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New Yorkers Call on Cuomo to Back Complete Streets Law With State Funds

A coalition of advocacy groups and government representatives called on Governor Cuomo today to dedicate state funds toward improving infrastructure for walking and biking.

State Senator Tim Kennedy, of Buffalo, and TSTC's Nadine Lemmon. Photo: Rohan Parikh

State Senator Tim Kennedy, of Buffalo, and TSTC’s Nadine Lemmon. Photo: Rohan Parikh

New Yorkers for Active Transportation (NY4AT), which consists of over 50 organizations, delivered a bike loaded with 1,300 postcards to the capitol. The postcards ask Cuomo 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.

“While Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address tackled issues related to dangerous driving, including tougher new laws for DWI and driving while texting, stiffer penalties alone will not turn around the state’s troubling safety statistics,” reads a NY4AT press release.

When it urged Cuomo to invest in street safety in 2012, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign noted that statewide pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities were on the rise. New York has a new complete streets law, signed by Cuomo in 2011, but NY4AT notes that the state “will be investing less money on pedestrian and bicycling safety over the next four years than before passage of the law.”

“AARP commends the Governor for signing the Complete Streets bill, but it won’t improve or maintain safety for pedestrians and bicyclists if New York doesn’t initially invest in safe passageways,” said New York AARP State Director Beth Finkel in the release. “Walkability is critical to keeping New Yorkers — and their money — here as they age.”

Older pedestrians represent 18.7 percent of the NYC region’s population, but they account for 33.3 percent of all pedestrian fatalities, according to a 2013 report from TSTC.

While today’s announcement had a decidedly upstate bent, NYC could benefit from the new funds, and not just for projects on certain streets. TSTC’s Nadine Lemmon told Streetsblog the funds should not be restricted to improvements on state roads.

“Funds could be used for trails, but also county or local roads if a community determines that those roads are in need of bike/pedestrian infrastructure improvements,” Lemmon said via email. “At the moment, there are no state dollars specifically dedicated to bike and pedestrian infrastructure.”

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DOT Plans Road Diet and Bikeway Upgrade on Deadly Section of Kent Avenue

On Kent Avenue, DOT is proposing converting one northbound lane to parking and turning the southbound parking lane into a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT

On Kent Avenue, DOT is proposing converting one northbound lane to parking and converting the southbound parking lane into a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT

Last night, Brooklyn Community Board 1′s transportation committee unanimously recommended the board support a DOT project [PDF] to calm traffic on a deadly stretch of Kent Avenue between Clymer Street and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The project also upgrades a link in the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway to a two-way protected bike lane.

Last March, hit-and-run driver Julio Acevedo, who police say was traveling 69 mph, killed Raizy and Nathan Glauber, both 21, in a two-car crash on this section of Kent Avenue at Wilson Street. Acevedo, facing charges including criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter, is scheduled to go to trial next year.

Since the crash, DOT has installed traffic signals at Wilson and Hooper Streets. The agency says crosswalks will be added at these locations next year, once crews begin striping again in March. (Currently, there are no marked crosswalks between Clymer Street and the BQE, a distance of four-tenths of a mile.)

This section of Kent Avenue is currently a median-divided road with parking on the east and west sides of the street. There is one southbound car lane and two northbound car lanes. A DOT study in May found that 82 percent of northbound drivers exceeded the 30 mph speed limit, similar to measurements taken last March by Transportation Alternatives and Council Member Steve Levin, which found 89 percent of drivers breaking the limit.

“When roads are overbuilt, this is the way people drive,” said DOT’s Ted Wright, adding that car volumes on Kent could be accommodated in one lane in either direction without any impact on traffic. ”This is about limiting the speeds of vehicles on the northbound side,” he said.

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The Health Care Cost of Traffic Crashes, and More Ped Injury Summit Tidbits

Here is more from last week’s pedestrian injury summit at Elmhurst Hospital.

NYC DOT Infrastructure: Ann Marie Doherty, NYC DOT chief of research for implementation and safety, highlighted the agency’s 2010 pedestrian safety study and action plan. Doherty said DOT is working to get laws passed related to side guards on trucks, to keep people from being crushed under wheels, and tougher penalties for recidivist reckless drivers and people who drive without a license. A split-phase signal, which gives pedestrians exclusive crossing time, has brought a 63 percent reduction in pedestrian injuries at W. 23rd Street and Seventh Avenue, Doherty said. Streetsblog asked if DOT would be replicating the successful split-phase model at other intersections. Doherty said such decisions are made on a case by case basis, depending on pedestrian activity and other engineering considerations. Doherty said DOT has funding to install pedestrian countdown clocks citywide.

