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Posts from the "Bicycling" Category

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Mayor Bill Peduto Wants to “Leapfrog” Your City on Bicycling and Livability

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is putting the rest of the United States on notice. His city is on the rise, and he fully intends to keep it that way.

For the first time in over half a century, Pittsburgh is expecting an increase in residents as the number of people moving back to the city grows. Complete streets policies are high on Peduto’s agenda for managing this growth and making the city more attractive. Earlier this month, the ProWalk ProBike ProPlace conference took place in Pittsburgh, and the energy of the city was on full display. So was Peduto, who was very active at the event.

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Mayor Bill Peduto soaks up some rays at Park(ing) Day 2014. Photo: City of Pittsburgh

Peduto is now at the forefront of a new wave of American mayors who understand how reforming the design and function of urban streets is key to growing a city. When talking to him, it’s clear right off the bat that he’s well-versed in urbanism and the history of cities. Even so, he wants to learn more. This summer, he went on a study tour with The Green Lane Project to check out the best bike infrastructure Copenhagen has to offer.

Local advocates have high hopes for Peduto’s administration, which has already delivered some high-profile improvements. According to the latest stats, Pittsburgh has the 11th highest bike mode share in the country, and there is solid momentum to build on that. Pittsburgh recently implemented its first true protected bike lanes downtown, part of Peduto’s push to create a more multi-modal city.

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NYC Bike Commuting Doubled Since 2009, While Solo Driving Dropped

Trends in how New Yorkers get to work are moving in the right direction. Twice as many New Yorkers went to work by bike last year as in 2009, according to US Census data out today, while transit usage rose 3 percent and driving alone to work dropped 9 percent.

Each year, the Census asks a large sample of Americans to choose the single mode of transportation they most often use to get to and from work. Last year, 1.21 percent of New Yorkers said they usually commute by bike, up from 0.61 percent in 2009. The estimated number of regular bike commuters in New York City is up from 22,619 in 2009 to 46,065 last year, give or take about 4,500 to account for the margin of error [XLS].

Bicycling has the most room to grow of any mode in NYC, but transit commuting is also on the rise. More than 56 percent of New Yorkers — that’s nearly 2.2 million people – commute by transit, up 3 percent from 2009. That increase came as the percentage of residents commuting alone by car dropped to 21.4 percent, down 9 percent from 2009. Even as the population has grown, the number of New Yorkers driving solo to work has dropped from 876,953 in 2009 to 814,612 last year.

New York is still behind the pack of major cities leading the country in bike commute rates. In Portland, Oregon, 5.9 percent of residents go to work by bike, while it’s 4.5 percent in Washington, DC, 3.8 percent in San Francisco, 2.3 percent in Philadelphia, and 1.9 percent in Boston. New York is closing in on the only city of comparable size with a higher bike mode-share — Chicago, where 1.4 percent of residents commute by bike.

In terms of the rate of increase, New York is outpacing the smaller cities too, with bike commuting doubling since 2009. (DC was the only other major city to post a larger gain.) According to the Census, New York now has about the same number of bike commuters as Portland and DC combined.

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Cyclists Sue New York State DMV for Unlawful Ticket Penalties

New York City cyclists have filed a class action lawsuit against the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles for administering penalties for traffic violations that by law apply only to motorists.

NYPD ticketed thousands during

NYPD ticketed thousands during “Operation Safe Cycle.” How many were cheated by the New York State DMV? Photo via @OpSafeCycle

In an August Streetsblog column, attorney Steve Vaccaro reported that the DMV cheats cyclists who plead guilty to traffic tickets online by billing an $88 surcharge that doesn’t apply to bike violations, and attaching drivers license points that don’t legally apply. The DMV online ticket payment system does not distinguish between bikes and motor vehicles.

The agency acknowledged to Vaccaro that it was violating the law, and agreed to refund the improper surcharge for two of Vaccaro’s clients, but did not indicate that it would do the same for other cyclists, or correct its procedures going forward.

Vaccaro filed suit Tuesday on behalf of six cyclists [PDF]. The plaintiffs seek to be a representative class for cyclists statewide whom the DMV penalized improperly.

