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De Blasio Signs 11 Traffic Safety Bills

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan speaks at today's bill signing. Photo: ##https://twitter.com/ydanis/status/481103315409698816##City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez/@ydanis##

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan speaks at today’s bill signing. Photo: City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez/@ydanis

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed 11 bills today intended to make it safer to walk, bike, and drive in New York City.

De Blasio was joined by in Queens this morning by Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez, and other council members. Bills signed into law include Intro 171-A — “Cooper’s Law” — which will allow the Taxi and Limousine Commission to act against hack licenses of cab drivers who injure and kill pedestrians while breaking traffic laws, and Intro 238-A, which makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists who have the right of way.

Streetsblog will have full coverage of the presser later today.

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Summer Streets and (Mostly) Car-Free Central Park: Same As Last Year

It's back, but not bigger: Summer Streets and a mostly car-free Central Park will return this summer, as smaller car-free streets events in all five boroughs continue to grow. Photo: DOT

It’s back, though not bigger: Summer Streets and a mostly car-free Central Park will return this summer (sorry, Prospect Park), and smaller car-free streets events in all five boroughs continue to grow. Photo: DOT

Six years ago, when Summer Streets was introduced, the New York Times asked: Will it work? This year, the question is: Why isn’t the city doing more of it?

The ciclovia, which attracted 300,000 people over three Saturdays last August, will mark its seventh year by returning to the East Side on August 2, 9, and 16 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced this morning. The event brings car-free streets, art, and activities to almost seven miles of Park Avenue and Lafayette Street between 72nd Street and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Like last year, there will also be by a completely car-free loop drive in Central Park north of 72nd Street, removing car traffic from that section of the park 24 hours a day from Friday, June 27 to Labor Day.

Trottenberg said that after this summer, the city will look at expanding Summer Streets and car-free hours in both Central Park and Prospect Park, which was left out of today’s announcement.

“I’m hearing from a lot of folks who are interested in making both parks a lot more car-free, and I can tell you we’re working on it,” Trottenberg said, adding that traffic signal or engineering changes might be required because traffic picks up after Labor Day. “We would love to expand the program,” she said. ”You just have to make sure you have a good plan to accommodate that.”

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Every Bus Should Get Priority at NYC Traffic Signals

Some inexpensive technology could bring some substantial time savings to NYC bus riders. Image: DOT

Some inexpensive technology could bring substantial time savings to NYC bus riders. Image: DOT

New York City buses serve more than two million trips on an average weekday — more than twice the ridership as Los Angeles, which has the nation’s second-largest bus system.

And yet the city’s buses are also notoriously slow and unreliable. Gridlocked traffic, long boarding queues, and the succession of traffic lights bog down surface transit in NYC and keep many New Yorkers from riding the bus. This may be part of the reason why bus ridership has dipped seven percent since 2007, even as subway ridership is up 9 percent.

NYC DOT and the MTA have rolled out seven Select Bus Service lines that bypass congestion with dedicated lanes and tame boarding delays with pre-paid fare collection. The de Blasio administration plans to build out at least 13 more SBS lines — an important effort — but some of these gains in bus speeds can be realized without being tied to an SBS project.

Specifically, DOT could quickly improve bus speeds across the city by making a relatively small investment in traffic signal priority.

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CB 6 Supports Murray Hill Bikeway If DOT Will Move It to Other Side of Street

A proposed two-way bike path on 37th Street would be safer on the north side of the street, but CB 6 asked DOT to move it to the south side after opposition from condo owners. Image: DOT

Last night, Manhattan Community Board 6 threatened to stall bikeway improvements connecting the East River Greenway with Murray Hill, because a group of condo owners opposed one piece of it. But a last-minute compromise seems to have cleared the way for the project.

The plan [PDF] would improve the surface of the East River Greenway near Glick Park, add shared lane markings to crosstown streets, and convert a block of the First Avenue bike lane to a two-way path. It would also add a two-way bike lane on one block of 37th Street to connect First Avenue with the East River Greenway.

At last night’s meeting, residents of The Horizon condominium tower testified against the 37th Street path because it would remove a loading zone on the north side of the street, immediately outside their building. Supporters of the plan were outnumbered. Intimidated by the opposition, a CB 6 member offered a resolution to send the issue back to committee, where it would have to wait until the community board resumed meetings in September.

Things looked bleak until the end of the meeting, when board members began to discuss a compromise: moving the path to the south side of the street.

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Jon Orcutt and Bruce Schaller Are Moving on From NYC DOT

orcutt_schaller

Jon Orcutt and Bruce Schaller.

