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Bus Driver Hits Woman at Intersection Where CB 9 Opposes Safety Fixes

A DOT proposal opposed by Manhattan CB 9 would slow turns at Riverside Drive and W. 135th Street, where a bus driver hit a pedestrian Thursday. Image: DOT

A DOT proposal opposed by Manhattan CB 9 would slow turns at Riverside Drive and W. 135th Street, where a bus driver hit a pedestrian Thursday. Image: DOT

Yesterday, a bus driver hit a woman walking across W. 135th Street at Riverside Drive, an intersection in a crash-prone area where DOT has proposed a slate of safety improvements that are opposed by Manhattan Community Board 9.

The West Side Rag reports that the woman was in the crosswalk when the driver of a double-decker tourist bus hit her while turning right from Riverside onto W. 135th. The victim was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital, according to West Side Rag, and NYPD said she was “‘not likely’ to die.”

A woman who came upon the scene after the crash told West Side Rag “the victim must have had the green light or the bus would not have been able to go.”

“This has always been a dangerous corner,” the witness said. “Vehicles driving northbound and making a right turn into 135th St. rarely slow down for pedestrians.”

In response to rampant speeding and a high number of serious injuries on Riverside, DOT has proposed a road diet between W. 116 and W. 135th streets, with additional pedestrian space at several intersections [PDF]. At 135th, DOT plans to extend the Riverside center median on the north side of the intersection and install a new pedestrian island on the south side, which should slow traffic there.

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Protected Bike Lanes Coming to Washington Heights After CB 12 Vote

Protected bikeways are coming to Washington Heights. Image: DOT

Protected bikeways are coming to Washington Heights, including Edgecombe Avenue, above. Image: DOT [PDF]

Washington Heights will get protected bike lanes and major pedestrian upgrades after Manhattan Community Board 12 endorsed a DOT proposal last night.

Sections of 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue will get protected bike lanes, and pedestrian crossings will be improved on Edgecombe Avenue and at the complex intersection of 158th Street, Riverside Drive, and Edward Morgan Place [PDF]. The street redesigns will make for safer connections between the Hudson River Greenway and Highbridge Park, where the rehabilitated High Bridge will provide a car-free link between Manhattan and the Bronx.

Protected bikeways and pedestrian upgrades are planned for 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT [PDF]

The plan encountered resistance earlier this month from CB 12 members who objected to the loss of approximately 20 parking spaces. DOT revised its plan to reduce parking losses to just eight spots, through offsets elsewhere in the neighborhood. The bike and pedestrian improvements in the plan remain intact.

While a couple of board members, including Jim Berlin, were still upset by any loss of parking, meeting attendees said opponents were outnumbered last night by approximately two dozen high school students from the George Washington Educational Campus, located in Fort George. The students, who participate in “I Challenge Myself,” a program that teaches youth in the Bronx and Manhattan about cycling, brought signs to show support for the plan, and one spoke to the board.

“Almost half the people there were young people, students from our program. It was really impressive, just how strongly they felt,” said Ana Reyes, a Washington Heights resident and executive director of I Challenge Myself. “I think that made a huge difference.”

While no official vote tally was available, Reyes said only a few board members voted against the proposal. The project is a welcome development for an area of Manhattan where the bike network is lacking.

“It’s a really good thing that DOT is putting protected infrastructure in Upper Manhattan, where so far the infrastructure doesn’t look like it does in the other parts of the city,” said Transportation Alternatives Manhattan organizer Tom DeVito.

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Scenes From New York’s Broken Public Process for Street Redesigns

Even the most modest, common-sense street safety improvements can run into a brick wall at public meetings in New York City. The latest case in point: A DOT plan to improve pedestrian safety on two blocks of an extra-wide, low-traffic section of Lenox Avenue in Harlem, which became the subject of a two-hour Manhattan Community Board 10 committee meeting on Tuesday.

