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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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Jay Street Protected Bike Lane Plan Clears Brooklyn CB 2 Committee

Image: DOT

Image: DOT

Last night, DOT presented its proposal for a protected bike lane on Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn to the Community Board 2 transportation committee [PDF].

Jay Street is the main approach for the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge bike path. During a 12-hour weekday period, DOT counted 2,400 cyclists on Jay Street, with bikes accounting for 34 percent of vehicles during rush hour.

The project will replace painted lanes between Sands Street and Fulton Street with curbside parking-protected bike lanes. The new design will save cyclists from having to dodge between double-parked cars and moving traffic. It’s going to be a tight squeeze, though: The proposed five-foot bike lanes and two-foot painted buffer are narrower than typical protected bike lanes in the city. Buffers are usually three feet wide so cyclists don’t ride where they might get doored. Bus drivers will merge across the bike lane to access bus stops.

Many design details are still in development, including the Smith Street segment between Fulton Mall and Schermerhorn Street, the intersection with Tillary Street, and the area around the Manhattan Bridge. DOT Bicycle Program Director Hayes Lord said the department will come back to CB 2 at a later date, likely in May, to review the final details of the proposal.

Just past Nassau Street, where northbound cyclists must cross the path of drivers exiting the Manhattan Bridge, DOT wants to create a marked pedestrian/bike crossing that could be signalized, but the traffic control plan has not been finalized. Where Jay Street approaches Sands Street, DOT will create a new access point for cyclists through the fence that separates the bike lane from the bridge, so people on bikes can steer clear of right-turning motorists.

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DOT Unveils Plan for a Two-Way Protected Bike Lane on Chrystie Street

DOT plans to install "Jersey barriers" to protecting cyclists turning from Canal Street onto Chrystie Street. The existing design uses sharrows to guide cyclists on Chrystie Street at that location. Image: DOT

The Chrystie Street redesign would place concrete barriers between the bike lane and motor vehicle traffic flying off the Manhattan Bridge. Image: DOT

DOT unveiled its plan for a two-way protected bike lane on Chrystie Street last night [PDF], a project that promises to drastically improve safety and reduce stress for people biking to and from the Manhattan Bridge.

Chrystie Street is one of the most important bike routes in the city. On average, more than 6,200 cyclists ride over the Manhattan Bridge each day from April through October, according to DOT, and Chrystie Street is the key connection between the bridge and the First and Second Avenue protected bike lanes. Last July, DOT counted nearly 3,000 daily cyclists riding on Chrystie Street between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

DOT painted bike lanes on both sides of Chrystie in 2008, but it’s a treacherous ride: Cyclists are often forced to weave in and out of car traffic to avoid illegally parked vehicles. Last year, 16 cyclists and 14 pedestrians were injured within the project area.

Volunteers with Transportation Alternatives have pushed for a redesign of Chrystie for more than a year. In 2015, a design concept for a protected bike lane by Dave “Paco” Abraham won the support of Manhattan Community Board 3 and nearly every elected official who represents the area.

DOT presented its plan for Chrystie to the CB 3 transportation committee last night. It calls for a two-way protected bike lane along Sara D. Roosevelt Park from Canal Street to Houston Street. The two-way path will have a three-foot buffer, and the combined travel lanes for bikes will vary between eight feet and nine feet wide, depending on the total width of the street. To align with the new Chrystie bikeway, the southbound bike lane on Second Avenue will be shifted over to the east side of the street for the two blocks between 2nd Street and Houston.

Including the buffer, the bikeway will vary between 11 and 12 feet wide, depending on the width of the street. Image: DOT

Including the buffer, the bikeway will vary between 11 and 12 feet wide, depending on the width of the street. Image: DOT

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DOT Will Fill in Most of the Second Avenue Bike Lane Gap in Midtown

2nd_ave_bike_lane

The current bike route on Second Avenue goes under these delivery trucks. Image: Google Street View

DOT will present plans this spring to fill most, but not all, of the remaining gaps in the north-south protected bike lanes on the East Side of Manhattan. Significantly, DOT intends to create a physically protected bike lane on Second Avenue between 59th Street and 43rd Street. Combined with the bike lane extension coming to the Upper East Side after surface work on the Second Avenue Subway wraps up, the project would close most of the remaining gaps on the avenue but leave the approaches to the Queensboro Bridge and the Queens Midtown Tunnel exposed.

