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Survey: With Parents Worried About Safety, Few NYC Students Bike to School

Although 70 percent of students said they live Images: Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Although most sixth-graders surveyed live close enough to school to bike there, few of them do. Most students and their parents said local streets aren’t safe enough for biking. Images: Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Just one percent of sixth-graders surveyed at 15 schools in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx said they get to class by bike, scooter, or skateboard, according to a survey released by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene last week [PDF]. Although most students live within walking distance of school, many of them take buses or cars to get to class. The report’s implication is clear: The rate of walking and biking to school in NYC may be far higher than other parts of the country, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.

The survey, first reported by Capital New York, is from the newly-formed Center for Health Equity, funded with $3.2 million in the de Blasio administration’s executive budget to address public health problems that disproportionately affect communities of color. The health department surveyed 1,005 sixth-graders, 24 parents, and principals at 15 schools in East Harlem, Bedford Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Highbridge, and Morrisania. It is not a representative sample of all NYC students, but it shows how kids get to school in walkable areas where most people are in the habit of getting around without driving.

Although 75 percent of students live within 20 blocks of school (about a mile), not all of these kids walk or bike to class. About 60 percent of all students said they walk, and just one percent arrive by bike, scooter, or skateboard. Nearly four in ten students don’t walk or bike, with 24 percent taking an MTA bus or subway, 14 percent being driven to school, and two percent riding a yellow school bus.

While a 61 percent mode share for active transportation might sound good compared to a national average of 13 percent, there’s a lot of room for improvement. The schools surveyed are located in zip codes that had a Walk Score greater than 85 out of 100, placing them in some of New York’s more walkable neighborhoods.

It’s hard to say how these numbers compare to other NYC schools because students and parents are rarely surveyed on travel choices. DOT said that in the relative handful of schools it works with directly, it typically finds that three-quarters of elementary students walk to school. At most middle and high schools, three-quarters of students walk or take transit. As with the DOHMH study, DOT said bike-to-school numbers barely register.

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Four Reasons Pedestrian Injuries Have Plummeted Along Protected Bike Lanes

Dearborn Street, Chicago.

pfb logo 100x22

Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Protected bike lanes are good at making it safer to bike. But they are great at making it safer to walk.

As dozens of thought leaders on street safety gather in New York City today for the Vision Zero for Cities Symposium, some of them will be discussing this little-known fact: On New York streets that received protected bike lanes from 2007 to 2011, total traffic injury rates fell by 12 to 52 percent.

Source: Making Safer Streets (NYC DOT)

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DOT Unveils Interactive Vision Zero Map, But NYPD Data Still Incomplete

Injuries are indicated in orange, and fatalities in red, on DOT's new Vision Zero map.

Injuries are indicated in orange, and fatalities in red, on DOT’s Vision Zero map.

As the Transportation Alternatives Vision Zero for Cities Symposium got underway in Downtown Brooklyn this morning, DOT released an interactive map of traffic crashes, street safety projects and more. One piece that’s still missing, though: NYPD enforcement data.

“Vision Zero View” maps injury and fatal crashes based on the latest available data, updated monthly, and features information from prior years dating back to 2009. Users can sort crashes to see injuries or fatalities, and filter based on the victims’ mode of travel (pedestrian, cyclist, motor vehicle occupant, or all of the above). The map includes a current count of known traffic injuries and fatalities.

Data is sortable by month and year, with summaries for each NYPD precinct, City Council district, and community board district. The “Street Design” tab has filters for displaying locations of leading pedestrian intervals, arterial and neighborhood slow zones, speed humps, Safe Streets for Seniors target areas, and “major safety projects.”

For example, the map shows motorists have killed one pedestrian in Council Member Mark Treyger’s district in 2014, and 133 pedestrians and cyclists and 236 motor vehicle occupants have suffered injuries there this year. There are no neighborhood Slow Zones in District 47, according to the map, and no major safety projects.

With the “Outreach and Education” tab, users can see where meetings, workshops, and other street safety related events are happening. Again, not much going on in Treyger’s district.

Until recently, up-to-date geocoded crash information was not available to the public. With this map, crash data and other information related to Vision Zero are available in a unified, frequently-refreshed, user-friendly format. Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan said today that NYPD has put aside funding to upgrade its Traffic Accident Management System (TAMS), on which the Vision Zero map is based, and that the department is working on a system to geo-code traffic summonses. Hopefully those improvements will come.