Two key architects of change at NYC DOT are moving on after seven years with the agency. DOT Traffic and Planning Commissioner Bruce Schaller departed at the end of May, and DOT Policy Director Jon Orcutt announced on Twitter yesterday that he will be leaving next week.

Orcutt and Schaller were two of former DOT chief Janette Sadik-Khan‘s major hires after she took over as transportation commissioner in 2007. They each played leading roles implementing reforms that prioritized safety, efficiency, and public life on New York City streets, and both leave tremendous legacies.

Orcutt came to DOT from a career in advocacy, starting with Transportation Alternatives in its formative late 1980s period and moving on to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, where he was a founding staffer and later executive director. He led the development of DOT’s first strategic plan in 2008, which set the stage for many reforms that followed, and in the early days of the de Blasio administration he was the lead on the Vision Zero Action Plan.

Inside the agency he was known for pressing for bold changes. He had a hand in too many projects to count, but spearheading the development and launch of bike-share tops the list. Count the implementation of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, the city’s new pedestrian wayfinding program, and the introduction of protected bike lane designs among his other major contributions.

Schaller had stints in public service before joining DOT, but in the years leading up to his time at the agency, he was best known for a series of reports from his consulting firm, examining everything from regional driving patterns to the travel habits of neighborhood shoppers. At DOT, his data-driven brand of communications helped the agency tell the world about its work in new and rigorous ways. The reports produced by DOT clearly conveyed the safety improvements, economic impacts, and other benefits attributable to the agency’s street overhauls.

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Slow Zone, Next Round of Bike Routes on Tap for Brownsville, East New York

Caption. Image: DOT

Blue lines show where new bike lanes and shared lane markings will be installed in East New York and Brownsville. Orange lines show existing shared lane markings, while red lines show existing bike lanes. Image: DOT

The fledgling bike lane network in Brownsville and East New York will continue to grow. The second of three rounds of painted on-street bike lanes — mapped out in a planning process initiated by neighborhood residents — is set to be installed by the end of the year, pending the support of Community Boards 5 and 16 later this month.

The neighborhood, which already has a 25 mph arterial slow zone along Atlantic Avenue, is also set to receive its first 20 mph neighborhood Slow Zone this summer [PDF]. Both community boards joined the Brownsville Partnership, an initiative of the non-profit Community Solutions, in applying for the Slow Zone. The project is bounded by Sutter, Rockaway, Livonia, and Pennsylvania Avenues and averages nearly 72 traffic injuries annually, according to DOT. There are two NYCHA complexes and four schools within its borders.

The bike lane plan [PDF] adds 14.5 miles of striped bike lanes and shared lane markings to a meshwork of north-south and east-west streets, including Pitkin, Blake, and Dumont Avenues, and Hinsdale Street, Snediker Avenue, Thomas Boyland Street, and Saratoga Avenue. While it contains no protected lanes, the plan would create a denser and better connected neighborhood grid of streets with space marked for biking.

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How a DOT Parking Rule Change Made NYC Streets Less Safe

Photo: Brad Aaron

Prompted by Council Member Vincent Gentile, in 2009 DOT made it legal to park in unmarked crosswalks, satiating demand for free on-street parking once and for all. Photo: Brad Aaron

I violated a traffic rule on the day I moved to New York City.

I parked a minivan, rented for the move, in this spot on Seaman Avenue. I locked up the van and was headed to my apartment when a passerby informed me that I would get ticketed, if not towed, if I left it there. I didn’t notice the pedestrian ramp, which leads to Payson Avenue across the street, and I’d blocked the crossing.

As noted recently on Urban Residue, in 2009 DOT adopted a rule change that allows drivers to park at T intersections. The change was prompted by Council Member Vincent Gentile, who had introduced a bill to make it legal to park in unmarked crosswalks across the city.

According to a Brooklyn Eagle report, Gentile wanted “to open up more parking spaces” — and, of course, keep pedestrians from putting themselves in harm’s way.

Sloped curb cuts where vehicles are now permitted to park, Gentile explained, are “unfit for safe pedestrian crossing” because they there are no traffic signals or stop signs to slow down oncoming traffic. And there are no crosswalk lines marking where pedestrians should cross, he added.

You’ll recall that in the days before Vision Zero, as far as transportation policy was concerned, the City Council was focused on little else besides making it easier to park. With Speaker Christine Quinn and transpo committee chairs John Liu and Jimmy Vacca trying to score points by addressing one car owner gripe after another, Gentile’s bill might have passed even if DOT hadn’t beaten him to the punch.

We don’t know how many parking spaces were created by this rule change, but one thing’s for sure: The headaches for NYC car owners aren’t going away as long as curbside parking is totally free.

