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Eyes on the Street: West End Avenue Gets Its Road Diet

West End Avenue at 85th Street. Photo: John Simpson

West End Avenue at 85th Street. Photo: John Simpson

After Cooper Stock and Jean Chambers were killed in West End Avenue crosswalks by turning drivers earlier this year, DOT unveiled a 35-block road diet for the dangerous Upper West Side street. Now, the plan is on the ground, and pedestrian islands are set to be installed within a month.

The redesign is a standard four- to three-lane road diet, slimming from two lanes in each direction to one lane per direction with center turn lanes. Bike lanes not included.

Streetsblog reader John Simpson sent in photos of the new street design on the ground between 85th and 86th Streets. The repaving and striping appears to be mostly complete.

Concrete pedestrian refuge islands are planned for 72nd, 79th, 95th, and 97th Streets. On Tuesday, DOT staff told the Manhattan Community Board 7 transportation committee that islands will be installed at 95th and 97th Streets “within the month,” reports Emily Frost at DNAinfo. Islands at 72nd and 79th were added to the plan after complaints that the project didn’t include enough of them. Update: DOT says a pedestrian island at 72nd Street will be installed next year, while neckdowns will be built at 79th Street in the coming months as part of a Safe Routes to School program.

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155th Street Ped Safety Fixes Clear Three Uptown Community Board Votes

The Manhattan side of the 155th Street Bridge is a complex intersection where pedestrians are too often forgotten within a swirl of turning vehicles and impatient drivers. The intersection is also on the border of three community boards, adding extra layers of review for DOT efforts to improve safety. As of last night, transportation committees at all three boards have voted in support of the proposal, which will add pedestrian islands and turn restrictions while shortening crossing distances and calming traffic [PDF]. After it clears the full boards, the safety fixes are scheduled to be installed next year.

The plan will add four curb extensions and one pedestrian island to the Manhattan side of the 155th Street Bridge. Image: DOT [PDF[

The plan has three turn bans, four curb extensions and one pedestrian island for the Manhattan side of the 155th Street Bridge. Image: DOT [PDF]

The location is more dangerous than 99 percent of Manhattan’s intersections. From 2008 to 2012, there were 72 traffic injuries, eight of them severe, at this single location, and nearly two of every five pedestrian crashes happen while the victim is walking with the signal, according to DOT. More than a quarter of crashes involve left-turning drivers, far higher than the numbers at other Manhattan intersections.

A plan for the intersection has been in the works for nearly two years. DOT’s proposal includes three new turn bans, four new concrete curb extensions, and one new pedestrian refuge island at the intersection of West 155th Street, Edgecombe Avenue, St. Nicholas Place, and Harlem River Driveway. On St. Nicholas Place, the agency is proposing new crosswalks at 152nd Street and three pedestrian islands, one each at 151st, 152nd, and 153rd Streets.

CB 12′s transportation committee voted unanimously to support the plan earlier this month. Last night, committees at community boards 9 and 10 followed suit. The vote at CB 10 was 6-0, with one abstention, according to committee chair Maria Garcia. At CB 9, the committee voted 7-0 to support the plan.

The Assembly member representing the area — Herman “Denny” Farrell, chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee — has been a regular presence at public meetings for the project. He attended both committee meetings last night to speak about the plan. “I’m 90 percent in favor of it,” he told CB 10. “I’m 10 percent in opposition to elimination of the left turn onto St. Nicholas Place.”

Farrell was referring to a proposal to prohibit westbound drivers on 155th Street from turning onto southbound St. Nicholas Place. The turn ban would create space for a pedestrian island on St. Nicholas Place and direct drivers to instead turn left at the next intersection, at St. Nicholas Avenue. Farrell was concerned that the additional left turns at that location would pose a safety hazard. The plan converts one of the lanes on 155th Street at St. Nicholas Avenue to a dedicated turn lane. According to DOT, 110 drivers make the left turn onto St. Nicholas Place during rush hour. The agency said at previous meetings that the intersection should be able to handle the additional traffic.

While committee members shared Farrell’s concern, none of the committees are asking DOT to take out the turn restriction. A draft of CB 9′s resolution asks DOT to provide follow-up data from the St. Nicholas Avenue intersection on the impact of the turn ban.

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City Gets the Word Out: 25 MPH Speed Limit Takes Effect November 7

Photo: NYC DOT

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg with NYPD transportation chief Thomas Chan, City Council transportation committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez, and Amy Cohen of Families For Safe Streets. Photo: NYC DOT

After a powerful advocacy campaign that convinced Albany and the City Council to lower NYC’s default speed limit to 25 mph, the new law is set to take effect November 7. City officials and street safety advocates launched a public awareness campaign today at the intersection of Vanderbilt Avenue and Park Place in Prospect Heights to make sure New Yorkers know the new speed limit and why driving slower saves lives.

Unless signs say otherwise, the speed limit on all city streets will shift from 30 mph to 25 mph. (Some large arterial streets like Queens Boulevard will retain higher limits.) Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, City Council transportation committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez, and representatives from Transportation Alternatives and Families For Safe Streets, who helped win passage of the enabling legislation, were on hand today to bring the message home.

