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Posts from the Bicycle Safety Category

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Queens Boulevard Safety Plan Has First Encounter With a Community Board

Queens Community Board 2 transportation committee chair Joseph Conley, left, looks at DOT's plan for Queens Boulevard in Woodside. Photo: Stephen Miller

Queens Community Board 2 transportation committee chair Joseph Conley, left, looks at DOT’s plan for Queens Boulevard in Woodside. Photo: Stephen Miller

Skepticism from the Community Board 2 transportation committee toward DOT’s proposed changes for Queens Boulevard wore off over the course of a meeting last night, as board members learned more about the project for 1.3 miles of safety improvements [PDF]. DOT will return to the committee again after tweaking the plan, which appears to be on track to receive CB 2’s backing by June, in time to put changes on the ground this summer.

The meeting got off to an inauspicious start. “The headline that’s gone out is that the community has spoken,” said committee chair Joseph Conley. The more than 100 people at a January workshop DOT hosted about Queens Boulevard, he added, shouldn’t overrule his nine-person committee. “We wanted to make sure that it came to the community board.”

But as DOT presented the proposal and answered questions last night, the heat subsided. “Queens Boulevard doesn’t lend itself to what’s happening for people that live here and work here,” Conley said later. “It’s more of a transportation corridor than anything else.”

The Queens Boulevard redesign will proceed in two phases — first with temporary materials and later with concrete. Image: NYC DOT

The most high-profile component of the project is protected bike lanes running along the Queens Boulevard service roads. A member of the public urged DOT to install more substantial protection than plastic posts, but Conley had a different view. “There’s just some roads where bicycle lanes don’t belong,” he said. “Maybe Queens Boulevard is one of those places where bicycle lanes don’t belong.”

DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo replied that the jumbled street grid in Woodside doesn’t offer alternative bike routes. “Cyclists are choosing Queens Boulevard whether or not we put a bike lane,” he said, “so what we’re trying to do is make that activity as safe and comfortable as possible.”

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More Details From DOT’s Plan to Add Protected Bike Lanes to Queens Blvd

Here’s a closer look at DOT’s plan to add protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety measures to 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard. DOT will be presenting these slides tonight to the Queens Community Board 2 transportation committee [PDF].

The top image shows the proposed layout on blocks where drivers can exit the central roadway to access the service lanes. The right-turn bays with tight angles, stop signs, marked crosswalks, and bike chevrons will replace this “slip lane” design that lets drivers enter the service road at speed:

qb_current

On some blocks, the slip lanes will be filled in entirely to create uninterrupted walkways and bikeways:

qb_55th-56th

At 60th Street, the proposal calls for filling in gaps between medians to create public spaces:

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Boulevard of Life, Phase 1: DOT Will Add Protected Bike Lanes to Queens Blvd

The Queens Boulevard service roads will have buffer space converted to protected bike lanes under a proposal unveiled today. Image: DOT

On a western section of Queens Boulevard, DOT will convert buffer space on service roads to protected bike lanes and pedestrian space this summer. Later, that design will be cast in concrete. Image: DOT

A key section of Queens Boulevard will get protected bike lanes this summer, DOT announced today. The improvements are the first phase of a broader $100 million overhaul that will encompass seven miles of the notoriously dangerous street.

Queens Boulevard is one of the only continuous east-west connections in the borough, making it a natural biking route, but it is designed for high-speed traffic. Dozens of people are seriously injured or killed each year at its complex intersections.

The initial DOT project calls for bikeways to be striped on the boulevard’s service roads between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street by August. The bike lanes will later be cast in concrete as part of a total street reconstruction. Designs for future sections of Queens Boulevard, stretching seven miles east to Union Turnpike, will be unveiled after a series of public workshops.

DOT launched its Queens Boulevard planning process in January with a well-attended workshop in Woodside. Earlier this month, Families For Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives rallied outside Queens Borough Hall to call on DOT to swiftly implement changes.

