Skip to content

SB event logo 580x200

Posts from the Car-Free Streets Category

2 Comments

Gale Brewer Endorses TA’s 14th Street PeopleWay Campaign

In May, Gale Brewer (podium) expressed interest in a bus-only 14th Street at a press conference hosted by Riders Alliance. Photo: David Meyer

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (podium) expressed interest in a bus-only 14th Street at this press conference hosted by Riders Alliance in May. Photo: David Meyer

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wants to prioritize buses, bikes, and pedestrians on Manhattan’s 14th Street when the L train shuts down for 18 months beginning in January 2019. Brewer signed onto Transportation Alternatives’ “PeopleWay” campaign yesterday after meeting with campaign organizers.

“To get through 18 months without the L train, we’ll need to move people along 14th Street like never before,” she said in a statement. “We need the DOT and MTA to conduct studies and get more community feedback before we’ll know what the best plan is, but some form of 14th Street PeopleWay has to be part of the solution.”

The shutdown will leave hundreds of thousands of daily L train commuters in need of reliable and fast alternatives. Buses running on dedicated lanes between Williamsburg and Manhattan are the most efficient way to accomplish that goal. Brewer previously called on DOT to study the concept of a “bus-only” 14th Street ahead of the shutdown.

PeopleWay advocates have not yet proposed a specific design for prioritizing buses, pedestrians, and bikes on the corridor, and Brewer’s statement stops short of calling for an entirely car-free 14th Street. In September and October, TA will host a series of public workshops to collect input for a more detailed plan, according to TA Organizing Director Tom DeVito.

TA volunteers and organizers spent the summer drumming up support for the PeopleWay concept. Brewer joins Council Member Corey Johnson, who represents the corridor from Fifth Avenue to the Hudson River, as well as Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, in supporting the proposal. Council members Rosie Mendez and Dan Garodnick, who also represent parts of 14th Street, have yet to sign on.

The city and MTA will not be able to meet shutdown-induced demand unless they reallocate street space to people on buses and bikes. While DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has said “all options are on the table,” Mayor de Blasio has been cold to the PeopleWay concept. Appearing on WNYC in July, the mayor was reluctant to endorse a car-free 14th Street, calling it a “big decision…given how important 14th Street is.”

StreetFilms
View Comments

Touring Copenhagen’s Car-Free Bridges

One of the things that makes Copenhagen great is the city is continually finding ways to make biking and walking better — like building car-free bridges.

Bicycle Program Manager Marie Kastrup was very kind to take me on a tour of some of the bike and pedestrian bridges Copenhagen has constructed in the last decade. And more are on the way, with four others planned for the next few years.

With DOT looking to improve the Brooklyn Bridge for people who walk and bike, and the Port Authority planning to shortchange George Washington Bridge pedestrians and cyclists for generations to come, it’s a good time to consider how a leading city for car-free transport moves people across the water.

5 Comments

Bronx CB 8 Delays Vote on Play Street Where Driver Killed 8-Year-Old

Bronx Community Board 8 delayed a decision on whether to approve a play street application from the school where a motorist killed 8-year-old Rylee Ramos, when people complained that a play street at a different school would interfere with their driving.

Responding to complaints from motorists, Bronx CB 8 postponed a decision on a play street application from the school where Rylee Ramos was killed by a curb-jumping driver.

When motorists complained, Bronx CB 8 postponed a decision on a play street application from the school where Rylee Ramos was killed by a curb-jumping driver.

The Riverdale Press reports that the 50th Precinct has joined P.S. 307, Horace Mann School, and St. Margaret’s of Cortona in requesting that CB 8 sign off on opening street space to kids during school days. The schools already cordon streets for children, but they want to make it official, which NYPD says is important in the event of a crash.

“By formalizing this process and enforcing it, responsibility for an accident would land squarely on the shoulders of the driver,” Deputy Inspector Terence O’Toole, commanding officer of the 50th Precinct, told the Press.

