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Posts from the "Bicycle Safety" Category

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When Traffic Deaths Don’t Make the News: Jelani Irving, 22

Jelani Irving. Photo from the Irving family via Ghost Bike Project

Jelani Irving. Photo from the Irving family via Ghost Bike Project

While NYC traffic deaths are down in the first few months of 2014, they are still so frequent that not every fatality gets reported in the news. This is often the case when a victim dies from injuries in the hospital days after a crash. That’s what happened earlier this year to 22-year-old Jelani Irving.

Irving was critically injured just before 6:15 a.m. on February 2 while riding his bike at the intersection of Classon Avenue and Washington Avenue in Crown Heights. Irving’s sister, Imani Irving, said he was riding his bike home from work after his shift as a yellow cab driver.

Police say Irving was struck by a 61-year-old man driving a 1999 Nissan Maxima northbound on Washington. The driver was turning right onto Classon — a turn with a very obtuse angle that motorists can make at speed — and struck Irving as he was cycling south in the northbound lane. NYPD says Irving veered left, crossing the path of the driver. The driver was cited for two equipment violations; press reports at the time said they were for bald rear tires. There were no citations or arrests related to Irving’s death.

Irving, unconscious and in cardiac arrest, was taken to Kings County Hospital and classified by NYPD as likely to die. He died of his injuries four days later.

The crash was covered by the Brooklyn Paper and Gothamist but it was not known that it caused Irving’s death until his name later appeared in WNYC’s “Mean Streets” traffic fatalities tracker.

Irving’s cousin, Daniel Gregoire, works at a Unitarian church in Pennsylvania and wrote about his family’s loss on the church’s website:

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CB 2 Panel OKs Hudson Street Bike Lane Upgrade, Bowery Ped Safety Tweaks

The Hudson street buffered bike lane is set to become a parking-protected path. Image: DOT

The Hudson Street buffered bike lane is set to become a parking-protected path. Image: DOT

Last night, Manhattan Community Board 2′s transportation committee unanimously supported two safety measures: one to upgrade a bike lane on Hudson Street, and another to tweak pedestrian improvements at the car-clogged intersection of the Bowery and Delancey Street.

Almost two-and-a-half years after asking DOT to upgrade the faded buffered bike lane on Hudson Street to a parking-protected path with pedestrian islands, the committee unanimously endorsed a plan from DOT to do just that [PDF]. The next steps: support from the full board at its April 24 meeting, and construction beginning in July.

The plan actually extends two of Manhattan’s most popular protected bike lanes southward. The Ninth Avenue protected lane will now reach a few blocks further south of 14th Street, on the southbound section Hudson Street, before joining the curbside striped bike lane on Bleecker Street. And on the northbound section of Hudson, cyclists will be able to use a protected bike lane starting at Houston Street before joining the existing Eighth Avenue protected lane.

CB 2′s request in 2011 asked that the lane extend south to Canal Street, but DOT’s plan stops at Houston. When the board made its request then, Hudson Square Connection BID executive director Ellen Baer said her members were split on the concept. While the BID has supported a number of other street safety improvements, it opposed the CB’s request for Hudson Street. Since then, the BID has released a concept plan that includes a protected bike lane along Hudson Street, but asked DOT to leave it out of the plan the agency presented last night.

“So far, we’ve gotten very positive responses, but we continue to go out there and build support for the plan,” Baer told Streetsblog. The BID’s plan includes widening the sidewalk to create space for green stormwater infrastructure, a more significant design change than DOT is proposing north of Houston. “You want to do it all at once,” she said. “You wouldn’t want to put a protected bike lane in this section and then come back.”

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Rockaway Students Want DOT to Use Extra Asphalt for Walking and Biking


Rockaway Freeway, a multi-lane divided road beneath the A train on the Rockaway peninsula, is hardly friendly territory for walking or biking. A group of teens interning with the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance is looking to change that. Their goal: Gather 10,000 signatures on a petition asking DOT to convert some under-used road space, created as part of a traffic-calming project years ago, into a safe place for walking and biking.

“There are two striped buffers that aren’t being used for anything,” said Sebastian Rahman, 15, a sophomore at Scholars Academy in Rockaway Park and an intern with RWA. “People still do use them to get from point A to point B, even though it isn’t really isn’t safe.”

“You have people speeding there,” said intern Kaitlyn Kennedy, 16. “It’s not the safest place to be walking.” A road diet reduced the number of lanes and added the striped buffered areas more than a decade ago, but Rockaway Freeway continues to be a dangerous road: Last December, a teen driver killed one of his passengers and seriously injured another in a late-night crash on the road at Beach 41st Street.

