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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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MTA: Don’t Ask Us to Do More for NYC Bus Riders

NYC's buses are the slowest in the nation. Image: TransitCenter

NYC’s buses are the slowest in the nation. Image: TransitCenter

Bus ridership in New York City has steadily declined since 2002, and bus riders put up with the slowest average speeds in the nation. But the MTA is in no hurry to fix the problem.

At a City Council hearing this morning, MTA representatives touted the agency’s piecemeal efforts to improve bus service while pushing back against recommendations from transit advocates to address the entire bus system.

Advocacy organizations with the NYC Bus Turnaround Coalition have called for a citywide overhaul of NYC buses. While the scale of their proposal is large, many of the solutions they put forward can be implemented in, say, a single Andrew Cuomo term as governor.

Today, transportation committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez and other council members pushed MTA and DOT officials to adopt a comprehensive approach to solve the problems facing the city’s bus system. The MTA insisted that it’s already doing what it can to turn around bus service.

Transit advocates want the MTA to do more, faster. “What we’re calling for in this campaign is much more widespread implementation of those solutions and implementation much more quickly than we’ve been seeing,” TransitCenter’s Tabitha Decker said at a rally before the hearing.

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Mark-Viverito: Let’s Make the Whole Grand Concourse Safe for Biking

DOT made safety improvements on the Grand Concourse below 158th Street earlier this year, including this closed-off slip lane outside Cardinal Hayes High School, but the project did not include any bike lanes. Image: DOT

DOT turned this slip lane outside Cardinal Hayes High School into pedestrian space earlier this year, but its safety project for the southern section of the Grand Concourse did not include bike lanes. Photo: David Meyer

Add City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to the list of elected officials calling on DOT to get serious about protected bike lanes on the Grand Concourse.

The speaker penned a letter last week to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg asking DOT to study protected bike lanes on the corridor from 138th Street to 158th Street [PDF], where DOT plans so far have not included any bike infrastructure.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito

More people are hurt or killed by traffic on the Grand Concourse than any other street in the Bronx, with more than 1,000 injuries and 13 deaths in the last four years alone, according to city data. Transportation Alternatives’ “Complete the Concourse” campaign aims to change that by redesigning the street to prioritize walking, biking, and transit. So far, more than 3,000 people have signed on.

Earlier this year, DOT implemented a safety project south of 158th Street that includes expanded sidewalk space and wider concrete medians — but no bike lanes. Now Mark-Viverito, whose district touches the Concourse south of 165th Street, wants to know “what it would take to further enhance those improvements and, in particular, to add bike lanes to this area of the Concourse.”

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Queensboro Bridge Bike/Ped Path Will Close Every Night Until 2017 (At Least)

People who bike over the Queensboro Bridge had to endure months without nighttime access to the bridge’s car-free path earlier this year, with ConEd infrastructure work closing off the north outer roadway. Now, after a short respite, ConEd work has resumed, and nightly closures are slated to last “through the end of the year,” according to DOT’s Facebook page for the bridge.

The Queensboro path carries thousands of cyclists across the East River each day, but will be closed seven nights a week between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Previous closures this year started at 10 p.m. The people most affected are working cyclists on their way to work or home.

In the spring, when the closures began, activists from Transportation Alternatives’ Queens committee called on DOT to open bike access at night to the unused south outer roadway. The city didn’t act on the idea. Instead, cyclists who need to get across the river can take a shuttle bus provided by ConEd every 15 minutes, or find another way home.

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NYC Buses: Time for a Turnaround

New Yorkers take 2.5 million rides on the city’s buses every day. While NYC’s buses provide essential transit, especially in areas beyond the reach of the subway, they are among the nation’s slowest and least reliable.

Now a coalition of transit advocates are promoting practical strategies to improve the performance of NYC buses systemwide.

Transit advocates knew something was wrong when they observed declining bus ridership despite increasing population, a growing economy, and record-high subway ridership. To figure out what could be done about it, they spoke to industry experts and researched successful efforts in peer cities to identify common sense solutions to NYC’s bus problems. This research is summarized in their report “Turnaround: Fixing New York City’s Buses”.

