Skip to content

Posts from the "Bicycle Infrastructure" Category

10 Comments

Tonight on the Upper West Side: Critical Vote on Amsterdam Avenue

Amsterdam Avenue is one of the most dangerous streets on the Upper West Side. Tonight Community Board 7 can take a stand and save lives by asking the city to study a safety overhaul.

After months of meetings, tonight Manhattan Community Board 7 is expected to vote on a resolution asking DOT for a complete streets study of Amsterdam Avenue. Getting to tonight’s vote involved months of marathon meetings and debate, and supporters of safer streets can’t let up now.

The resolution being considered tonight asks DOT to study changes to Amsterdam Avenue, including the conversion of a motor vehicle travel lane to a protected bike lane and pedestrian islands.

Last month, after hours of public testimony — three-quarters in favor of the resolution — the board delayed taking a vote until tonight. While there will not be testimony at tonight’s meeting, organizers say it’s important for supporters to show up and be counted before board members take a vote. The meeting starts at 6:30 at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center, 1000 Tenth Avenue.

No Comments

Tonight: Kips Bay and Astoria Community Boards Consider Complete Streets

There are two community board meetings tonight on complete streets plans in Manhattan and Queens.

21st Street in Astoria and Long Island City could become friendlier to cyclists and pedestrians if CB 1 takes action. Photo: DNA

The full board of Manhattan CB 6 is considering a resolution, passed by its transportation committee on Monday, to support a DOT plan to fill in a gap on the Second Avenue protected bike lane. Currently, the avenue from 23rd Street to 14th Street has a buffered bike lane, while sections to the north and south are protected by a lane of parked cars. DOT’s plan would remove a car travel lane and replace it with parking.

The public is invited to give brief comments to the full board tonight before it takes up the resolution. CB 6 has a history of slow progress on livable streets, so encouragement from users of the Second Avenue bike lane could help make the difference tonight. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m. at 550 First Avenue.

In Astoria and Long Island City, Transportation Alternatives volunteers have been gathering signatures for a petition to Queens CB 1 asking the board to request a redesign of 21st Street to include shared lane markings for cyclists and safety improvements for pedestrians. If the board requests a redesign, DOT says it will consider it.

CB 1 has been downright hostile to livable streets in the past, so demonstrating local support for a complete streets design on 21st Street is important. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at 45-02 Ditmars Boulevard (the entrance is on the 46th Street side). If a resolution passes committee, it will go to the full board, which is scheduled to meet on October 15.

49 Comments

DOT Proposes Filling the Gap in Second Avenue Protected Bike Lane

The gap in the Second Avenue protected bike lane, from 23rd Street to 14th Street, would be filled under a plan before Community Board 6. Image: DOT

If you ride on the Second Avenue protected bike lane through Kips Bay, you know it can get a little hairy on the way downtown: The section between 23rd Street and 14th Street has no physical protection. On this stretch, the barrier of parked cars yields to a narrow painted buffer, creating an opportunity for illegal parking and offering minimal separation from speeding drivers. Under a DOT plan [PDF], that gap could be filled to create a continuous protected bike lane from 34th Street to 2nd Street.

The plan calls for adding a parking lane to this stretch of Second Avenue, creating protection for the bike lane as well as space for painted pedestrian islands. At intersections where drivers turn left, it includes mixing zones where turning drivers cross the bike lane. Parked cars would take the place of one lane of moving traffic, dropping the number of general traffic lanes from four to three, which matches the configuration south of 14th Street. The Select Bus Service lane on the west side of the avenue would not be affected.

Why the change? Motor vehicle volumes on this stretch of Second Avenue have fallen dramatically in recent years, according to a presentation NYC DOT gave last week to the Community Board 6 transportation committee, and the agency says the new configuration fits the current level of car traffic.

From 2011 to 2013, DOT’s seasonally-adjusted motor vehicle counts between 14th and 15th Streets have shown big drops in mid-week traffic: volumes are down 11.8 percent during the morning rush, 23.1 percent midday, and 15.3 percent during the evening’s busiest hour.

In a sign that car-centric metrics still count at DOT, the presentation notes that the avenue’s “Level of Service” — which measures driver delay – would remain a “B” under the new configuration if traffic volumes hold steady.

