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It’s April. Where Are DOT’s 2015 Bike Numbers?

bikecount2015

DOT released its 2014 screenline bike count exactly a year ago. The 2015 count has yet to be posted.

More than three months into 2016, DOT has yet to release last year’s screenline bike count, which shows how cycling in the city center has changed over time.

It’s called the screenline count because it measures the number of cyclists who cross key points around the central business district: the East River bridges, on the Hudson River Greenway at 50th Street, and the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal.

Up until a few years ago, DOT released the bike count in the same year the data was collected, sometimes as early as October. The 2012 count was the first to include winter cycling numbers, and was not released until the following March. Then the 2013 numbers weren’t released until Streetsblog posted an unauthorized copy in July 2014. Last year, DOT released the 2014 count around exactly this time (after a nudge from Streetsblog).

We asked DOT for the 2015 count in January, and the agency said it expected to post the numbers “before Spring 2016.” In response to a follow-up query earlier this month, DOT said the numbers would be released “later this spring.”

With stats going back a few decades, the screenline count provides an excellent trendline of bicycling in the city center. It would be great to see DOT add more metrics to track changes in cycling farther from the Manhattan core. But failing that, just releasing this key indicator on a timely schedule again would be a welcome change.

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Citi Bike Will Expand Uptown With Its Too-Sparse Station Network

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The bike-share map for Community Board 11, via DOT. Click to enlarge.

The good news: Citi Bike is expanding up to 130th Street later this year.

The bad news: Stations in Morningside, Harlem, and East Harlem are going to be more spread out than the bike-share network below 59th Street. As with last year’s additions to the bike-share network, the longer walking distances between stations will make these expansions less convenient for Citi Bike users and sap the overall effectiveness of the system.

DOT and Motivate, the company that runs Citi Bike, have been holding workshops and getting feedback online about where to site stations. Maps for three community board districts have now been released, and the station densities fall short of the 28 stations per square mile recommended by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

All together, the bike-share maps for Community Board 11 in East Harlem [PDF], Community Board 9 on the West Side [PDF], and Community Board 10 in central Harlem [PDF] equate to a density of a little below 23 stations per square mile. If you look at CB 9 and CB 11 separately, however, the stations are more sparse, in the range of 20-21 stations per square mile.

This is the second year of a three-year expansion phase that will eventually bring Citi Bike to more of Queens and Brooklyn as well. The agreement between DOT and Motivate didn’t require more than 378 new stations to serve the expansion zones, which works out to a lower station density than the original Citi Bike service area. Rumors have swirled that the two parties are close to amending the expansion process so stations are spaced together more tightly, but so far that doesn’t seem to be happening.

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Jay Street Redesign Clears CB 2, With Some Design Details Left for Later

Image: DOT

Brooklyn Community Board 2 endorsed most of DOT’s plan for curbside protected bike lanes on Jay Street between Fulton Mall and Tillary Street at its monthly meeting last night. Two key design decisions at each end of the project have yet to be finalized, however, and will be presented to the transportation committee in May.

Chaotic Jay Street is a key link to the Manhattan Bridge, and cyclists account for 34 percent of vehicles on the street during peak hours. The DOT plan calls for curbside, parking protected bike lanes, though at seven feet wide, the lanes will be narrower than bikeway design guidelines recommend.

When DOT presented the plan to CB 2’s transportation committee last month, the committee declined to endorse a new crosswalk at the off-ramp from the Manhattan Bridge just north of Nassau Street, where a fence currently blocks pedestrians from crossing. Before taking a position, committee members wanted to know how DOT intends to control traffic coming off the bridge.

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Hit-and-Run Driver Kills 45-Year-Old Man Crossing 21st Street in Astoria

A hit-and-run driver killed a 45-year-old man last night at this intersection in Astoria, where there is neither a crosswalk nor a traffic signal. Image: Google Maps

DOT rejected a road diet on 21st Street last year, citing high traffic volumes. Image: Google Maps

Update: The victim in this crash was identified as Sean Crume, age 45, according to NYPD.

A hit-and-run driver killed a man walking across 21st Street in Astoria last night.

The crash occurred just before 11 p.m. at the intersection of 21st Street and 30th Road, where there’s an unmarked crosswalk with no traffic signal. The driver continued for half a block with the victim on the hood of the car before slamming the brakes and fleeing the scene, leaving the man lying in the road, according to PIX 11.

Police arrived at the scene at 10:56 p.m. in response to a 911 call. The victim was found lying in the street severely injured and rushed to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A police spokesperson told Streetsblog that NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad believes the suspect was driving a “dark colored sedan” heading southbound on 21st Street. No arrests have been made.

Responding to pressure from local residents and elected officials, DOT made some meager safety improvements to 21st Street last year. The agency held off on a more substantial redesign of 21st Street that would have reduced the number of general traffic lanes, citing high traffic volumes. The street is a favorite cut-through route for drivers heading to the free Queensboro Bridge.

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City Council Proposes Vision Zero Funding Increase — Will de Blasio Agree?

The City Council is proposing a significant increase in funding for street safety projects. Now it’s up to Mayor de Blasio to decide whether to devote more resources to get the city closer to his Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024.

