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Eyes on the Street: A Super-Sized Pedestrian Island on Bushwick Avenue

Bushwick Avenue used to widen at Seigel Street, making it difficult to cross. Now, there is a super-sized pedestrian island giving safer passage between a school and a library. Photos: Google Maps (above), Stephen Miller (below)

Bushwick Avenue used to be difficult to cross at Seigel Street. Now, there is a super-sized pedestrian island between a school and a library. Photos: Google Maps (above), Stephen Miller (below)

Once an extra-wide asphalt expanse, a section of Bushwick Avenue has been reclaimed by the addition of a pedestrian island. The new public space, which makes it easier to cross between Brooklyn Latin School and the Bushwick Library, is joined by smaller changes to an adjacent stretch of Bushwick Avenue installed this spring and summer.

After securing support from Brooklyn Community Boards 1 [PDF] and 4 [PDFlast fall, DOT began installation in April. The plan was developed in response to requests from the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a power base for former Kings County Democratic Party chairman Vito Lopez, and the Graham Avenue Business Improvement District.

BID executive director Betty M. Cooney is happy with most of the changes, but not the pedestrian island. “We did not ask for that,” she said. Instead, the BID had suggested using the extra asphalt for a left turn lane. ”I don’t know what their thinking is,” she said of the pedestrian island. “There’s a library there. There’s a school there. It probably makes it safer, but all they had to do was put in a turn lane.”

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De Blasio and DOT Ring In the New School Year With More Speed Cameras

Mayor de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg today officially announced the expansion of the city’s speed camera program, which will eventually bring automated enforcement to 140 school zones across the boroughs. Today’s event also underscored the fact that streets around schools won’t be as safe as they could be, thanks to restrictions imposed by Albany.

All 140 speed cameras allowed by Albany will be operational next year. Will state lawmakers lift constraints that prevent cameras from saving lives? Photo: ##https://twitter.com/NYCMayorsOffice/status/506813044467728384##@NYCMayorsOffice##

All 140 speed cameras allowed by Albany will be operational next year. Will state lawmakers lift constraints that prevent cameras from saving lives? Photo: @NYCMayorsOffice

At a press conference this morning at PS 95, on Hillman Avenue in the Bronx, de Blasio and Trottenberg were joined by NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan and State Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein, a key supporter of legislation that brought the first 20 speed cams to NYC streets last year.

“Our kids are going to be safer walking to school and coming home because of this new enforcement,” said de Blasio via a press release. “We are sending a powerful message that we take safety near our schools seriously, and we will enforce the law to keep children safe.”

With the new school year set to start Thursday, DOT is on its way to deploying the 120 additional cameras authorized by state lawmakers earlier this year. Twenty-three cameras will be up and running this week, according to a de Blasio spokesperson, with 40 to 50 cameras operational by the end of 2014. All 140 cameras are expected to be online by the end of 2015.

Speeding was the leading cause of traffic deaths in NYC in 2012, contributing to 81 fatal crashes. Automated enforcement is vital to reducing traffic casualties, but NYC’s cameras come with a bevy of conditions that limit their effectiveness. Per today’s press release:

DOT is permitted to place cameras within a quarter mile of a corridor passing a school building, entrance or exit of a school on the corridor. The cameras are only active on school days during school hours, one hour before and one hour after the school day, as well as during student activities at the school, and 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after school activities.

In addition, cameras can only ticket drivers who speed by 11 or more miles per hour, and the penalty for speed cam tickets is a nominal $50 fine, with no license points. According to a Transportation Alternatives analysis of DMV data, the majority of fatal speeding-related crashes statewide occur on weekends or between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weeknights — hours when speed cameras aren’t normally allowed to operate. To prevent as many injuries and deaths as possible, state lawmakers should remove these restrictions.

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One City, By Bike: Huge Opportunities for NYC Cycling in the de Blasio Era

Jon Orcutt was NYC DOT’s policy director from 2007 to 2014. He developed DOT’s post-PlaNYC strategic plan, Sustainable Streets, oversaw creation of the Citi Bike program, and produced the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero Action Plan. In this five-part series, he looks at today’s opportunities to build on the breakthroughs in NYC cycling made during the Bloomberg administration.

