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What Cities Are Learning About Making Bike-Share More Equitable

Cities are gaining more insight about how to make bike share work for the poor. Photo: NACTO

Cities are gaining more insight into how bike-share can be more useful and accessible to low-income people. Photo: NACTO

So far, the customer base of American bike-share systems has skewed toward affluent white men. But cities have been working to make the systems more useful and accessible to a broader spectrum of people, and in a new report, the National Association of City Transportation Officials has compiled some of the lessons learned.

Here are a few key takeaways:

The appeal of monthly membership plans

Photo: NACTO

Image: NACTO

The price of a full 12-month membership can be a barrier for some people. Providing the option of monthly passes or installment plans encourages people across all income levels to try bike-share, NACTO reports.

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First Avenue Bike Lane Fix on Hold Until Pope and UN Leave Town

Image: DOT

Wait until next month for safety improvements on First Avenue. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT was supposed to start filling the gap in the First Avenue protected bike lane in Midtown this summer, but the agency says it’s waiting until the Pope leaves town and the UN General Assembly adjourns before moving forward.

When the First Avenue bike lane was installed in 2011, DOT left a gap of 10 blocks south of 59th Street, instead going with sharrows to maximize the number of car lanes approaching the toll-free Queensboro Bridge. Then this May DOT came back and got Community Board 6’s backing to fill the gap.

The plan was to install a protected bike lane and pedestrian islands from 49th to 55th streets over the summer, before coming back to CB 6 in September or October with a design for the final few blocks. That segment, from 55th to 58th streets, is clogged with multiple lanes of drivers turning left across the paths of cyclists.

DOT Bicycle Program Director Hayes Lord explained the process at a meeting of the New York Cycle Club last night. “We couldn’t even model the portion from 55th to 59th,” he said of the traffic challenges. “[CB 5 members] were very pleased that we were taking this approach, that we weren’t just ramming it through. We want to do it right. So we will take our time.”

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Eyes on the Street: Parks Officers Ignore Driver on Greenway [Updated]

A driver on the greenway? No way! Photo: Shelly Mossey

Reader Shelly Mossey says park enforcement patrol officers just to the right of the woman in green claim they never saw this driver on the greenway before waving him into a parking garage on Sunday. Photo: Shelly Mossey

A driver cruised down the Hudson River Greenway Sunday afternoon, passing park enforcement patrol officers who waved him into a parking garage at Pier 40. When Streetsblog reader Shelly Mossey asked why they didn’t ticket him, the officers pleaded ignorance.

Mossey was biking south on the Hudson River Greenway, on his way home to Battery Park City at about 5:45 p.m. Sunday. “I get to Houston Street, and I’m behind this minivan,” he said. The driver sat through a couple of light cycles as Parks Department enforcement officers next to the greenway waved cross traffic into the parking garage at Pier 40.

Eventually, the driver saw an opening during a green light. “They just waved him through into his parking spot,” Mossey said.

Mossey, a regular greenway user, recognized one of the Parks officers, who regularly hands out red light tickets to bicyclists. Mossey approached the officer to ask why he didn’t issue a ticket.

“He was like, ‘What minivan? They were on the bikeway? You’re kidding me!'” Mossey recalled. That’s when Mossey pulled up a photo he just took on his phone. “He says, ‘Oh, there’s nothing I can do from that. I can’t do anything with a photograph.'” Rather than going after the driver he had just waved into the parking garage, the officer said he would memorize the car’s New York license plate.

Frustrated by the disinterest from enforcement officers, Mossey left. “Their attitude is even more shocking than the guy driving on the bikeway,” he said. “There’s no way they didn’t see him. It’s not possible.”

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House Dems: We Won’t Support a Transpo Bill That Cuts Bike/Ped Funding

House Democrats won’t stand for any cuts to federal funding for walking and biking infrastructure. That was the gist of a letter signed by every Democratic member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week.

Rick Larsen, a congressman representing parts of Washington State, rallied Democrats to support funding for biking, walking and transit. Photo: Rick Larsen

Rick Larsen, a congressman representing parts of Washington state, rallied Democrats to support funding for biking, walking, and transit.

Groups aligned with the Koch brothers and their organization Americans for Prosperity have pushed to eliminate all federal funds for walking, biking, and transit. While Democrats are in the minority in the House, by coordinating as a bloc around this issue, they’re making it harder for the extreme elements in the Republican Party to roll back active transportation funding.

The letter, initiated by Washington representative Rick Larsen, states that Democratic committee members won’t support any bill that undermines the “Transportation Alternatives” program — the small pot of money dedicated to walking and biking.

