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Posts from the Bicycle Safety Category

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Street Safety Benefits of Congestion Charging Are Bigger Than We Thought

Map-of-london-charging-zone-_-annotated

The decline in crash rates in and around the London congestion charging zone has far outpaced the decrease in traffic volumes.

Evidence keeps mounting that congestion pricing can catalyze major reductions in traffic crashes. A year ago I reported on research that vehicle crashes in central London fell as much as 40 percent since the 2003 startup of London’s congestion charge. The same researchers are now expressing the safety dividend in terms of falling per-mile crash rates, and the figures are even more impressive.

The researchers — economists associated with the Management School at Lancaster University in northern England — compared crashes within and near the London charging zone against 20 other U.K. cities, before and after 2003. Their conclusion: Since the onset of congestion charging, crashes in central London fell at a faster rate than the decrease in traffic volumes. As important as the reduction in traffic has been for safety, at least as much improvement is due to the lower crash frequency per mile driven.

In short, driving in the London charging zone isn’t just smoother and more predictable, it’s safer. And safer for cyclists as well as drivers, with the number of people on bikes expanding considerably as car volumes have fallen.

The research reported last year was compiled in a working paper, Traffic Accidents and the London Congestion Charge. The new results stressing crash rates (per mile driven or bicycled), rather than crash numbers, appear in the paper’s final, peer-reviewed version published in January in the Journal of Public Economics.

Here are key findings:

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Total L.I.C. Street Rebuild to Include Safety Overhauls for Key Intersections

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer alongside the DDC and DOT Commissioners this morning. Photo: David Meyer

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer alongside DDC Commissioner Feniosky Pena-Mora (to the left) and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg (on the right) this morning. Photo: David Meyer

The streets of Long Island City are getting a total rebuild, and as part of the project four major intersections along Jackson Avenue and Vernon Boulevard will get redesigned for greater safety.

Many other intersections could get curb extensions or other traffic-calming treatments as part of the $38.47 million neighborhood-wide street reconstruction. Speaking this morning at the foot of the Pulaski Bridge, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said DOT will prioritize four intersections: 21st Street and Jackson Avenue, 23rd Street and Jackson Avenue, Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue, and Vernon Boulevard and 44th Drive.

Jackson and 11th Street, a complex multi-leg intersection that pedestrians and cyclists have to navigate to get to the Pulaski Bridge, will also be improved. Once the Pulaski Bridge bikeway opens this spring, there will be a lot more room for walking and biking, and the approach on the Queens side could use an upgrade.

Long Island City’s population is on track to soar as new development hits the market. But sandwiched by the Queensboro Bridge to the north and the Pulaski Bridge and Midtown Tunnel to the south, the neighborhood is often overrun by car and truck traffic, creating an unpleasant and unsafe environment for pedestrians.

In December, Van Bramer, DDC, and DOT hosted a public workshop where local residents and business owners overwhelmingly cited Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue as streets in need of safety improvements. Jackson Avenue feeds into the Pulaski and is the site of several popular attractions, including MOMA P.S. 1, but has few safe crosswalks. In 2015 alone, 31 people were injured on Jackson Avenue within the project boundaries.

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Study: Sharrows Don’t Make Streets Safer for Cycling

Sharrows are the dregs of bike infrastructure — the scraps cities hand out when they can’t muster the will to implement exclusive space for bicycling. They may help with wayfinding, but do sharrows improve the safety of cycling at all? New research presented at the Transportation Review Board Annual Meeting suggests they don’t.

Sharrows are useless and perhaps even harmful, a new study found. Photo: University of Colorado Denver

Sharrows without traffic-calming won’t do much to make cycling safer. Photo: University of Colorado Denver

A study by University of Colorado Denver researchers Nick Ferenchak and Wesley Marshall examined safety outcomes for areas in Chicago that received bike lanes, sharrows, and no bicycling street treatments at all. (The study was conducted before Chicago had much in the way of protected bike lanes, so it did not distinguish between types of bike lanes.) The results suggest that bike lanes encourage more people to bike and make biking safer, while sharrows don’t do much of either.