This design for a quiet stretch of Lenox Avenue, at 146th Street, is too much for auto-centric residents to bear. Rendering: DOT [PDF]

According to project opponents, this design for a quiet stretch of Lenox Avenue, at 146th Street, will make asthma rates worse. Rendering: DOT [PDF]

The heart of the plan [PDF] covers Lenox Avenue between 145th Street and 147th Street, where the avenue ends. Currently, the street has two lanes in each direction with a wide striped median. DOT proposes converting the northbound half to one lane. Between 145th and 146th Streets, DOT would add a concrete median with parking on both sides. North of 146th Street, the concrete island would give way to a striped median next to the MTA’s Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot. The project would add five parking spots on these two blocks.

Meeting attendees said most of the nearly two dozen people at the hearing were residents of Esplanade Gardens, an apartment complex surrounded by surface parking lots on the east side of this stretch of Lenox Avenue.

“It basically seemed like everyone who was at the meeting was a driver. There were no pedestrians from Esplanade Gardens. It was incredible,” said one board member. “It’s very much a NIMBY thing.”

“They seem to be people who drive regularly, and seem to be concerned about the needs of drivers only,” said Abena Smith, president of the 32nd Precinct community council. “There were a few people in that room, and they’re not all representative of the entire community.”

Smith, who lives at 143rd and Lenox, sees the pedestrian safety benefits of the proposal, but said she could see why Esplanade Gardens residents might worry it would make traffic congestion worse, especially during game days at nearby Yankee Stadium.

She was not, however, impressed with the tenor of opponents at Tuesday’s meeting. “Many of the individuals that were there, there seemed to be a bit of a hostile feel directed towards DOT,” she said. “It was highly reactive, as opposed to someone having any suggestions.”

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Bruckner Boulevard Protected Bikeway Clears Bronx CB 2 Committee

Unused road space on Bruckner Boulevard is being reclaimed for a protected bikeway that will eventually connect the Bronx River Greenway to Randall's Island. Images: DOT

Excess road space on Bruckner Boulevard will be claimed for a protected bikeway that will eventually connect the Bronx River Greenway to Randall’s Island. Images: DOT [PDF]

A DOT plan to add pedestrian space and create a two-way protected bikeway along a key half-mile stretch of Bruckner Boulevard received a unanimous thumbs-up from Bronx Community Board 2’s economic development committee Wednesday night [PDF].

“Bruckner Boulevard is a very wide, multi-lane boulevard,” said DOT project manager Kimberly Rancourt. “It has lots of traffic but it also has excess space that isn’t needed for capacity.” The plan repurposes that unused asphalt, currently striped as a buffer zone, to add protected bike lanes in the Bruckner Boulevard median from Hunts Point Avenue to Longwood Avenue.

The area is dangerous, with 585 injuries at the five intersections in the project between 2009 and 2013, including 65 pedestrian injuries and 10 bicyclist injuries. Both Bruckner and Hunts Point were identified as priority corridors in DOT’s Vision Zero Bronx pedestrian safety action plan, and their juncture — often busy with pedestrians going between the 6 train and the Hunts Point neighborhood — is also named a priority intersection. There, DOT is proposing new pedestrian islands, large curb extensions, and a new crosswalk in the boulevard’s median.

The protected bikeway will provide a key link in the South Bronx bicycle network, though it will need to be extended to provide a seamless ride to points south.

To the north, the project connects with Monsignor Del Valle Square, where a redesign under development by DOT and the Parks Department will include protected bike lanes. Those lanes will link to improvements installed in 2013 that connect with the Bronx River Greenway, including a short protected bike lane on Bruckner between Bryant and Longfellow Avenues.

To the south, the project would strand cyclists when they reach Longwood Avenue. DOT said it is working on a plan to extend the Bruckner Boulevard median bike lanes southward across a “difficult section,” though there is no public timeline for the second phase. The southern extension of the Bruckner bike lane would link to Randall’s Island, where a long-anticipated connector path to the South Bronx Greenway is set to open this summer.

The plan “exponentially” increases the Bronx’s tiny allotment of protected bike lanes, said Transportation Alternatives Bronx organizer Laura Solis, and with the Randall’s Island connector opening soon, DOT should extend it southward as soon as possible. “The goal is definitely to see that continuous connection to Randall’s Island,” Solis said. “This is one step closer.”