DOT Manhattan community liaison Colleen Chattergoon shared the news with the Community Board 6 transportation committee last night. The remaining gaps, she said, will be addressed in future projects but not this year. Chattergoon also said that DOT expects Select Bus Service on 23rd Street to launch later in 2016.

Since putting in protected bike lanes on First and Second south of 34th Street in 2010, the city has added segments in East Harlem, the Upper East Side, and Midtown piece by piece — leaving the most traffic-choked blocks for last. As of now, from Houston Street to 125th the only gaps in protection on the First Avenue bike lane are between 47th and 48th streets (it’s a curbside buffered lane for that block) and between 56th and 59th streets (currently sharrows). Both of those gaps are in line to be protected later this year, said Chattergoon, with DOT expecting to present a plan in May or June.

The Second Avenue bike route has the bigger gap, with no protection between 105th Street and 34th Street. In January, Manhattan CB 8 endorsed DOT’s plan to install a parking-protected lane on Second Avenue above 68th Street after subway construction is finished. The project DOT will present in the spring will call for a protected lane between 59th and 43rd. That would leave two significant gaps — one leading up to the Queensboro Bridge and another leading up to the tunnel. DOT intends to fill those gaps at some point, the only question is when.

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Tremont Avenue in Line for New Cross-Bronx Bike Route

DOT's plan for Tremont Avenue will install a number of treatments, primarily dedicated lanes and sharrows, to create the first east-west bike route in the western Bronx. Image: DOT

DOT’s plan will add painted lanes and sharrows to Tremont Avenue in the West Bronx. Image: DOT

Last month, when Council Member Ritchie Torres lambasted DOT’s deference to community boards over street safety projects, he anticipated a fight over the agency’s plan for bike lanes on Tremont Avenue.

DOT presented its design for the western segment of Tremont Avenue to Bronx Community Board 5 on January 20 [PDF] and, the following day, presented the design for the eastern segment to Community Board 6 [PDF]. The project follows up on a 2014 request from Torres for a Tremont Avenue bike route spanning the width of the South Bronx, though it only covers the section between the Harlem River and the Bronx River.

The redesign calls for painted bike lanes and sharrows along a 4.1-mile stretch of Tremont Avenue between Cedar Avenue and Boston Road. Once the new designs are implemented, Tremont Avenue will be the northernmost crosstown bike route in the West Bronx.

DOT has identified Tremont as a Vision Zero priority corridor. From 2010 to 2014, 10 cyclists, 33 pedestrians, and 36 motor vehicle occupants were killed or severely injured in the project area. The proposal includes safety improvements at multiple intersections: Sedgwick and Undercliff, the Grand Concourse underpass, and Tremont’s intersections with Grand Avenue, Jerome Avenue, Park Avenue and Crotona Avenue.

Most of the route will be painted bike lanes, with sharrows accounting for a little less than a mile. Moving east from Cedar Avenue, the design consists of a shared lane before shifting to dedicated lanes that run from MLK Boulevard to Morris Avenue. Beginning at the Grand Concourse underpass, cyclists will again have to share a lane with cars, but DOT is installing traffic-calming treatments, including narrower motor vehicles lanes and curb extensions.

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What’s Next for 6th Ave Protected Bike Lane and Crosstown Routes on UES

At the request of community advocates, DOT wants to install three new crosstown dedicated bike routes on the Upper East Side. Image: DOT

DOT’s plan calls for three painted crosstown bike lane pairs on the Upper East Side [PDF]. Image: DOT

Two Manhattan bike projects went before community boards last night. The CB 8 transportation committee heard from DOT about the agency’s plan for crosstown bike lanes on the Upper East Side, and CB 4 endorsed the protected lane on Sixth Avenue, which DOT plans to install in the fall.