The bus system faces big challenges, but these challenges have clear, proven solutions. By transforming how riders get on and off the bus, designing streets to prioritize buses, adopting better methods to keep buses on schedule, and redesigning the bus network and routes, policy makers in city government and the MTA can turn around the decline of the city’s buses and attract riders back to the system.

We’ll get to see how serious public officials are about tackling these problems on October 6, when the City Council transportation committee holds an oversight hearing on how to improve the quality of NYC bus service.

This Streetfilm was produced in partnership with TransitCenter, the second in a series of four films examining transit in American cities. If you enjoyed this one, check out the first film, “High Frequency: Why Houston is Back on the Bus.”

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DOT Moves Ahead With Redesign of Deadly Myrtle-Wyckoff Intersection

After a one-day trial in April, this block will soon be car-free year-round. Photo: David Meyer

DOT is moving ahead with a new plaza and safety improvements at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue, and Palmetto Street on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, the Ridgewood Times reports, with work slated to start today. The project got a thumbs up from one of the neighboring community boards and a thumbs down from the other but has enjoyed strong support from local Council Member Antonio Reynoso throughout the process.

The Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub is served by two subway lines and six bus routes and sees much more foot traffic than auto traffic. It’s also a six-spoke intersection with many turning conflicts. Motorists have killed three people there since 2009. In 2013, a turning MTA bus driver killed Ella Bandes in a crosswalk. DOT’s subsequent adjustments to reduce conflicts did not prevent another turning MTA bus driver from killing Edgar Torres the following year. Bandes’s parents, Judy Kottick and Ken Bandes, have repeatedly called on DOT to take stronger steps to save lives.

DOT’s redesign will convert one block of Wyckoff, between Myrtle and Gates Avenue, to a car-free space, making it safer for people to walk between the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station and the Ridgewood Bus Terminal on Palmetto [PDF]. In addition to installing the plaza, DOT will extend sidewalks at corners, shortening crossing distances and slowing motorist turns. The potential for vehicle movements to conflict with pedestrian movements will be greatly reduced.

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DOT’s 5-Year Plan: Faster Buses, Smarter Parking, 5-Boro Citi Bike, Lots More

NYC DOT published a new strategic plan yesterday [PDF], marking the first time the agency has refreshed its guiding document under Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

stratplanIn addition to synthesizing a lot of work that DOT has previously announced (pedestrian safety plans, Select Bus Service routes, a wider Brooklyn Bridge promenade), the update includes several new projects and initiatives. The big headline-grabber is a center-running two-way protected bike lane on Delancey Street connecting the Williamsburg Bridge and Allen Street, slated for next year.

Advocates have been calling to complete that missing link in the bike network for ages. With the L train shutdown coming up in 2019, time is of the essence to get a safe, high-capacity bikeway on Delancey to handle the swarms of people on bikes who’ll come over the bridge. The Delancey project is one of four bridge access projects DOT aims to complete in the next two years. Though DOT doesn’t name the other bridges in the plan, it says the projects in its Harlem River bridges initiative will be a priority.

There’s a mountain of other stuff in the strategic plan. While some of the goals should be more ambitious (10 miles of protected bike lanes per year isn’t enough in the Vision Zero era) and the benchmarks for success could be more specific (most timetables call for hitting key milestones either by 2017 or by 2021, the last year of a hypothetical second term for de Blasio), the ideas are solid.

In a way the document underscores the urgency of securing more funds and political backing from City Hall for DOT’s initiatives — given sufficient resources, DOT is going to put them to good use.

Here’s my compilation of new ideas and goals from DOT that I think Streetsblog readers will find especially interesting.

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De Blasio Doesn’t Need to Defend His Bike Policies, He Needs to Take Action

DOT will add 18 more miles of protected lanes to this map in 2016, but there's a lot of work left to do to create a cohesive citywide network of safe bike routes. Map: Jon Orcutt

DOT will add 18 more miles of protected lanes to this map in 2016, but there’s a lot of work left to do to create a cohesive citywide network of safe bike routes. Map: Jon Orcutt

Two days before a mass demonstration and bike ride to demand more action from the de Blasio administration to prevent cyclist deaths, the mayor and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg made a media play that seems designed to deflect pressure, announcing that the city is on track to build a record 18 miles of protected bike lanes this year.