“The DMV admits to cheating, but has offered to pay refunds only to bicyclists who request it in writing,” says Vaccaro. “That approach would result in only a small fraction of the persons cheated receiving a refund. DMV has also failed to put forward a plan to prevent the problem from recurring in the future, other than giving DMV staff a ‘reminder’ that different rules apply to bicycle violations.”

In the complaint, one of the plaintiffs says he pled guilty and paid the correct fine, then received a DMV notice threatening to suspend his license and apply additional fines if he didn’t pay the surcharge as well. Another plaintiff asked DMV in writing for an explanation of the “mandatory surcharge,” and was told he had to pay it. Only after repeated inquiries did a DMV staffer agree to revisit whether the surcharge applied to bike tickets.

The complaint says DMV directed all plaintiffs to pay the motorist surcharge and accept three license points as a condition of pleading guilty. The complaint alleges that DMV failed to train employees to distinguish between cyclist and motorist tickets. The suit seeks damages for increased auto insurance premiums that resulted from the wrongful application of license points, as well as changes to the DMV traffic ticket form and web site to prevent cyclists from improper penalties in the future.

Vaccaro filed a freedom of information request for data on how many cyclists may be entitled to refunds, a number that the complaint says may be in the hundreds of thousands. Cyclists who believe they were unlawfully penalized by DMV are encouraged to contact Vaccaro’s firm.

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Trottenberg Talks About Expanding Cycling in the de Blasio Era

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg sat down for a Q&A with the New York Cycle Club Monday night to lay out her approach to expanding the city’s bike network. With NYU Rudin Center director Mitchell Moss moderating, Trottenberg said DOT will keep adding bike lanes on her watch, including protected lanes, without seeking to change a review process that has often delayed or watered down street redesigns despite ample evidence of public support.

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg talked bikes last night with New York Cycle Club members. Photo: Stephen Miller

Photo: Stephen Miller

“There has been, and I’ll credit my predecessor for this, a sea change in the attitude about bike lanes in New York,” Trottenberg said, referring to former commish Janette Sadik-Khan. While the city’s media and political establishment may no longer be in full-blown bikelash mode, Trottenberg noted that not everyone welcomes each new bike project. “At the granular, neighborhood level, you’ll meet folks who don’t like it,” she said.

She also defended DOT’s deference to community board votes as the agency’s default approach to public involvement in bike projects. ”The philosophy of working with neighborhoods is a sound one,” Trottenberg said. She pointed to West End Avenue, where a recent road diet project added breathing room for cyclists but omitted bike lanes. Bike lanes can easily be added once more cyclists take to the route and the community acclimates to the calmer street, she said. That may be true of painted lanes, but protected lanes would probably involve more intensive upgrades.

Trottenberg has said DOT will add 30 miles of on-street bike lanes each year, including five miles of protected bike lanes, with an eye on neighborhoods beyond already well-served parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Audience members requested protected bike lanes on the Harlem River bridges, the Grand Concourse, on the MTA-owned Henry Hudson and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges, and Queens Boulevard, where Trottenberg cited left turns as contributing to a recent uptick in crashes.

During the 2013 race for mayor, Bill de Blasio set a goal of having bicycling account for 6 percent of all trips in New York City by 2020. That’s an ambitious target, and a notoriously difficult one to measure. Trottenberg said DOT currently estimates bike mode-share at about 1.5 percent of trips citywide, and that the department is developing new methods to get a more precise measurement. ”There’s no question, we’re probably going to need to up our ability to count [cyclists] around the city,” she said after the event. “I have to confess, we have not fully figured out how we’re going to do that.”

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In Jackson Heights, Kids Learn About Bike Safety and Document Speeding

On Saturday, Make Queens Safer kicked off the school year with a safe streets fair at Travers Park in Jackson Heights, next to the 78th Street play street. DOT distributed 723 bike helmets, more than half of them to children, and 70 kids swapped out their old bikes for right-sized models provided by Recycle-A-Bicycle. Hundreds of kids also participated in learn-to-ride classes from Bike New York and had their bicycles repaired by the Bike Yard.

At the event, Make Queens Safer hosted a “kid engineers” traffic study, where local students used speed guns on traffic along 34th Avenue. The students documented speeding, red light running, and near-collisions. They found that up to 17 percent of drivers were speeding, with a maximum observed speed of 41 mph.