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Levine Stands Up for Riverside Drive Road Diet Under Attack By CB 9

A road diet for the speeding-plagued Riverside Drive viaduct is already missing bike lanes. Community Board 9 members want DOT to scrap the road diet, too, but Council Member Mark Levine backs it. Image: DOT [PDF]

A plan to calm traffic on a speeding-plagued stretch of Riverside Drive in West Harlem would be gutted if Community Board 9 members get their way, but Council Member Mark Levine, who represents the area, wants DOT to move ahead with the safety plan.

“It’s all really sensible stuff that’s been succeeding in other parts of this district and this city,” Levine said. “I certainly value all the community input, and it needs to go through all the steps on the community board, but… I think DOT should move forward.”

Council Member Mark Levine.

The proposal features a mix of curb extensions and pedestrian islands on Riverside Drive between 116th and 135th Streets. Between 2008 and 2012, there were 20 serious injuries on this stretch of Riverside, including one pedestrian and 19 motor vehicle occupants [PDF].

The most dangerous section, according to DOT project manager Dan Wagner, is the Riverside Drive viaduct, which runs from just north of the General Grant National Memorial to 135th Street.

The average speed on the viaduct is 36.5 mph, according to DOT, with 79 percent of drivers clocking in above the posted 30 mph limit. In December, Levine and fellow Council Member Helen Rosenthal asked DOT to bring Riverside’s speed limit in line with the citywide 25 mph default [PDF].

DOT says it will do that, but only if the street is also redesigned to reduce speeds. Under the agency’s proposal, the viaduct from the Grant Memorial to 135th Street would be slimmed from two lanes in each direction to one, with the remaining space used for wide striped buffers. (Though Riverside is already a busy cycling route, DOT has refused to propose bike lanes.)

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Will Rodriguez and Brewer Reappoint CB 12 Crank Jim “Honey Child” Berlin?

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer can advance the goals of Vision Zero by retiring Jim Berlin from his CB 12 post.

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer can advance the goals of Vision Zero in Upper Manhattan by retiring Jim Berlin from his CB 12 post.

City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer can remove a barrier to safer streets in Upper Manhattan by relieving Jim Berlin of his spot on Community Board 12, which covers Washington Heights and Inwood.

As Stephen Miller reported Thursday, Berlin and fellow CB 12 member Anita Barberis voted against a DOT plan for protected bike lanes in Washington Heights that would connect the Hudson River Greenway and High Bridge Park. The DOT proposal comes ahead of the highly anticipated re-opening of the High Bridge, a car-free Harlem River span linking Manhattan and the Bronx that has been closed to the public for decades.

Washington Heights and Inwood have precious little bike infrastructure, and at present just one protected bike lane in the pipeline. Berlin can surely claim some credit for that. For years he has used his community board position to waylay projects, from bike and pedestrian infrastructure to a Greenmarket, that would improve safety and give locals the opportunity to see their streets used for something other than free vehicle storage.

Community board votes are supposed to be advisory, but DOT rarely implements a street safety project over a board’s objection. On Monday Berlin succeeded in goading the CB 12 transportation committee to pass a resolution calling for DOT to shorten the proposed protected bikeway on Edgecombe Avenue for the sake of a few free curbside parking spots.

“This is a working-class area,” Berlin said, according to DNAinfo. “People don’t have the luxury of riding their bike in the morning and leaving their Beamer at home.”

It’s possible Berlin is so out of touch that he doesn’t know 75 percent of households in the district don’t own a car, and that working-class households are even more likely to be car-free. But judging by his public antics, it’s more likely he doesn’t care. The majority of residents who attended Monday’s meeting came to show support for the DOT plan, and Berlin dismissed them — even addressing one plan proponent, a staffer for Council Member Mark Levine, as “honey child,” according to multiple sources.

Berlin was last appointed by Rodriguez, and his term expires next month. According to a press release from Brewer, the number of new applicants for Community Board 12 and neighboring Community Board 11 “more than doubled” compared to last year. For the sake of public safety and quality of life in Washington Heights and Inwood, Rodriguez and Brewer should make room for a fresh face by thanking Berlin for his service and sending him on his way.