Advocates have been campaigning for a protected bike lane on Queens Boulevard for many years.

Lizi Rahman lost her son Asif, 22, when he was hit and killed by a truck driver in 2008 while riding his bicycle on Queens Boulevard at 55th Road. “We have to get a bike lane on Queens Boulevard. It might not bring my son back, but I would know that my son died for a good cause,” she said at a demonstration later that year. “I will do this for him and it will help save the other bikers in the future.”

Today, Rahman said she is “ecstatic” to hear about the bike lane plan. “I have been driving on Queens Boulevard for a long time and never really noticed, but after his death I noticed that there wasn’t a bike lane,” she said. “It’s a little bit emotional… I’d really like the bike lane to be named after Asif.”

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Bruckner Boulevard Protected Bikeway Clears Bronx CB 2 Committee

Unused road space on Bruckner Boulevard is being reclaimed for a protected bikeway that will eventually connect the Bronx River Greenway to Randall's Island. Images: DOT

Excess road space on Bruckner Boulevard will be claimed for a protected bikeway that will eventually connect the Bronx River Greenway to Randall’s Island. Images: DOT [PDF]

A DOT plan to add pedestrian space and create a two-way protected bikeway along a key half-mile stretch of Bruckner Boulevard received a unanimous thumbs-up from Bronx Community Board 2’s economic development committee Wednesday night [PDF].

“Bruckner Boulevard is a very wide, multi-lane boulevard,” said DOT project manager Kimberly Rancourt. “It has lots of traffic but it also has excess space that isn’t needed for capacity.” The plan repurposes that unused asphalt, currently striped as a buffer zone, to add protected bike lanes in the Bruckner Boulevard median from Hunts Point Avenue to Longwood Avenue.

The area is dangerous, with 585 injuries at the five intersections in the project between 2009 and 2013, including 65 pedestrian injuries and 10 bicyclist injuries. Both Bruckner and Hunts Point were identified as priority corridors in DOT’s Vision Zero Bronx pedestrian safety action plan, and their juncture — often busy with pedestrians going between the 6 train and the Hunts Point neighborhood — is also named a priority intersection. There, DOT is proposing new pedestrian islands, large curb extensions, and a new crosswalk in the boulevard’s median.

The protected bikeway will provide a key link in the South Bronx bicycle network, though it will need to be extended to provide a seamless ride to points south.

To the north, the project connects with Monsignor Del Valle Square, where a redesign under development by DOT and the Parks Department will include protected bike lanes. Those lanes will link to improvements installed in 2013 that connect with the Bronx River Greenway, including a short protected bike lane on Bruckner between Bryant and Longfellow Avenues.

To the south, the project would strand cyclists when they reach Longwood Avenue. DOT said it is working on a plan to extend the Bruckner Boulevard median bike lanes southward across a “difficult section,” though there is no public timeline for the second phase. The southern extension of the Bruckner bike lane would link to Randall’s Island, where a long-anticipated connector path to the South Bronx Greenway is set to open this summer.

The plan “exponentially” increases the Bronx’s tiny allotment of protected bike lanes, said Transportation Alternatives Bronx organizer Laura Solis, and with the Randall’s Island connector opening soon, DOT should extend it southward as soon as possible. “The goal is definitely to see that continuous connection to Randall’s Island,” Solis said. “This is one step closer.”

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MTA Refuses to Test Simple Bus Design Fix That Could Save Lives

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A San Francisco Muni bus equipped with a side guard to keep pedestrians or cyclists from being crushed beneath the rear wheel. The MTA has refused to test the equipment on its fleet. Photo: Paul Sullivan/Flickr

Council Member Antonio Reynoso has introduced a resolution calling on the MTA to install rear wheel side guards, which keep pedestrians and cyclists from being crushed beneath the wheels of a bus. The equipment is already used on buses in cities across the country, but the MTA says it’s not interested in installing sideguards on its vehicles.

