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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.

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Matt von Ohlen’s Friends and Family Call for Grand Street Protected Lane

The bike lane on Grand Street, where Matthew von Ohlen was killed last month, fails to keep cyclists safe from motor vehicles. Photo: Google Maps

The painted bike lane on Grand Street, where Matthew von Ohlen was killed last month, provides no physical protection from motor vehicles. Via Google Maps

The family and friends of Matthew von Ohlen pleaded with Brooklyn Community Board 1 to support a protected bike lane on Williamsburg’s Grand Street, where the 35-year-old was killed while biking by a hit-and-run driver on July 3.

Matthew’s father Bernt von Ohlen and other friends and supporters were joined by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, but the board did not take a position last night.

Matthew Von Ohlen. Photo via Gothamist

Matthew von Ohlen.

“I’m not a bike advocate. In fact, I’m afraid of riding a bike on the streets of New York,” said Christine McVay, who had known von Ohlen since he was a child. “Putting effective protected lanes on streets like Grand Street will making riding safer,” she said, holding back tears.

Von Ohlen was riding east on Grand Street between Manhattan Avenue and Graham Avenue at around 2:20 a.m. when the driver of a Chevy Camaro struck his back tire, then struck him again as he fell off his bike and dragged him 20 or 30 feet. Police believe the driver ran over von Ohlen intentionally. They located the vehicle on July 6 but have not apprehended a suspect.

At the outset of the meeting, Council Member Antonio Reynoso led the room in a moment of silence. He made his own call for safer bike infrastructure on Grand Street. “Matt’s death was a tragedy and it was a preventable one,” he said. “We’re gonna sit down and have a serious conversation about what we can do with infrastructure along Grand Street to really move forward and [take] the next step of bike lane protection and infrastructure.”

The bike lane on Grand Street/Borinquen Place runs between the Brooklyn Queens Expressway near the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge in East Williamsburg. It’s a key connector for people biking across North Brooklyn and is slated to expand eastward along Metropolitan Avenue later this year. In 2015, 29 cyclists were injured along the route between the BQE and Metropolitan Avenue, according to Vision Zero View.

In town from Minneapolis to take care of his son’s estate, Bernt von Ohlen implored the board to call for action. “I think that the best solutions are local solutions. You are a local group, and by keeping your eyes and ears on what goes on in the city by demanding that problems of this kind be addressed, you can make this community a better community for everybody,” he said.

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Vacca Blames Bronx CB for Deadly Street Design, But He’s Culpable Too

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Dozens of people are injured on this part of East Tremont Avenue each year. Council Member Vacca could insist that DOT take action despite opposition from the local community board. Image: NYC DOT

DOT failed to make safety improvements to the deadly stretch of East Tremont Avenue where a driver struck and killed cyclist Giovanni Nin last month, and City Council Member James Vacca says Bronx Community Board 10 is to blame.

City Council Member James Vacca

City Council Member James Vacca

In the spring of 2015 DOT put forward a road diet plan for East Tremont between Williamsbridge Road and Bruckner Boulevard, reducing through traffic lanes while adding a center turn lane, pedestrian islands, and other traffic-calming measures [PDF]. But DOT abandoned the project after CB 10 voted against it. The plan faced opposition organized by the Throggs Neck Merchants Association, according to the Bronx Times.

Hundreds of people were injured in traffic crashes on East Tremont between Williamsbridge and Bruckner from 2009 to 2013, according to DOT. Drivers injured 59 pedestrians and 10 cyclists in that time frame.

Three drivers struck and killed 74-year-old Angel Figueroa as he tried to cross East Tremont at Puritan Avenue in 2013. This June, Nin, 26, was killed by a hit-and-run driver as he attempted to bike across East Tremont about a block away from where Figueroa was struck.

At a recent memorial for Nin, Vacca — a former transportation committee chair who used to work as district manager for CB 10 — blasted the board for standing in the way of safety improvements.

From the Bronx Times:

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Tonight: See DOT’s Plan for 16 More Blocks of 2nd Avenue Protected Bikeway

Second Avenue, pictured here between 58th and 59th Streets, is getting more protected bike lanes. Photo: Google Maps

DOT intends to close some but not all of the protected bikeway gap on Second Avenue, pictured here between 58th and 59th Streets. Photo: Google Maps

Later today, NYC DOT will present its plan to install a protected bike lane on Second Avenue between the Queensboro Bridge/59th Street and 43rd Street to the Manhattan Community Board 6 transportation committee. The project would significantly shrink the gaps in the southbound protected bike lane but still leave cyclists exposed for several blocks approaching both the bridge and the Queens Midtown Tunnel.

In January, Manhattan CB 8 endorsed DOT’s plan for a protected bike lane and pedestrian islands between 68th Street and 105th Street on Second Avenue. And last month DOT unveiled plans to close gaps in the First Avenue protected bike lane in Midtown.

On Second Avenue, DOT said the nine blocks above the bridge would have a “transitional” design of sharrows, implying that the gap would be filled in later. Until there’s a continuous protected route, however, people on bikes will still have to confront intense traffic and intimidating conditions on the streets near the two crossings between Queens and Manhattan.