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CB 12 Committee Puts Parking Over Safety in Vote on Uptown Bike Lanes

DOT is proposing significant bicycle and pedestrian upgrades in Washington Heights, but the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee wants to nibble away at a protected bike lane in the plan. The committee voted to support the DOT plan but with modifications that would shrink a proposed protected bike lane on Edgecombe Avenue to preserve parking.

The plan offers protected bikeways on 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT

The plan offers protected bikeways on 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT

The plan [PDF] would provide river-to-river links between the Hudson River Greenway and High Bridge Park, where cyclists and pedestrians would be able to connect to the Bronx. The proposal comes after the approval of bicycle and pedestrian upgrades for the Bronx side of High Bridge Park [PDF].

The plan would result in a net loss of approximately 20 parking spaces. Most of the change is concentrated on Edgecombe north of 165th Street, where parking would be removed for the bikeway on sections of Edgecombe with two-way car traffic.

At its meeting Monday evening, the CB 12 transportation committee deadlocked, 2-2, on a vote to support the plan after members Jim Berlin and Anita Barberis protested the loss of parking. Berlin has a long history of prioritizing parking over street safety at CB 12, which covers a neighborhood where about three-quarters of households are car-free.

“This is a working-class area,” Berlin said, according to DNAinfo. “People don’t have the luxury of riding their bike in the morning and leaving their Beamer at home.”

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and the working-class people I know have MetroCards,” Maria Lopez replied to Berlin, reported DNAinfo. “I drive, but I support this plan.” Lopez is also a staffer for Council Member Mark Levine. After her reply, according to multiple meeting attendees, Berlin began a condescending response by calling her “honey child.”

“The entire room gasped,” said one person at the meeting. “It was racist, misogynistic and ageist all at once, and it was stunning…I just don’t think he realized how inappropriate that was.”

Eventually, the committee agreed on a compromise resolution, with a 4-0 vote, that supported the plan but asked DOT to shorten the protected bikeway on Edgecombe in order to preserve parking.

“It was somewhat disappointing, because one particular person, their opinion can really influence what happens in an entire community. And it was clear that the people from the community that came out really supported it,” said Ana Reyes, a Washington Heights resident and executive director of I Challenge Myself. The group offers bicycle education courses to high school students, including at the George Washington Educational Campus on Audubon Avenue.

“A lot of people don’t like to ride in traffic,” Reyes said. “The benefits outweigh the loss of parking spaces in terms of the amount of  kids, particularly, that would be able to access this park.”

The plan includes a lot of big improvements for safe walking and biking in the neighborhood.

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Manhattan CB 3 Asks DOT for Protected Bikeway on Chrystie Street

In a unanimous 35-0 vote last night, Manhattan Community Board 3, which covers Chinatown and the Lower East Side, asked DOT to study a two-way protected bikeway for Chrystie Street, an important link to the Manhattan Bridge bike path.

This doesn’t cut it, says CB 3. Photo: Justin Pollock

The vote follows months of dialogue between bike advocates and community groups, and comes on the heels of a unanimous vote supporting the plan by the CB 3 transportation committee earlier this month.

The plan, which would replace faded bike lanes with a protected bikeway alongside Sara D. Roosevelt Park, is receiving consideration now because the bumpy street is scheduled for milling and paving, offering an opportunity to refresh its layout. “We are looking to resurface the road this year, so we will come back to the community once a design is put together,” DOT Manhattan Liaison Colleen Chattergoon said at the transportation committee meeting.

“The community board has spoken,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron spokesperson Danny Weisfeld, “and it’s important for the DOT to follow up on the request.”

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West Harlem CB Members to DOT: Let Drivers Use Neighborhood as Shortcut

Key community board members in West Harlem say having anything less than two lanes in each direction will gridlock Riverside Drive. Photo: Google Maps

Key community board members in West Harlem say anything less than two lanes in each direction will gridlock the Riverside Drive viaduct. Photo: Google Maps

Riverside Drive in West Harlem is shaping up to be another test case for DOT’s commitment to safety improvements, and whether the agency will allow ignorance of basic street design principles and fear of change guide its decisions.