At least three of the eight pedestrians killed by MTA bus drivers last year were run over by the rear wheel of the bus, according to the City Council resolution. They include two deaths at intersections in Reynoso’s district: Marisol Martinez, 21, killed last March at Union Avenue and Meeker Street in Williamsburg, and Edgar Torres, 40, killed in October at Palmetto Street and Wyckoff Avenue in Bushwick. According to witnesses, both were in the crosswalk with the signal when a turning bus driver struck them. They were knocked down before being run over by the rear wheel.

Rear wheel side guards are hard plastic appendages designed to bridge part of the gap between the bottom of a bus and the ground, deflecting a fallen pedestrian or cyclist to avoid impact with the wheel. Public Transportation Safety International manufactures the S-1 Gard, which has been installed on buses in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, among other cities. The product is also being added to buses in Sweden and Nigeria.

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DOT Has a New Plan for Bike Lanes on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge

Is the second try the charm for adding bike lanes to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge? Image: DOT [PDF]

Is the second try the charm for adding bike lanes to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge? Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT has a plan to add bike lanes to the J. J. Byrne Memorial Bridge, which carries Greenpoint Avenue across Newtown Creek between Brooklyn and Queens [PDF]. The agency has also mapped out new striped bike lanes and markings in Sunnyside and Long Island City [PDF], which would improve access to the bridge.

A similar DOT plan for the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge from 2010 would have changed the roadway from two car lanes in each direction to one, with buffered bike lanes on either side. DOT mothballed the bike lanes a year later after opposition from Brooklyn Community Board 1 and local trucking and industrial interests.

With two wide lanes in each direction, the bridge has remained a source of constant complaints about speeding. DOT says it has received requests for changes from Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and Assembly Member Joe Lentol.

Bike planning workshops DOT hosted with Queens Community Board 2 in 2012 identified the bridge as a missing link in the network. On the Brooklyn side, the crossing connects to bike lanes on Greenpoint Avenue, which currently terminate at Kingsland Avenue at the foot of the bridge. About 600 cyclists cross the bridge on weekends and weekdays, according to DOT counts from June 2014.

The current DOT project calls for adding striped, unprotected bike lanes on both the Queens and Brooklyn approaches, with two lanes of car traffic maintained in each direction. On the bridge’s center span, the bike lanes would gain four-foot buffers. Two lanes for Queens-bound car traffic would be retained, while Brooklyn-bound drivers would merge into one lane before returning to two lanes as the bridge touches down in Greenpoint.

On the Queens side, as reported by the LIC Post, DOT is planning the second phase of bike network expansion in Sunnyside and Long Island City. Like the first phase, it will mostly consist of painted bike lanes and sharrows, though there is a short two-way protected bike lane proposed for Borden Avenue.  

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Hsi-Pei Liao Tells Pete Donohue Why the Right-of-Way Law Matters

Daily News reporter Pete Donohue speaks with Hsi-Pei Liao, whose daughter was killed by a driver that failed to yield the right of way. Image: <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2015/03/4/transit-reporter---families-for-safe-streets--member-discuss-traffic-safety--enforcement-on-ich.html" target="_blank">NY1</a>

Hsi-Pei Liao, whose daughter was killed by a driver who failed to yield, speaks with Daily News reporter Pete Donohue and NY1’s Errol Louis. Image: NY1

In the skirmish over the Right-of-Way Law, which allows for misdemeanor charges when a driver strikes a pedestrian or cyclist with the right of way, the rationale for enacting the law sometimes gets lost.

Last night on NY1, Inside City Hall host Errol Louis interviewed Daily News reporter Pete Donohue, who has taken up the cause of TWU Local 100’s opposition to the law, and Hsi-Pei Liao, who helped found Families For Safe Streets after his 3-year-old daughter Allison was killed in a Flushing crosswalk while she and her grandmother had the right of way.