In 2014 a motorist backed onto the sidewalk on Eames Place outside P.S. 307 in Kingsbridge Heights, striking 10 people and killing Ramos. Since then, according to the Press, the 50th Precinct has positioned barricades to keep motorists off the street at drop-off and dismissal times.

While Horace Mann and St. Margaret’s are applying for drop-off and dismissal play street hours, P.S. 307, which doesn’t have a playground, wants to keep one block of Eames Place open to children for the entire school day.

“We are desperate to find a place for our students to go out and to be able to run around and just have some exercise,” P.S. 307 assistant principal Debra Springsteen told the CB 8 land use committee at a meeting last month. “There’s 150 kids in the lunchroom. They’re screaming at each other in the lunchroom because they just don’t get a chance to be outside. So, that’s why we’re imploring.”

DOT requires that school play street applications be endorsed by the local precinct and community board, and the committee chose to postpone a vote on all three requests until September. “The panel said the delay would allow more time for the community to discuss the issue,” the Press reported.

Despite entreaties from NYPD and school officials, disgruntled motorists carried the day.

Read more…

4 Comments

Summer Streets 2016 Gets Started Tomorrow

Click for interactive Summer Streets 2016 map. Image: NYC DOT

Click for interactive Summer Streets 2016 map. Image: NYC DOT

If you’re old enough to remember when Summer Streets — which begins tomorrow — was a wild new idea, it probably won’t surprise you that this isn’t the first year we’ve pointed out that Summer Streets has become a completely normal thing.

For some time now, New Yorkers have wondered when DOT would improve on the city’s premier car-free event, and next Saturday “Shared Streets” will limit motor vehicle traffic in a 60-block area of the Financial District. This is a big deal, and it could serve as an informal pilot for future street space reclamations.

From a DOT Shared Streets email blast that went out this week:

Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians will be encouraged to share the streets of lower Manhattan and take the time to rediscover the commerce, culture, and history in this special district. DOT will distribute a custom WalkNYC map highlighting points of interest in the district along with the schedule of walking tours and cultural programming in plazas, parks, and open spaces.

That’s next week. Tomorrow, Summer Streets 2016 is the same as it ever was, which is still pretty greatSeven miles of Lafayette Street and Park Avenue, between the Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park, will be car-free from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Have fun out there.

5 Comments

Maloney: Use L Train Shutdown to “Upgrade Our Bus Service”

New York City should use the impending L train shutdown to make long-term improvements to bus service, U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney said at a public forum last night.

Carolyn Maloney

Carolyn Maloney

To repair the Sandy-damaged L train tunnel under the East River, the MTA will either close the subway line west of Williamsburg entirely for 18 months or run it at 20 percent capacity for three years. A decision is expected in the next few months, but in either scenario, hundreds of thousands of people will need other ways to get around.

Maloney’s district encompasses both sides of the river. Speaking after an MTA presentation on the project to a joint meeting of Manhattan community boards 3 and 6, she said her Brooklyn constituents have made it clear they need answers as soon as possible.

“We can sort of grab this time to upgrade our bus service, which always needs to happen,” Maloney told the room. “A lot of times when you start a service, it never ends, you know, we hold onto it. You’ll get 30,000 people doing it every day, it’ll be impossible for them to cut it.”

More efficient bus service along 14th Street will be needed to make up for the loss of the L train. It would also help the tens of thousands of people who already ride buses in sluggish 14th Street traffic. Last week, Transportation Alternatives and the Riders Alliance launched a campaign to turn the corridor into a car-free “PeopleWay” dedicated solely to buses, biking, and walking.

MTA reps last night said that signal priority and dedicated bus lanes will be essential to keeping people moving, but that the city — not the transit authority — has the final say on the design of the street.