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Manhattan Community Board 10 Votes for Morningside Safety Plan

morningside

The redesign of Morningside Avenue will reduce chaotic driving patterns and add pedestrian islands and painted sidewalk extensions. Image: NYC DOT

Last night, Manhattan Community Board 10 approved the NYC DOT plan to add pedestrian islands and trim traffic lanes on 10 blocks of Morningside Avenue [PDF]. A concerted effort from neighborhood street safety advocates and local elected officials, including City Council Member Mark Levine and State Senator Adriano Espaillat, helped overcome recalcitrance at CB 10, which dragged its feet for nearly a year before yesterday’s vote.

Currently, Morningside has two moving lanes in each direction, and with all that open asphalt, speeding is a major hazard. In response to a request from the North Star Neighborhood Association, DOT proposed a road diet between 116th Street and 126th Street last September. The plan follows a template that has proven effective at reducing speeding and preventing injuries, converting the four traffic lanes to two through lanes plus turning pockets and pedestrian islands at intersections.

While Community Board 9 supported the plan, CB 10 repeatedly put off a vote and nearly killed the project. Then came a breakthrough at the last CB 10 transportation committee meeting, when board chair Henrietta Lyle acknowledged, ”The community wants this. We may not want this, but we are going to support the community.”

Levine and Espaillat, whose support has been crucial, released a joint statement today hailing the impending implementation of the project:

“We are thrilled these lifesaving changes are now on track to move forward. With summer approaching and the school year almost finished, we need these safety measures in place as quickly as possible. There have been over 100 reported accidents in the past year alone and there will be more unless we act. DOT conducted an open, transparent process that gave our community ample opportunity to weigh in — and we’ve been able to achieve a broad community consensus that is the right approach.”

DOT told Streetsblog after the May transportation committee meeting that construction should begin next month.

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East River Greenway Links, Third Ave Bus Lane Upgrades Go Before CB 6

east_side_gway

Dotted blue lines show new shared lane markings, the dotted purple line indicates a new two-way bikeway, and the dotted green line shows improvements to the existing greenway route. Map: NYC DOT

From sudden collapses to botched repairs, the current condition of the East River Greenway is a far cry from the vision of a continuous path on Manhattan’s eastern shore. While filling in the greenway’s gaps could take at least a decade, there are some small, short-term gains on the table. On Monday, Community Board 6′s transportation committee backed a slate of bike improvement that aim to make accessing the greenway from Murray Hill a little bit easier.

The East River Greenway could get some upgrades in Murray Hill. Image: DOT

The East River Greenway could get some upgrades and better connections in Murray Hill. Image: DOT

The plan, first reported by DNAinfo, aims to improve access to Glick Park, a Citi Bike station on the greenway, and the 34th Street landing for the East River Ferry. After presenting the plan to the committee on May 5, DOT held a walk-through of the project with committee members on May 19.

The proposal [PDF] would improve the greenway surface and markings between 34th and 37th Streets, and add a short, two-way bikeway on the north side of 37th Street between the FDR Drive service road and First Avenue. It also adds shared lane markings on a pair of crosstown streets and converts one block of the First Avenue protected bike lane to a two-way path.

Southbound cyclists looking to avoid the chaotic Queens Midtown Tunnel entrance at Second Avenue and 37th Street would be able to turn right at 38th Street, which would have shared lane markings for one block until First Avenue. From there, they could turn right onto the two-way block of the First Avenue protected bike lane before making a left onto the new two-way path on 37th Street to connect to the greenway.

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Eyes on the Street: Ped Improvements Take Shape at Broadway and Dyckman

Shorter crossing distances are coming at Broadway, Dyckman Street, and Riverside Drive. Note the new left turn restriction for drivers traveling north on Broadway. Photos: Brad Aaron

Shorter crossing distances are coming at Broadway, Dyckman Street, and Riverside Drive. Note the new left turn restriction for drivers traveling north on Broadway. Photos: Brad Aaron

DOT has begun work on pedestrian improvements at Broadway, Dyckman Street, and Riverside Drive in Inwood.

With long crossings that required pedestrians to watch for drivers coming from different directions simultaneously, the five-legged intersection was the site of 128 crashes from 2010 to 2012, according to DOT. Last fall Community Board 12 endorsed a DOT plan for a mix of left turn bans, signalization changes, new signage, and enhancements to pedestrian space.

The project will shorten crossing distances and eliminate some conflicts between pedestrians and turning drivers. DOT didn’t say last year whether it would use concrete or paint, but from the looks of it will be extended with permanent materials.

Signs restricting left turns have been up for a couple of weeks now, and it seemed to me this afternoon that the wait time between walk cycles for pedestrians crossing Dyckman on the east side of the intersection, at least, was lessened considerably.

We’ll take another look at this project when it’s complete.

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