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After Fatal Crash, Rodriguez Asks DOT for W. 207th Street Safety Study

Two drivers hit two pedestrians, killing a 24-year-old man, on W. 207th Street at Ninth Avenue in Inwood. Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez has asked DOT to study W. 207th for potential safety measures. Image: Google Maps

Two drivers hit two pedestrians, killing a 24-year-old man, on W. 207th Street at Ninth Avenue in Inwood. Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez has asked DOT to study W. 207th for potential safety measures. Image: Google Maps

City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez wants DOT to study safety improvements for an Inwood street where drivers killed a pedestrian and injured a second victim last night.

Two drivers struck two men, ages 24 and 35, as they attempted to cross W. 207th Street near Ninth Avenue at around 10:27 p.m. The victims entered the street “outside the crosswalk,” saw vehicle traffic approaching, and were trying to run back to the curb when they were hit by a driver traveling westbound in a Ford SUV, according to NYPD and published reports. The victims were thrown into the eastbound lane and were hit by a second driver in a Toyota sedan.

The 24-year-old victim died and the second victim was hospitalized in serious condition. As of this afternoon, NYPD was withholding the name of the deceased pedestrian pending family notification.

The NYPD public information office had no information on driver speed, a key factor in the severity of the crash. Police said both drivers passed sobriety tests and no charges were filed. The drivers’ names were not released.

Anonymous police sources blamed the victims in the press, telling the Daily News they “bolted across W. 207 St. outside the crosswalk,” while exculpating the SUV driver. “The driver of the vehicle hit the brakes, but couldn’t stop in time,” cops told WCBS.

The crash occurred in the 34th Precinct, where local officers issue around 13 speeding summonses a month.

The intersection of W. 207th Street and Ninth Avenue is wide and hazardous. This stretch of W. 207th Street is often clogged with honking drivers headed to and from the Bronx via the University Heights Bridge. According to the city’s Vision Zero map, three pedestrians were injured at W. 207th and Ninth in 2015 as of the end of May, in addition to nine motor vehicle occupants — an indication that drivers are colliding at high speeds.

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DOT Drops Buffer From Bronx Bike Lanes Under Vision Zero Safety Plan

Think buffered bike lanes are a stepping stone to protected paths? Not on Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, where DOT is proposing to remove buffers and add turn lanes. Image: DOT [PDF]

On Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, DOT is proposing to remove bike lane buffers and add turn lanes. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT is downgrading buffered bike lanes as part of a street safety project on 1.3 miles of Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, a Vision Zero priority corridor. While the street appears to have enough room for protected bike lanes while maintaining the current motor vehicle lanes, DOT instead opted to narrow the bike lanes, remove the buffers, and devote space to a center median and left turn lanes.

The project [PDF] also redesigns two intersections to provide more space for pedestrians and slow down turning drivers. At Rev. James A. Polite Avenue, DOT is closing a “slip lane” that drivers use as a shortcut to avoid the traffic signal at 167th Street. The change will add three parking spaces. DOT is also installing painted curb extensions at Avenue St. John and Dawson Street.

Prospect Avenue (in purple) is a Vision Zero priority corridor. Image: DOT

Prospect Avenue (in purple) is a Vision Zero priority corridor. Image: DOT

The biggest changes, however, are for Prospect Avenue itself, where DOT is removing painted buffers from the street’s bike lanes to make room for a striped median and left-turn lanes. Concrete pedestrian islands will be installed at 152nd, 155th, 162nd, 165th, and Jennings streets.

In its presentation, DOT says that “existing buffered bike lanes encourage double parking” and that removing buffers “improves bike lane design” by making the lane “less susceptible to double parking.” Drivers also often use the bike lane to pass turning vehicles on the right, DOT said.

DOT has already made similar changes to a short section of Prospect Avenue, between Freeman Street and Boston Road, after a repaving project last summer.

Streetsblog asked DOT if it collected before-and-after data to see if removing bike lane buffers on Prospect Avenue has actually reduced double-parking. We also asked if the agency considered upgrading the buffered bike lanes to protected lanes, which could also have included pedestrian islands, instead of removing the buffers, but the agency did not reply to those questions.

From Jennings Street to E. 149th Street, there were 16 serious injuries, including 12 pedestrians and four motor vehicle occupants, between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT. During that period, one person, a motor vehicle occupant, died in a crash on Prospect Avenue. Six bicyclists were injured, none seriously.

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Eyes on the Street: Green Bike Lanes on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge

Biking between Greenpoint and Woodside is getting less hairy. DOT crews have painted buffered bike lanes on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, a project that was first proposed five years ago.

Under the old design, speeding on the four-lane bridge was a big problem. The 2010 version of the redesign would have trimmed it to two motor vehicle lanes plus bike lanes, but to win over local trucking interests, the final design maintains two Queens-bound motor lanes.