When TA volunteer Willow Stelzer asked about making 14th Street off-limits to private motor vehicles, New York City Transit Vice President for Government and Community Relations Lois Tendler said that MTA is working on a traffic study in cooperation with NYC DOT.

“I think there is a recognition that we all have to think bold,” Tendler said. “If, you know, out of lemons you make lemonade, 14th Street could be a very interesting proposition for the whole city.”

20 Comments

NYC Needs a Car-Free 14th Street When the L Closes — And When It Returns

In 2019, the L train west of Williamsburg will be shut down so the MTA can repair Sandy-related damage to subway tunnels under the East River. Hundreds of thousands of people will have to find other ways to get around, and there’s no conceivable way to do that without dedicating a lot of street space to buses, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Enter the “PeopleWay,” Transportation Alternatives’ concept for a 14th Street solely for transit, cycling, and walking. Yesterday staff and volunteers with TA and the Riders Alliance were out at Union Square making the case for the PeopleWay and gathering signatures for an overhaul of the street. The campaign calls for improvements to be made permanent after the L resumes full service.

Even with a fully functional L train, bus service on 14th Street carries more than 32,000 weekday trips. Car traffic slows them down and leads to unreliable service. Sidewalks are too crowded. Biking without protection next to cabs, trucks, and buses is terrifying.

Now add L train riders to the mix. On a typical day, 50,000 passengers make L train trips that start and end along 14th Street. Another 230,000 ride between Brooklyn and 14th Street. To help all these people get around without the train, optimizing 14th Street for the most spatially efficient modes of travel isn’t a choice so much as a necessity.

TA estimates that a redesign with dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and more pedestrian space can double the capacity of 14th Street.

Read more…

12 Comments

New Twist for Summer Streets This Year — A Low-Car Zone Way Downtown

Image: DOT/Flickr

For five hours on August 13, motorists will be discouraged from entering the shaded area. Image: DOT/Flickr

In addition to the customary three Saturdays of car-free streets on Park Avenue and Lafayette Street this summer, the city will be trying out something new for Summer Streets. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on August 13, car traffic will be limited within a 60-block area of the Financial District.

The 13th will be the second Saturday in this year’s Summer Streets schedule. For the new car-lite zone, motorists entering the area will have to pass through NYPD-staffed “vehicular traffic entry points,” where they will be encouraged to drive five miles per hour or less. With minimal car traffic entering the neighborhood, the streets will open up to “cultural programming, including walking tours and other activities,” according to City Hall’s announcement.

The city is calling the low-car zone “Shared Streets,” evoking the concept of “shared space” where pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers navigate the street based on subtle visual cues and the movements of all other users, as opposed to curbs, signage, and markings. Light vehicular traffic and slow speeds are key to a successful shared space.

Read more…

9 Comments

Car-Free “Boogie on the Boulevard” Opens Up the Grand Concourse for Play

The temporary play field on the Grand Concourse’s main roadway during Sunday’s Boogie on the Boulevard. Photo: @ahtway

Sunday marked the first car-free “Boogie on the Boulevard” of 2016, and for a few hours on a few blocks, the center lanes of the Grand Concourse were full of people.

From May through August this year, on the last Sunday of each month, a few blocks of the Concourse north of 162nd Street will be a car-free gathering space from noon to 4 p.m., continuing a tradition that extends back to the early 1990s. This Sunday, the three blocks from 162nd to 165th were opened up — and the event may extend up to 167th Street later in the summer. The first incarnation of the event stretched three and half miles but was shut down by Mayor Giuliani in 1996.

Still, “Boogie on the Boulevard” shows how the Grand Concourse can do much more than move traffic. Those four car-free hours featured musical performances, games for kids, and group yoga. Volunteers from Transportation Alternatives’ Bronx Committee were also on hand to rally support for the “Complete the Concourse” campaign, which aims to slow car speeds, create safer pedestrian crossings, and add protected bike lanes along the entire length of the Concourse from 138th Street to Mosholu Parkway.