DOT is urging New Yorkers to use the #25mph hashtag on social media to share why driving at a safe speed is important to them.

Joint DOT/NYPD “street teams” have been distributing flyers about the new speed limit on major streets. Last week, 16,000 flyers were handed out on Staten Island’s Hylan Boulevard, and the street teams are now canvassing White Plains Road in the Bronx. Radio ad buys began today, and print and online media PSA campaigns will begin later this month. DOT says it will be working with local elected, community boards, BIDs, and neighborhood non-profits to spread the word as well.

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Manhattan CB 6 Backs East River Greenway Connector on 37th Street

Compromise: Image: DOT

The East River Greenway, on the other side of FDR Drive to the right, will have a safer connection to the First and Second Avenue bike lanes after DOT moved parking zones closer to a condominium tower. Image: DOT [PDF]

It’s going to become safer and easier to access the East River Greenway, thanks to a vote last night by Manhattan Community Board 6. In a surprisingly drama-free meeting, the board backed the recommendation of DOT and its own transportation committee for a two-way bike path on a single block of 37th Street, connecting the greenway to First Avenue.

The plan had been modified slightly to accommodate the concerns of residents in the Horizon condominium tower, many of whom stormed CB meetings in June over concerns that the bike lane would block curbside car access to their building. Responding to their opposition, the board requested at its June meeting that DOT relocate the path to the south side of the street.

After that meeting, Council Member Dan Garodnick hosted a tour of the site. According to board members, DOT said a southerly alignment would force cyclists to cross two legs of intersections at the FDR Drive service road and First Avenue and put cyclists in the path of turning drivers, posing an unnecessary traffic safety risk. Despite this, many Horizon residents stood firm in their opposition to the plan.

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Pulaski Bridge Bikeway Likely Delayed Until Next Year

The plan will add Image: DOT

The Pulaski Bridge project will give more space to pedestrians and cyclists while calming Brooklyn-bound traffic. Image: DOT

One of the most anticipated livable streets projects of 2014 probably won’t get built until next year.

NYC DOT’s plan to convert a traffic lane on the Pulaski Bridge to a two-way protected bike path, which would relieve crowding on the bridge’s narrow bike-ped path and calm traffic heading toward McGuinness Boulevard in Brooklyn, is still in the review phase, according to DOT. The office of Assembly Member Joe Lentol, who has championed the project, says it is not likely to be installed before the end of this year.

The design for the bikeway was revealed last fall, following many months of agitation by elected officials and advocates. At the time, construction was expected to wrap up in 2014. That now looks unlikely.

“The final bid from the contractor is under review by the Comptroller’s office. By the beginning of November, DOT will begin internal pre-construction meetings,” said Lentol spokesperson Edward Baker in an email. “By the time that process is done they will be headed toward winter and the holiday [construction] embargo. Does not look like work is going to begin this calendar year.”

DOT said a revised timetable will be announced after contractor gets the go-ahead from the city. “The procurement of the construction contract that includes the Pulaski Bridge bikeway modifications is underway,” said an agency spokesperson. “Upon registration and issuance of the Notice to Proceed to the contractor, a meeting will be scheduled with local stakeholders to update on the anticipated construction schedule.”

Baker said more details could emerge by the end of this month.

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Rumor Mill: Safety Overhaul in the Works for the “Boulevard of Death”

Word on the street is that Queens Boulevard could be the first major arterial redesign initiated by Polly Trottenberg’s DOT.

DOT is preparing to launch an effort to redesign Queens Boulevard. Photo: gaspi/Flickr

DOT is reportedly preparing to launch an effort to redesign Queens Boulevard. Photo: gaspi/Flickr

At a Friday panel on transportation equity organized by the Congress for the New Urbanism, architect John Massengale said he is working with Transportation Alternatives on conceptual designs that will spark conversation before DOT hosts workshops about the project. ”The idea is that side lanes on the multi-lane boulevard become much, much slower,” Massengale said. The basic framework he envisions would include wider sidewalks and a protected bike lane next to the sidewalk.

DOT has not responded to a request for comment, but a source familiar with the project confirmed that the agency will soon reach out to elected officials and community boards about remaking what’s long been known as the “Boulevard of Death.” Update: ”Safety on Queens Boulevard is a priority for DOT,” an agency spokesperson said in a statement. “We continue to engage elected officials, community boards and other local stakeholders in the coming months in a conversation about Queens Boulevard safety.”

While fatalities on Queens Boulevard dropped after changes made more than a decade ago, the street still ranks as one of the borough’s most dangerous streets. In May, DOT added Queens Boulevard to its arterial Slow Zone program, but did not lower its speed limit to 25 mph.

Volunteers at TA have spent years building support for a safer Queens Boulevard, with a united front of council members and growing interest from community boards along the street.

Massengale said New York will have to continue breaking new ground on street design to eliminate traffic deaths. “These new arterials, they have cut fatalities,” Massengale said, referring to NYC DOT’s protected bike lane and arterial traffic calming projects. “But this design is not going to get to zero, because the only way to get to zero is to slow the cars way down.” Even recently redesigned streets like Second Avenue, he said, don’t have design speeds that match the city’s impending 25 mph speed limit.