With bicyclist deaths on the rise, the mayor should be redoubling his efforts to redesign streets for safer cycling in order to achieve his goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2024. Instead he’s getting defensive.

It’s true that DOT’s progress in 2016 stacks up well compared to previous years, and the current batch of projects includes important new protected bike lane segments on streets like Queens BoulevardAmsterdam Avenue, and Chrystie Street.

The fact remains, however, that recent additions to the bike network have not been sufficient to prevent a troubling increase in cyclist deaths this year. For two years running, de Blasio has refused to increase the budget for street redesigns and accelerate the implementation of projects that are proven to save lives. If the mayor chose to make street redesigns a higher priority, DOT could improve safety on many more streets each year.

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Reynoso Tells DOT: Grand Street Needs a Safer Bike Lane ASAP

Council Member Antonio Reynoso today urged DOT to upgrade the bike lanes on the Grand Street in North Brooklyn. The existing painted lanes did not protect Matthew von Ohlen, who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in July.

Antonio Reynoso. Photo: NYC DOT

In a letter sent this afternoon to DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray, Reynoso calls for “the immediate installation of safety mitigations along Borinquen Place/Grand Street from the BQE to the Metropolitan Ave Bridge.”

Grand Street is an essential bike connection between the bridge and Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood. But its painted bike lanes are often blocked by double-parked cars and provide limited separation from the heavy truck traffic generated by nearby industrial areas.

Pointing to the impending L Train shutdown, which will disrupt trips for hundreds of thousands of subway riders, Reynoso says the local streets are poorly designed for current needs, let alone additional demands:

We should be making a plan now to best prioritize bus, bike, and pedestrian travel that gives community residents the opportunity to move safely and efficiently. Grand Street already serves as a main connector to and from Manhattan, yet the corridor is not equipped with adequate safety measures to accommodate the increasing number of pedestrians and cyclists who use the street.

At Brooklyn Community Board 1’s August full board meeting and again at last Thursday’s transportation committee meeting, Von Ohlen’s friends and family called for a protected bike lane on Grand Street. Von Ohlen, 35, was riding on Grand Street early in the morning on July 3 when the driver of a Chevy Camaro knocked him off his bike and dragged him 20 to 30 feet. (Police located the vehicle on July 6, but have not apprehended a suspect.)

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De Blasio’s Office Ducks Responsibility for Erasing Eastern Pkwy Ped Islands

Pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway barely lasted nine months before DOT ripped them up, and no one in the de Blasio administration will say why. Photo: David Meyer

Pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway barely lasted nine months before DOT ripped them up, and no one in the de Blasio administration will say why. Photo: David Meyer

DOT removed pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights yesterday, undoing years of street safety advocacy work on the part of local residents and community board members with no public process, and no one in the de Blasio administration is taking responsibility.

Earlier this week, the Post reported that organizers of the West Indian Day Parade requested that concrete medians at Kingston and Brooklyn avenues be destroyed so floats and trucks “can navigate the roadway” for the event, which is held once a year. It’s not clear how the islands, which were installed in 2015, would impact the parade, since identical street treatments have been in place for years elsewhere along the route.

We asked City Hall if the order to remove the islands originated with the mayor’s office. “This was an NYPD directive, not City Hall’s,” de Blasio spokesperson Austin Finan told us via email.

NYPD referred us to DOT. When we called DOT for comment, the person who answered the phone said all agency press reps were away from their desks. DOT got back to us, but only to ask which NYPD staffer referred us to DOT.

Brooklyn Community Board 8, which endorsed the project that included the islands, was not notified that they would be removed, according to Rob Witherwax, a longtime street safety advocate who serves on the board’s transportation committee. Witherwax said he learned about the changes on Streetsblog.

DOT rarely undertakes street safety projects without the approval of the local community board, but the agency does not always consult boards before removing bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

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