Part 1 – What’s Next for New York City Cycling Policy?

Bike transportation in New York City unquestionably saw historic progress during the second half of the Bloomberg administration. For the first time, city government treated cycling as a serious mode of transportation and continually achieved new milestones: a bigger bike network, safer street designs, higher cycling levels, and a network of bike-share stations that received massive usage. NYC DOT, City Hall, and city cyclists endured and moved past the “bikelash.” But even after smashing so many barriers, cycling in New York is still relatively underdeveloped, with gigantic opportunities for growth ahead.

There are still many gaps in the bike network, like this harrowing connection from the Willis Avenue Bridge on 135th Street in the Bronx, where de Blasio administration can make tremendous progress by adding new infrastructure.

There are still many gaps in the bike network, like this harrowing connection from the Willis Avenue Bridge on 135th Street in the Bronx, where the de Blasio administration can make tremendous progress by adding new infrastructure.

2014 has not been without progress: This year, new bike networks began to take shape in Long Island City and East New York. New lanes on Hudson and Lafayette Streets added to Manhattan’s set of protected bikeways. A key Queens-Brooklyn bottleneck will be uncorked with the pending Pulaski Bridge dedicated bike lane. And NYC DOT has spent the year to date renegotiating the Citi Bike operating agreement to give the system stronger management and the resources needed for technological improvement and expansion.

But it’s important to recognize that what we’re seeing on the streets in 2014 are projects developed under the Bloomberg administration and Janette Sadik-Khan’s leadership at NYC DOT. DOT’s annual street improvement program takes shape during the fall and winter: Implementation begins in late winter and spring when weather becomes warm enough to resurface and repaint city streets. The 2015 program will be the first shaped by Mayor de Blasio’s administration and new DOT leadership. Will it have a strong bike lane component, and where are the additions to the bike network likely to be?

De Blasio’s campaign material promised significant progress, calling cycling a mainstream means of travel in the city. He stated that his administration would achieve a 6 percent bike mode share by 2020 by expanding bike lanes and bringing bike-share to the boroughs. Putting aside the problem of measuring mode share, the mayor was right to recognize that there are huge opportunities to take cycling in New York to new levels — the city can still achieve manifold increases over cycling’s role in NYC transportation in 2014.

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Chin Calls for Safety Fixes After Driver Injures Three Women on South Street

South Street at Rutgers Slip, before a traffic signal and crosswalks were installed last year. Photo: Google Maps

Update: One of the pedestrians in this crash died from her injuries. She was identified by the Lo-Down as 82-year-old Shu Fan Huang.

A driver seriously injured three women in the crosswalk at South Street at Rutgers Slip in Manhattan yesterday, and one of the victims is facing life-threatening injuries. In response, Council Member Margaret Chin called on DOT to study pedestrian safety along this stretch of South Street, where many residents of Chinatown and the Lower East Side cross beneath the FDR Drive to access the East River Esplanade.

DOT says it is conducting a safety review of the intersection, where it installed a traffic light and crosswalks last year. Meanwhile, NYPD says the women were crossing against the signal and that it does not suspect “any criminality” by the driver.

Yesterday at around 6:50 a.m., the three women were in the crosswalk at Rutgers Slip when a 34-year-old woman driving a Volvo northbound on South Street struck them. Two of the victims, age 60 and 67, were seriously injured, while a third, whom NYPD said is in her 70s, sustained life-threatening injuries. All three were taken to Bellevue Hospital.

It’s not known if the driver was distracted when she struck the three women in the road. She is not facing any charges and did not receive a summons for any traffic violations. The Collision Investigation Squad is investigating. ”It appeared the driver had the light,” NYPD’s press office said today. “Nothing here to indicate any criminality.”