“We saw the Rockaway Freeway as a great opportunity,” Rahman said. After Hurricane Sandy wiped out portions of the boardwalk, he continued, “there was no more connectivity between the east side and the west side of the peninsula.” Together, the student interns have come up with a concept that mixes new planted areas with more space for pedestrians and a dedicated bike path.

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A Safer, Saner Lafayette Street Is on Its Way This Summer After CB 2 Vote

Under the plan, a buffered bike lane would be converted to a protected bike lane with pedestrian islands. Image: DOT

After a unanimous vote at its transportation committee earlier this month, Manhattan Community Board 2′s full board last night unanimously passed a resolution supporting an upgrade of the buffered bike lane on Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue to a protected bike lane. The project [PDF] runs from Spring Street to 14th Street and will include a northbound protected bike lane from Prince Street to 12th Street, pedestrian islands, and narrower car lanes to slow drivers.

The project is set to finish construction this summer. Crews have already started grinding pavement on Lafayette to repave the street, which currently has faded markings and a pockmarked surface.

At last night’s meeting, five people spoke in support of the plan, including Scott Hobbs, deputy director of the Union Square Partnership, and William Kelley, executive director of the Village Alliance BID. Transportation Alternatives also submitted a petition with signatures from nine business owners and 76 people on the street.

“We felt there were tremendous advantages,” transportation committee chair Shirley Secunda said of the plan, noting that it will keep the same number of car lanes while slowing drivers down, upgrading the bike lane, and improving signal timing at crosswalks. “Right now it’s in terrible, terrible shape and very unsafe,” she said. “It’s a tremendously wide street and the way the street will be reconfigured would allow for shorter crossings.”

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CB 2 Panel Unanimously Supports Lafayette-4th Avenue Protected Bike Lane

Under the plan, a buffered bike lane would be converted to a protected bike lane. Image: DOT

Under the plan, a buffered bike lane would be converted to a protected bike lane. Image: DOT

In a unanimous 9-0 vote last night, Manhattan Community Board 2′s transportation committee endorsed a DOT plan to upgrade a buffered bike lane on Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue to a parking-protected lane, complete with new pedestrian islands, car lanes of an appropriate width for the city, and improved signal timing for pedestrians. The plan now moves to CB 2′s full board meeting on March 20.

“We’re here as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero campaign,” DOT project manager Preston Johnson said, pointing to safety gains similar projects have yielded on other Manhattan avenues. “This is a project that fits in with that by improving safety for all road users.” From 2007-2011, he said, six pedestrians, one cyclist and five motor vehicle occupants were severely injured in crashes on this section of Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue.

The proposal [PDF] does not remove any car lanes, but instead narrows them on the avenues. Currently, lanes on Fourth Avenue feature a 14-foot-wide travel lane and a 21-foot-wide shared parking and moving lane. Under the plan, car lanes would be narrowed to 11 feet, with the right-hand lane on Lafayette slimming down to 10 feet.

“You really have a highway standard… which is inappropriate for this context,” Johnson said. “These moving lanes are just overly wide, and we’re able to repurpose that space more efficiently.”

Under the plan, the existing buffered bike lane, which ranges from nine to 11 feet wide on the left side of the street, will shift to the curb. Pedestrian islands will be added to the floating parking lane to shorten crossing distances, which are currently 71 feet on Fourth Avenue and 48 feet on Lafayette Street, curb-to-curb.

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Heat Maps Show Where Traffic Takes the Most Lives in NYC

2013 traffic deaths. Image: I Quant NY

2013 traffic deaths. Image: I Quant NY

As city government started work on the Vision Zero Action Plan, statistics professor Ben Wellington saw an opportunity to use data on crashes and fatalities to show the magnitude of the challenge.

Wellington teaches a statistics course to Pratt Institute city planning students using open data from New York City government. He also uses city data to create maps on his blog, I Quant NY. This week, he mapped last year’s traffic fatalities and cyclist injuries, using NYPD data compiled by volunteers developers into the Crash Data Band-Aid.

Wellington’s results show some familiar patterns: Streets like Broadway in Williamsburg, Queens Boulevard, and Grand Concourse pop up in the fatality data, in addition to spikes of traffic fatalities in neighborhoods from Canarsie to Jackson Heights to Midtown. Using city-defined neighborhood boundaries, Wellington calculated that 23 percent of all traffic deaths last year occurred in just five percent of the city’s neighborhoods, though fatalities were spread across the city.