Ferenchak and Marshall’s study divided Chicago into three geographic categories using Census block groups: areas where bike lanes were added between 2008 and 2010, areas where sharrows were added, and areas where no bike treatments were added. They then looked at how bike commuting and cyclist injuries changed in these areas over time.

They found that bike commute rates more than doubled in areas with new bike lanes, compared to a 27 percent increase in areas with new sharrows and a 43 percent increase in areas where nothing changed.

Meanwhile, the rate of cyclist injuries per bike commuter improved the most where bike lanes were striped, decreasing 42 percent. Areas that got sharrows saw the same metric fall about 20 percent –worse than areas where streets didn’t change (36 percent), although the difference was not great enough to be statistically significant.

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DOT Weakened Riverside Drive Plan to Appease Manhattan CB 9 [Updated]

A DOT road diet for the Riverside Drive viaduct, where the majority of drivers speed, will keep two lanes for northbound drivers and will have no lanes for cyclists. Image: Google Maps

A DOT road diet for the Riverside Drive viaduct, where most drivers speed, will keep two lanes for northbound drivers and will have no dedicated lanes for cyclists. Image: Google Maps

DOT watered down and delayed an already half-hearted plan to make Riverside Drive safer for walking in deference to opposition from Manhattan Community Board 9.

Riverside is a neighborhood street, lined by apartment buildings and parks. It also ranks in the top third of Manhattan streets in terms of the number of collisions, which is supposed to mean it’s a high priority for DOT to redesign under Vision Zero. From 2009 to 2013, crashes on Riverside resulted in 74 injuries, including 23 severe injuries, according to DOT.

In January, DOT released a road diet plan for Riverside that was weak to begin with. By omitting bike lanes where there is clearly ample room, DOT passed on an opportunity to make the street safer for cyclists and pedestrians. But that wasn’t enough to placate CB 9, which refused to endorse the plan as drivers continued to injure people.

The original DOT plan called for reducing through-lanes on the Riverside Drive viaduct, where DOT says the majority of drivers speed, from two to one in each direction. But under the amended plan endorsed by CB 9 last May, the viaduct will remain two lanes on the northbound side, according to the office of City Council Member Mark Levine.

DOT dropped pedestrian islands planned for W. 120th Street after CB 9 objected to them.

DOT reportedly dropped pedestrian islands planned for W. 120th Street after CB 9 objected to them.

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More Evidence That Helmet Laws Don’t Work

There was a correlation between living in an area with high cycling rates and low levels of hospitalization. Graph: University of British Columbia

Living in an area with high cycling rates is linked to lower levels of hospitalization for bicyclists. There is no similar link for helmet laws. Graph: University of British Columbia

If you want to increase cycling safety in your city, drop the helmet law and focus on getting more people– particularly women — on bikes, with street designs that offer separation from vehicle traffic.

That’s the finding of a new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia [PDF] evaluating safety outcomes for cyclists across Canadian provinces and territories.

Lead author Kay Teschke and a team of researchers looked at cyclist injuries requiring hospitalization in 10 Canadian provinces and three territories between 2006 and 2012. They checked to see if hospitalization rates were linked in any way to helmet laws and cycling rates, and they checked for variations in hospitalization rates by sex and age.

Helmet laws were found to have no relationship to hospitalization rates. That was true even though self-reported helmet use is higher in areas of Canada that mandate it (67 percent) than in areas that don’t (39 percent).

But having a higher rate of cycling in one’s community does seem to have an impact on safety. Using Canadian government data on cycling activity, researchers found that men and woman were both less likely to be injured while biking in communities where more people bike.