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Eyes on the Street: Our Long PPW Bike Lane Nightmare Is Almost Over

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Repaved sections of Prospect Park West are being striped, with orange barrels marking the bike lane in the meantime. Until now, the lane had been erased, pushing northbound cyclists onto the sidewalk or into head-on traffic. Photo: Heather Boyer/Twitter

Lesson learned? Last week, DOT wiped away the Prospect Park West bike lane for street repaving without installing any temporary cones to preserve the bike route during construction. Drivers parked at the curb, pushing northbound cyclists into oncoming traffic or onto the sidewalk. Now, DOT has demarcated the bike lane with orange cones as it re-stripes the road.

There can be a gap of at least a month between repaving and restriping lanes and markings, including bike lanes. The wait on PPW should be shorter. Word on the street is that DOT expedited the job in response to complaints.

As of today, some but not all of the striping is back on the avenue’s northern blocks, with orange cones to the south. The cones direct drivers to the correct lane for parking and clear the bike lane to cyclists — something DOT should have done from the start.

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City Begins to Reclaim Space for Pedestrians at Fordham Plaza

The multi-year project to improve Fordham Plaza in the Bronx — a critical transit hub — entered its latest phase yesterday with the groundbreaking for a bigger and better public space for pedestrians.

Each day, more than 80,000 pedestrians flow through Fordham Plaza, the crossroads of a dozen bus lines (including two Select Bus Service routes) and the fourth-busiest station in the Metro-North system. The adjacent intersection of Fordham Road and Webster Avenue ranked in 2010 as the city’s third most dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.

The plan realigns bus stops and increases pedestrian space by 25 percent. Image: DDC [PDF]

The plan realigns bus stops and increases pedestrian space by 25 percent. Image: DDC [PDF]

Once complete in fall 2015, the project will increase pedestrian space by more than a quarter and reduce the amount of asphalt by almost 40 percent. While yesterday marked the beginning of a new phase of construction, the event was really one of many milestones along the way to transforming the plaza.

A conceptual plan for the space was prepared for EDC by WXY Architecture + Urban Design in 2010. Later that year, DOT received a $10 million TIGER grant from the federal government, and the Department of Design and Construction began work soon after. The area has been in a near-permanent state of construction ever since as the project proceeds through various phases.

Earlier work focused on reconstructing nearby roadways, including the addition of new curb extensions. The latest round of improvements turns inward, to rebuild the plaza itself [PDF].

The plaza, constructed in the mid-1990s, is a rectangle between Fordham Road and East 189th Street, with Third Avenue running along its east side. Currently, bus stops and bus parking line Third Avenue, with an “L”-shaped brick driveway running through the plaza. Bus shelters, retail kiosks, and merchants’ tents sit in the middle of the plaza.

In the new design, buses will use a shorter driveway closer to Third Avenue, opening up a continuous pedestrian space in the middle of the rectangle that’s better connected to retail along the plaza’s western edge. The plan adds vegetation by installing two large concrete planters and ten smaller steel planters with attached wooden seating.

The new plaza will also include wayfinding signs, three kiosks for vendors, and a larger café structure with a canopy. This structure will replace the existing retail building at the north end of the plaza.

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Point-to-Point Car-Share Service Car2Go Getting Ready to Launch in Brooklyn

Car2Go, a subsidiary of automotive giant Daimler AG, is hiring staff and preparing to launch in Brooklyn after more than a year of negotiations with the city, bringing point-to-point car-share to NYC for the first time. Car2Go will also be the first car-share company in the city to store its vehicles on the street, though the specifics of the arrangement with the city, such as the price the company will pay for curb access, have yet to be made public.

Car2Go, which sells point-to-point car-share by the minute, appears to be gearing up for a Brooklyn launch. Photo: Elliott Brown/Flick

Car2Go appears almost ready for a Brooklyn launch after more than a year of negotiations with DOT. Photo: ElliottBrown/Flickr

What differentiates Car2Go from other car-share services in New York is that users can make one-way trips. (Zipcar, a competitor, is getting into the one-way car-share game in other cities, but does not currently offer the service here.) The added flexibility could entice more car-owning New Yorkers to give up their private vehicles, though it’s tough to say whether this effect will outweigh the additional driving trips made by households without cars, which are the majority in NYC.