Clarence shares this helmet-cam footage of a trip from Queens to Brooklyn on the new bike lane (sped up by a factor of two).

Meanwhile, one Newtown Creek crossing to the west, DOT crews are getting started on survey work for the much-anticipated Pulaski Bridge bikeway, reports Transportation Alternatives organizer Luke Ohlson:

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DOT and Ydanis Rodriguez Break Ground on Uptown Bike Lanes

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and local high school students celebrated new bike lanes near the High Bridge in Washington Heights this afternoon. Photo: Ben Fried

Don’t underestimate the importance of this development: Today, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez announced the groundbreaking for new bike routes linking the Hudson River Greenway to the restored High Bridge, which connects Upper Manhattan to the Bronx.

The shovels-in-the-ground moment and its sibling, the ribbon-cutting-with-oversized-scissors, are irresistible to elected officials everywhere. Usually, this feeds into the political incentive to push for big, dumb road projects. One way to flip this dynamic: start holding groundbreakings and ribbon-cuttings for smart transportation projects, too.

Map: NYC DOT

The new uptown bike routes will consist of two-way protected lanes on 170th Street and segments of 158th Street and Edgecombe Avenue. Other segments will consist mainly of sharrows. The routes will provide safer and more direct connections between the Hudson River Greenway, Washington Heights, and the High Bridge, which reopened to the public this week after being off limits for 45 years.

Rodriguez pointed out that a lot of families have moved across the river from Washington Heights to the Bronx in the last 20 years, and these projects are going to connect people who have relatives on the other side of the river.

“Not only are we connecting both sides of the river,” said Assembly Member Guillermo Linares, “but we are making it easier to get to the bridge if you are walking and if you are riding a bike.”

The officials were joined by high school students from I Challenge Myself, a program that promotes fitness in NYC high schools. “It’ll be a lot safer and more people will be able to come down here,” said Brian Zarzuela, a sophomore at the High School for Media and Communications in Washington Heights. “With the lanes, it should be a lot easier to navigate.”

In related news, DOT announced that it will begin holding public workshops for its Harlem River Bridges Access Plan starting next week. Currently, people biking or walking across the bridges have to contend with hostile street conditions. Safer routes across the river could make biking a much more attractive travel option.

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DOT Replaces a Block of the Fifth Avenue Bike Lane With Sharrows

Bye bye, bike lane. Hello, sharrows in a turn lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

Bye bye, bike lane. Hello, sharrows in a turn lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT’s recent design tweaks to Eighth Street have come with an unwelcome change on Fifth Avenue. As the Fifth Avenue bike lane approaches Eighth Street, it now morphs into sharrows that overlap with a turning lane for motorists. The dedicated space for cycling is gone, and the new design is incompatible with the protected bike lane that advocates and the local community board have called for on Fifth Avenue.

While the southern end of Fifth Avenue doesn’t carry much car traffic, as the street approaches its terminus at Washington Square Park, many drivers turn left onto eastbound Eighth Street. The left-side bike lane was sacrificed to make way for a new design to handle this turning traffic.

The intent of the design is to separate the turning motorists from people crossing Eighth Street, who now have “a split-phase leading pedestrian interval,” giving them a head start before drivers receive a flashing yellow turn arrow. But it also calls for cyclists to do a non-intuitive merging movement around turning drivers, including many MTA buses and tour buses. Since bus drivers swing right before making tight left turns, the bike stencils direct cyclists to take a path that could conflict with the path of buses.

An earlier version of the plan, presented to Manhattan Community Board 2 last November, added the turn lane but kept the bike lane [PDF].

DOT says it will finish markings and signal work by the end of the month.

More than a year ago, DOT committed to studying protected bike lanes on Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, in response to local elected officials and community boards, but hasn’t produced anything since then.

This section of Fifth Avenue, with its low volume of traffic, would be an ideal location to begin building out protected lanes on these important north-south streets. With its corner sidewalk extensions, however, the new intersection design won’t work with a protected bike lane:

5th_ave_8th_street

The new intersection design at Fifth Avenue and Eighth Street is incompatible with a protected bike lane on Fifth.

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DOT’s Linden Boulevard Plan Improves the Basics and Not Much Else

Linden Boulevard is getting new lane striping and curb extensions, but not a wholesale redesign. Photo: DOT [PDF]

Linden Boulevard is getting new lane striping and curb extensions, not a major redesign. Photo: DOT [PDF]

DOT unveiled its plan to reduce traffic injuries and deaths on Linden Boulevard last night to the Brooklyn Community Board 17 transportation committee. The project will introduce basic elements of pedestrian safety infrastructure, but it won’t significantly alter the design of one of the most dangerous speedways in Brooklyn [PDF].