Safe Routes to School: Charles DiMaggio, epidemiologist from Columbia, presented findings from a Safe Routes to School study. Schools that get the Safe Routes treatment show a 44 percent decrease in injuries, DiMaggio said, while those that don’t show no change. DiMaggio estimates the program has saved $19 million in health care costs, and will mean 6,228 additional quality-adjusted life years over 50 years. “Kids can still be kids and be safe,” said DiMaggio.

National Data: Reps from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration talked up the agency’s “Everyone Is a Pedestrian” program, which awards small grants to help cities develop pedestrian safety plans, and the Data-Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety, developed in partnership with the Department of Justice to study links between traffic violence and other types of crime. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of injury deaths in the U.S., said NHTSA regional administrator Thomas Louizou and highway safety specialist Shannon Purdy. In 2012 pedestrian deaths accounted for 14 percent of all traffic deaths, the highest percentage since 2003. NHTSA data show 48 percent of fatal pedestrian crashes in 2012 involved alcohol — but that stat equates drunk drivers with alcohol use by deceased pedestrians. Though there is no legal BAC limit for walking, NHTSA classified 36 percent of pedestrians killed by drivers in 2012 as “legally drunk.” Fielding a question on what the feds are doing about factory-installed driver distraction systems that now come standard on many U.S. vehicles, Louizou cited voluntary guidelines issued earlier this year by U.S. DOT. Louizou said traffic crashes are ”one of the leading causes of rising health care costs in America.”

FDNY EMS: Deputy Chief Janice Olszewski, EMS borough commander in Queens, said FDNY responds to over 24,000 “pedestrian struck” calls per year. That figure includes people who are hit by trains and other crashes that don’t involve cars and trucks, Olszewski said. (Over 14,000 pedestrians and cyclists were injured by NYC drivers in 2012.) Two-thirds of victims are transported. To help determine the type and extent of injuries, Olszewski said, responders interview the patient (if possible), inspect vehicles, and get witness accounts — which is more than NYPD precinct officers are trained or authorized for at the scene of an injury crash. (An NYPD official slated to speak at the summit was a no-show.)

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Doctors Relate the Horror of Traffic Violence at Pedestrian Injury Summit

Medical professionals and transportation experts convened Thursday for the third New York City Summit on Pedestrian Injury, hosted by Elmhurst Hospital. The day-long event brought transportation officials and advocates together with doctors who witness the destruction caused by reckless drivers in the city every day.

Queens Boulevard continues to be "a problem" for emergency physicians at Elmhurst and Jamaica Hospitals, along other area streets. Photo: ##http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:QueensBlvd-GrandAve_PedWarning_Sign-Elmhurst.jpg##Wikipedia##

Along with other streets, Queens Boulevard continues to be “a problem” for emergency physicians at Elmhurst and Jamaica Hospitals. Photo: Wikipedia

The summit is chaired by Dr. Jamie Ullman, director of neurosurgery at Elmhurst, and Anju Galer, trauma coordinator for the hospital’s departments of surgery and nursing. Elmhurst is in year two of a three-year pedestrian and cyclist injury study. Ullman said 2012 marked an all-time high in the number of injuries within the hospital catchment area, and in 2013, she said, it’s a trend that shows “no signs of stopping.”

Dr. Kaushal Shah is the principal investigator for the study. Shah noted that media reports usually offer only the barest details of what happens in a traffic crash. To illustrate, he showed a slide of a recent story that reduced the deaths of two pedestrians to one short paragraph.

When a person is struck by a motorist, said Shah, it is “the worst day of their life.” For example, the first child hit by curb-jumping driver Francis Aung Lu in Maspeth in September was in the operating room for 10 hours, Shah said. Senior Cui Ju Yu, struck by a hit-and-run driver in Corona two weeks later, died from a brain hematoma*.

Most adult pedestrians who die are killed due to trauma to the head and neck, said Dr. George Agriantonis, director of trauma at Elmhurst. Injuries to the lower extremities often lead to significant disability. Flipping through slides of x-rayed and photographed images of grievous injuries, Agriantonis said compound fractures of the legs and shattered pelvises are common.

Injury patterns depend on the speed and type of vehicle, Agriantonis said. When an adult is struck by a passenger vehicle, there are usually three incidents of impact. The front of the vehicle hits the legs, which throws the victim onto the hood and windshield. The third impact occurs when the victim falls off the vehicle and hits the pavement or sidewalk.