The crosstown painted lanes would span the width of the Upper East Side, providing safer east-west access for a neighborhood that currently has only one bike lane pair — 90th and 91st streets. The new bike lane pairs are East 67th and 68th streets between Fifth and York, 77th and 78th Streets between Fifth and John Jay Park, and 84th and 85th Streets between Fifth and East End. After the eastern termini at Cherokee Place and East End Avenue, shared lanes will guide cyclists to parks and the East River Esplanade greenway.

On the western side, all three routes terminate at Central Park. A 72nd Street bike lane could feed into the only major on-street bike path that cuts directly across the park, but DOT is not pursuing that.

Last night’s presentation to CB 8 was met with the typical NIMBY response, which NY1 previewed a few weeks ago. According to bike lane supporters who attended, opponents’ arguments focused on reasons why one street or another would not work for the lanes. But Council Member Ben Kallos spoke out in favor of the proposal and vehemently defended the need to ensure cyclists’ safety in the neighborhood. No vote was held, and DOT will present again next month.

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Amsterdam Ave Protected Bike Lane Finally Happening After 28-13 CB 7 Vote

Hundreds of people packed into Goddard Riverside Community Center last night to speak out in favor of DOT's proposed redesign of Amsterdam Avenue. Image: Luke Ohlson/Transportation Alternatives" width="529" height="397" /></a> Hundreds of people packed into Goddard Riverside Community Center last night to speak out in favor of DOT's proposed redesign of Amsterdam Avenue. Photo: Luke Ohlson/Transportation Alternatives

Hundreds of people packed into Goddard Riverside Community Center last night, most to speak in favor of DOT’s proposed redesign of Amsterdam Avenue. About a hundred more were denied entry because the venue reached capacity. Photo: Luke Ohlson

By a count of 28 in favor and 13 opposed, Manhattan Community Board 7 voted last night to endorse DOT’s plan for a protected bike lane along Amsterdam Avenue from 72nd Street to 110th Street. The vote affirmed a safety project that Upper West Siders have worked toward for several years, but the meeting itself devolved into farce, with some board members making a last-minute attempt to stop the redesign despite the long public process, endorsements from major elected officials, and the large crowd who turned out to support it.

More than 200 people packed the meeting room at Goddard Riverside Community Center, the vast majority in favor of the project. With a larger meeting room, the crowd would have been a lot larger — at least 100 people were denied entry after the room reached capacity.

DOT’s plan would calm traffic on Amsterdam Avenue by replacing a general traffic lane with a parking-protected bike lane and concrete pedestrian islands [PDF]. With four northbound moving lanes, Amsterdam’s current design leads to dangerous speeding and higher-than-average injury rates. The bike lane would provide a safe northbound complement to the southbound protected lane on Columbus Avenue. The project is on track to be implemented in the spring.

Local City Council members Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine spoke in favor of the project last night. But some board members appointed by Rosenthal and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer did their best to stop it.

In a ploy to prevent any change, former CB 7 Chair Sheldon Fine proposed a substitute resolution that called on DOT to address safety on Amsterdam Avenue without the protected bike lane. The resolution requested that DOT instead make the Columbus Avenue bike lane two-way, a design that doesn’t exist on any wide NYC avenue with frequent intersections and would introduce new conflict points between turning drivers and northbound cyclists. Fine argued that this wouldn’t amount to tossing several previous CB 7 votes out the window, but most people on the board weren’t buying it.

“This conversation has been going on for five years,” board member Mel Wymore told Fine. “What you’re proposing is first of all sandbagging a two-year process and secondly, the DOT had already told us that what you’re proposing would not be the safety improvements that we’re asking for here. We need a good bike lane not for the bikes, but to calm the traffic and save lives.”

