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Tonight: Tell Mayor de Blasio the Bronx Supports a Safer Tremont Avenue

Mayor de Blasio will hold a town hall in Throggs Neck tonight, and Transportation Alternatives organizers are expecting a significant turnout from a small but vocal group of area residents and businesses who oppose a DOT road diet for East Tremont Avenue.

East Tremont Avenue is where a hit-and-run driver killed 26-year-old Giovanni Nin as he was biking to his girlfriend’s house from work on June 11. The crash happened near Mayflower Avenue, just a block from where three drivers struck and killed 74-year-old Angel Figueroa in 2013.

A 2015 DOT safety plan called for a road diet, pedestrian islands, and other improvements that could have saved Nin’s life [PDF]. But the Throggs Neck Merchants Association and other groups organized to defeat the plan and Bronx Community Board 10 voted against it. DOT did not implement the project as scheduled.

In this video from a June memorial ride honoring Nin, made by TA’s Luke Ohlson, local Council Member Jimmy Vacca blasts CB 10 for voting against the plan.

At Vacca’s urging, DOT has since moved to implement the traffic-calming plan by the end of the summer. Now opponents are expected to vent at the mayor himself at this evening’s town hall. Nin’s family and members of TransAlt’s Bronx Committee will also be in attendance to support the road diet.

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Tolling Opens Up Possibilities for Better Brooklyn Bridge Walking and Biking

Tolls-will-shrink-East-River-bridge-traffic-_-better-heading-_10-Aug-2016

With crowding on the Brooklyn Bridge walking and biking path in a state of near constant low-level emergency, this week NYC DOT announced a feasibility study of widening the bridge’s promenade. A path with sufficient space for the thousands of commuters, exercisers, and tourists who walk and bike across the bridge each day would be an immensely valuable improvement. But what if the same benefits could be derived at less cost by claiming space on the Brooklyn Bridge roadway?

At the heart of the issue is space. If motorists see a big new bike lane on the bridge while they stew in rush-hour traffic, the configuration might not last. Could tolls liberate enough space to turn over a Brooklyn Bridge car lane to bikes?

The answer depends on the toll levels as well as on assumptions about traffic redistribution from equalizing tolls with other crossings nearby, and the degree to which investing toll revenues would lead to improved transit service. Let’s look at some numbers.

The number of motor vehicles on the East River bridges averaged 235,000 per day in each direction in 2014, the last year for which data is available. (It makes more sense to look at the four East River bridges as one entity since they likely would be tolled together.)

Tolling the bridges would reduce that figure in three ways: by pricing some vehicle trips off the roads; by redistributing some trips from the free bridges to the Brooklyn Battery and Queens Midtown Tunnels and the Triborough Bridge, which already have tolls; and by expediting transit improvements that would attract some trips in and out of Manhattan that are now made by car.

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The Missing Piece in DOT’s Left-Turn Safety Plan: Real Split-Phase Signals

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DOT is ramping up the use of leading pedestrian intervals to reduce left-turn collisions, without committing to add signals that completely separate pedestrians and turning drivers. Photo: Brad Aaron

Split-phase traffic signals protect pedestrians and cyclists by separating them from turning drivers — people walking and biking across the street get their own signal phase, and drivers turning into the crosswalk get another. Research indicates that split-phase signals are highly effective at preventing traffic injuries and deaths. But when DOT revealed its strategy to reduce crashes caused by left-turning drivers, there was no commitment to increase the use of split-phase signals.

DOT is scaling up a similar intervention — leading pedestrian intervals, which allow pedestrians to enter intersections a few seconds before turning drivers get a green light. LPIs reduce injuries too, but not as much as split-phase signals, according to a 2014 DOT-funded study published in the journal “Accident Analysis and Prevention” [PDF].

The study analyzed crash data from 68 New York City intersections with either LPIs or split phases between 2000 and 2007, though the vast majority — 59 — had LPIs. Both types of signal adjustments performed better than a control group of intersections where turning drivers were permitted to proceed at the same time as pedestrians and cyclists. The improvement was more pronounced, however, at split-phase signals.

At intersections equipped with split-phase signals, pedestrian and cyclist injuries declined a precipitous 67 percent. At intersections with LPIs, pedestrian injuries declined 38 percent and bicyclist injuries 52 percent. (For the control group, the reduction was 25 percent for pedestrians and 44 percent for cyclists.) The data on split-phase signals was limited, however — it came from only nine intersections, with no locations in Manhattan.

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Brooklyn Bridge Promenade Expansion Could Start in 2019

DOT's hypothetical concept for expanding pedestrian and bike access on the Brooklyn Bridge would build new paths over the steel girders that run above the main roadways. Image: DOT

DOT’s concept for expanding the walking and biking path on the Brooklyn Bridge would build new paths over the steel girders that run above the main roadways. Image: DOT

An expansion of the Brooklyn Bridge walking and biking path could get underway by 2019 if it’s folded into a rehab project that’s already in the pipeline, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said this afternoon.