DOT presented the proposal to CB 6′s transportation committee on September 9, and committee members requested a walk-through with DOT. The committee is scheduled to meet again on October 7, and the full board meeting is scheduled for October 9. While CB 6 generally supported the redesign of First and Second Avenues in 2010 and 2012, the transportation committee has a record of dragging its feet on these votes.
87 Comments

Cabbie Blames Cyclist He Hit and Bike Lanes for Midtown Curb-Jump Crash

The Post is doing its best to assign partial blame to the cyclist who was struck by cab driver Mohammed Himon in Tuesday morning’s crash on Sixth Avenue, but the paper got Himon to confess that he intentionally stepped on the gas before mounting the curb and hitting Sian Green, the 23-year-old tourist who lost part of her leg.

Cab driver Mohammed Himon blamed a cyclist and bike infrastructure for Tuesday's crash, but a protected bike lane might have kept him from driving on the sidewalk and maiming a bystander. Photo: Post

Himon has a history of reckless driving, according to multiple reports, including another crash that resulted in injury. During an interview in which he said he needs to find a different job, Himon described the crash:

Himon, a native of Bangladesh who has been in the United States for nearly five years, admitted he flew into a fit of road rage when he and bike messenger Kenneth Olivo crossed paths.

“He was in my way and I got upset, so I gave him notice that I wanted to pass through,” he said, meaning he leaned on his horn.

“He started pounding on my car with his hands and was yelling things at me. I suddenly felt like I had to get out of there. It was becoming a bad situation. So I accelerated to get in front of him.”

Himon’s narrative, which the Post does not question, is that after laying on the horn, he became afraid of the cyclist and attempted to get away.

“I personally feel that if that man on the bike didn’t bang on my car, maybe this would not have happened,” Himon said. “I didn’t yell at him. I had my windows up and my A/C on. I could barely hear what he was saying.

“I thought to myself, ‘This guy isn’t any good. I need to speed up to get away from him.’ I accelerated, and the rest is hard to remember.”

So according to Himon, he was so frightened by a cyclist in front of his cab, whom he could barely hear, that he hit the accelerator. As a result of that decision, he rammed the cyclist and continued driving onto the sidewalk, permanently maiming Green.

Read more…

5 Comments

The Livable Streets Leader You’ve Never Heard Of: Leicester, England

In Leicester, England, the city redesigned an intersection and DeMontfort University built a more pedestrian-friendly building, improving access to a Medieval fortress structure and bringing pedestrian crossings to the surface. Photos courtesy Andy Salkeld.

Leicester is a city of about 330,000 in England’s East Midlands region. Like many other cities, it developed big mid-century plans to drive highways through its city center and paved over much of its historic core. In some cases, it even paved over its history: the bones of King Richard III, killed in battle nearby, were recently discovered beneath a parking lot. In the past decade, however, Leicester has unearthed more than just a king; it’s also reclaimed space from the automobile and become a model for other cities looking to create more livable communities.

On Monday, Leicester’s bicycle coordinator, Andy Salekeld, spoke at a fundraiser for Recycle-A-Bicycle and discussed the changes underway in his city.

In order to start shaping a new future for cities, Salkeld said, we have to start thinking of automobile dominance as an era in history. “We need to start talking about it as the past,” he said, showing a slide of a mid-century gas station in Leicester that’s received historic designation. “I take people on bike rides to see this,” he said.

Beginning in 2008, Leicester pedestrianized some of its busiest downtown shopping streets. Salkeld said the city has seen a net increase in the number of people coming to the area, boosting the fortunes of merchants during an economic downturn. The city has had to work closely with advocates for the disabled, who are often worried that their needs will not be met in a “shared space” street, Salkeld said. The pedestrian streets program is expanding, using trials to test a concept before etching it in stone — a tactic that Salkeld says they’ve learned from New York.

Another intervention that Leicester is borrowing from other cities is protected bicycle lanes. The Connecting Leicester project includes £7 million for new protected lanes on three major roads leading to the city center, in a bid to help bridge the divide created by the inner ring road, a tangle of flyover ramps and traffic lanes. That road itself is being shrunk, piece by piece, to make the city safer and more attractive for bicycling and walking.

Read more…

14 Comments

At Long Last, DOT Proposes Bike Lanes for Upper Manhattan

DOT recommends "future study" for bike infrastructure on upper Broadway and the Broadway Bridge, background left.

Responding to years of citizen advocacy and a resolution from Manhattan Community Board 12, DOT has proposed bike lanes for a number of streets in Upper Manhattan.