Read more…

16 Comments

Car-Free Day Doesn’t Mean Much Without New Policies to Reduce Traffic

car-free-day-2016

To be meaningful, Car-Free Day needs to be tied to permanent traffic reduction policies. Photo: David Meyer

New York City is America’s car-free capital, home to eight and half million people, most of whom get around without owning a car. When so many of us already live car-free, what more can come out of an event like last Friday’s Car-Free Day?

There are basically two ways an awareness-raising event like Car-Free Day can go. It can be a big galvanizing moment, like the original Earth Day in 1970, that shows the political strength of a social movement and leads to real public policy changes. Or it can be an exercise in conscience soothing and public relations, like the modern incarnation of Earth Day, where governments, corporations, and private citizens “go green” for a day, then carry on with business as usual the next morning.

Car-Free Day 2016 wasn’t what you would call a big galvanizing moment.

Don’t get me wrong. City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez mobilized an impressive coalition for the day, working on a short schedule with, I’m guessing, a tiny budget. And it’s great that some of NYC’s large employers asked people to get to work without a car. Most of us do that already, sure, but more than a million of us do not. Maybe some habitual car commuters switched things up on Car-Free Day and found that the train, bus, or bike works better than they thought.

The trouble is, Car-Free Day was not tied to any concrete public policy proposals that would get the city closer to Rodriguez’s goal of reducing private car ownership. Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg ran down the list of what NYC DOT is doing to make streets safer for walking and biking, but those projects were already in the works.

Like San Francisco’s version of Bike to Work Day, where every elected official from the mayor on down gets seen biking to City Hall without making any real policy commitments, New York’s Car-Free Day didn’t take on much more significance than a photo op.

Read more…

59 Comments

Scenes From NYC’s First “Car Free Day”

Broadway between 17th and 23rd Streets was closed to traffic for four hours today. Photo: David Meyer

Broadway between 17th and 23rd Streets was car-free for four hours today. Photo: David Meyer

New York City’s first “Car Free Day,” the brainchild of City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, is underway.

On the streets, there are three car-free zones in Manhattan in effect from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: blocks abutting Washington Square Park, Wadsworth Avenue between 173rd and 177th Streets, and Broadway from Union Square to Madison Square.

While the initiative is much more modest than events like Bogota’s, where the annual car-free day removes an estimated 600,000 private vehicles from the streets, or Paris’s, where last year the mayor made a third of the city off-limits to cars for a day, Rodriguez has said he hopes the event can build momentum for his efforts on the council to increase the share of car-free households in NYC.

City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez speaks about Car Free Earth Day at a press conference this morning. Photo: David Meyer

City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: David Meyer

Speaking near Madison Square this morning alongside DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Rodriguez emphasized that cutting traffic is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change. “For me this is not about a politician trying to do something that people will like to hear, this is for my daughters,” Rodriguez said. “By reducing cars, by reducing emissions… we can make a major contribution.”

Rodriguez has pulled together a coalition of more than 35 organizations and companies to participate in the initiative, encouraging employees and members to go car-free for the day.

In introducing Rodriguez, Trottenberg promoted the de Blasio’s administration’s policies to reduce New York City’s carbon footprint, and tied those efforts to her work at DOT to increase biking and reclaim street space for pedestrians. “As we’re focused on making the city greener — we’re focused on alternative modes of transportation — we’re also making the city safer,” Trottenberg said, referring to DOT’s Vision Zero program.

Trottenberg lauded Rodriguez for his efforts on the council. “I’m really proud, Mr. Chairman, of our partnership,” she said. “You really have been a force of nature on [Car Free Day].”

Mayor de Blasio himself was absent, however, and there was no new policy announcement to accompany the day’s events — no new budgetary commitment to bus lanes or bike lanes, no expansion of on-street parking reform to cut traffic, no concrete steps that will reduce driving beyond the city’s existing efforts.