Software developers and safety advocates have long called for geo-coded traffic summons data, which would indicate where and whether police are enforcing traffic laws to make streets safer. Minus enforcement information, New Yorkers’ Vision Zero view remains obscured.

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Vision Zero Year One: An Early Assessment

New York’s transportation reform and traffic safety movement notched huge wins when mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio adopted Vision Zero as part of his platform in 2013, and again this year when the new mayor put the policy into action within days of taking office. Vision Zero created a policy rubric for the de Blasio administration to develop its own legacy of transformative street programs after the strong progress of the Bloomberg years, and has galvanized unprecedented interest and support across New York’s political establishment for physical and regulatory changes on city streets. This expanded policy space has generated progress on difficult issues like expanded camera enforcement and speed limit reduction.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has made substantial progress on the legislative agenda for Vision Zero, but Police Commissioner Bill Bratton disengaged from the street safety initiative in its first year. Photo: Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

The policy has also afforded Mayor de Blasio opportunities to show his leadership mettle and political touch. Anyone who wondered about the new mayor’s style was given an impressive demonstration when de Blasio took the unforgettable, emotionally wrenching step of appearing publicly with family members of victims of recent fatal traffic crashes during the first week of his administration, and demanded rapid action on Vision Zero by city agencies.

Now, with the policy well-established and recognized, and key milestones like the recent change in city speed limits enacted, the mayor and his senior managers need to make a clear assessment of the city’s Vision Zero performance and buckle down in several key areas to ensure that the policy generates tangible street safety improvements for New Yorkers.

That’s because New York’s street safety performance in 2014 will be good, but not great. It will be more in the vein of a return to levels seen over the past five to six years after 2013′s major spike in fatalities. It will not represent a marked improvement befitting a city with tremendous expertise in delivering safer streets, operating under one of the world’s most aggressive street safety policies.

If NYC traffic deaths in November and December (often one of the worst periods of the year) are close to those in recent years, the city could close 2014 with 260 or 265 total traffic fatalities. Where 2013 was the city’s deadliest in seven years, a 2014 with 265 fatalities would rank as the third safest year in NYC history. It’s also possible the city is on track to record one of its lowest-ever pedestrian death totals. The lowest total number of fatalities was in 2011, at 249. The lowest number of pedestrian fatalities was 140 in 2007.

Expectations have been raised substantially as Mayor de Blasio and the wider public policy community have embraced Vision Zero. At the end of the year, New Yorkers will ask what city government intends to do not only to match the safety performance of recent years, but to dramatically exceed it.

Everyone from traffic safety advocates to City Hall should resist any notion of falling back on a “wait and see what happens with the lower speed limit” stance regarding Vision Zero in 2015. For one thing, NYC DOT should already know how safety performance has changed on the group of 25 mph arterial slow zones such as Atlantic Avenue, the Grand Concourse, and McGuinness Boulevard, which were inaugurated six months ago. The broader speed limit change will likely have similar or lower impact absent much greater NYPD engagement and/or much broader application of enforcement cameras.

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Eyes on the Street: New 30 MPH Speed Limit Signs on Riverside Drive

Riverside Drive is a neighborhood street where drivers routinely injure pedestrians and cyclists. Why is the city allowing motorists to drive faster there?

Riverside Drive is a neighborhood street where drivers routinely injure pedestrians and cyclists. Why is the city allowing motorists to drive faster there?

According to DOT, as of November 7 the maximum legal speed on 90 percent of city streets is 25 miles per hour or lower. Regarding the criteria for exceptions to the new 25 mph default speed limit, a DOT FAQ sheet reads as follows:

Some larger streets, such as limited access highways or major arterial streets, have posted speed limits of 30 MPH and above; these will remain in place while DOT evaluates these locations.

One street that now has a 30 mph posted speed limit is Riverside Drive, which is lined with residences and parks for most of its length, from the Upper West Side to Washington Heights. The above photo was taken this week at Riverside and W. 114th Street, in Morningside Heights. This was no DOT oversight. The sign, along with other 30 mph signs posted on Riverside, were installed this week.