“The Right-of-Way Law is because of situations like ours,” Liao said. The driver’s blood alcohol level was elevated but below the legal limit, so he got off with two summonses, one for failure to yield and another for failure to exercise due care. Both were dismissed by the DMV, which Liao and his wife learned about months later. Under the Right-of-Way Law, the driver who killed Allison would likely have faced consequences.

“To have this law implemented is to make sure that they understand this is their responsibility. This is what they have done,” Liao said. “The police, the DA, they never once mentioned that our daughter’s right of way was taken… It was like, ‘It’s an accident, sorry. I can go home now.’ And we want more answers than just that.”

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CB 12 Committee Puts Parking Over Safety in Vote on Uptown Bike Lanes

DOT is proposing significant bicycle and pedestrian upgrades in Washington Heights, but the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee wants to nibble away at a protected bike lane in the plan. The committee voted to support the DOT plan but with modifications that would shrink a proposed protected bike lane on Edgecombe Avenue to preserve parking.

The plan offers protected bikeways on 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT

The plan offers protected bikeways on 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT

The plan [PDF] would provide river-to-river links between the Hudson River Greenway and High Bridge Park, where cyclists and pedestrians would be able to connect to the Bronx. The proposal comes after the approval of bicycle and pedestrian upgrades for the Bronx side of High Bridge Park [PDF].

The plan would result in a net loss of approximately 20 parking spaces. Most of the change is concentrated on Edgecombe north of 165th Street, where parking would be removed for the bikeway on sections of Edgecombe with two-way car traffic.

At its meeting Monday evening, the CB 12 transportation committee deadlocked, 2-2, on a vote to support the plan after members Jim Berlin and Anita Barberis protested the loss of parking. Berlin has a long history of prioritizing parking over street safety at CB 12, which covers a neighborhood where about three-quarters of households are car-free.

“This is a working-class area,” Berlin said, according to DNAinfo. “People don’t have the luxury of riding their bike in the morning and leaving their Beamer at home.”

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and the working-class people I know have MetroCards,” Maria Lopez replied to Berlin, reported DNAinfo. “I drive, but I support this plan.” Lopez is also a staffer for Council Member Mark Levine. After her reply, according to multiple meeting attendees, Berlin began a condescending response by calling her “honey child.”

“The entire room gasped,” said one person at the meeting. “It was racist, misogynistic and ageist all at once, and it was stunning…I just don’t think he realized how inappropriate that was.”

Eventually, the committee agreed on a compromise resolution, with a 4-0 vote, that supported the plan but asked DOT to shorten the protected bikeway on Edgecombe in order to preserve parking.

“It was somewhat disappointing, because one particular person, their opinion can really influence what happens in an entire community. And it was clear that the people from the community that came out really supported it,” said Ana Reyes, a Washington Heights resident and executive director of I Challenge Myself. The group offers bicycle education courses to high school students, including at the George Washington Educational Campus on Audubon Avenue.

“A lot of people don’t like to ride in traffic,” Reyes said. “The benefits outweigh the loss of parking spaces in terms of the amount of  kids, particularly, that would be able to access this park.”

The plan includes a lot of big improvements for safe walking and biking in the neighborhood.

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No Easy Answers at City Council Hearing on Trucks and Bike/Ped Safety

Trucks pose an outsize danger on New York City streets. This afternoon, elected officials, agency staff, union representatives, and advocates tackled the issue at a City Council transportation committee hearing.

DOT defines trucks as vehicles with two axles and six tires or vehicles with three or more axles. They comprise 3.6 percent of New York City’s 2 million vehicle registrations, said DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo, and account for 7 percent of the city’s traffic.