Five people, including three pedestrians, have been killed on the 1.25-mile section of Linden Boulevard between Kings Highway and Avenue D since 2009, according to DOT. There were 1,178 injuries from 2009 to 2013, mostly among people in cars, including 54 severe injuries, putting Linden Boulevard in the most dangerous 10 percent of Brooklyn streets. This spring DOT has been collecting feedback on how to improve the street through public workshops and an online portal.

This is about as good as it gets in DOT's plan. Image: DOT [PDF]

This is about as good as it gets in DOT’s plan for Linden Boulevard. Image: DOT [PDF]

To stop the carnage, DOT’s proposal calls for increased signal time for people crossing the street, extending pedestrian medians through crosswalks, adding curb extensions, narrowing lanes on the service road with paint, installing left turn signals, and widening median bus stops so passengers have a safer place to stand. The speed limit will also be lowered, from 35 mph to 30, but not to the citywide default of 25 mph.

Because Linden Boulevard is such an unmitigated disaster in its current state, these changes could make a significant impact on injury and fatality rates. However, the proposal falls short of a wholesale redesign for a dangerous arterial that’s up to 200 feet wide at some points.

Last night committee member Jessica Welch asked DOT if the plan includes wider medians and trees. “A lot of these don’t have space for trees,” DOT project manager Chris Brunson said of the medians.

“Oh, so you’re not really going to make it bigger?” Welch replied. “Okay, so no green. Okay.”

The plan does, however, add striping and signage to slip lanes between the main line and the service road. That way, drivers know which of the lanes are entrances and which are exits. Brunson compared it to what currently exists on Queens Boulevard.

As dangerous as Queens Boulevard is today, it used to be much worse, with an average of nine people losing their lives every year. In the early 2000s, DOT lowered the speed limit and made adjustments to crossing times, street lighting, and pedestrian medians, bringing the death toll down significantly.

Queens Boulevard, of course, still sees significant numbers of injuries and fatalities — which is why it’s now getting an upgrade that includes protected bike lanes and slip lanes that require drivers to stop before crossing the bike path and entering the service road. When Streetsblog asked why DOT isn’t proposing anything like that for Linden Boulevard, Brunson said the wider service roads on Queens Boulevard provide more design flexibility.

There’s also another factor: money.

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Eyes on the Street: The Case of the Missing Bike Lanes

The Driggs Avenue bike lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

The missing Driggs Avenue bike lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

The streets have been repaved. Lane striping, crosswalks, and stop bars have been added back. But there’s something missing from two streets in DOT’s bike network: bike lanes.

In Williamsburg, Driggs Avenue has been repaved — but you would never know it’s a key bike connection from the Williamsburg Bridge. The street has all its stripes back except the bike lane markings.

In Lower Manhattan, Lafayette Street between Canal and Chambers was also recently repaved. Markings were added back, but so far not the buffered bike lane. Instead, many motorists are now using what should be the bike lane space as a driving lane.

DOT did not respond to a query about why the bike lanes are taking longer to paint than the rest of the street markings.

The Lafayette Street bike lane. Photo: Steve Vaccaro/Twitter

Lafayette Street, which feeds directly to the Brooklyn Bridge path and is lined with Citi Bike stations, is wide enough for a protected bike lane. North of Prince Street, Lafayette already has a protected lane: When DOT repaved that section last year, it upgraded the bike lane. DOT said it didn’t take advantage of this year’s repaving to upgrade the other section of Lafayette because it would have had to go before the community board for a significant street redesign.

It seems DOT has limited how much it uses road resurfacing to improve street design and safety. Converting a striped bike lane into a buffered bike lane? Easy. Converting a buffered bike lane into a protected bike lane? Apparently that’s too tough.

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Want to Drive Thru Corona to the US Open? Francisco Moya’s Got Your Back

Assembly Member Francisco Moya is worried that anything less than two lanes each way will lead to gridlock for drivers going to tennis tournaments in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Photo: Google Maps

Assembly Member Francisco Moya is worried that anything less than two lanes each way will lead to gridlock for drivers going to tennis tournaments in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Photo: Google Maps

Assembly Member Francisco Moya opposes a DOT plan for safer walking and biking on 111th Street next to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. In a statement, he said it will slow down people driving through the neighborhood he represents on their way to professional baseball games and tennis tournaments.

Assembly Member Francisco Moya. Photo: NY Assembly

Assembly Member Francisco Moya. Photo: NY Assembly

“111th Street is a high traffic road, which suffers from massive spikes in congestion during the numerous cultural and sporting events in the surrounding area, including Mets games and USTA tournaments,” Moya said in the statement. “There is little doubt that DOT’s proposal to reduce car traffic to one lane will result in slowed traffic and increased congestion, but I am also deeply concerned with the possibility of an increase in accidents and air pollution for the immediately surrounding area.”