The other intriguing aspect of Car2Go is that its fleet of Smart Cars will be stored on the street. To close out a one-way trip, members must park on the street anywhere within the Car2Go service area. These zones are usually quite large: The company says it’s looking to cover Brooklyn before expanding to other boroughs. (It’s not clear whether the service will ever come to Manhattan, where transit coverage is superb, cabs are plentiful, and competition for curb space is most intense.)

Since the vehicles are located curbside, the company has to work out a host of issues with the city. ”New York is not unique,” said Car2Go business development manager Josh Moskowitz. ”There’s street sweeping, there are meters, there are rush hour restrictions.” Car2Go operates in 15 cities in the U.S. and Canada, as well as 12 European cities. In each, the company reached an agreement with the local government and prohibits users from parking 24 hours before street sweeping or in an area with rush hour restrictions.

One of the downsides to these agreements is that they mask the cost of metered spaces from customers, who are allowed to park in those spaces as if they are free because Car2Go compensates cities for foregone meter revenue. A Car2Go customer can end a one-way trip by parking in a metered spot without paying extra. While another customer might soon drive that car away, the practice still raises questions about how Car2Go vehicles will affect curb occupancy and traffic congestion in commercial areas.

Car2Go has been in on-again, off-again negotiations with DOT for more than a year. Although there’s no official word of a deal, the company has started the launch process by hiring a marketing manager and a fleet supervisor in Brooklyn.

So when will Car2Go launch? “We don’t have any rough timelines right now,” Moskowitz said. “We’re moving closer.”

Update: “DOT has had preliminary conversations with Car2Go regarding their service,” said a DOT spokesperson. “There have been no formal negotiations and no agreement has been reached between Car2Go and DOT for a Car2Go launch within New York City.”

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“Is It Really The Parking?”: Ozone Park Merchants Spar With Plaza Supporters

A new episode in a long-running conflict has cropped up in Ozone Park: A community group worked with the city to install a pedestrian plaza, but merchants, blaming poor sales on changes to traffic patterns, parking, and plaza upkeep, want the public space removed. A special forum hosted last Thursday by Queens Community Board 10 and DOT gave the two sides a chance to air their views in advance of potential changes. But plaza supporters say the merchants themselves are part of the problem.

A plaza in Ozone Park is nearly a year old. Many nearby merchants, saying it's killing business, want it removed. Image: DOT

A plaza in Ozone Park is nearly a year old. Many nearby merchants, saying it’s killing business, want it removed. Image: DOT

Public space is so scarce in Ozone Park that local children use a nearby municipal parking lot as a playing field. The plaza, installed last fall to carve out some more community space, is backed by the Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services Corporation (BACDYS) as a maintenance partner. Early plans called for it to be installed a couple blocks away in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, but DOT found the design would be better in Ozone Park. The agency held outreach meetings and secured support from, among others, Council Member Eric Ulrich, community boards in both boroughs, and local businesses.

But many business owners in the area are crying foul, saying the plaza has ruined business. They gathered dozens of signatures and outnumbered plaza supporters at last week’s meeting. ”We need to remove this plaza,” said Ozone Park Discount Variety and Hardware co-owner Hasib Ali, who estimated that three-quarters of his customers arrive by car. “All customers come in to complain about parking.” Ali’s business partner, Ahmad Ubayda, said shop owners will be hiring an attorney to fight the plaza.

“I do not want this plaza in front of my business. It’s killing the very existence of my business,” said Khemraj Sadoo, owner of Ozone Park First Class Laundry. “We need that plaza to move from there. We need two-way traffic once again.”

The plaza design, which pedestrianized a short section of Drew Street to connect a triangle-shaped pedestrian island with a nearby block, also extends up one block of 101st Avenue, from Drew Street to 76th Street. That block was converted from two-way car traffic to one-way westbound traffic. The plaza resulted in a net loss of what DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall described as “maybe one or two spots” for parking.

