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NYS Assembly Wants $20M for Safe Streets — Will Cuomo and Senate Agree?

In its one-house budget, the State Assembly is proposing to dedicate $20 million to safe streets projects statewide. It would be the first time New York has set aside dedicated funding for the state’s Complete Streets program, but so far neither Governor Cuomo nor the State Senate have included any such funding in their respective budget proposals.

New York State hasn’t guaranteed a dime for biking and walking projects since Governor Cuomo signed the Complete Streets law five years ago. Photo: Pat Arnow/Flickr

New York State hasn’t guaranteed a dime for biking and walking projects since Governor Cuomo signed the Complete Streets law five years ago. Photo: Pat Arnow/Flickr

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign reports that, since Cuomo signed a Complete Streets bill into law five years agoNew York hasn’t guaranteed any funding for walking and biking projects, while the federal pot for such projects has dwindled.

The law requires state and local transportation projects that fall under the jurisdiction of the state DOT and get federal and state funding to take walking and biking into account when appropriate.

Though $20 million doesn’t seem like much, Tri-State notes that it would almost double the $26 million in complete streets funding New York State is supposed to get from the feds annually under the FAST Act.

Given that people who walk and bike account for one in four traffic deaths in New York — the worst ratio of any state in the country, according to the Alliance for Biking & Walking — it’s vital that Albany help safe streets projects come to fruition.

“This is the first time a state budget bill has ever dedicated any state money to pedestrian and bike projects, so we consider this a big step forward,” Tri-State’s Nadine Lemmon told Streetsblog via email. “TSTC works in local communities across the state, and we often hear from mayors and leaders, ‘Why bother? There is no money to do what we want to do.’ If we can let them know New York State has stepped up, it will be a shot in the arm for local activists.”

Tri-State is asking New Yorkers to contact their State Senate reps and urge them to include $20 million in the Senate budget for Complete Streets.

It wouldn’t hurt to remind Cuomo that the safety of New Yorkers who aren’t driving motor vehicles matters too.

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DOT: Grand Concourse Project to “Replace and Upgrade Existing Bike Lanes”

A cyclist was killed last year at the intersection of Grand Concourse and 158th Street, pictured, where there is currently no dedicate bike infrastructure. Photo: Google Maps

A cyclist was killed last year at the intersection of the Grand Concourse and 158th Street, above, where there is currently no bike infrastructure. Photo: Google Maps

With Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz calling for better bike infrastructure on the Grand Concourse, there’s some serious political momentum to make this major north-south thoroughfare a safer street. How far will DOT take it?

The Grand Concourse is one of DOT’s Vision Zero “Great Streets” projects slated for capital improvements in the next few years. Currently, it has buffered bike lanes on the service roads above 162nd Street but no bike infrastructure south of that.

That’s a problem: A sizable chunk of cyclist injuries on the Grand Concourse in 2015 occurred below 162nd Street, including one fatality at 158th Street by Franz Sigel Park.

An agency spokesperson provided the following statement when Streetsblog asked if the Grand Concourse would be redesigned with a protected bike lane:

DOT plans to replace and upgrade the existing bike lanes as part of the ongoing capital reconstruction of the Grand Concourse. We expect to present proposals for the next phases of Capital Reconstruction to local stakeholders and Community Boards in the Spring.

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State Legislators Call for Dedicated Complete Streets Funding

Will 2016 be the year New York state backs its five-year-old complete streets law with actual funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure?

New Yorkers for Active Transportation (NY4AT), a coalition of 60 advocacy organizations and community groups, has bipartisan support in both houses for a line item setting aside $20 million per year for complete streets projects.

The complete streets bill signed by Governor Cuomo in 2011 required municipalities to consider the needs of pedestrians and cyclists in projects that received federal or state transportation funds. Since then, however, the state has actually invested less money in walking and cycling infrastructure than it did in the years preceding the law’s passage.

Republican State Senator Richard Funke has requested $20 million for bike/ped projects in each of the next five years of the state’s $22.1 billion transportation capital plan. In a letter to Senator Majority Leader John Flanagan co-signed by fellow Republicans Terrence Murphy and John Bonacic, Funke argues that “declining resources inhibit the ability to implement the NYS Complete Streets law.” A similar letter signed by 43 Assembly members was sent to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

NY4AT first called for state investment in complete streets infrastructure in 2012, and again in 2014. Nadine Lemmon of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign writes that the funding would be “only a tiny fraction” of the combined $54 billion the state plans to invest in roads and transit over the same five-year period, but dedicated bike-ped funding would nevertheless make a difference for complete streets initiatives across the state:

The ask is small, but a designating funds to walking and biking is an important — and symbolic — move that NYSDOT and Governor Cuomo have refused to make to date.

Streetsblog USA
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Change Is Afoot on the Country’s Most Important Street Design Committee

2nd Avenue, Seattle. When the country’s current street design manual was published in 2009, it offered no guidance on how to use bike signals.