Most of the lanes, concentrated in Washington Heights [PDF], would be installed next year, after a consultation with CB 12 this fall. One would be protected by parked cars.

The plan also acknowledges but does not set a timetable for the highest priority of local livable streets advocates: a bike route on Dyckman Street to connect the Hudson and Harlem River Greenways, first proposed by Inwood residents in 2008.

Among the proposed bike routes are:

  • W. 177th Street between Broadway and Cabrini Boulevard (2013 installation)
  • Cabrini Boulevard between W. 177th Street and W. 178th Street to the George Washington Bridge (2013 installation)
  • W. 179th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Cabrini Boulevard (179th serves as a motorist access point to the GWB)
  • W. 180th Street between Cabrini Boulevard and Amsterdam Avenue
  • Ft. George Hill between Fairview Avenue and Dyckman Street (parking protected)

The proposal, presented to the CB 12 transportation committee in May, includes two to four miles of lanes on Amsterdam Avenue, possibly interrupted at intersections with “prohibitively high traffic volumes,” and on St. Nicholas Avenue between Fairview Avenue and Broadway.

Read more…

24 Comments

Warm Weather Bike Count Flat in 2012, While Winter Counts Grow

Earlier this week, DOT released its 2012 bike counts [PDF], including a new dataset — counts from the winter months. The agency has been tallying cyclists in December, January, and February for five years, and this year released the winter counts, in addition to April-through-October counts, for the first time. The data show that warm weather counts at the DOT’s screenline (the four East River bridges below 60th Street, the Hudson River Greenway at 50th Street, and the Staten Island Ferry) plateaued in 2012, while winter counts continued a steady upward trajectory.

DOT's winter bike count was up 23 percent over a year ago, while the warm weather bike count stayed flat. Image: DOT

Overall, the screenline count from April 2012 to February 2013 rose 4 percent over the year before. These gains are smaller than annual increases since 2008, but still bring the all-year bike count to 58 percent above 2008 levels. Compared to 2011, the numbers show a small drop in bicycling during the warmer months of April through October – about half a percent – but a 23 percent gain during December, January, and February of this winter.

DOT conducted its first screenline bike count in 1980. In 1985, the agency began collecting data annually. Since 2008, DOT has set up 10 weekday counts each year between April and October, running from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. By overhauling its method, the agency could collect more reliable data. However, the screenline count remains a geographically-limited tool and doesn’t measure the full citywide cycling trend.

As part of its 2008 methodology change, the agency began collecting wintertime data, offering a fuller view of year-round patterns. These cold-weather numbers show that the difference between warm weather and cold weather cycling volumes is shrinking.

From 2008 to 2011, the winter bike count was between 40 to 47 percent of the size of the warm weather bike count. In 2012, that number jumped, with the winter count equating to 57 percent of the April-through-October count. There is still room for improvement. In Copenhagen, the winter retention rate is 80 percent.

Read more…

17 Comments

Why Does DOT Keep Taking Away Inwood Bike Infrastructure?

Bike lanes on W. 218th Street in Inwood have been replaced by sharrows. An image of the former street layout appears below. Photo: Brad Aaron

A short stretch of bike lanes in Inwood has gone the way of the disappearing bike shelter, further reducing the neighborhood’s scarce cycling infrastructure.

West 218th Street, Manhattan’s northernmost cross street to extend west of Broadway, connects Broadway and Inwood Hill Park, and delineates the southern border of the Columbia University Baker Field complex. It is part of a marked and mapped bike route for cyclists headed to and from Van Cortlandt Park, in the Bronx. Not long ago, the four blocks of W. 218th west of Broadway had bike lanes. When the street was repaved recently, the lanes were replaced by sharrows.

Said a DOT spokesperson, in an email to Streetsblog: “Following a resurfacing project on that street, DOT updated the markings to reflect current design standards, which don’t allow for a five-foot bike lane on a street that width.”

The efficacy of sharrows is a topic of debate. But if a street is deemed too narrow for bike lanes, yet wide enough for two lanes of parked cars, the issue isn’t a shortage of asphalt – it’s the decision to prioritize free curbside parking over safe space for cycling. This in a neighborhood that has few bike lanes as it is, and where DOT has responded to residents’ desire for more bike infrastructure by nipping away at what little exists.