If you want to speak up for safer biking on Second Avenue and convey the urgency of closing all the gaps, so there’s a continuous bikeway and safer pedestrian crossings along the length of the whole street, tonight’s meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the NYU School of Dentistry, at 433 First Avenue.

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New Riverside Park Master Plan May Send Greenway Cyclists on Hilly Detours

The preliminary Riverside Park Master Plan reroutes cyclists away from the waterfront at 72nd Street. Image: NYC Parks

The preliminary Riverside Park Master Plan reroutes cyclists away from the waterfront at 72nd Street, along the hillier path marked by the bold dotted green line. Click to enlarge. Image: NYC Parks

The waterfront greenway in Riverside Park is one of New York’s most popular places to bike and walk. During the summer, it can get crowded — so crowded that the Parks Department is proposing new detour routes to divert cyclists away from the waterfront path. Those routes are hillier and poorly lit, however, and advocates are worried that the department will compel cyclists to use them at all times.

On Monday, the Parks Department presented parts of its preliminary Riverside Park Master Plan to the Manhattan Community Board 7 parks and environment committee. The plan includes bike detours along three segments of the greenway — between 72nd and 83rd streets, 93rd and 99th, and 145th and 155th.

The detour path between 72nd and 83rd received some funding courtesy of Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s 2015 participatory budget and will be built next year. It includes a particularly steep incline at 79th Street, where cyclists will have to climb up and around the 79th Street Rotunda. Lowering the grade of the rotunda’s access ramps is included in the long-term Riverside master plan, but is not part of the upcoming project and will likely be very expensive.

CB 7 member Ken Coughlin, speaking for himself and not the board, said that while the waterfront esplanade can get messy in the summer, most of the time it is fine. The greenway is the most heavily-biked route in the city, and for much of the year there are more cyclists than pedestrians using the waterfront path.

He warned that the detour paths could pose particular problems during the winter, when there is limited lighting and inclines may freeze over and become slippery. “The absence of notable conflicts on the current riverfront path during most days and times does not justify forcing [cyclists] to divert to a sub-optimal hilly, indirect and potentially unsafe route at all times,” he said in an email.

Rosenthal’s communications director Stephanie Buhle said rules regarding cyclists’ use of the waterfront path have yet to be determined. “[We are] trying to assess and make sense of what will work to make sure pedestrians and cyclists are using the space in a way that makes it possible for everyone,” she said.

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Manhattan CB 8 Votes Against Basic Striped Crosstown Bike Lanes

At CB 8's request, DOT proposed alternative pairings (in blue) to those in its original proposal (in purple). Image: DOT

At CB 8’s request, DOT proposed a menu of six potential crosstown bike lane pairs. Image: DOT

Last night, by a vote of 25-19 with one abstention, Manhattan Community Board 8 voted against DOT’s plan for three pairs of painted crosstown bike lanes on the Upper East Side. Despite four months of deliberations, bike lane opponents managed to achieve their desired outcome last night, sending a strong signal that no bike lane design is too mild to avoid their wrath.

The board was considering a resolution passed by the CB 8 transportation committee in favor of crosstown lanes on 70th/71st, 77th/78th, and 84th/85th. Multiple meetings and several months of absurd wrangling over thermoplastic stripes preceded that vote.

The Upper East Side plan does not remove any parking or car lanes — it just puts lines on the ground to designate space for cycling.

To opponents, this basic safety measure is, for some reason, unsuitable for any street with a school, hospital, church, or other notable institution. Parents and administrators from schools on 84th and 85th Streets in particular have said the presence of bike lanes would, all evidence to the contrary, endanger their students.

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Melinda Katz Tries to Kill Queens Blvd Bike Lane in the Name of “Community”

Tuesday night’s meeting on the redesign of Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst was one of the uglier exercises in petty community board obstructionism in recent memory.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz thinks parking mandates are more important than Photo: MelindaKatz/Twitter

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. Photo: MelindaKatz/Twitter

Queens Community Board 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol said the safety of cyclists should be “an afterthought.”

The board, as is its custom, didn’t allow members of the public to speak about the project until after they voted.

The vote was a hastily-called show of hands, orchestrated by board chair Lou Walker, to “accept the safety plan for Queens Boulevard except the bike lane.” Good luck making sense of that resolution — the safety plan and the bike lane are inseparable.

Who thinks life-or-death decisions about street design should be entrusted to this process? Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

After Mayor de Blasio instructed DOT to proceed with the Queens Boulevard project in full, Katz released this statement. It’s a classic attempt to kill a street safety project by hiding behind the word “community”:

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Reason Prevails at the End of Upper East Side Bike Lane Meeting

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The committee ultimately voted in support of bike lane pairs on 70th/71st, 77th/78th, and 84th/85th. Image: DOT

Bringing some resolution to one of the more absurd bike lane stories in recent memory, last night the Manhattan Community Board 8 transportation committee voted 9-2 in favor of a DOT plan to add three pairs of crosstown bike lanes on the Upper East Side.

First came many protestations about how these bike lane stripes have no place on the neighborhood’s streets. But supporters came out to the sanctuary of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church too, and their comments buoyed the committee.