Last year, there were more than 3,800 reported cyclist injuries in New York City. Image: I Quant NY

Last year, there were more than 3,800 reported cyclist injuries in New York City. Image: I Quant NY

There were more than 3,800 reported cyclist injuries last year, with the highest concentrations in Williamsburg, Clinton Hill, Jackson Heights, and Manhattan below 59th Street. Wellington notes that this geographic concentration could be reflective of where the greatest number of people are riding bikes, not necessarily the most dangerous places for cyclists. Though the total number of crashes may be high in a particular zone, Wellington says, the crash rate is likely to be lower due to the high ridership density in the area.

“The hope is that with Vision Zero in place,” he wrote, “future maps like this will be much sparser.”

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Rosenthal Wants TLC Licenses Revoked for Serious Failure to Yield Crashes

Legislation from City Council Member Helen Rosenthal would revoke hack licenses of cab drivers who kill or seriously injure pedestrians and cyclists while failing to yield.

Through a change to city administrative code that governs the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the legislation would require the suspension of the driver’s TLC license, pending an investigation, after a crash that results in death or injury to a pedestrian or cyclist. According to a press release from Rosenthal’s office, ”If the outcome of the investigation determines that the driver is guilty of ‘failure to yield,’ the driver’s TLC license would be automatically and permanently revoked.”

The proposed rule change follows the death of 9-year-old Cooper Stock, who was hit by a cab driver in January while crossing West End Avenue with his father. Cabbie Koffi Komlani was cited for careless driving and failure to yield, but he still holds a valid TLC license. Stock was one of three pedestrians killed by drivers in Rosenthal’s district last month.

Though points can accumulate through NYPD summonses or consumer complaints, under current rules even a habitually reckless cab driver can expect to retain his TLC license. As it stands, the TLC can suspend licenses for 30 days only when a cab driver has six or more points, and can’t revoke a license until a driver has more than 10 points. According to a recent Post story, summonses for failure to yield and running a red light add three points to a hack license, a reckless driving summons adds five points, and a ticket for driving from 31 to 40 miles per hour over the speed limit adds eight points.

If approved, Rosenthal’s proposal could be a significant step toward getting reckless cab drivers off city streets. It is unclear, however, whether investigations would be performed by TLC, NYPD, or both. If action against a hack license hinges on an NYPD summons, the rule change may not be as effective as intended.

The bill would apparently need to be modified to apply to curb-jumping crashes like the one in Midtown that took the leg of Sian Green. Sidewalk driving does not usually trigger a failure to yield summons. Also unknown is what constitutes “serious injury.”

Streetsblog has asked Rosenthal’s office for more details on the proposed legislation. We will update this post when we hear back.

While they kill and injure a large number of pedestrians and cyclists, a 2004 study found that cab drivers are less crash-prone on a per-miles driven basis than other NYC motorists. Cooper’s mother Dana Lerner said Albany needs to pass reforms that apply to all New York drivers.

“We need to change New York State law to make it a criminal offense to drive in a manner that seriously injures or kills a pedestrian or bicyclist who is following the law,” Lerner told DNAinfo. “It’s wrong for the state of New York not to address this immediately.”

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Safer, Saner Brooklyn Bridge Entrance on Track for Next Year

The Downtown Brooklyn entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is set for some major upgrades. Image: DDC

The Downtown Brooklyn entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is set for some major upgrades. Image: DDC

After years of planning and advocacy, an effort to improve the dangerous, ugly asphalt expanse on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge is set to take a big step forward tonight. Community Board 2 is meeting to vote on a resolution in support of a plan to expand space for walking and biking, realign car lanes, and add trees [PDF] that cleared its transportation committee with a unanimous 7-0 vote last month. Construction on the first phase is on track to begin as soon as the end of this year.

The Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge walking and biking path consists of a long, narrow concrete chute, sandwiched between the exhaust-choked car lanes of the Adams Street bridge approach. At the intersection of Adams and Tillary Street — both very wide streets dominated by motor vehicle traffic heading to and from free bridges — pedestrians and cyclists have to navigate a chaotic mess of traffic lanes, poorly coordinated signals, and narrow curb cuts to get to or from the bridge path.

The current design isn’t just unappealing, it’s dangerous for bike riders, walkers, and drivers alike: From 2008 to 2010, according to DOT, 339 people — including 24 cyclists and 32 pedestrians — were injured at nine intersections along the stretches of Tillary and Adams near the bridge.

The heart of the redesign is the intersection of these two streets, where the widened, tree-lined Brooklyn Bridge path entrance will have much more generous proportions for pedestrians and cyclists. South of Tillary Street, a center-running two-way bike lane would continue along Adams briefly before directing cyclists to striped bike lanes next to the parking lane on the next block, as Adams approaches Fulton Street. To make room for this wider median between Tillary and Johnson Streets, the service lanes on either side of this block of Adams will be eliminated.