The path is as narrow as 10 feet at pinch points and cannot comfortably accommodate the thousands of people who use it each day.

For now, the next step is a $370,000 feasibility study slated to wrap up in seven months. DOT has already conducted a preliminary assessment of conditions on the bridge path and posted a working concept for the expansion [PDF].

The idea is to widen the pathway by building on top of the steel girders that run over the bridge’s main roadways. Most of the wooden deck for walking and biking is four feet below the girders, so the expansions would be at a higher grade than the current path. Trottenberg said DOT will also explore expanding the concrete approaches to the wooden deck on both the Brooklyn and Manhattan sides.

If the concept proves unfeasible for whatever reason, Trottenberg said DOT’s attention could turn to the main roadway. “I think if the study finds out that it’s not feasible, there is going to be interest in seeing what we would do next in terms of potential traffic,” she said. “Look, the Brooklyn Bridge carries a lot of traffic… But I think certainly we’re seeing a lot of enthusiasm about the idea of making more of the bridge available for cyclists and pedestrians.”

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DOT Will Study Widening the Brooklyn Bridge Walking and Biking Path

Rendering: NYC DOT

What a wider Brooklyn Bridge promenade might look like. Rendering: NYC DOT

The days of pedestrians and cyclists fighting for scraps of space on the Brooklyn Bridge may be numbered.

NYC DOT has initiated a study of expanding the narrow promenade, which is too crowded to work well for pedestrians or cyclists for most of the year. The Times reports that the city has retained engineering firm AECOM to study the feasibility of widening the pathway, which has not been expanded since the bridge opened in 1883.

Stories about conflict between walkers and bikers on the cramped promenade have become a rite of spring in New York City. As soon as the city thaws out from winter, people head out to walk or bike across the Brooklyn Bridge in numbers that the path, which is as narrow as 10 feet on some sections, cannot comfortably support.

Pedestrian counts on peak days tripled between 2008 and 2015, and bike counts nearly doubled, according to the Times. Typical weekday traffic is now 10,000 pedestrians and 3,500 cyclists. Still, those numbers probably don’t come close to capturing how many people would bike or walk across the bridge if the path were not so cramped.

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Why Not Fix the Flatbush/Atlantic/Fourth Hellscape With a Traffic Circle?

The Flatbush/Atlantic/Fourth traffic circle concept from Perkins Eastman, with bike lane in blue.

The Flatbush/Atlantic/Fourth traffic circle concept from Perkins Eastman, with bike lane in blue.

Could a traffic circle tame cars and trucks at the chaotic intersection of Flatbush, Atlantic, and Fourth avenues in Brooklyn? A team of architects thinks so.

Earlier this week DOT held a public workshop about improving pedestrian safety in this area, where heavy traffic on wide, two-way streets meeting at irregular angles creates exceptional hazards. Motorists injured 78 people walking and biking there between 2010 and 2014, according to DOT, and have killed four pedestrians and one cyclist in the project area since 2008. Over half of pedestrian injuries occurred while the victim was crossing with the signal.

DOT’s draft plan would add pedestrian islands, curb extensions, and crosswalks, while leaving the basic geometry of the streets intact.

Perkins Eastman transportation project designer Jonathan Cohn, who lives in Park Slope, presented a different idea at the DOT workshop — a traffic circle.

It’s a rough concept that has yet to be fleshed out in detail, but one that merits strong consideration. With a traffic circle, left turns across multiple lanes of traffic would be eliminated, which should provide a major safety boost. The traffic pattern would be simpler for pedestrians to negotiate. Cohn’s concept also calls for a two-way bikeway around the edge of the circle.

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Eyes on the Street: Pedestrian Islands Arrive on Amsterdam Ave

Pedestrian islands, like this one at 73rd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, shorten crossing distances while providing additional protection for cyclists. Image: Robert Baron

The new addition to Amsterdam Avenue at 73rd Street.

DOT has finished striping the protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue between 72nd Street and 110th Street, and now it’s moving on to the concrete. A reader sent in this photo of a brand new pedestrian island, more of which will be going in on the north side of intersections along the corridor.

The nine-foot-wide raised concrete islands shorten crossing distances and tighten the turns drivers make from side streets onto Amsterdam.

A rendering of a typical pedestrian refuge island on Amsterdam Avenue. Image: DOT

The typical design of a pedestrian island on Amsterdam Avenue. Image: DOT

Earlier this week, DOT said most pedestrian islands on Amsterdam will be installed this year. Between 107th Street and 110th Street a separate capital project will likely delay construction of ped islands until 2017.