Mayor de Blasio meeting with the family of Noshat Nahian, who was killed by a truck driver on Northern Boulevard, at the announcement of his Vision Zero initiative in 2014. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

The council’s budget proposal calls for an additional $52.4 million in FY 2017 to complete 98 “operational” projects — low-cost improvements that can be built quickly with paint, plastic posts, and light construction work. That would be a nearly 25 percent increase from the 80 operational projects DOT completed in 2015.

The council also wants to allocate $250 million annually to more time- and resource-intensive Vision Zero capital projects. This would represent a big increase and match the funding level called for in Transportation Alternatives’ Vision Zero Investment Report. (Current annual spending on these projects is a little fuzzy, but the de Blasio administration set aside a total of $240 million for street safety capital projects over 10 years, then added $115 million for the next four years in its 2017 budget proposal.)

The de Blasio administration has reduced traffic deaths each of the past two years. With fatalities rising the first two months of this year compared to 2015, however, the city is not on track to maintain that progress. Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the council earlier this month that her agency has the resources it needs, but it’s plain that DOT’s Vision Zero budget would benefit from a significant boost if the city is going to attain its street safety goals.

Transportation Alternatives staff and volunteers had a sit-down with council members a few weeks ago to discuss what it would take for the budget to align with the city’s Vision Zero goals. Yesterday the council released its response to the mayor’s preliminary FY 17 budget [PDF, page 42], and the council proposal is “almost entirely in line” with what TA is seeking, according to TA policy and research manager Julia Kite.

“Frankly, we’ve found that we’re not on track to get to Vision Zero, even remotely close to 2024, unless the Department of Transportation is given the resources to greatly expand the number of projects it’s doing,” said Kite. “I think our message was strong and it came across well.”

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NYPD and DOT Back Bill to Expand Right of Way for Pedestrians

Legislation proposed by Public Advocate Letitia James would ensure that pedestrians who enter during the "Pedestrian Change Interval" have the right of way against turning vehicles. Image: DOT

Intro 997 would ensure that pedestrians who enter a crosswalk during the flashing “Pedestrian Change Interval” have the right of way under New York City law. Image: DOT

NYPD and DOT both support a bill to give pedestrians more legal protection under the city’s Right of Way Law.

The Right of Way Law took effect in August 2014 and made it a misdemeanor to hit a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way. But district attorneys and the police department often decline to bring charges under the law, citing a traffic rule that pedestrians who enter the crosswalk once the “Don’t Walk” warning begins to flash do not have the right of way. Compounding the problem, the flashing phase has become longer and the steady “Walk” phase has become shorter at many intersections where the city has installed countdown clocks.

Last fall, Public Advocate Letitia James sponsored Intro 997 to remedy the situation by extending the right of way to everyone in the crosswalk during both the steady “Walk” phase and the flashing phase.

In testimony today to the City Council transportation committee, James called the current rules a “fatal flaw” and “counterintuitive.” She argued that Intro 997 would bring the law in line with the standard practice of most New Yorkers. “At a time when our city is so rightfully concerned about addressing these avoidable deaths and injuries, fixing this problem seems like an obvious and important way to make meaningful progress,” James said.

DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo and Inspector Dennis Fulton of the NYPD Transportation Bureau expressed support for the bill, which Fulton said has “been the subject of robust discussions” between the James’s office, the City Council and the relevant city agencies. Russo told the committee that the bill would “align the law with the acknowledged reality on our streets and our concern for pedestrians’ safety.”

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Eyes on the Street: Outlines Appear for Seaman Avenue Bike Lane, Sharrows

DOT is replacing two 4-foot bike lanes on Seaman Avenue with one 5-foot bike lane and sharrows. Photos: Brad Aaron

DOT is replacing two 4-foot bike lanes on Seaman Avenue with one 5-foot bike lane and sharrows because, according to DOT, the street isn’t wide enough for two standard-width bike lanes. Photos: Brad Aaron

Preliminary markings for a bike lane and sharrows appeared on Seaman Avenue in Inwood yesterday, nearly two years after DOT resurfaced the street.

Seaman Avenue runs from Dyckman/200th Street to W. 218th Street. The only north-south through street in Inwood west of Broadway, Seaman serves as a bike connection between the Hudson River Greenway and the Bronx, in addition to being a key neighborhood biking corridor.

Seaman is also a cut-through for Bronx and Westchester motorists looking to avoid the toll on the Henry Hudson Bridge. It has a few speed humps, and it’s within the Inwood Slow Zone, but those measures do little to keep drivers from speeding past the apartment buildings, parks, schools, and churches that line Seaman from end to end. The 34th Precinct, which issued just 266 speeding tickets in 2015, is a non-factor when it comes to slowing drivers down. Double-parking is probably more common than speeding and seems to get even less attention, enforcement-wise.

All things considered, Seaman Avenue seemed ripe for a change. The street’s old 4-foot wide bike lanes were removed when DOT repaved in the summer of 2014, and were not replaced when the city put down new crosswalks and other markings. DOT informed Community Board 12 last September of its plans to install a northbound 5-foot bike lane and replace the southbound bike lane with sharrows. Though Seaman will retain two lanes for parked vehicles, DOT says it isn’t wide enough to have bike lanes in both directions.