To ensure the plan wouldn’t have an outsize negative impact on parking, Hall said the agency performed surveys of parking occupancy before and after the plaza was implemented, and added parking meters to Liberty Avenue in an effort to improve turnover and access for customers. Most of the time, those on-street parking spots are empty,” Hall said of 101st Avenue. “You could always find a spot if you drove up.”

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Eyes on the Street: DOT Replaces PPW Bike Lane With Parking

This is one of New York City's most famous protected bike lanes. Photo: @NoBikeLane/Twitter

This is one of New York City’s most famous protected bike lanes on a busy August day. Photo: @NoBikeLane/Twitter

During the warm summer months, lots of New Yorkers decide to hop on their bicycles and head for the nearest bike lane. That’s also when the city does much of its street repaving, and new asphalt is coming to Prospect Park West. But instead of maintaining the heavily used bike path with temporary materials, our bike-friendly DOT has decided that one of the city’s marquee bikeways will be erased for more than a week during one of the busiest cycling months of the year.

It’s a temporary victory for Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes.

Bike riders started reporting the closure yesterday. There was no advance notice of a detour. DOT says milling was completed today. Repaving, which the agency expects to be complete within seven business days, will begin Monday. The department’s paving schedule for next week indicates that crews will be working between Union Street and 20th Street in two sections, first north of 14th Street before moving south [PDF].

Some small white signs printed on white letter paper have been taped to nearby posts. ”Bike Lane Temporarily Closed,” they say. With the bike lane erased, drivers have begun parking at the curb, pushing cyclists into mixed traffic with car drivers. This is especially dangerous for northbound cyclists, who are now traveling head-on into traffic before ducking behind the street’s concrete pedestrian islands for protection.

As an alternative during construction, northbound cyclists can use Eighth Avenue. Riders looking for a route with less car traffic must detour to the more circuitous Prospect Park loop, which offers a series of inclines through the east side of the park.

This situation could have easily been prevented by installing cones or barrels after the street is milled but before new striping is installed. DOT did not answer questions about whether it considered maintaining the bikeway during this period with temporary cones.

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DOT: No Plans for Park Avenue Bike Infrastructure After Recent Deaths

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The west side of Park Avenue and 108th Street, facing south. Image: Google Maps

DOT will consider design changes at the Park Avenue intersection in East Harlem where drivers have recently killed three cyclists, but there are no plans for new bike infrastructure along the Park Avenue viaduct.

Livery cab driver Nojeem Odunfa hit cyclist Jerrison Garcia at Park Avenue and E. 108th Street Monday morning, reportedly dragging Garcia 80 feet before stopping. Odunfa was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation and careless driving.

“There’s car accidents here all the time,” a local resident told DNAinfo. ”They drive like this is a highway.”

Park Avenue is divided by a Metro-North viaduct from E. 102nd Street northward. There is car parking on northbound and southbound Park along this 30-block stretch, but no bike lanes. Cyclists on Park must share one through-lane with moving vehicles, and riding on Park or biking across Park entails negotiating intersections with limited visibility.

Jerrison Garcia was the third cyclist killed at 108th and Park since July 2012. Image: I Quant NY

It’s no secret that this segment of Park Avenue is dangerous for people on bikes. Garcia was the third cyclist killed at the E. 108th Street intersection since 2012. There were six additional crashes resulting in cyclist injuries on Park between E. 106th and E. 110th Streets from April to September 2013, according to I Quant NY. Data mapped by Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat show dozens of cyclist injuries along the viaduct, and one death, from 1995 to 2007.

The viaduct area is also hazardous for pedestrians, and a DOT project to make it safer to walk there is underway. In light of recent cyclist deaths and injuries, on Monday we asked DOT if the agency is reviewing conditions at Park and E. 108th, and if bike infrastructure improvements along the viaduct are in the works.

Here is DOT’s reply:

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