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De Blasio Advances Queens Boulevard Redesign Despite CB 4 Shenanigans

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Lizi Rahman and Council Member Danny Dromm led a rally for the Queens Boulevard redesign before last night’s CB 4 meeting. Rahman lost her son Asif in 2008 when he was struck by a truck driver and killed on Queens Boulevard. Photo: David Meyer

Mayor de Blasio has instructed NYC DOT to move forward with the redesign of Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst following a contentious meeting of Queens Community Board 4 last night, in which the chairman hastily pushed through a vote against the bike lane portion of the project.

“I respect those who disagree with us, but in the end, the safety of our neighbors and our children is the most fundamental responsibility we have in this work,” de Blasio said in a statement released this afternoon. “Today, I have instructed the Department of Transportation to move forward on the next phase of safety enhancements to Queens Boulevard, including a protected lane for cyclists.”

The CB 4 meeting last night was a travesty of public process even by the standards of New York City community boards.

Immediately after arguing that Queens Boulevard “is not a park, it is a very heavily traveled vehicular roadway,” CB 4 Chair Lou Walker moved to “accept the safety plan for Queens Boulevard except the bike lane.” The resolution passed in a quick show of hands, with one member opposed and one abstention, but multiple board members appeared to be confused by Walker’s phrasing and the rush to vote.

Some board members walked out in dismay right after the vote, and dozens of people in the audience who supported the bike lane turned their backs to the board and then left the room.

The median bikeway is a centerpiece of the Queens Boulevard redesign and the project would make no sense without it. DOT implemented the same basic template — claiming space on service roads to create continuous paths for walking and biking on the medians — on 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard in Woodside last year. The proposal on the table at CB 4 last night would extend that design another 1.2 miles from 74th Street to Eliot Avenue. A third phase through Rego Park and Forest Hills is scheduled for 2017.

Queens Boulevard is one of the only direct east-west routes across the borough, and many people already brave its chaotic traffic on bikes. The portion of the street covered by this phase of the redesign includes the block between 55th Road and 55th Avenue where a truck driver struck and killed Asif Rahman in 2008.

At a rally before the meeting, his mother, Lizi Rahman, called for action. “It’s been more than 8 years, and ever since I lost my son I have been fighting for a bike lane on Queens Boulevard,” she said. “It was pretty difficult from the beginning — almost for the first seven years I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

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All of DOT’s Bike Metrics Should Be Published on NYC’s Open Data Portal

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Bike commuting has been growing the fastest in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, according to the Census. Chart: NYC DOT

Biking in New York City has been rising at a steady clip, according to a new report from NYC DOT, increasing about 50 percent between 2010 and 2014 — maybe more, depending on the metric you look at. What’s not so clear is how things changed in 2015, because the report lacks key information about bike traffic on the Hudson River Greenway.

The new report, “Cycling in the City” [PDF], combines data from three main sources: the U.S. Census, a city Department of Health survey, and DOT’s bike counts on Midtown avenues and the East River bridges (it also includes some Citi Bike numbers).

Overall, the surveys and bike counts show an unambiguous upward trend in cycling, affirming the impact of recent investments in bike infrastructure. The report also shows where bicycling growth is lagging, perhaps as a result of slower bike network expansion compared to the rest of the city.

In some ways the report is a step up from the annual cycling metrics DOT has released in the past, which only included the DOT bike counts. Folding in the Census bike commute numbers and health department survey data yields a more complete view of citywide and borough-by-borough cycling trends.

According to the Census, bike commuting has grown the fastest in Brooklyn, rising 75 percent from 2010 to 2014. Close behind are Manhattan and Queens at 68 percent. Then it’s a steep drop to the Bronx, at 19 percent growth, and Staten Island at 9 percent.

DOT’s bike program has a substantial slate of projects on tap for this year — including protected lanes in every borough except Staten Island — but more can be done. “Cycling rates continue to rise across the five boroughs, even as the bike lane network remains spotty,” said Transportation Alternative Executive Director Paul Steely White. “To meet this challenge, New York City needs equitable acceleration and expansion of the bike network in the Bronx and Staten Island, as well.”