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

One year after some progressive civil engineers around the country feared a crackdown against new-fangled street and signal designs, the opposite seems to be taking place.

The obscure but powerful National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which has often been a drag on changes in American street design, is now moving on several fronts to bring in new blood and prepare U.S. streets for a future that’d be much friendlier to biking and walking.

One of its member organizations is organizing into a disciplined voting bloc in favor of better tools to improve biking and walking. A prominent organization for urbanist transportation pros, NACTO, may be invited to join. And just Thursday, the Federal Highway Administration wrapped up a public comment period that could lead to the NCUTCD greatly accelerating updates to the design guidance it gives cities around the country.

“This is the most exciting time in my career,” said Dongho Chang, Seattle’s city traffic engineer and one of the NCUTCD’s new voting members this year. “I think we’re on the cusp of having that committee think much more broadly than just the highway focus.”

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6 Manhattan Electeds Ask DOT for Complete Streets on Fifth and Sixth Ave

DOT has put out a plan to add a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue from 14th Street to 33rd Street [PDF], and Manhattan electeds want more. A letter from State Senator Brad Hoylman and five other representatives calls for a more thorough complete street redesign along all of Sixth Avenue and Fifth Avenue from Greenwich Village to Central Park.

In addition to Hoylman, Assembly members Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried, City Council members Dan Garodnick and Corey Johnson, and Borough President Gale Brewer signed on to the letter to DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione, calling on the department “to take necessary steps to study and implement Complete Streets infrastructure on Fifth and Sixth Avenues as swiftly as possible.”

Members of both Community Board 4 and Community Board 5 have asked DOT for a bolder design in its Sixth Avenue plan. Since green lights were lengthened on Sixth Avenue in Midtown in conjunction with the pedestrianization of several blocks of Broadway a few years ago (signal time was basically reallocated from Broadway to Sixth, increasing average vehicle speeds [PDF]), it should be possible to repurpose a full traffic lane relatively painlessly. But the current plan does not include raised concrete pedestrian refuges, wider sidewalks, or bus lanes, and the bike lane is not as spacious as it should be:

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TransAlt Volunteers Keep Momentum Going for Midtown Complete Streets

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Tom Devito of Transportation Alternatives addresses the crowd Sunday with an assist from volunteer Albert Ahronheim. Photo: Susi Wunsch

Despite being flat, Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue have long been an uphill battle — for safe biking and walking that is. In 1980, in a decision well ahead of the times, Mayor Ed Koch had protected bike lanes installed on these heavily trafficked corridors, only to wipe away that groundbreaking work by removing the concrete barriers one month later. A few remnants of the original bike lanes still exist, but a lasting redesign of these two key Midtown avenues has seemed out of reach — until now.

In 2011, Eric Stern, a member of the Manhattan Community Board 5 transportation committee, raised the prospect of extending the current Sixth Avenue painted bike lane up to Central Park, to no avail at first. Fortunately, the idea of improving avenues in the heart of Midtown had legs.

Transportation Alternatives has run with the idea, petitioning for Fifth and Sixth Avenues that work better for walking, biking, and transit for the last few years. With more than 15,000 signatures amassed in support of a redesign, TA brought a proposal back to the community boards for the city to study turning Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue into complete streets.

The resolution has passed unanimously through every community board from Central Park to Canal Street, and every City Council member who represents the area has signed on too.

The Department of Transportation is now working on a feasibility study to determine the effect of altering these major city arteries. In an effort keep the momentum going, TA hosted a Shop/Bike/Walk day this weekend to remind DOT how important this project is to people who walk and bike on these streets and the people who run businesses in this part of town.

On Sunday, despite a cold spell that swept through the city, more than 60 people gathered to celebrate and visit a few of the 150 businesses that support the Fifth and Sixth Avenue Complete Streets campaign.

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Hoboken’s Main Drag Set for Ambitious Complete Streets Overhaul

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer has unveiled a plan to transform Washington Street, the Square Mile City’s main drag, with a two-way protected bike lane, super-sized curb extensions, and bus bulbs. The plan also includes expanded loading zones, new seating, bike racks, and bioswales for stormwater runoff.

Washington Street in Hoboken will feature a protected bike lane and expanded pedestrian space under a plan released this week. Image: The RBA Group

Washington Street in Hoboken will feature a protected bike lane, bus bulbs, and expanded pedestrian space under a plan released this week. Image: The RBA Group

The final design concept [PDF] was released at a meeting Tuesday night, capping nearly a year of public meetings and planning by the city and consultant The RBA Group.

Combined with other projects underway, a protected bikeway along the Washington Street commercial strip from the PATH station to the city’s northern edge could transform cycling in Hoboken. At its southern end, the Washington Street plan connects to Observer Highway, a four-lane street soon to receive a road diet and half-mile two-way protected bike lane [PDF]. Planning for that project dates to 2010, and the city says contracts for construction will go out to bid soon.