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DOT Reveals a Flatbush Ave Pedestrian Safety Plan By Atlantic and Fourth

DOT's proposal would remove double-right turns off Atlantic Avenue. Image: DOT

DOT’s plan calls for pedestrian islands, curb extensions, and fewer turn lanes off Atlantic Avenue. Image: DOT

Last night DOT presented its initial concept for pedestrian safety improvements near the convergence of Flatbush, Atlantic, and Fourth avenues in Brooklyn [PDF].

The intersection is located at the center of Brooklyn’s largest transit hub, where the Long Island Railroad meets eight subway lines and four MTA bus routes. The Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Barclays Center are short walks away. It’s also overrun by motor vehicles, with three wide, two-way arterial roads — all truck routes — making for one the city’s most hellacious walking environments.

Pedestrians must contend with long, angled crossings and lots of turning drivers. Since 2008, four pedestrians and one cyclist have been killed in the project area, which extends along Flatbush from Lafayette Avenue to Atlantic. Between 2010 and 2014, 57 pedestrians and 21 cyclists were injured, and 51 percent of the pedestrian injuries happened while the victim was crossing with the signal, according to DOT.

At a meeting in January about public space improvements to Times Plaza, the triangle between the three big roads, attendees told DOT and Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner that safer pedestrian conditions had to be the first priority, or else no one would use the space.

Pedestrians crossing the Flatbush-Atlantic intersection must contend with some of Brooklyn's heaviest motor vehicle traffic. Photo: Google Maps

Pedestrians crossing the Flatbush-Atlantic intersection must contend with long, angled crosswalks and heavy motor vehicle traffic. Photo: Google Maps

Last night, DOT showed plans for five median pedestrian islands and several curb extensions to shorten crossing distances around Flatbush and Atlantic. The agency also proposes reducing the number of right turn lanes off Atlantic onto Flatbush from two to one. That would reduce risk for pedestrians crossing Flatbush, who would also get a head start with a leading pedestrian interval.

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DOT Lays Out a Strategy to Make Left Turns Less Dangerous

Left turns accounted for 30 percent of pedestrian and cyclists fatalities in 2015. Image: DOT

Motorists tend to take left turns faster than right turns, leading to a higher rate of injuries and fatalities. Image: DOT

DOT will be ramping up the use of intersection treatments to protect pedestrians and cyclists from left-turning drivers, the agency announced today. The initiative is paired with a DOT study, “Don’t Cut Corners” [PDF], that illustrates the disproportionate danger of left turns. Mayor de Blasio had announced in January that reducing the risk of left turns would be a focus of his administration’s Vision Zero agenda this year.

Drivers turning left account for 19 percent of serious pedestrian and bicyclist injuries in New York City — three times the share caused by right turns, according to the DOT report. Motorists tend to take left turns faster than right turns, a risk that is further compounded by the vehicle’s “A-pillar” (between the windshield and the driver’s door) obscuring the driver’s vision, the pressure of both oncoming traffic and traffic behind the driver, and a greater area of exposure for pedestrians.

Based on crash reports, DOT found that injuries involving left turns typically occur when the driver turns from a minor street (usually one-way) onto a street 60 feet or wider (usually two-way).

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The posts in this “hardened centerline” prevent left-turning drivers, like the person behind the wheel of the Lay’s van, from cutting corners and taking turns too fast. Photo: David Meyer

The study also found that seniors are more likely to be injured or killed by left-turning vehicles: The average age of victims in left-turn crashes was 67, compared to 50 for victims of right-turn crashes.

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Quick Hits on Citi Bike Expansion and Manhattan Bike Lane Upgrades

Yesterday Citi Bike began its 2016 expansion, bringing new stations to Manhattan up to 110th Street and Brooklyn west of Prospect Park. We’ve got a few updates to share that didn’t make it into our earlier post on the expansion and the bike lane upgrades DOT is implementing in the new service area.

Expansion details

Citi Bike is adding 139 new stations to its network in NYC, not 121 as Streetsblog reported yesterday. Of the new stations, Citi Bike says 40 are infill stations (located either in areas that were already served by Citi Bike or in expansion zones that were slated for sparser station density in earlier versions of the plan).

In concert with the expansion, Citi Bike is offering $25 off annual memberships through August 31.

Amsterdam Avenue bike lane update

We checked in with DOT about the bike lane upgrades in the expanded bike-share service area. The Amsterdam Avenue protected bike lane between 72nd Street and 110th Street is largely complete, the agency said. Still to come are concrete pedestrian islands and changes to traffic signals, which the agency said will wrap up in early 2017, pending the completion of a separate capital project underway on the route.

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