As welcome as it is to have a fresh report on cycling trends in New York, there are some perplexing omissions. Namely, it’s impossible to compare DOT’s 2015 bike counts to previous years, because unlike previous reports, this one doesn’t include counts of cyclists on the Hudson River Greenway and 50th Street, or at the Whitehall ferry terminal.

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Reason Prevails at the End of Upper East Side Bike Lane Meeting

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The committee ultimately voted in support of bike lane pairs on 70th/71st, 77th/78th, and 84th/85th. Image: DOT

Bringing some resolution to one of the more absurd bike lane stories in recent memory, last night the Manhattan Community Board 8 transportation committee voted 9-2 in favor of a DOT plan to add three pairs of crosstown bike lanes on the Upper East Side.

First came many protestations about how these bike lane stripes have no place on the neighborhood’s streets. But supporters came out to the sanctuary of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church too, and their comments buoyed the committee.

DOT’s plan removes no parking or car lanes, it just adds some thermoplast to create a bit more order and designate some street space for cycling. Nevertheless, this was the third CB 8 meeting devoted to the project. Given the drawn-out process and histrionics about plain old bike lane stripes, you have to wonder if it would have been any more difficult to advance a more ambitious project, like a 72nd Street protected bike lane.

As with previous meetings, many speakers insisted that specific streets could not possibly accommodate a striped bike lane — the presence of a school, a hospital, a religious institution, or fire station supposedly disqualified these streets. Lenox Hill Hospital on 77th Street, Wagner Middle School on 76th Street, a Citi Bike station on 84th Street — the list was endless.

“It will be an awful story if we have to come back and say a bike rider hit one of our young children,” said one woman, who identified herself as an administrator at St. Ignatius Loyola School. “You really need to think about the children.”

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People Flock to the Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza for a Day

A mariachi band drew a crowd at the one-day plaza. Photo: David Meyer

On Saturday, neighborhood residents got an eight-hour taste of the one-block plaza DOT has proposed near the Bushwick-Ridgewood border. Going by the turnout, a permanent plaza would be a hugely popular public space for the neighborhood.

The block of Wyckoff Avenue between Myrtle Avenue and Gates Avenue was car-free from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Foot traffic started slow, but by the afternoon the plaza was bustling with people. A mariachi band performed, a pop-up library had books for kids, and moveable chairs let people stop and rest.

This block abuts a major transit hub where two subway lines and six bus routes converge. In addition to serving as a public gathering place, the car-free plaza would vastly simplify vehicular turning movements, creating a safer walking environment. Thousands of people who walk by each day on their way to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station or the Ridgewood Bus Terminal, on nearby Palmetto Street, would benefit.

Since 2009, three pedestrians have been killed at the six-legged intersection of Wyckoff, Myrtle, and Palmetto — two by MTA bus drivers.

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Ride the New Pulaski Bridge Bikeway With Streetfilms

Today was a milestone for traveling between Brooklyn and Queens: NYC DOT opened the Pulaski Bridge bike path to lots of cheers with a celebratory ride.

Before today, the Pulaski Bridge walking and biking path was dangerously congested, with more pedestrians and cyclists crammed on to its narrow right-of-way every year. The solution? Convert one lane of the roadway to a two-way bike lane, making the original path exclusively for walking. Read up on the project in Streetsblog’s coverage of the grand opening.

If a lane of the Pulaski can be taken from cars and given to active transportation, the same can be done on other bridges. One place I’d love to see NYC DOT tackle next? The insanely crowded bike-pedestrian path on the Brooklyn Bridge is begging for a solution like this.

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The Pulaski Bridge Bikeway Is Open and It’s Magnificent

State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan and City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer lead the pack of DOT officials, electeds and advocates on the Pulaski Bridge protected lane's first official ride. Photo: David Meyer

State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan (front left) and City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (right) lead the pack. Photo: David Meyer

Pedestrians and cyclists don’t have to settle for scraps of space on the Pulaski Bridge any more. This morning, the bridge’s new two-way protected bikeway officially opened to the public, the culmination of a four-year effort to improve biking and walking access between Greenpoint and Long Island City.