While professional truck drivers usually have a better safety record than the average driver per mile, trucks are three times more likely to be involved in a pedestrian death than any other type of vehicle, according to DOT. Last year, truck drivers struck and killed 17 people who were walking or biking, comprising 11 percent of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. That’s down slightly from the three previous years, when an average of 20 people walking or biking were killed in truck crashes annually, comprising 13 percent of pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

One of the victims last year was killed by a truck driver on Canal Street, one of the most dangerous streets in the city. Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents the area, asked DOT if it would remove Canal Street’s truck route designation. Russo said that trucks will need to use some of Manhattan’s streets, including Canal, as through routes. “Do you have a street that would serve as an alternative?” he asked Chin. “We don’t think that designation or de-designation [of truck routes] is a pedestrian or bicyclist safety strategy.”

Instead, Russo said DOT is looking to make changes to Canal and Bowery, at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge. Since 2009, 19 pedestrians and nine cyclists have been injured there, and one pedestrian has been killed, according to DOT data.

Chin has introduced a bill that would require DOT to study the impact of the region’s tolling system on truck traffic and related cyclist and pedestrian fatalities every five years. “What we can do is look back at the crashes a little more closely, especially the fatal ones, and look at origin and destination issues,” Russo said. “Whether there was a market incentive for them to be somewhere they otherwise wouldn’t be, would be interesting.”

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that there’s a market incentive,” said Council Member Mark Weprin, a supporter of the Move NY toll reform proposal.

NYPD interest in traffic enforcement, or lack thereof, came up twice at today’s hearing, although no police representative testified.

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Report: All New NYC Garbage Trucks Should Have Life-Saving Side Guards

Earlier this month, the city announced a pilot program to add side guards, which prevent people from being dragged under the rear wheels of large vehicles, to 240 trucks in the city fleet. It’s a start, but there are thousands more trucks on NYC streets that need this life-saving equipment.

Making side guards standard equipment for new DSNY trucks would encompass the whole fleet in about seven or eight years. Photo: City of Boston

Making side guards standard equipment at DSNY, as Boston has for its trash trucks, would encompass the whole fleet in about seven or eight years. Photo: City of Boston

A new report from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center lays out an action plan specifically for New York City [PDF], describing a path to expand side guards across the city’s fleet of trucks.

The Volpe Center recommends better data collection by NYPD and the state DMV to study the safety impacts of the city’s pilot program, but the effect of side guards is already clear. After the United Kingdom began requiring them in 1986, the fatality rate for pedestrians hit by the side of a truck fell by 20 percent. For bicyclists, the fatality rate decreased 61 percent.

Trucks make up just 3.6 percent of vehicles on the road in New York City, but they account for 12.3 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 32 percent of bicyclist fatalities, according to city data cited by the Volpe Center. Pedestrians are three times more likely to die after being hit by a truck or bus than by a passenger car. Truck side impacts are particularly deadly for bicyclists. More than 50 percent of cyclists struck by the side of a truck die, mostly after falling beneath the vehicle’s wheels.

The Volpe Center identified 4,734 medium- and heavy-duty trucks as candidates for side guards. These include dump trucks, salt spreaders, trailers, fuel tankers, and other types of trucks operated primarily by the Department of Sanitation, DOT, Parks, the Department of Education, NYPD, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Department of Corrections.

Volpe recommends installing solid panel-style side guards, rather than rail-style guards, and suggests stainless steel or plastic composites rather than aluminum, which is vulnerable to salt corrosion. Street sweepers, fire engines, car carriers, and special-purpose vehicles, such as movable highway barrier “zipper” trucks, would be exempt because side guards are either unnecessary or incompatible.

Of the 4,734 vehicles that could use side guards, half are garbage trucks, mostly operated by the Department of Sanitation. While garbage trucks have about 30 different equipment configurations that could complicate side guard retrofits (Volpe says that the cost of “fitting a single-unit truck with side guards, based on discussions with the identified vendors, ranges from $600 to $2,500″), they are replaced more frequently than other city vehicles, meaning that side guards could become standard equipment relatively quickly.

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