“For the House transportation bill to be bipartisan, it must not cut funding for TAP or make policy changes that undermine the local availability of these dollars,” reads the letter, addressed to the committee’s two ranking Democratic members, Peter DeFazio (OR) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC):

Communities of all shapes and sizes — rural, urban and suburban — are clamoring for TAP dollars to give their residents lower-cost transportation options that reduce road congestion, improve safety for children and families, and boost quality of life. These types of projects are also essential to helping cities and counties increase property values, grow retail sales and attract tourism. While MAP-21 gave states the option of transferring up to half of TAP funds to other transportation priorities, just 10 percent of TAP funds have been transferred — clearly showing the demand for these funds across the country. This is a good program and it deserves to continue.

Congress has yet to make much progress on a long-term transportation bill to replace the previous bill, MAP-21, which expired last year. During the last transportation bill reauthorization process, biking and walking programs took a big hit. In an email to Streetsblog, Larsen said, “I do not want to see that happen again.”

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Eyes on the Street: Signs That the Pulaski Bikeway Will Really Happen


A reader sends in this shot of the southbound side of the Pulaski Bridge, taken yesterday morning. That was the day NYC DOT said construction would start on the two-way protected bike lane over the bridge, which has been beset by delays until recently.

Not that long ago it looked like construction of the bikeway, originally slated for 2014, might not begin until next March. But in the last few weeks the timetable has accelerated, and now DOT says it will be complete by the spring.

Those orange construction cones may not look like much, but they’re a sign that people won’t have to fight over scraps of space on the Pulaski’s narrow, shared biking and walking path much longer.


CB 12 Committee Backs Road Diet, Bike Lanes on St. Nicholas Ave

A road diet and bike lanes could come to St. Nicholas Avenue next spring. Photo: Stephen Miller

A road diet and bike lanes could come to St. Nicholas Avenue next spring. Image: DOT [PDF]

A DOT proposal for a road diet and bike lanes St. Nicholas Avenue in Washington Heights got a vote of support last night from the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee. The project could get striped next spring.

The bike lanes will connect with newly-installed bike lanes near the High Bridge in Washington Heights, and to a two-way protected bike lane on Fort George Hill, which has survived attacks from nearby co-op residents.

The proposal, which would cover a little more than a mile of St. Nicholas between 169th and 193rd streets, would bring the avenue from two car lanes in each direction to one, with bike lanes, center turn lanes and, in a potential second phase, pedestrian islands [PDF].

The rate of people killed or seriously injured on this stretch of St. Nicholas is more dangerous than two-thirds of Manhattan streets, according to DOT. There were 25 severe injuries, including 18 pedestrians and 2 bicyclists, between 2009 and 2013, and a total 404 of injuries during the same period.

Intersections at 175th, 177th, 178th, 181st and 185th streets rank in the most dangerous ten percent of Manhattan intersections. These are also intersections with high foot traffic — people outnumber motor vehicles during rush hours.

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Is DOT Setting Up the Amsterdam Avenue Bike Lane to Fail?

Up until a few years ago, when neighborhood residents approached DOT about redesigning a street for greater safety, they expected to get shot down by the agency’s top engineers. In 2004, one former DOT official summed up the department’s attitude as, “We will do pedestrian safety, but only when it doesn’t come at the expense of the flow of traffic.”

DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo (top) is sounding a lot like CB 7 bike lane opponent Dan Zweig (bottom). Photos: Stephen Miller

DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo (top) is sounding a lot like CB 7 bike lane opponent Dan Zweig (bottom). Photos: Stephen Miller

DOT has changed since then — there’s a greater recognition that moving cars should not take precedence over safety, economic vitality, and the efficient movement of people. But there are signs the agency is slipping back into old habits.

A test of the department’s commitment to safer street design is imminent on the Upper West Side, where persistent advocacy by local residents finally convinced DOT to develop a plan for a protected bike lane and pedestrian islands on Amsterdam Avenue. DOT is expected to present the plan to Community Board 7 in the near future. The trouble is, agency officials are talking as if they’ll frame the project as a choice between safety and traffic flow. That would be a page out of the old DOT playbook and a huge step backward.

When Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said DOT will come out with a plan for Amsterdam Avenue this fall, she added some caveats. “Amsterdam Avenue is challenging… Just the way the traffic moves and the configuration of the roadway do make it a more challenging road to redesign [than Columbus Avenue],” she said. “But we’re going to come up with some plans and we’re going to lay them out for the community board and for everyone who’s interested.”

Then at a press event late last month, DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo spoke candidly with me about how he views the politics of expanding the city’s bike network. At one point the conversation turned to the Upper West Side, where the agency had to be cajoled into proposing better bike lanes at the bowtie intersection of Broadway and Columbus Avenue last year. Russo defended the absence of bike lanes in DOT’s road diet plan for West End Avenue, saying they wouldn’t have been supported by residents of “green awning buildings” and local Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

I asked Russo why, in that case, Rosenthal is backing a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue. “I don’t know. She hasn’t seen the numbers yet,” he said with a laugh. What numbers? “Our analysis,” he replied. “We’re going to bring it to the community board and explain to people what the implications are, like the commissioner said.”