According to crash data mapped on Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat, just about every Riverside intersection saw at least one motorist collision with a pedestrian or cyclist between 1995 and 2009. In 2005 a driver killed a cyclist at Riverside and W. 115th Street, less than a block from where this photo was taken.

As the DOT FAQ says, “Data shows that driving at or below 25 MPH improves drivers’ ability to avoid crashes. Pedestrians struck by vehicles traveling at 25 MPH are half as likely to die as those struck at 30 MPH.” With a 30 mph speed limit, Riverside Drive is not as safe as it could be.

“Riverside is a major commuting and recreational cycling route, and is plagued by speeding,” wrote the reader who sent us the photo. “Who decided that this cycling thoroughfare and neighborhood street should have a higher speed limit than most of the rest of the city?”

DOT is closed for Veterans Day. We emailed to ask what the rationale was for 30 miles per hour on Riverside, and will update here if we get a response.

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First Look: Woodhaven BRT Could Set New Standard for NYC Busways

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In one option, “Concept 2,” buses would run in dedicated lanes next to through traffic, keeping local traffic, drop-offs, and deliveries to service lanes and out of the way of buses. Image: NYC DOT

NYC DOT and the MTA have developed three design concepts for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard in southeast Queens, and two of them go further than previous SBS routes to keep cars from slowing down buses [PDF]. All of the options include some measures to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians on one of the city’s widest and most dangerous streets.

The Woodhaven SBS project, which covers a 14.4-mile corridor running from the Rockaways to Woodside, is the biggest street redesign effort in NYC right now. All the City Council members along the route have said they want big changes, and the concepts on display last night indicate that DOT and the MTA can deliver.

Agency representatives showed the three designs at an open house in Ozone Park where residents could leave written comments on posterboards. City Council Member Eric Ulrich told me he liked what he saw, and bus riders and transit advocates were especially keen on “Concept 2″ and “Concept 3,” which would create clearer paths for buses. Here’s a rundown of how each option would work.

Image: NYC DOT

Image: NYC DOT

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Kips Bay Condo Owners Don’t Want Bike Lane By Their Door, So They’re Suing

Apparently, having this bike lane in front of their building instead of parked cars is too much for condo residents at The Horizon. Image: DOT [PDF]

Lawsuits against bike lanes and bike-share stations have all gone down in flames in New York City courts, but that’s not stopping Kips Bay condo owners from suing NYC DOT over a short, very useful connection linking the East Side Greenway and the First Avenue bike lane.

The bike lane has the backing of local City Council Member Dan Garodnick, and Manhattan Community Board 6 recently voted in favor of it. Even though the plan was modified in response to condo owners’ demands, they are taking it to court. (They are not, however, getting pro bono assistance from Gibson Dunn and Jim Walden.)

The two-way bike lane would run next to the Horizon condominium tower on 37th Street between First Avenue and the East River Greenway. It was first proposed by DOT in May and received support from Manhattan Community Board 6 last month.

Horizon condo owners came out against the bike lane at previous community board meetings in the spring and fall, calling for it to be placed on the south side of the street, where it would be next to — this is important — a different apartment building.

DOT studied that option but concluded it would be more dangerous for people on bikes, who would be exposed to additional conflicts with turning traffic at intersections. Instead, the agency proposed a modified version of the north-side lane that preserves loading zones near the condo entrance. People going to the building’s entrance would exit a vehicle in the drop-off zone and cross the bike lane before getting to the sidewalk.

Condo owners did not come out to the meeting last month when CB 6 overwhelmingly passed a resolution in support of the modified plan. At that meeting, a Garodnick staffer said the council member backed the plan. According to draft meeting minutes [PDF], the board voted 35-3, with three abstentions, in support of the bike lane.

“It seems that people were generally pleased with all the work that went into it,” CB 6 district manager Dan Miner said after the meeting. “It was not a heavily disputed matter.”

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As Citi Bike Expands, So Should NYC’s Protected Bike Lanes

When Citi Bike launched last year, ridership numbers quickly surpassed levels seen in other cities. New York’s system had a number of advantages — more stations, more bikes, more places to go, and more potential customers, for starters. But there’s another reason so many people felt comfortable hopping on the blue bikes: For years before bike-share’s launch, the city had been installing miles of protected bike lanes on several key north-south avenues in the Citi Bike service area.