The Pulaski carries thousands of cyclists between Queens and Brooklyn across Newtown Creek each day, according to DOT. For many years, cyclists and pedestrians had to squeeze onto a single narrow path, while motorists zoomed along on six lanes of congestion-free roadway. The Pulaski path became more congested every year as housing and jobs boomed on both sides of the bridge.

Assembly Member Joe Lentol began pushing DOT for the project in late 2012 after meeting with local residents frustrated by the increasingly crowded conditions on the path. The engineering challenge of providing sufficient protection for cyclists on the drawbridge section of the Pulaski proved surmountable, and construction was initially set to conclude by the end of 2014.

Red tape and construction delays pushed the project back more than a year, and the long wait came to an end with today’s grand opening. The project cost $4.9 million and was funded by the city with support from the Federal Highway Administration.

The Pulaski project is the most prominent example of the city repurposing car lanes on a bridge for biking and walking since Transportation Alternatives won the full-time use of a lane on the Queensboro Bridge for pedestrians and cyclists in 2000 (a fight that lasted no less than 22 years).

Other bridges could use similar treatments. The Brooklyn Bridge and Queensboro Bridge both have bike-ped paths that get uncomfortably crowded, and DOT is currently working to improve bike-ped crossings on the Harlem River.

DOT Deputy Commissioner for Transportation Planning Ryan Russo led a group of department officials, advocates, and electeds on an inaugural ride on the bikeway from Long Island City to Greenpoint this morning.

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Cyclists Press DOT for Night-Time Access to Queensboro Bridge

The Queensboro Bridge biking and walking path could be closed for construction on weeknights for months, cutting off access at times when many people still use it. Members of Transportation Alternatives’ Queens Committee have a solution: Allow cyclists and pedestrians to use the bridge’s south outer roadway, which is closed to car traffic after 9 p.m.

Ongoing infrastructure work by ConEd has shuttered the Queensboro Bridge bike-pedestrian path every weeknight from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. since March 28. The construction is expected to continue “for several months,” according to public notices posted by DOT. ConEd has accommodated cyclists and pedestrians by providing a shuttle bus to transport people and bikes across the East River every 15 minutes.

Image: DOT

ConEd is providing a shuttle bus service for people crossing the Queensboro Bridge after 10 p.m., but the wait times and circuitous route are frustrating bike commuters who depend on the bridge to get to and from work. Image: DOT

TA volunteers were out on the bridge last night speaking to cyclists taking the shuttle service, the vast majority of whom were heading to or from late-night jobs. They were tired and frustrated. “It’s of course overwhelmingly working cyclists crossing the bridge at night,” said TA Queens member Angela Stach.

The shuttle service takes a circuitous route on both sides of the bridge. Add that extra travel time to the wait time, and it adds up to significantly longer night-time commutes.

Opening up the unused south outer roadway for biking would not only save cyclists time but also save ConEdison the expense of operating the shuttle, says TA member Steve Scofield. “They’re really making an effort, but it’s costing them a fortune,” he said. Scofield has been in touch with the ConEd project manager, who is currently negotiating with DOT about opening the roadway.

DOT has not replied to Streetsblog’s inquiry on the subject, but Scofield said that a resolution could be possible in the next few weeks.

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What’s Next for the Two-Way Protected Bike Lane Proposed for Clinton Ave

DOT wants to give Clinton Avenue in Brooklyn a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT

The Clinton Avenue redesign calls for adding a two-way protected bike lane between Gates and Flushing. Image: DOT

DOT has been going door-to-door in Clinton Hill to get the word out about its plan for a two-way protected bike lane on Clinton Avenue, which the agency first previewed at a Vision Zero town hall held by Council Member Laurie Cumbo in January. While a full presentation on the project is scheduled for next month, it’s expected to come up for discussion at a forum this Thursday hosted by 57th Assembly District Leader Olanike Alabi.

Currently, Clinton Hill lacks a protected north-south bike connection. The redesign would add a two-way, parking protected bike lane on Clinton Avenue between Gates Avenue and Flushing Avenue, connecting to the Brookly Waterfront Greenway. The street would be converted from two-way motor vehicle flow to one-way northbound, and pedestrian islands would narrow crossing distances for people on foot.