The implication is that DOT expects Rosenthal and CB 7’s support to wither after the agency presents its plan. And if DOT trots out traffic models that predict carmageddon when Amsterdam has a protected bike lane and one less car lane, the agency will certainly be leading the conversation in that direction.

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Roosevelt Island Leadership Quashes Proposed Bike Ban on Bridge Ramp

It looks like bicycles aren’t going to be banned from the Roosevelt Island Bridge helix ramp after all.

Too dangerous for Roosevelt Island? Image: Frank Farance/YouTube

This won’t be banned anytime soon. Image: Frank Farance/YouTube

Last night, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, the state authority that manages the island, held a meeting of its operations advisory committee, reports the Roosevelt Islander blog. Its members came to an agreement that without a viable alternative for getting between the bridge and ground level, banning bicycles from the helix ramp wouldn’t be feasible.

“I don’t really think it’s safe for cyclists to be on the helix because of the nature of car and truck traffic on there. The problem is we need to come up with a viable alternative,” said RIOC Director Michael Shinozaki, who suggested repairing the long-dormant escalator within the Motorgate parking garage. No one at last night’s meeting knew why the escalator had been shut down for years, but RIOC President Charlene Indelicato said Cornell Tech, which is building a campus on the island, has agreed to investigate possible escalator repairs.

Until then, RIOC will study striping and signage to calm traffic on the helix. Bike New York, which has worked with RIOC to offer bicycle education courses, offered to distribute flyers to cyclists about how to properly ride on the helix. The group also provided recommendations to RIOC about improving helix safety, including speed enforcement, signage, sharrows, and education of construction truck drivers working at the Cornell Tech campus.

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Bike Racks Debut on Buses Across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

New Yorkers are finally getting to try out a multi-modal transportation option that’s old hat to residents of other major American cities — bike racks on buses. Sunday marked the debut of front-mounted bike racks on the S53 and S93 buses across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

One of the first bikes to cross the Verrazano Narrows by bus. Photo: Meredith Sladek

One of the first bikes to cross the Verrazano-Narrows by bus. Photo: Meredith Sladek

The MTA purchased 38 bike racks at a cost of $42,000 and installed them on 31 buses as part of a one-year pilot program. The agency will evaluate three different models: Byk-Rak 2 Position, Sportworks Veloporter 2, and Sportworks DL2. If successful, the MTA may expand the program, starting with other bus routes across bridges.

The racks have carried bikes on 12 trips so far, including two this morning, the MTA said.

Streetsblog reader Meredith Sladek used the racks on a Sunday trip to Bay Ridge from Staten Island. It was a cinch, even for a newbie, she says.

“I have never used a bus rack before — hard to believe but true — and it took me about five seconds, tops. The instructions were printed on the rack itself,” she wrote in an email. “The drivers were great ambassadors: Both were really genial, helpful, patient, and informative.”

The MTA has also released an instructional video on how to use the racks. Sadly, it does not feature lyrics by Mr. Theo — but Stephen Colbert’s smiling face does make an appearance.


Lentol: Pulaski Bridge Bikeway Construction to Begin September 14

Construction of the Pulaski Bridge protected bike lane is now set to begin in a matter of days, according to Assembly Member Joe Lentol, and could wrap before the end of the year.

Coming, potentially sooner than expected. Image: DOT

The Pulaski Bridge bikeway may be back on track to wrap up in 2015. Image: DOT

DOT had announced last month that drainage design issues would delay the start of construction until next March, but that no longer seems to be the case.

Lentol says the complications have been resolved sooner than expected, and DOT will begin installation of the bikeway on September 14, potentially wrapping up by the end of the year.

DOT did not respond to an inquiry about the project timeline.

The Pulaski Bridge bikeway will provide relief for pedestrians and cyclists who currently share a narrow path on the west side of the bridge between Greenpoint and Long Island City. It will also calm traffic on the southbound side the bridge, which funnels traffic onto McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint and will have two lanes instead of three.

The project had already been delayed once after the initial timetable pegged it for completion last year. It looks like there won’t be a second major delay after all.

With Citi Bike arriving on both sides of the bridge this month, that’s welcome news to Lentol, who’s been a booster of the project since 2012. “I am delighted that this project could potentially be completed before the winter. We have been fighting for a long time for this dedicated bike lane,” he said. “I applaud DOT and the company fabricating the barriers for making this project a top priority.”