photo: Zeke Mermell

The rubber pedestrian island at Eastern Parkway and Kingston Avenue, where the city ripped out a concrete island earlier this year. Photo: Zeke Mermell

DOT has installed “removable rubber pedestrian islands” at two intersections on Eastern Parkway, two months after Mayor de Blasio authorized the removal of concrete pedestrian islands to ostensibly make room for the West Indian Day Parade.

The concrete islands were only in place for about eight months. They were installed last December at Kingston Avenue and Brooklyn Avenue in response to an extensive public process for a Safe Routes to School project, but they were removed mere days before the parade without any public notification.

After the concrete islands were torn up, de Blasio said the city would find a “long-term solution” that would not require parade floats, which come down the boulevard just once each year, to “navigate the very tight space.”

Yesterday, DOT began installing removable rubber islands in place of the concrete ones. The new islands are made of modular components and roughly match the dimensions of the ones they replaced, but they cannot anchor the heavy-duty bell bollards that provide a line of defense in the event a motorist drives into the refuge. This is the first such “removable rubber pedestrian refuge island” in the city, according to DOT.

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DOT Can’t Control the Seasons, But de Blasio Can Fund Safer Street Designs

Let's design streets to be safe even during the most dangerous times of year. Chart: DOT

Let’s design streets to be safe even during the most dangerous times of year. Chart: DOT

Today DOT announced a “dusk and darkness” traffic enforcement and education campaign to reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths during fall and winter, when fatal crashes tend to be more frequent.

“As the days get shorter and the weather colder, crashes on our streets involving pedestrians increase — and so we are enlisting data-driven strategies to address that upturn,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement. “Through education and enforcement with our sister agencies, every driver needs to learn about the limited visibility of this season and the dangers of fast turns, especially in the evening hours.”

Trottenberg cited the redesigned approach to the Manhattan Bridge as a project that will “make crossing our busiest streets safer for everybody,” but that project is independent of the new seasonal safety campaign.

There’s nothing wrong with drawing attention to the fact that streets are more dangerous this time of year, but it’s no substitute for street designs that make walking safer year-round.

“’Let’s all try to be more careful’ doesn’t really work,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul White told Streetsblog. “That’s a pre-Vision Zero approach.”

Severe crashes that harm pedestrians increase by almost 40 percent on fall and winter evenings compared to other seasons, according to DOT. In the coming weeks, NYPD will step up police presence and enforcement of dangerous driving behaviors “around sunset hours when data show serious pedestrian crashes increase,” according to a DOT press release. NYPD will also conduct targeted enforcement at intersections with high rates of pedestrian injuries and deaths.

In addition, NYPD and DOT will “educate drivers and other New Yorkers at high-priority Vision Zero target areas” by distributing palm cards, the press release says, some of which will remind motorists that they’re required to yield to pedestrians while making left turns.

Senior centers have already received materials on “improving safety conditions in their neighborhoods and sharing tips for getting around safely,” according to DOT. The Times reported that the city will spend $1.5 million on the campaign.

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No More Stalling: DOT Redesigns Gerritsen Ave After Teen Cyclist’s Death

In the coming weeks, Gerritsen Avenue will get a two-way protected bike lane, concrete pedestrian refuges, and bus boarding bulbs aimed to calm traffic and create safer access to the park. Image: DOT

By next month, Gerritsen Avenue will get a two-way protected bike lane, concrete pedestrian islands, and bus boarding islands. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT will install a two-way protected bike lane and other traffic-calming measures on Gerritsen Avenue, the street next to Marine Park in southern Brooklyn where a drunk driver killed a teenage cyclist this summer [PDF].

On the night of July 19, Thomas Groarke, 24, overtook another driver on the left and sped into the wide painted median on Gerritsen near Gotham Avenue, then fatally struck 17-year-old Sean Ryan, who was riding his bike southbound, the Daily News reported. Three other people were injured in the crash. Groarke’s blood alcohol level was found to be twice the legal limit.

Gerritsen Avenue is a wide street with a speeding problem and a history of traffic injuries and deaths. Since 2007, there have been four fatalities on the street, according to DOT, including three in the past two years. After the deaths of Joseph Ciresi and James Miro last fall, the Times looked at the street’s reputation as a drag strip.

The city has tinkered with the design of Gerritsen Avenue before. After a motorist severely injured 12-year-old cyclist Anthony Turturro in 2004 at the same intersection where Ryan was killed, the city implemented a four-lane-to-three-lane road diet with a painted median. In 2008 and 2009, the city floated concrete pedestrian islands and painted bike lanes for Gerritsen but backed off after local residents protested the changes. The only change implemented was to narrow the medians to make room for a “wide parking lane” (instead of painted bike lanes).

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DOT and Citi Bike Celebrate Sixth Avenue Bikeway and #WomenWhoBike

Dozens of people participated in a bike ride today to celebrate Women’s Bike Month and the return of a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue. Photos: NYC DOT

Dozens of people participated in a bike ride today to celebrate Women’s Bike Month and the return of a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue. Photos: NYC DOT

DOT and Citi Bike marked the return of a protected bike lane to Sixth Avenue today with a ribbon-cutting and celebratory ride. The event also served to highlight Women’s Bike Month and a Motivate campaign to encourage women in NYC to ride bikes.

The new Sixth Avenue bikeway runs from Eighth Street to 33rd Street, the same street where mayor Ed Koch installed a protected bike lane in 1980 before ripping it out a few months later.

“As an enthusiastic Citi Bike rider, I want women to know that Citi Bike is a safe, affordable, and healthy transit option,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in a statement. “With such a big gender gap among cyclists, we believe that bike-share and over 1,000 miles of bike lanes around the city will be among the keys to getting more women to ride.”

Studies by Hunter College and NYU’s Rudin Center, both from 2014, showed that around 75 percent of Citi Bike users were men, but that women were more likely to ride where streets are made safer for biking, according to a Citi Bike/DOT press release.

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