Council Member Daniel Dromm was one of the adults supervising the kids performing the study. “I applaud Make Queens Safer for putting together this important event,” he said in a statement. “Providing the tools and knowledge on how to safely navigate the streets of our neighborhoods can help reduce accidents and improve the quality of life for all members of our community.”

Can’t get enough bike events for kids? Join Kidical Mass for its September ride along five miles of the Brooklyn waterfront, starting at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. An RSVP on Facebook is requested.

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Need to Add a Bike Lane to a Bridge? Experiment Like Pittsburgh Did

The Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place 2014 conference took place this week in Pittsburgh. Even though the Andy Warhol Bridge already has a nice shared bike-ped path on it, for one week the city decided to put bike lanes on its roadway. It’s the simplest design you can imagine, just two rows of small traffic barriers and a little bit of signage. I compiled a few moments of footage while walking to an event one night.

In New York City, the Brooklyn Bridge is just packed with pedestrians and cyclists. For about the last ten years or so, the crowding gets so intense at peak hours that it can be perilous. There have been many solutions suggested over the years, including converting one of the roadway’s car lanes to a two-way protected bike lane so cyclists and pedestrians don’t have to jostle for space on the narrow promenade they currently share.

Of course the Brooklyn Bridge has more traffic of all types than the Andy Warhol Bridge. But keep this Pittsburgh experiment in mind for the future. Something has to be done on the Brooklyn Bridge. Maybe a trial bike lane during the summer would be a good place to start.

It wouldn’t be an unprecedented decision. There are many other examples throughout the world — here’s our video of Vancouver giving road space to bikes on the Burrard Bridge:

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Protected Lanes Are a Great Start — Next Goal Is Low-Stress Bike Networks

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

For decades, protected bike lanes were a “missing tool” in American street design. Now that this is changing, bikeway design leaders are identifying a new frontier: low-stress grids.

Dan Goodman of the Federal Highway Administration says the federal Department of Transportation is shifting its strategy from emphasizing biking facilities to emphasizing biking networks.

“Separated bike lanes are part of the toolbox that get us to connected networks,” said Dan Goodman of the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Human Environment.

Speaking at the Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference in Pittsburgh, Goodman said a draft 2014-2018 FHWA strategic plan prioritizes, for the first time, the enhancement of pedestrian and bicycle networks instead of just “one-off” facilities.

“We want people to be not just thinking about resurfacing one mile and having the bike lane die, especially if there’s a shared-use path one block away,” Goodman said. “We want to focus on filling those gaps… That’s something that you’ll be hearing us talk about a lot more.”

Under Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, creating connected networks is one of four overarching policy priorities for the U.S. Department of Transportation, he said. (The others are safety, data and performance measures, and equity.)

Martha Roskowski, vice president for local innovation at PeopleForBikes, described “the network” as “where things are going.”

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Why the Next Fight Over Bike/Ped Funding Won’t Be Like the Last

When Congress passed a two-year transportation bill in 2012, active transportation advocates had to scrape and claw for every penny of funding for walking and biking programs. When the dust settled, it seemed they would have to repeat the same old battles when the law expired.

Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN), who co-sponsored the Bike to Work Act this summer, is one of the bike community's new Republican friends in Congress. Photo: ##https://beta.congress.gov/member/erik-paulsen/1930##Congress.gov##

Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN), who co-sponsored the Bike to Work Act this summer, is one of the new bike-friendly Republicans in Congress. Photo: Congress.gov

Right now the current law is up for renewal in May, though it could very well be extended as-is with another short-term funding fix. But at some point, Congress will have to get serious about crafting and passing a new transportation bill. Will bike/ped funding be as contentious as last time?

Caron Whitaker of the League of American Bicyclists thinks not.

Of course, there will be some similarities, she told an audience at the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference in Pittsburgh yesterday. Two recent anti-bike amendments from senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and David Vitter (R-LA) have already put national advocates on notice that they’ll be playing defense again.

With the funding question still totally unresolved, it’s unlikely the next bill will be flush with cash, so lawmakers are likely to start looking for “extraneous” things to cut, and some are sure to zero in on the tiny amount allocated to bike and pedestrian projects through the Transportation Alternatives Program. Whitaker guesses that advocates and grassroots supporters will have to mobilize three or four times in the next couple of years to fight off attacks like those.