Small children take the brunt of a collision to the torso and pelvis. Rather than being whipped onto the hood, said Agriantonis, because of their height children are thrown forward, and remain in the path of the vehicle.

Shah said researchers are seeing an increase in sidewalk crashes. Said Ullman: “I don’t know why these people are driving on the sidewalk.”

The Elmhurst catchment area is populated by 1.5 million people, Ullman said. Pedestrians hit by drivers were the leading injury category of emergency patients at Elmhurst from 2000 to 2009, and at 296, the number of pedestrians and cyclists admitted in 2012 was the hospital’s highest ever.

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CB 5 Votes Unanimously for DOT Study of Fifth and Sixth Avenue Redesign

Sixth Avenue in Midtown. Photo: Google Maps

After a unanimous vote by its transportation committee last month, Manhattan Community Board 5 voted unanimously last night for DOT to study a complete streets redesign of Fifth and Sixth Avenues to better accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders on two of the busiest avenues in Midtown.

The resolution asks NYPD “to more stringently enforce automobile and bicycle laws” while also requesting a study from DOT “of the merits and feasibility of re-designs of Fifth and Sixth Avenues.” The resolution was amended at last night’s meeting to ask DOT to take the needs of food cart vendors into account with any design it may propose.

Ilona Kramer, chief of staff to Council Member Dan Garodnick, told the board last night that due to redistricting, starting next year Garodnick will represent a large portion of CB 5. Kramer said Garodnick, who has expressed support for a safety study of Fifth and Sixth Avenues, was aware that the board had a resolution about the issue on its agenda last night.

Transportation Alternatives volunteers had collected 10,000 petition signatures and 1,500 handwritten letters, which were delivered to the board last night. “Ten thousand signatures is not insignificant,” said Raju Mann, CB 5′s transportation committee chair, who spoke in favor of the resolution.

In addition, 59 businesses have signed on in support of a complete street redesign. Volunteer Janet Liff said the owner of a Jamba Juice told her: ”Complete streets? Pedestrians love those. And whatever’s good for pedestrians is good for business.”

Eight people spoke in favor of the resolution, and only one, who called for a ban on bicycles on Fifth Avenue at last month’s committee meeting, spoke against it. Attorney Steve Vaccaro, who attended last night’s meeting, praised CB 5′s “no drama, no hate” approach to the issue, which stands in stark contrast with some other community board meetings on street redesign requests.

A redesign of Fifth and Sixth Avenues would also include portions of Community Boards 2 and 4, which are likely to take up the issue in the new year.

Thanks to Steve Vaccaro and Albert Ahronheim for notes from last night’s meeting.

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CB 7 Votes 35-0 for DOT to Study Amsterdam Avenue Protected Bike Lane

CB 7 members, including longtime transportation committee co-chairs Andrew  Albert and Dan Zweig, left, vote for a resolution asking DOT to study a complete street redesign on Amsterdam Avenue. Photo: Steve Vaccaro/Twitter

CB 7 members vote for a resolution asking DOT to study a complete street redesign on Amsterdam Avenue. Photo: Steve Vaccaro/Twitter

Before an audience of more than 100 people last night, Manhattan Community Board 7 voted 35-0, with five abstentions, for a resolution asking DOT to perform a complete streets study of Amsterdam Avenue, including safer pedestrian crossings and a protected bike lane. The unanimous vote came after a long session of procedural wrangling over the resolution’s language, but sets the stage for the agency to move forward with redesigning the street.

Despite the vote, last night’s meeting was also a reminder that key members of board, especially transportation committee co-chairs Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig, are set on obstructing proven street safety measures to the extent they can.

The meeting kicked off with a request from CB 7 chair Elizabeth Caputo about disclosure. Although conflict of interest rules are intended for situations where board members may stand to gain financially from the board’s actions, Caputo asked members to disclose any affiliations they may have with groups advocating for resolutions to be passed. (She did not require board members to disclose other relevant information, like whether they park on Amsterdam Avenue regularly.)

The request came after bike lane opponents at last month’s meeting, led by board member Lillian Moore, began asking members of Transportation Alternatives who are on CB 7 to recuse themselves from voting. Last night, Ken Coughlin, who is a transportation committee member and also serves on TA’s board, set the record straight.