Much is made of securing the blessing of community boards before bike infrastructure can be added, but this is not the case when bike infrastructure is removed or downgraded. We know DOT did not ask Community Board 12 before repossessing Inwood’s lone bike shelter. We asked DOT, twice, if CB 12 was consulted on the decision to remove the bike lanes from West 218th Street. We’re still waiting for an answer.

Read more…

6 Comments

Myth Busted: Safer Streets Are Not Slowing Emergency Responders

A go-to NIMBY argument against safe street improvements is that bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, and ped refuge islands interfere with emergency responders.

We await the exclusive CBS 2 report retracting all their nonsense about safer streets slowing down emergency vehicles.

In 2009, one complainer at an event sponsored by then-Council Member Alan Gerson claimed that pedestrian islands on Grand Street “put lives in danger” by slowing down fire trucks and ambulances. Opponents of the Prospect Park West bike lane lobbed the same accusation at DOT and got Marcia Kramer to give them a megaphone. Assembly Member Dov Hikind spearheaded a successful campaign to make Fort Hamilton Parkway more dangerous for seniors based on nothing more than specious complaints from Hatzolah ambulance drivers, again amplified by Kramer.

A data set released by the city Wednesday blows another hole in what has always been a weak and cynical criticism. At an event on Randall’s Island yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano announced that in 2012, FDNY achieved the fastest average EMS response time in the city’s history. Fewer civilians died in fires last year than ever before, which the mayor and fire chief attributed to another near-record low average response time. From a City Hall press release:

The FDNY’s Emergency Medical Service averaged an ambulance response time for life-threatening medical emergencies of 6:30 — a second faster than the previous record of 6:31 set in 2011.

Structural fire response time in 2012 was 4:04, two seconds higher than last year when it was 4:02 due in part to the large call volume that occurred during and after Hurricane Sandy when the FDNY responded to nearly 100 serious structural fires.

Compared to the total amount of street space in the city, the square footage dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists in recent years is actually quite small. But there are still hundreds of places with new sidewalk extensions, pedestrian islands, and bike lanes, and at the very least the FDNY numbers suggest that new measures designed to make streets safer for walking and biking are not having the detrimental effect prophesied by the likes of Dov Hikind, NBBL, Marty Markowitz, and Marcia Kramer.

3 Comments

State DOT’s Spending Blueprint Overlooks Walking and Biking

Advocates for safer streets are alarmed by a New York State DOT “blueprint” for capital investments that scarcely acknowledges walking or biking as modes of transportation.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign noted in November that the NYS DOT document released with the file name “Two Year Capital Plan” [PDF] made virtually no mention of pedestrians or cyclists.

Biking got no ink in a document described by the New York State DOT as a blueprint for future transportation spending. Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

“Although the document uses key buzzwords — ‘multi-modal,’ ‘users of all modes,’ ‘sustainable,’ ‘improve livability,’ ‘environmental protection’ — complete streets advocates are left hanging when the document lists the ways New Yorkers get around,” wrote Nadine Lemmon, Albany legislative advocate for Tri-State.

The state DOT released the report at a time when investments in walking and cycling are “getting hit left, right and center” in New York State, according to Lemmon. The new federal transportation bill, MAP-21, resulted in a 30 percent cut in federal dedicated funding, Lemmon says, and new NYS DOT policies put bike-ped projects at a disadvantage when competing for state matching funds.

The omission of walking and biking is particularly striking given the state’s new complete streets law, which took effect in February.

In an email to Streetsblog, NYS DOT spokesperson Beau Duffy distinguished between the document and the capital plan, which will guide state transportation spending for two years.

The document submitted by NYS DOT to the NY Works Task force for consideration represented an infrastructure investment blueprint from which an investment level to support the development of the Department’s next transportation capital program would be advanced. NYS DOT’s report was intended to address four broad-based investment categories (Construction and Program Support, System Maintenance and Operations, Local Roads and Bridges, and Modal Infrastructure) and was not intended to address all of the infrastructure assets or modes under its jurisdiction.

Notwithstanding, each one of the four investment categories detailed by NYS DOT in the report provides support and opportunities for bicycle, pedestrian and safety-related improvements. The Department’s capital program of projects will be developed in coordination with the Executive and the Legislature as part of the State budget process.

Advocates say that explanation is just a long-winded way to distract from the lack of specific commitments to walking and biking as the capital plan takes shape. ”In this document, they are asking for guidance on what funding level will be approved for the next capital program,” says Lemmon. “[T]his is about the capital plan — and [Duffy] says that.”

Read more…