Last year DOT told Streetsblog the agency will monitor the new configuration to see if adjustments are necessary. If DOT is ever willing to challenge the status quo, Seaman could become a much better street for biking and walking, with a protected bikeway next to Inwood Hill Park.

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DOT Releases Borough-by-Borough Speed Limit Maps

Image: DOT

In Queens, most major surface streets have been re-signed to reflect the default 25 mph speed limit but some streets with higher speed limits remain. Click to enlarge. Image: DOT

DOT has released before-and-after maps for each borough showing how signed speed limits have changed since Mayor de Blasio lowered the city’s default limit to 25 miles per hour in 2014. With the maps, New Yorkers can see which major surface streets are now signed for 25 mph and which have retained higher speed limits.

After the 25 mph default speed limit took effect, DOT left 30 mph signs on some wider streets as it evaluated whether to reduce those speed limits. This caused some uncertainty on streets like Riverside Drive, where new 30 mph signs went up, then were replaced, a year later, with 25 mph signs. Now DOT has wrapped up that process and re-signed 800 miles of streets for 25 mph speed limits.

For the most part, only a few surface streets in each borough are now signed for speed limits higher than 25 mph. There are 200 miles of such streets citywide (about half of them in Queens), compared to 600 miles before the new default limit took effect.

The maps are a useful resource. If you see a 30 mph sign in your neighborhood that you think should have been removed, now you can determine whether the city intended for that street to be signed for that speed or not. The maps can also help people identify streets that still need lower speed limits, or see at a glance which neighborhoods have 20 mph slow zones and which do not.

We’ve posted the maps below, along with a statement from DOT about the process of re-signing streets for the lower speed limit and how it determined exemptions to the 25 mph default. You can also access speed limit information via NYC Open Data or Vision Zero View.

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A Car-Free Plaza Is the Key to DOT’s Safety Plan for Myrtle-Wyckoff

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Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

The dangerous intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Wyckoff Avenue at the Bushwick-Ridgewood border is in line for a major DOT redesign this year. The proposal calls for pedestrianizing the block of Wyckoff between Myrtle and Gates to reduce potential motor vehicle turns at the intersection by 70 percent.

Myrtle-Wyckoff is a major transit hub, where the elevated M Train crosses paths with the underground L, and six bus routes converge at the Ridgewood Bus Terminal on Palmetto Street. Since 2009, three pedestrians have been killed at the six-legged intersection — two by MTA bus drivers. Two years ago, hundreds of people gathered there to remember Ella Bandes, who was struck and killed by a bus driver in 2013, and call for safety improvements.

In 2014, the city eliminated five of the 25 potential turns at the intersection, and last year the MTA rerouted the B26 away from the westbound turn from Wyckoff onto Palmetto. With the car-free plaza, the number of turns would fall even more dramatically — bus drivers would make five turns and drivers of personal vehicles would be limited to three turning movements.

According to DOT, three times as many pedestrians as cars pass through the block of the proposed plaza. Making it car-free would allow pedestrians to travel between the train station and bus terminal without having to cross motorized traffic lanes. The proposal also calls for demarcating the bus-only blocks by the bus terminal with red paint, and for converting Wyckoff to a one-way street south of the intersection.

On Tuesday night, about 60 people came to a public workshop hosted by DOT at International School 77 and weighed in on how they want to use the proposed plaza space.

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DOT and MTA Unveil Plan for Select Bus Service on 23rd Street

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Image: NYC DOT

About 15,000 daily passengers on the M23 will get faster trips starting this fall under the plan from NYC and the MTA for Select Bus Service on 23rd Street. Last night the agencies revealed their preliminary plan for M23 SBS, which calls for bus lanes on most of 23rd Street and off-board fare collection [PDF], to the Manhattan Community Board 5 transportation committee, which voted for it unanimously.

Most M23 passengers board close to the eastern or western edges of Manhattan. The route provides connections to eight subway lines, the PATH train, and 14 other bus routes — but it is currently one of the city’s slowest buses. The two agencies found that M23 buses are stopped in traffic or at a bus stop 51 percent of the time, and are “crawling” at speeds under 2.5 mph another seven percent of the time.

To bypass congestion, the bus lanes will run from Ninth Avenue to Second Avenue on the eastbound side and from midblock between First and Second to Eighth Avenue on the westbound side. DOT expects the lanes to be camera enforced, but buses won’t get priority at traffic signals “due to the complexity of Manhattan’s traffic signal system,” according to an agency spokesperson.

As on other SBS routes, pre-paid fares will speed up the process of boarding at stops. The project would eliminate one redundant local stop — at Fifth Avenue — that is barely 400 feet from the Broadway stop, which will remain.

On most of the street, the bus lanes will be “offset” from the curb, running between a parking lane and a general traffic lane, and in effect from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. On narrower sections, however, the bus lane will run curbside. The curbside bus lanes will not be in effect from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to allow for commercial loading and parking midday.

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