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Eyes on the Street: DOT Breaks Out the Terracotta for Third Ave Bus Lane

Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Work is underway on updates to the Third Avenue bus lane. Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson and reader David Dartley tweeted these shots of what will eventually be an offset lane from 36th to 55th Street, a configuration designed to speed bus travel by shifting parking and loading to the curb [PDF].

The Third Avenue bus lane dates to 1982. Local bus routes on the street accommodate 59,000 riders a day, and 12 express routes also have stops on Third. Endorsed by Community Board 6 earlier this year, the DOT revamp also includes a center-boarding island between 56th and 57th Streets. The island will shorten crossing distances at Third and 57th, where DOT says drivers killed one pedestrian and injured 39 from 2008 to 2012. The plan does not include bus bulbs for other stops along the new offset lane.

Photo: David Dartley

Photo: David Dartley

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Want Safer Connections to the East Side Greenway? Tell CB 6 on Monday

Condo owners in Murray Hill could derail a protected bike path connecting to the East River Greenway. Image: DOT

A short protected bikeway on 37th Street would connect on-street bike lanes to the East River Greenway. Residents of a Murray Hill condo are trying to block it because they want direct curb access right in front of their building. Image: DOT

On Monday, the Manhattan Community Board 6 transportation committee is set to reconsider a plan to install a two-way protected bike lane on a block of East 37th Street, connecting First Avenue with the East River Greenway. The plan has run up against stiff opposition from residents of an adjacent condominium tower who don’t want a bike lane on the same side of the street as their building.

The proposal is key to a larger set of changes [PDF] that would create safer, more intuitive bike connections between on-street bike lanes and the East River Greenway. In June, the committee signed off of those changes, 7-3 with one abstention [PDF]. When the plan came to the full board later that month, opposition from condo residents nearly derailed the entire project, until the board approved a resolution supporting a bike path on the other side of 37th Street. That resolution passed 34-4, with one abstention [PDF].

But putting a path on the south side of the street would be a more dangerous configuration. Drivers coming off the southbound FDR Drive and proceeding onto 37th Street often make wide right turns, potentially putting cyclists at risk. Another issue is that the tunnel beneath the FDR connecting to Glick Park and the greenway is on the north side of the intersection. If cyclists use the south side of 37th Street, they would then have to cross two legs of the busy intersection, in conflict with turning cars, instead of just one leg without that type of conflict.

DOT expressed these reservations about a south side alignment to the community board and encouraged it to support routing the bike path on the north side of the street. Given the dangers of a south side bike lane, the agency is coming back to CB 6 to make the case for its plan on the north side.

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City Will Need More Than Signs to Get Drivers to Follow 25 MPH Speed Limit

DOT will conduct a weeks-long publicity campaign and post thousands of signs to alert motorists to the city’s new 25 mph speed limit, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told City Council members today.

The council will soon pass legislation to enact the lower speed limit, which was enabled by Albany earlier this year. In testimony before the transportation committee this morning (video link here), Trottenberg also said that while pedestrian and motor vehicle occupant deaths are down this year, drivers have killed twice as many cyclists compared to this point in 2013.

Beginning November 7, the default speed limit in New York City will be lowered from 30 to 25 mph. On October 13, Trottenberg said, DOT will launch a “25 Days to 25 MPH” education program. Flyers will be distributed at high crash locations, reminders will be printed on muni meter receipts, and signs posted at public parking facilities. In addition DOT will install and replace speed limit signs on streets, at highway exits, and at other locations, including airport car rental lots.

But as council members and advocates at the hearing pointed out, it will take more than signage to slow motorists down. “The truth is enforcement is needed,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “The enforcement piece is ultimately what will change the culture and behavior of drivers.”

Trottenberg said she has met with NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, and told council members DOT will work “hand in glove” with NYPD. No one from NYPD testified at today’s hearing.

Pedestrian fatalities are down 22 percent compared to last year, and overall traffic deaths have decreased by 7 percent, Trottenberg said. But drivers have killed 17 people on bikes this year, a 100 percent increase from 2013. Chair Ydanis Rodriguez said the transportation committee’s next hearing will focus on cyclist safety.

Paul White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, called on Mayor de Blasio to budget for physical improvements on high-traffic streets, known as arterials, by 2017. Arterials make up 10 percent of the city’s roads, but crashes on those streets account for more than half of pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

As was pointed out several times during the hearing, data show that lowering driver speeds mitigates the severity of collisions and saves lives. Yet at one point discussion turned to whether safety should take precedence over driver convenience.

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Eyes on the Street: The Evolution of the Bergen Street Protected Bike Lane

Photo: Gary Eckstein

Photo: Gary Eckstein

What began as an ad hoc fix for a bike lane chronically clogged by cars has become permanent after DOT installed a block-long barrier on the Bergen Street bike lane in front of the 78th Precinct in Prospect Heights.

It started more than two years ago when Ian Dutton moved some leftover ConEd cones a few feet into Bergen Street to cordon off the bike lane for cyclists:

Photo: Ian Dutton

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