At Tuesday’s Citi Bike announcement, DOT chief Polly Trottenberg said the presence of protected bike lanes would factor into station siting as the system expands, but she didn’t commit to adding more protected lanes in tandem with bike-share growth. Photo: Stephen Miller

As Citi Bike expands beyond the city’s core, the protected bike lane network should grow along with it. The logic of the pairing is so clear to New Yorkers, noted former DOT policy director Jon Orcutt in a Streetsblog post this summer, that when the city sought to add protected lanes for Midtown avenues after bike-share was already in the works, the proposals “sailed through their respective community boards.” Will the de Blasio administration also make the connection between bike-share and building out safe bicycling infrastructure?

At Tuesday’s Citi Bike press conference, I asked Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg if DOT would grow the protected bike lane network as bike-share expands to more neighborhoods. “One of the big steps with Citi Bike in terms of safety and ease of use has been connecting wherever possible with protected bike lanes,” she said. “As we site stations, that is going to be one of the criteria.”

It wasn’t exactly a commitment to expand the protected bike lane network in tandem with Citi Bike.

Earlier this week, Mayor de Blasio didn’t bring up protected lanes when I asked what his administration is doing to improve bike safety in light of the fact that bicyclist deaths have doubled in 2014 compared to the same time last year. De Blasio cited enforcement against dangerous driving before adding that NYPD has issued more tickets to “bicyclists who have acted inappropriately” and that the city would employ “equal opportunity” enforcement against bike riders.

The administration has gone on the record saying the protected bike lane network will expand at about the same rate as it has since 2007. At a press conference celebrating New York’s “best biking city” ranking last month, Trottenberg said DOT has committed to adding five miles of protected bike lanes every year.

So far, however, the de Blasio administration has yet to put its stamp on the bike network.

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Citi Bike 2.0: New Owners Hire Jay Walder and Promise Major Expansion

With new ownership and a new CEO, Citi Bike expansion is back on track. DOT has even started taking suggestions for bike-share expansion again. Image: DOT

With new ownership from executives at real estate giant Related and a new CEO in former MTA head Jay Walder, Citi Bike expansion is back on track. DOT has already started taking suggestions for new bike-share stations. Image: DOT

It’s official: Alta Bicycle Share, the company that runs Citi Bike, has a new owner, an infusion of cash, and a fresh face at the top — longtime transit executive Jay Walder. At a press conference this afternoon, the new team promised to correct Citi Bike’s blunders and double the system’s size by the end of 2017.

The same ownership group will also be running Alta bike-share systems in Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, and Boston, among other cities. While today’s news signals potential changes in those cities as well, the most immediate changes — along with Alta Bicycle Share’s headquarters — are coming to New York.

Citi Bike’s reboot has been months in the making. Top executives from Equinox Fitness, itself a division of real estate giant The Related Companies, burst onto the bike-share scene in April with an unsuccessful last-minute bid for Bixi, the bankrupt Canadian supplier of Alta’s bike-share components. Related execs resurfaced in July, when word came that they were on the verge of buying out Alta. After months of negotiations, the deal is now official, with a company backed by Related executives and other investors, called Bikeshare Holdings LLC, acquiring all of Alta Bicycle Share.

Alta is getting a major cash infusion — $30 million from Bikeshare Holdings LLC, which is led by Equinox CEO Harvey Spevak, Related CEO Jeff Blau, and investor Jonathan Schulhof. Citi has extended its initial $41 million, five-year sponsorship of NYC bike-share by promising an additional $70.5 million through 2024, contingent on system expansion. Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, which has already helped finance Citi Bike, is increasing its credit line to Alta by $15 million. The deal includes $5 million from the Partnership Fund for New York City, an investment fund backed by the city’s big business coalition, to expand Citi Bike to more neighborhoods.

That expansion is set to roll out in stages over the next three years. Today, the system has 330 stations and 6,000 bikes. Alta and DOT promised today that by the end of 2017, it will double to over 700 stations and 12,000 bikes. The first round will bring the system to neighborhoods that have long been promised bike-share, such as Long Island City and Greenpoint, as well as additional parts of Williamsburg and Bedford Stuyvesant. The second phase will expand the system to just north of 125th Street in Harlem, south to Red Hook, Park Slope, and Prospect Heights, and to a large section of Astoria. It does not include Roosevelt, Randalls, and Ward Islands.

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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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