Those are the similarities. But there are some significant differences, too.

There are now about 20 Congressional Republicans who reliably sign on to pro-bike legislation. The last time around, there were only three.

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DOT Scores TIGER Grants for Vision Zero and Rockaways Transpo Study

City Hall and Senator Charles Schumer announced yesterday that NYC DOT had secured a $25 million federal grant for street safety and greenway projects in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. Notably, the press release announcing the funding hailed street design improvements as a “critical” component of the city’s Vision Zero safety agenda. In addition, a separate $1.4 million federal grant will fund a transportation study for the Rockaways.

A planted concrete median extension at Fourth Avenue and 45th Street will be funded in part by a federal TIGER grant. Rendering: NYC DOT [PDF]

The awards are from US DOT’s competitive TIGER program, which doesn’t always distribute funds to New York City. While the city nabbed two awards from the program this year and has received awards from the program in the past, all three of New York’s TIGER applications were rejected last year.

The $25 million grant comes on top of $21.2 million in federal highway safety funds distributed by the state earlier this year to similar projects. These grants can supplement dollars from the city’s vast capital budget, which also funds DOT’s bike and pedestrian programs.

The TIGER grant will help support a pedestrian safety redesign near the Metro-North station at Park Avenue and 125th Street in Harlem, where DOT is planning wider sidewalks and narrower car lanes on Park Avenue, as well as curb extensions at 124th, 125th and 126th Streets. It will also fund the capital construction of a road diet initially installed with paint and flexible posts on two sections of Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, from 8th to 18th Streets in Park Slope and from 33rd to 52nd Streets in Sunset Park. Extensions of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway will also get a boost from the grant, one near the Gowanus Canal and another in Bay Ridge, where wider sidewalks and a two-way protected bike path on Hamilton Avenue will connect to the existing greenway near Owl’s Head Park.

The TIGER grant will also support eight Safe Routes to School projects:

  • PS 154 Harriet Tubman School in Harlem will receive three curb extensions and six pedestrian islands
  • PS 54 in Woodhaven, Queens will receive four curb extensions and four pedestrian islands
  • PS 239 in Ridgewood, Queens will have a nearby complex intersection simplified and receive expanded pedestrian islands and sidewalks
  • PS 199 Maurice Fitzgerald School in Long Island City, Queens will receive five curb extensions and two pedestrian islands
  • PS 92 Harry T. Stewart in Corona, Queens will receive six curb extensions and four pedestrian islands
  • PS 13 Clement C. Moore in Flushing, Queens will receive seven curb extensions and one pedestrian island
  • Our Lady’s Catholic Academy in South Ozone Park, Queens will receive five curb extensions and three pedestrian islands
  • Our Lady’s Queen of Peace School in New Dorp, Staten Island will have a nearby complex intersection simplified and receive four curb extensions, a plaza, and improved traffic channelization.

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“Build It for Isabella”: Putting a Face on Why People Hesitate to Bike

build for isabella

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Eight years ago, Portland Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller wrote one of the most influential pieces of modern American bike-planning theory when he divided the potential transportation bikers in his city into four distinct groups:

It was an antidote to one of the most common and dubious ways people think about about bicycling: by dividing the world into “cyclists” and “non-cyclists.” Because of course that’s not how things really work.  People are constantly choosing whether to use a bicycle for a trip; the fact that most Americans choose not to isn’t so much about their fundamental nature but about their culture, their resources, and their streets.

Geller was just spitballing with the percentages displayed above, but they were more or less validated by subsequent academic research. And though this framework didn’t capture everything — dangerous traffic is far from the only barrier to bicycling — it was a new, deeply useful way of thinking and talking about the ways infrastructure affects our choices.

Here at Green Lane Project HQ, Geller’s concept has been a major force behind our work helping cities build protected bike lanes.

But like Bob Edmiston of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, who has created a useful riff on the concept with a character called Wendy (“the willing but wary cyclist”), we think these phrases are sort of a mouthful for people outside the world of bike pros. And we also think they don’t fully capture how much is at stake on our city streets.

So we’ve been looking for a new way to capture the concept.

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