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Side Guard Pilot Almost Complete — Next Up, the Other 95% of City Trucks

A recently-installed side guard is part of a 240-truck pilot program. By 2024, all city trucks must have side guards. Photo: Joby Jacob/Twitter

A recently-installed side guard, part of a 240-truck pilot program. By 2024, all city trucks must have side guards. Photo: Joby Jacob/Twitter

In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a pilot program to add side guards, which prevent people from being dragged beneath the rear wheels of large vehicles, to 240 trucks in the city fleet. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which is managing the rollout, said today that it is two-thirds done with the project, and expects to have the job done by the end of the year. Still, there’s a long way to go before all city-owned trucks have this lifesaving add-on.

Side guards have proven effective at reducing fatality rates. In the United Kingdom, cyclist fatalities dropped 61 percent and pedestrian deaths fell 20 percent in side-impact crashes after side guards were required nationwide starting in 1986.

So far, 160 vehicles from 20 city agencies have had side guards installed. The Department of Education was the first agency to have its whole truck fleet outfitted, DCAS reported in June [PDF]. Other agency trucks that have received side guards include Parks, Environmental Protection, NYPD, and the Department of Finance.

The city is working with U.S. DOT’s Volpe Center, which issued a report last December recommending side guards on NYC-owned trucks, to evaluate the pilot program.

Although it will take almost a year to install side guards on 240 trucks, that’s just a drop in the bucket. The city’s 28,000-vehicle fleet includes approximately 4,500 trucks that are eligible for side guards. New York plans to equip all those trucks with side guards over the next eight years.

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Francisco Moya’s Hush-Hush 111th Street Meeting Now Open to the Public

Assembly Member Francisco Moya, who opposes a road diet and protected bike lane on 111th Street in Corona, has decided to let the public know about a town hall meeting he is hosting about the project on Monday — after Streetsblog asked about the lack of public notice.

Assembly Member Francisco P. Moya

Assembly Member Francisco P. Moya

111th Street, which runs on the western edge of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, has too many lanes for the amount of car traffic it handles, DOT says. Trimming the extra-wide boulevard to one motor vehicle lane in each direction would open up room for larger pedestrian refuges, a two-way protected bike lane, and additional parking. Moya and prominent members of Community Board 4 oppose the project, fearing that fewer car lanes will lead to unbearable traffic congestion.

Until yesterday, it appeared that Moya was trying to keep his town hall meeting hush-hush. The event was announced at a recent community board meeting, said CB 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol, but nothing had been posted on Moya’s social media accounts or website.

A resident of 111th Street emailed news of the meeting to Jorge Fanjul, chief of staff to Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, said Lillian Zepeda, a spokesperson for Ferreras-Copeland. “We were not personally alerted,” Zepeda said. “DOT was not invited either.”

Ferreras-Copeland is a major backer of redesigning 111th Street. Her office allocated $2.7 million to the project, and she has worked with local residents to plant daffodils on the 111th Street median, organize Vision Zero workshops, and secure traffic calming measures from DOT.

Word of the meeting spread from Ferreras-Copeland’s office to Make the Road New York, which has been working with the Queens Museum and Transportation Alternatives to improve the safety of 111th Street. On Tuesday, TA Queens organizer Jaime Moncayo forwarded the notice to Streetsblog. That afternoon, I asked Moya’s office about the meeting.

Yesterday, after Streetsblog sent inquiries, notices about the meeting went up on Moya’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and Moya spokesperson Elyse Nagiel sent an email response.

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Campaign for a People-First Rockaway Freeway Meets Cars-First Inertia

The Rockaway Bike Parade beneath the elevated train on Rockaway Freeway earlier this month. Photo: Rockaway Waterfront Alliance

The Rockaway Bike Parade beneath the elevated train on Rockaway Freeway earlier this month. Photo: Rockaway Waterfront Alliance [PDF]

Rockaway Freeway, one of the few east-west routes across the Queens peninsula, isn’t a safe place to walk or bike. A local coalition has been trying to change that by repurposing street space, but their efforts are running up against the red tape of city bureaucracy and a car-centric community board.