DOT didn’t put bike lanes in its road diet plan for Riverside Drive. Now, key members of Community Board 9 don’t want a road diet in the plan, either. DOT says that without the lane reduction, which will lower the design speed of the street, it won’t go along with requests to reduce the speed limit on Riverside to 25 mph.

The project includes pedestrian islands and curb extensions along Riverside Drive, 116th Street, and 120th Streets between 116th and 135th Streets. Its centerpiece is a road diet, from two lanes in each direction to one, on the viaduct that carries Riverside over West Harlem [PDF].

CB 9 transportation committee chair Carolyn Thompson and Ted Kovaleff, who served as CB 9 chair in the 1990s, spent much of Wednesday night’s meeting trying to maintain as many car lanes as possible on Riverside Drive.

Kovaleff said that he used to frequently drive to Vermont on Friday afternoons, and found that spillover traffic from the West Side Highway would clog Riverside, backing up on the viaduct. Removing one lane, he said, would lead to total gridlock. DOT project manager Dan Wagner said his analysis showed the viaduct road diet would slow driver speeds without leading to excessive back-ups, but Kovaleff wasn’t convinced. It would become a terminal bottleneck,” he said, “and that bottleneck would lead to increased pollution.”

“The asthma rate in this community, it’s horrible,” Thompson added. She also claimed that buses wouldn’t be able to operate on the viaduct with one lane in each direction.

Kovaleff didn’t evince much concern about dangerous speeding on the viaduct — and wasn’t convinced, despite ample evidence, that road diets work. “If people are gonna speed, whether it’s one lane in each direction, or two lanes in each direction, they’re gonna press down on the accelerator,” Kovaleff said. “And, you know, I don’t really care if people go 50 miles an hour on the viaduct.”

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CB 3 Committee Asks DOT for Protected Bikeway on Chrystie Street

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Advocates’ concept for a two-way protected bike lane on Chrystie Street. Streetmix by Dave “Paco” Abraham

The community board covering the Lower East Side and Chinatown is set to ask DOT to transform the Chrystie Street bike lane from barely visible stripes blocked by double-parked cars into a two-way protected bikeway along Sara D. Roosevelt Park, connecting the Manhattan Bridge with the Second Avenue protected bike lane.

The transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 3 voted unanimously Wednesday night to ask for the upgrades on the recommendation of Dave “Paco” Abraham and other Transportation Alternatives volunteers, who presented the idea last month [PDF]. The request is moving ahead now because Chrystie Street is scheduled for milling and paving this year, providing an opportunity to redesign the street.

DOT staff at Wednesday’s meeting welcomed the resolution. “We are looking to resurface the road this year, so we will come back to the community once a design is put together,” DOT Manhattan Liaison Colleen Chattergoon said.

At the southern end of Chrystie Street, the city is planning to rebuild the Manhattan Bridge bike path landing to include a pedestrian-friendly plaza space next to the bikeway. At Chrystie’s northern end, advocates hope a two-way bikeway on the east side of the street can eliminate the need for southbound cyclists on Second Avenue to maneuver across multiple lanes of car traffic in order to continue southbound.

Believe it or not, there’s a bike lane here. Photo: Google Street View via Brooklyn Spoke

Between Canal and Houston, the two-way bikeway would only cross automobile traffic at Grand and Delancey Streets, since other cross streets in the neighborhood form “T” intersections and do not continue through the park. The two-way bikeway alignment could also create opportunities for pedestrian islands on the crowded street.

The redesign request is supported by the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition. Kathleen Webster, the group’s president, asked the committee to make sure the resolution noted the senior centers, schools, elderly population, and high pedestrian volumes in the area, including a senior center within the park itself. CB 3 District Manager Susan Stetzer asked the committee to request that DOT conduct community visioning sessions to inform the final design. Both requests were added to the resolution.

The resolution now goes to the full board, which meets on February 24 at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 124, 40 Division Street.

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