Image: DDC

The plan for the western blocks of Tillary Street. Click to enlarge. Image: DDC

To make the whole area feel less like a highway, the city proposes reducing the amount of overhead signage and the presence of concrete barriers. Instead of the cattle chute, for example, pedestrians and cyclists on the bridge approach north of Tillary will be separated from car traffic by vegetation and a low chain barrier.

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Before We Build, We Should Review How a Project Will Affect Safety

Jim Aloisi is a Boston-based lawyer, historian and transportation policymaker. He is a former Massachusetts state secretary of transportation. His most recent book is The Vidal Lecture.

Tanzeel Merchant is a Toronto-based urban designer, architect, planner and writer. He writes for Forbes India.

As cities across North American densify, innovate and refocus their priorities, there is a shared acknowledgement that the era of the automobile is over, and other modes of mobility, such as walking, cycling and transit, are in ascendance. However, these changes are constrained by powerful legacies of our past — the existing, auto-centric infrastructure of highways, inequitable transportation funding across modes, and outdated ways of thinking.

Before designing a road like this, traffic engineers should have to answer the question: Is it safe for people outside of cars, too? Photo: ##http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/the-daily-need/dangerous-by-design/9619/##PBS##

When proposing a road like this, traffic engineers should have to answer the question: Will the project make people safer or less safe? Photo: PBS

Times have changed, and our planning and review processes need to change along with them. We now live in an era where young people are choosing not to get drivers’ licenses and buy cars, or are delaying those decisions, and older people are drawn to the virtues of a healthier lifestyle. Despite these trends, many transportation officials continue to shortchange funding for the mobility offered by walking and bicycling. Many streets, especially in new suburban neighborhoods, are not pedestrian friendly. Bicycle routes (if they exist at all) are often poorly designed and unsafe. Equitable funding for these modes of transportation is not, and has never been, a reality.

Safe walking and biking ought to be a right, not a privilege. A spate of recent tragedies involving pedestrians and bicyclists points to the urgent need to make mobility safety a critical element of new focus. If you hit a pedestrian at 20 mph, 5 percent will die; at 30 mph, 45 percent will die; at 40 mph, 85 percent will die.

Walking and bicycling are also cost-savers for cities. Integrating these modes into street designs comes at a small cost, with huge returns in terms of reduced vehicular congestion, lower emissions, less wear and tear of roads, stronger local economies and more vibrant neighborhoods.

Planners and decision-makers need a better approach to ensure active transportation is safe and convenient. We propose requiring public infrastructure and transportation projects to undertake a Safety Impact Review (SIR) as part of the process of permitting projects meeting certain thresholds. An SIR would ensure that desired outcomes are baked into development and infrastructure projects right from the start.

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Advos Call for Dedicated Fund After Cuomo Budget Again Omits Bike-Ped

Two and a half years after he signed the state’s complete streets bill into law, Governor Cuomo has again declined to write dedicated funds for pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure — and, therefore, pedestrian and cyclist safety — into the executive budget.

A coalition of over 50 advocacy groups and locals governments under the banner New Yorkers for Active Transportation asked Cuomo earlier this month to allocate $20 million in the next state budget to pedestrian and cycling projects, and to continue or exceed that commitment for the next five years. New York State has never had a dedicated line in the budget for bike-ped infrastructure, says Nadine Lemmon of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. In the years since the complete streets law took effect, TSTC found, the state is planning to spend $100 million less on pedestrian and cyclist safety than it spent in the four years prior to the law’s adoption. Cuomo’s recent allocation of $67 million in federal funds for walking and biking projects statewide does not commit any state funds.

“The complete streets law says, very clearly, they have to consider it,” says Lemmon, “but that doesn’t mean they have to build it.”

Lemmon says advocates want Cuomo to make up for the shortfall in federal dollars between MAP-21, the current federal transportation bill, and SAFETEA-LU, the previous authorization. And a bike-ped fund would have a recent precedent: A memorandum of understanding between the state legislature and the state DOT last year resulted in a reserve fund for upstate transit capital projects. “It established a policy,” says Lemmon. “We were essentially asking for the same thing.”

Another issue is the state DOT doesn’t track exactly what it spends on pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure. A TSTC analysis of the last Statewide Transportation Improvement Program found the state was spending a little over $400 million on bike-ped projects over four years, but there is no accurate accounting for road and bridge projects that include some bike-ped components. For example, Lemmon says, the Tappan Zee Bridge includes elements of pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure, but the public doesn’t know how the numbers break down.

“We know how many roads are being paved, we know how many bridges are being fixed,” says Lemmon. “We have no idea how many miles of new sidewalks are being installed.”

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