Rockaway Freeway runs beneath an elevated train. A road diet more than a decade ago narrowed the street to one lane in each direction, cutting down on crashes. But poor visibility around the concrete elevated structure is still a problem, and there isn’t enough safe space to walk or bike. People are stuck using either narrow, crumbling sidewalks or striped areas in the roadway next to moving car traffic.

“This corridor wasn’t designed as a roadway. It was designed as an elevated railway,” said Jeanne Dupont, executive director of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance. In fact, some sections of the street have already been demapped, handing ownership from DOT to other city agencies or private developers.

“There’s sidewalk on the north side pretty much the whole length. On the south side, it is spotty,” said Community Board 14 district manager Jonathan Gaska. “You do see people every now and then walking in the striped area, and the occasional cyclist.”

Clearly the status quo is far from ideal, but the community board’s idea of how to fix it would make it tougher to implement the walking and biking improvements that the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance envisions.

Gaska said the long-term plan is to widen Rockaway Beach Boulevard, which runs parallel to the elevated train and turns into Edgemere Avenue. Then, sections of Rockaway Freeway would be converted to parking. “During the summer, traffic is insane, especially going east and west… That’s a big concern here, and parking is a nightmare in the summer, especially on the weekends,” he said. “Cars are very important for the residents here, and we keep that in mind.”

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Eyes on the Street: Clinton Street’s New Bikeway

The bikeway isn't complete yet, but it's already getting used. Photo: Stephen Miller

The bikeway isn’t complete yet, but it’s already getting used. Photo: Stephen Miller

A new two-way bikeway is under construction to provide a connection between the Williamsburg Bridge and the East River Greenway.

The route along Clinton Street extends the existing two-way protected bike lane between Delancey and Grand an additional five blocks to South Street, where it connects to the waterfront bike path beneath the FDR Drive.

The waterfront greenway, which runs along South Street, will also be getting an upgrade: concrete barriers to protect greenway users from cars and trucks. DOT says the installation schedule for this component of the project is still being determined.

Cinton Street is getting a two-way bikeway and painted curb extensions. Image: DOT [PDF]

Clinton Street is getting a two-way bikeway and painted curb extensions. Image: DOT [PDF]

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Construction Begins on First Phase of Transforming Queens Blvd

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg visit work crews on Queens Boulevard this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg visit work crews on Queens Boulevard this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

The redesign of Queens Boulevard, long one of New York’s most notorious death traps, is underway.

“Queens Boulevard is tragically legendary. We all became used to the phrase ‘the Boulevard of Death,’” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference this morning marking the start of construction. “That is a phrase we want to banish from the lexicon. So work has begun. Work has begun to remake Queens Boulevard into the Boulevard of Life.”

The first phase of the project includes protected bike lanes, median crosswalks, and expanded pedestrian space. Image: DOT [PDF]

The first phase includes protected bike lanes, median crosswalks, and more pedestrian space. Image: DOT [PDF]

The redesign [PDF], which builds upon changes made more than a decade ago, adds protected bike lanes, expands pedestrian space, and redesigns ramps to reduce speeds on the boulevard, which has claimed the lives of 185 New Yorkers since 1990. “The actions that are being taken to save lives here on Queens Boulevard should have been taken long ago,” de Blasio said. “We’re going to change the whole configuration of Queens Boulevard to make traffic move more slowly and more smoothly.”

Lizi Rahman’s son Asif was killed while bicycling home from work on Queens Boulevard in 2008. She was the first person to speak at today’s press conference. “After his death, when I visited the site, I was shocked to see that there was no bike lane on Queens Boulevard. And I couldn’t help thinking if there was a bike lane, my son would still be alive,” she said. In the years after Asif’s death, Lizi kept asking officials for a bike lane on Queens Boulevard. “There were times when I was discouraged,” she said. “I almost gave up.”

“A lot of times change doesn’t happen because there isn’t enough willingness to challenge the status quo, to challenge bureaucracies,” de Blasio said. “It’s unacceptable to have any street known as the Boulevard of Death.”

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