DOT’s plan removes no parking or car lanes, it just adds some thermoplast to create a bit more order and designate some street space for cycling. Nevertheless, this was the third CB 8 meeting devoted to the project. Given the drawn-out process and histrionics about plain old bike lane stripes, you have to wonder if it would have been any more difficult to advance a more ambitious project, like a 72nd Street protected bike lane.

As with previous meetings, many speakers insisted that specific streets could not possibly accommodate a striped bike lane — the presence of a school, a hospital, a religious institution, or fire station supposedly disqualified these streets. Lenox Hill Hospital on 77th Street, Wagner Middle School on 76th Street, a Citi Bike station on 84th Street — the list was endless.

“It will be an awful story if we have to come back and say a bike rider hit one of our young children,” said one woman, who identified herself as an administrator at St. Ignatius Loyola School. “You really need to think about the children.”

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Will DOT Make Safety Upgrades Over Objections of Sheepshead Bay Cranks?

DOT is reportedly going ahead with a plan add pedestrian space and eliminate B36 turns, including one at the intersection where an MTA bus driver killed Eleonora Shulkin last December, indicated by the red arrows. Image: DOT

DOT is reportedly going ahead with a plan to add pedestrian space and eliminate B36 turns, including one at the intersection where an MTA bus driver killed Eleonora Shulkin last December, indicated by the red arrows. Image: DOT

Update: DOT confirmed this project is happening.

DOT intends to go ahead with a project to straighten out a bus route and add pedestrian space in Sheepshead Bay, reports the Brooklyn Daily. DOT had let the project stall after Council Member Chaim Deutsch and Community Board 15 opposed it, but after a bus driver killed a pedestrian in December while performing a turn that would have been eliminated under the plan, the improvements now appear to be moving forward.

The plan was first put forward in 2014, when DOT and the MTA proposed eliminating a winding detour on the B36 bus route between E. 17th Street and E. 14th Street, removing bus turns at intersections that see a lot of collisions. Sheepshead Bay Road would be converted to one-way eastbound between Jerome Avenue and E. 14th Street, and a taxi stand would be installed near the B/Q entrance, where livery cab drivers now park illegally to wait for passengers getting off trains.

The plan would also replace a slip lane on E. 17th Street at Sheepshead Bay Road with space for people, and convert one block of E. 15th Street to a public plaza.

Seventy-four people were injured in crashes within the project area between 2009 and 2013, DOT says, and seven people were killed or seriously injured. A driver killed a pedestrian on Avenue Z at E. 15th Street in 2008, according to DOT.

But DOT shelved the plan after CB 15 and Council Member Chaim Deutsch objected to the street design changes and the proposed E. 15th Street plaza. Deutsch said he was concerned about plaza upkeep, and that bus riders would have to walk a block to transfer between the train and the B36. CB 15 chair Theresa Scavo was okay with the taxi stand but otherwise wanted Sheepshead Bay Road to remain as is. “The problem comes down to enforcement,” Scavo told Streetsblog. “If you have proper enforcement, traffic will move on Sheepshead Bay Road.”

Six months later a bus driver making a left turn killed 62-year-old Eleonora Shulkin at Avenue Z and E. 17th Street, an intersection where bus turns would have been eliminated had the redesign been implemented.

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Adding Curb Space for Cars vs. Space for Bikes — DOT’s Double Standard

Whenever curb space is reallocated for bike parking in New York City, the process is intensive. Getting NYC DOT to install a bike corral usually involves lots of signature gathering, and even when a business wants one by their storefront, the local community board can shoot it down. The process can take months or even years, if it ever succeeds at all.

But if DOT decides to add curbside car parking, they often do it without a second thought — or any public notice. Case in point: DOT has added curbside parking at two locations in Park Slope, taking away a loading zone on one street and hindering visibility on another. Neither change was brought to the local community board prior to implementation.

In October 2013, when this Google Street View photo was taken, there was roughly 15 yards of open curb on the northern corner of Baltic Street at Fifth Avenue. Approaching drivers and pedestrians could get a clear view of each other. But as of September 2014, DOT had removed a “No Standing” sign there. Now motorists may park to the edge of the west crosswalk. This makes it harder for drivers on Baltic, which is one-way eastbound, to see pedestrians as they approach Fifth. Likewise, people in the crosswalks can’t see approaching vehicles as well as before.

From 2009 to 2014, two pedestrians and five cyclists were injured in crashes where Baltic meets Fifth Avenue and Park Place, according to city crash data. Three motor vehicle occupants were also hurt there during that time frame — a sign of collisions occurring at high speeds. Another person was injured at the intersection in 2009, but city data does not indicate whether the victim was walking, riding a bike, or in a car.

New York City allows motorists to park to the edge of crosswalks, but as Streetsblog has reported, the National Association of City Transportation Officials recommends 20 to 25 feet of clearance around crosswalks to improve sight lines. Pedestrian deaths and injuries caused by turning drivers are frequent, and a bill pending in the City Council would require DOT to daylight 25 intersections per year. In other municipalities, it is simply illegal to park right up against a crosswalk.

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