“We have our conflict of interest rules to prevent the prospect of somebody putting their own private gain over the community interest,” he said. “It’s no secret that I’m a [TA] board member. It was on my community board application. [Council Member] Gale Brewer was well aware of it; in fact, it may be the reason she appointed me. We’re all appointed to this community board because we’re civically engaged, and I imagine Gale saw this as evidence of my civic engagement.”

“I did,” Brewer shouted from the back, to applause from the audience.

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Hundreds Gather to Launch the Park Slope Street Safety Partnership

ps_church

Photo: Doug Gordon

Last night, nearly 200 neighborhood residents gathered for over two hours in the Park Slope United Methodist Church for the launch of the Park Slope Street Safety Partnership, a consortium of civic groups, elected officials, and private citizens created to advance traffic calming efforts in the neighborhood.

Framing the partnership’s goals in terms of Vision Zero and the UK’s “Twenty is Plenty” campaign, Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors displayed a slide with this mission statement: “To initiate an ongoing conversation about, and action plan for, eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries from our street…”

“The ellipses are intentional,” said McClure, noting that this would be just the first in a series of meetings. “We’re not going to fix this tonight.” But with the recent death of 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein in Park Slope, along with crashes that claimed the lives of 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather in Fort Greene and 3-year-old Allison Liao in Flushing, McClure highlighted a growing sense of urgency.  “Sixteen children have been killed in traffic crashes this year,” he said. “We need to fix that not just here in Park Slope, but citywide.”

Council Member Brad Lander emphasized the sense of passion in the church, relating the forum to other projects that succeeded on the strength of community involvement, from the redesign of Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park West to improvements at Bartel Pritchard Square and along Fourth Avenue. “This crowd is very hopeful and inspiring,” he said. “By acting together, we can save lives.” Lander’s call was later echoed by Public Advocate-elect Letitia James, who said that in her new role she would “remind Bill de Blasio that this is a priority… so that we never have to light candles, sing songs, and bury individuals prematurely.”

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CB 5 Closes in on Requesting Complete Streets Study for 5th and 6th Avenues

Fifth Avenue at 48th Street: Lots of space for cars; bike riders and walkers on the margins. Photo: Google Maps

Fifth Avenue at 48th Street: Lots of space for cars, with people walking and biking on the margins. Photo: Google Maps

The campaign for a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly design on crowded Fifth and Sixth Avenues has crossed its first major milestone, with Community Board 5′s transportation committee advancing a resolution asking DOT for a complete streets study.

The resolution, which passed the committee last Monday in a unanimous vote, is set to be taken up by the full board on December 12. “It’s just acknowledging that there’s a problem and that they need to be studied,” said Transportation Alternatives volunteer Janet Liff. “The proposal is really to take a look at the concept of a complete street, which includes pedestrian space, bulb outs, bike lanes, and express bus service.”

TA’s campaign for to make Fifth and Sixth Avenues safer is “emphasizing that pedestrians do come first,” Liff said. Committee chair Raju Mann also told Streetsblog that discussion of the resolution last month focused primarily on pedestrians.

Even with scarce accommodations for bicycling, Fifth and Sixth Avenues continue to rank among the busiest Manhattan avenues for cyclists. Over an 18-hour period in September 2012, DOT counted more than 5,000 people biking on the pair of avenues, exceeding every other northbound/southbound pair in Manhattan, though Eighth and Ninth Avenues, which have protected bike lanes, sometimes do see more bicycle traffic [PDF].

When activist group Right of Way painted guerrilla bike lanes on Sixth Avenue in September, DOT spokesperson Seth Solomonow said the agency would consider street design requests from the local community board. Monday’s vote puts CB 5 closer to making that request happen.

Short stretches of Fifth and Sixth Avenue are also part of Community Boards 2 and 4. Caroline Samponaro, TA’s senior director of campaigns and organizing, said approaching those boards would be a “next step” after securing support from CB 5. In addition to a coalition letter signed by block associations, commercial landlords, and small businesses, TA’s online petition for the complete streets study has garnered more than 10,000 signatures. “People are aware that on just two avenues in each direction there are these improvements,” she said. “They’re asking: ‘What about us?’”

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Blumenauer, Bipartisan Co-Sponsors Set Out to Improve Street Safety Metrics

After a long period of inaction on Capitol Hill, the wheels are beginning to turn again. Lawmakers introduced not one but two good transportation-related bills yesterday: one that aims to improve the safety of walking and biking and one that would establish a national infrastructure bank.