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Why Arguments Against the Amsterdam Protected Bike Lane Don’t Hold Up

Tomorrow night, CB 7 will vote on whether to endorse DOT's proposal for a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue from 72nd Street to 110th Street. Image: DOT

Tonight, CB 7 will vote on DOT’s proposal for a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue from 72nd Street to 110th Street [PDF]. Image: DOT

This is the day Manhattan Community Board 7 will finally vote on DOT’s redesign of Amsterdam Avenue from 72nd Street to 110th Street, which will calm traffic and bring safety improvements — including a protected bike lane — to what is now a surface speedway cutting through the heart of the Upper West Side. It’s been a long time coming: CB 7 first asked DOT to design a protected bike lane for Amsterdam in 2009, and local residents have been asking for safety improvements longer than that.

The case for a protected bike lane and pedestrian refuges is clear. Despite serving as a neighborhood main street, Amsterdam is currently designed like a highway, with four northbound travel lanes that encourage speeding. From 2009 to 2013, two people were killed and another 36 severely injured along the project’s length, according to DOT. Just last month, on January 18, 73-year-old sculptor Thomas McAnulty was killed by a motorcyclist while walking across Amsterdam at 96th Street. Protected bike lanes are proven to reduce fatalities and severe injuries, and the neighborhood currently lacks a northbound complement to the bike lane on Columbus Avenue.

Thousands of residents and hundreds of businesses and neighborhood groups have signed on in support of redesigning Amsterdam, but opponents of the project are still trying to undermine it ahead of tonight’s vote. Here’s a look at why their arguments don’t hold up.

The safety argument. Bizarrely, CB 7 transportation committee co-chair Dan Zweig has argued that a protected bike lane on Amsterdam will make the street less safe, because removing parking spaces will expose pedestrians to drivers who fly onto the sidewalk. The truth is that the same basic design strategies the city is proposing for Amsterdam have reduced injuries by an average of 20 percent on the Manhattan avenues where they’ve been installed. Adding the bikeway will narrow the roadway, reducing the prevalence of speeding, and adding pedestrian refuges will shorten crossing distances for pedestrians while leading drivers to take turns more carefully. New York knows from experience that these changes save lives.

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CB 4 Transpo Committee Endorses Sixth Ave Protected Lane

A rendering from DOT's November proposal for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue. The plan now includes raised pedestrian medians. Image: NYC DOT

A rendering from DOT’s November proposal for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue. The plan now includes raised pedestrian medians. Image: NYC DOT

DOT is set to move forward with a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue from 8th Street to 33rd Street after members of the Community Board 4 transportation committee gave the project a thumbs-up last night.

In November, the committee declined to support the proposal because members felt the new design did not do enough to protect pedestrians and cyclists. Of particular concern was the lack of raised concrete pedestrian islands and split-phase signals, which give cyclists and pedestrians dedicated time to cross streets without conflicts with turning traffic. Since then, CB 2 and CB 5 committees both endorsed the plan.

Last night, committee members reiterated many of their concerns but ultimately voted to endorse the plan.

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Looking to Join Your Community Board? TA Makes It Easy to Apply

As Streetsblog readers know, too many community boards care more about on-street parking than street safety or housing affordability, even in districts where the majority of residents don’t own cars. DOT rarely implements safety measures over board objections (which Council Member Ritchie Torres would like to change).

While a small number of boards are asking DOT to be more bold with street redesigns, it’s more common to see board members threatening proposals intended to save lives.

New voices can make a major difference on community boards. By gaining a few people familiar with street design best practices, some boards have become much more receptive to projects that prioritize walking, biking, and transit in recent years.

Transportation Alternatives makes it easier for people who want safer streets to apply for spots on their local boards through its community board join ups. These events offer one-stop shopping for information and applications, complete with notary publics to make it official.

The Queens event has come and gone, unfortunately, but if you live in one of the other boroughs and you’d like to make a difference in your neighborhood, here’s where to go this month:

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