Representatives from DOT have been out in the neighborhood the past week talking to residents about the project, and people can also submit comments on Clinton Hill’s biking and walking needs via online surveys. DOT’s street ambassadors will be out again this Wednesday, on the campus of St. Joseph’s College from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and outside the Pratt Institute at the intersection of DeKalb Avenue and Hall Street from noon to 4 p.m.

A DOT presentation to Community Board 2’s transportation committee is scheduled for May 17, according to an agency spokesperson.

This Thursday, 57th Assembly District Leader Olanike Alabi is hosting a town hall, and the Clinton Avenue project is expected to be one of the topics addressed. There’s no presentation planned, but a DOT rep will be on hand to take questions and comments from residents. As with any substantial change to the streets, some opposition from nearby residents is expected. If you live in the neighborhood and want to see this safety improvement move forward, your voice can make a difference.

The town hall starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Teen Challenge Center at 444 Clinton Avenue.

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Eyes on the Street: Pulaski Bridge Bikeway Looks Ready for a Ribbon-Cutting

Update: A DOT spokesperson tells Streetsblog that while finishing touches are being made, cyclists should follow the posted signage, which directs them to the shared pedestrian-bike path on the west side of the bridge. The new protected lane will be “unveiled” later this week.

It hasn’t officially opened, but you can ride on DOT’s long-awaited Pulaski Bridge bike lane linking northern Brooklyn and western Queens. Word is that a ribbon-cutting is set for the end of this week.

Over the weekend, Twitter and the Streetsblog inbox lit up with alerts that the path is rideable, though there are still cones and signs at both ends marking the bike lane as closed.

The Pulaski project has been in the works since 2012, when Assembly Member Joe Lentol requested that DOT explore the possibility of converting a car lane to a protected bike path so pedestrians and cyclists could have some breathing room instead of sharing a narrow, cramped pathway. The bikeway advanced in fits and starts since then, and after some delays it’s finally here, separated from car traffic by concrete barriers and a metal fence.

It’s not every day that part of a six-lane bridge gets repurposed from motor vehicle traffic to make room for biking and walking. The Pulaski bikeway points the way forward for bigger crossings like the Queensboro Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge where cyclists and pedestrians are an afterthought, jammed together on paths without enough space to move comfortably. We’ll have a full report when the new path officially opens.

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Seaman Ave. Has a Bike Lane and Sharrows, But It’s Still a Speedway

… and looking north, where the northbound bike lane turns to sharrows. Driver 1 is backing down the street for parking. Driver 2 is about to make a U turn. Photos: Brad Aaron

Seaman Avenue and W. 215th St., looking north, where the northbound bike lane turns to sharrows. Driver 1 is backing down the street for parking. Driver 2 is about to make a U turn.

The thermoplast is down on the new northbound Seaman Avenue bike lane — but it’s really a bike lane and sharrows. Unless DOT makes a bolder move and puts a protected bike lane next to Inwood Hill Park, not much is going to change on this important Upper Manhattan bike route

I’ve written about this project, which took almost two years to complete, many times now, so here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: DOT replaced two narrow bike lanes on Seaman, Inwood’s only north-south through-street west of Broadway, with a northbound bike lane and southbound sharrows. DOT’s rationale for one bike lane was the street isn’t wide enough for two standard-width lanes — though the new design retained two lanes for parked vehicles. The reason for putting the lane on the northbound side of the street, DOT said, was to provide more room for slower cyclists going uphill from Dyckman Street, at Seaman’s southern end.

But as it turns out, the northbound lane converts to sharrows at W. 215th Street, one block before Seaman terminates at W. 218th, probably because the street narrows there. I looked back through my correspondence with DOT and there was no mention of the northbound bike lane ending before the street does.

As noted in prior posts, the current design does not address the major obstacles to biking on Seaman. As shown in these photos, taken yesterday, drivers are already double-parking on the barely-dry thermoplast. Cyclists will be forced to weave around them, just as before. As far as speed is concerned, motorists aren’t taking cues from the fresh markings. On her walk to the train just after dawn today, my wife texted to let me know that “Seaman [was] a speedway this morning.”

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