DOT studied traffic conditions during five days in April and May, counting cars during a Cinco de Mayo celebration in the park, two Queens Night Markets, and eight Mets games, including this season’s home opener. The agency found the increased traffic was mostly north of the area slated for the road diet and could be ameliorated by adjusting signal timing and keeping traffic bound for Citi Field on the highway [PDF].

“We still don’t feel that that’s sufficient,” said Meghan Tadio, Moya’s chief of staff. “We think that, really, if we’re going to limit the traffic lanes to one lane in each direction, we need to have a full study during the summer months… We would take them and their numbers as reality if they took time to do the study over the whole peak summer.”

The street handles no more than 350 cars in each direction during a typical rush hour, according to DOT, a volume that can easily be handled with a single lane each way.

“It would be insane if we went around designing streets for three or four specific days of the year,” said Transportation Alternatives Queens organizer Jaime Moncayo. “You’re basically inconveniencing the people who use the street year-round for the people who use it two or three times for an event.”

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Queens CB 2 Votes Unanimously in Favor of Queens Blvd Protected Bike Lane

Queens Boulevard will be redesigned this summer before being reconstructed in 2018. Image: DOT [PDF]

Queens Boulevard will be redesigned this summer before being reconstructed in 2018. Image: DOT [PDF]

Big changes are coming to Queens Boulevard in Woodside this summer after a unanimous vote last night from Queens Community Board 2 for a DOT redesign.

The plan will add protected bike lanes and expand pedestrian space on 1.3 miles of the “Boulevard of Death,” from Roosevelt Avenue to 74th Street [PDF]. Six people were killed on this stretch of Queens Boulevard between 2009 and 2013, including two pedestrians and one cyclist, according to DOT. Over the same period, 36 people suffered serious injuries, the vast majority in motor vehicles.

DOT plans on implementing the design in July and August with temporary materials before building it out with concrete in 2018. It’s the first phase in a $100 million, multi-year project to transform the notoriously dangerous Queens Boulevard between Sunnyside and Forest Hills.

“It was an incredibly important and, dare I say, historic moment for Queens and for the safe streets movement,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “Having a bike lane on Queens Boulevard — I can remember several years ago, people saying to me, ‘That is the most pie-in-the-sky, ridiculous harebrained notion ever. It’ll never happen.’ But, you know, it’s gonna happen. It’s happening. That is seismic, in terms of the shift in where the thinking has gone.”

“We have come up with what I consider to be one of our most creative and exciting proposals that this department has ever put together,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told CB 2 last night. “It’s going to greatly enhance safety. It’s going to make the road more pleasant and more attractive for pedestrians, for cyclists, for the people who live and have their business on Queens Boulevard. And it will keep the traffic flowing, as well.”

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DOT, CB 12 Hold Firm as Cranks Attack Fort George Hill Bike Lane

Some residents of Fort George Hill were upset by a new protected bike lane. Image: DOT [PDF]

Fort George Hill co-op owners had a freak-out over a new protected bike lane at a Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee meeting Monday evening.

The bike lane, installed earlier this year to provide a safe two-way connection between Washington Heights and Inwood, was among a handful of streets CB 12 suggested to DOT for bike lanes in 2012. The agency came back with a proposal for Fort George Hill last year, and received the board’s sign-off before installing it this spring. Installation is still underway.

That didn’t keep some residents of Fort George Hill co-op buildings from getting upset about the change. About 25 people packed Monday’s meeting to show their displeasure. “How come we didn’t have an open meeting with the buildings before this thing was built?” asked Paul J. Hintersteiner, president of the co-op board at 17 Fort George Hill. “Nobody knew anything about it until it happened.”

Things escalated from there, with some residents yelling at DOT staff and demanding that the bike lane be removed.

“They don’t care about anybody in the neighborhood. They care about putting in the bike lanes,” said Abraham Jacob, 58, who didn’t like the street redesign because his car gets snowed in during the winter. (The bike lane was installed this spring.) “When the winter comes, I don’t like to take the subway. I don’t take the subway. I haven’t taken the subway since I graduated high school in 1974,” he said. “So I have the choice of either taking the subway or losing my job. So where’s DOT’s concern on that?”

The audience applauded in support. “Thank you,” said CB 12 member Jim Berlin.

DOT and most CB 12 members tried to take the verbal abuse in stride. “We understand that it is a very upsetting situation for the residents there,” replied committee chair Yahaira Alonzo. “Going back to the way it was is not an option.”

Some spoke in support of the changes. Fort George Hill residents Sergiy Nosulya and Jonathan Rabinowitz spoke separately about how grateful they they are to be able to ride bikes down the hill legally and without heading straight into oncoming car traffic.

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