A new bill could mean fewer ghost bikes. Photo: ##http://photoblog.statesman.com/a-ghost-bike-and-a-memorial-bike-ride-for-andrew-runciman-hit-and-run-victim##Collective Vision##

Better performance measures could mean fewer ghost bikes. Photo: Collective Vision

We’ll get into the infrastructure bank bill in a separate post. First, let’s look at the bill Rep. Earl Blumenauer introduced last night. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act (HR 3494) would establish performance measures for pedestrian and cyclist safety.

Specifically, it would direct U.S. DOT to create metrics for states to assess and address “serious injuries and fatalities per vehicle mile traveled” and “the number of serious injuries and fatalities” for “non-motorized transportation” — a.k.a. walking and biking. Current law has no such emphasis on active transportation.

Reps. Howard Coble of North Carolina and Mike McCaul of Texas — both Republicans — co-sponsored the bill, along with Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat. They are all members of the Congressional Bike Caucus, which Blumenauer founded.

In his statement on the bill, Blumenauer noted that the number of bike commuters has increased by more than 60 percent over the last decade. “As transportation systems adjust to handle different types of road users, the federal government must encourage appropriate standards to ensure road user safety,” he said.

Pedestrians and bicyclists accounted for 17 percent of traffic fatalities last year — a proportion that’s on the rise. But less than 1 percent of transportation safety funds support infrastructure for walking and biking.

“While overall traffic deaths are down, the number of bicyclists dying on our roadways has increased by nine percent and pedestrian deaths have gone up by three percent recently,” said Coble in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation strives to reduce the number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed and injured on our roadways. It will help protect all users of our transportation system, while giving states flexibility to enact measures that make sense for them.”

Indeed, the legislation preserves state control by allowing states to set their own safety targets, with “the flexibility to choose the best methods to meet them,” according to the press release. Tellingly, the bill “encourages states to make their roadways safer without diverting funding from other safety needs,” according to the press release. There is no funding component in the legislation.

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CB 12 Committee Endorses Ped Improvements at Chaotic Inwood Intersection

Left turn bans and added pedestrian space proposed for Broadway, Dyckman Street and Riverside Drive. Image: DOT. Click to enlarge

Long-awaited improvements to a hazardous Broadway crossing in Inwood could be implemented next year, if Community Board 12 passes a resolution that cleared the board’s transportation committee this week.

The committee and around 50 residents gathered Monday night to hear DOT’s proposals for the intersection of Broadway, Dyckman/200th Street and Riverside Drive [PDF], where pedestrians must negotiate long crosswalks and signals that force them to look out for drivers coming from different directions simultaneously. In addition to local traffic, the intersection is consistently clogged by motorists headed to and from the West Side Highway and those who drive through Inwood to avoid tolls on the Henry Hudson Bridge.

There were 128 crashes at the intersection from 2010 to 2012, DOT said, resulting in injuries to three cyclists, five pedestrians, and 10 vehicle occupants. Thirty-five pedestrians and cyclists were injured there between 1996 and 2009, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat.

DOT’s suggested remedy is a relatively simple mix of turn bans, signalization tweaks, new signage, and enhancements to pedestrian space. DOT would prohibit left turns from northbound Broadway onto Dyckman and Riverside, left turns from Dyckman to southbound Broadway, left turns from southbound Broadway to Dyckman, and U-turns from Riverside to Dyckman. DOT proposes to add paint or concrete to two pedestrian islands on the west side of the intersection, and to extend the curb on the southeast corner. These alterations would shorten crossing distances and eliminate conflicts between pedestrians and turning drivers at the west and south crosswalks.

Currently pedestrians must look out for motorists approaching from different directions simultaneously. Photo: DOT

Alternate routes for motorists would be marked with new signage. DOT staff said peak hour counts showed that the impact on residential streets, where auto traffic would be directed, would be minimal. Still, objections to the plan centered mostly on diverting traffic to narrower streets that are lined with apartment buildings.

Several locals said the plan should take into account the overwhelming number of drivers who are drawn to the area by La Marina, a restaurant and nightclub at the west end of Dyckman Street that offers valet parking. Maria Luna, former CB 12 chair and current board member, and resident Bryan Davis yelled for a while about how the turn bans would make it more difficult to drive in the neighborhood, especially since Broadway is usually lined with double-parked vehicles.

DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione said longer green signals for Broadway and Riverside traffic would mean less congestion on Broadway. DOT staff and committee member Elizabeth Lorris-Ritter also noted that the plan is intended to address pedestrian safety at the intersection, and won’t solve all of the area’s traffic problems.

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