At the intersection of Washington and Observer Highway, the two-way bike paths will meet at a “T” intersection featuring dedicated space for cyclists to queue up before turning onto Washington. The path continues up the east side of Washington with a concrete buffer between cyclists and parked cars until 8th Street.

The remaining seven blocks, between 8th and 15th Streets, will have a protected bike lane only for northbound traffic, however, while southbound cyclists would use shared lane markings. The change was made in part to maximize on-street parking. South of 8th Street, Washington has parallel parking. The design north of 8th creates more space for angled back-in parking.

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Garodnick Endorses Complete Streets for Fifth and Sixth Avenues

The next time someone tries to tell you that complete street designs with pedestrian islands and protected bike lanes are controversial, point them to what’s happening on Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Avenues in Manhattan, where a united coalition of parents, business owners, elected officials, and community boards are begging DOT to design streets in the image of the already-remade First, Second, Eighth, and Ninth Avenues.

Think Fifth Avenue could be safer and better for bus riders, cyclists, and pedestrians? Dan Garodnick does. Photo: Canon/Flickr

Think Fifth Avenue could be safer and better for bus riders, cyclists, and pedestrians? Dan Garodnick does. Photo: Canon/Flickr

Advocates for a redesigned Fifth and Sixth Avenues are furthest along. Last week, they secured the endorsement of Council Member Dan Garodnick. “Complete streets help to reduce the conflicts that exist every day between cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians in Midtown Manhattan,” Garodnick said in a statement. “The Department of Transportation should be looking to repeat their most successful strategies wherever they can, and Fifth and Sixth Avenues — with significant crashes annually — are ripe for review.”

The campaign has already received backing from Council Member Corey Johnson and Community Boards 2, 4, and 5. It’s also gathered the support of numerous business improvement districts and small businesses. Next month, Transportation Alternatives is hosting a “walk, bike, shop” event along Fifth and Sixth Avenues to thank local merchants for their support [PDF]. Next up: securing meetings with Council Members Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez, who cover the area’s final southernmost blocks.

That momentum has spilled westward, where an effort led by parents and staff at PS 41 to expand the West Village slow zone has grown into a complete streets campaign for Seventh Avenue. Last Thursday, CB 2’s full board followed the lead of its transportation committee by unanimously endorsing a resolution asking DOT to study a complete streets redesign for Seventh Avenue, Seventh Avenue South, and Varick Street. In passing what could be considered a model resolution for boards wanting safer arterial streets [PDF], CB 2 asked DOT to consider pedestrian islands, narrowed car lanes, protected bike lanes, bus lanes, bus bulbs, leading pedestrian intervals, and split-phase traffic signals.

Seventh Avenue is also likely to come up at the next meeting of CB 4’s transportation committee, which covers the avenue through Chelsea, scheduled for October 15.

“There’s so much support from the community boards, from the electeds, that DOT will really have the chance to be bold,” said Transportation Alternatives organizer Tom Devito. “It’s clearly a testament to a shift in the belief in what our streets are for.”

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PS 41 Parents and Staff Build Momentum for Protected Bike Lane on 7th Ave

What began as a push to extend a neighborhood slow zone has grown into a complete streets request for Seventh Avenue. Image: PS 41 Parents

What began as a push to extend a neighborhood slow zone has grown into a complete streets request for Seventh Avenue. Image: PS 41 Parents [PDF]

Manhattan community boards have already asked DOT to study protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands for Amsterdam, Fifth, and Sixth Avenues. Now a coalition of public school parents, teachers, and administrators is making headway in a campaign to redesign Seventh Avenue with a complete streets focus that protects pedestrians and cyclists.

Last Thursday, CB 2’s transportation committee unanimously passed a resolution asking DOT to study the avenue below 14th Street. CB 4’s transportation committee, covering Chelsea, is likely to take up the request next month.

The push for complete streets on Seventh Avenue began with concerns about intersections on Seventh Avenue South, which runs through the West Village from 11th Street until it becomes Varick Street at the intersection of Clarkson and Carmine. Built along with the IRT subway, the avenue opened in 1919, slashing across the West Village’s diagonal street grid and creating multi-leg intersections that continue to pose a threat to pedestrians.

It’s these intersections that worry a group led by PS 41 principal Kelly Shannon and Heather Campbell, chair of the school’s Parents’ Action Committee. The group had asked DOT to extend the West Village neighborhood slow zone eastward to cover schools between Seventh and Sixth Avenues. After the city rejected that request in July, the parents came back to CB 2’s transportation committee last week, focused on improving safety at multi-leg intersections along Seventh Avenue South.

They presented a complete streets redesign featuring a protected bike lane, pedestrian islands, and a northward extension of the median made out of flexible posts that currently divides traffic on Varick Street approaching the Holland Tunnel [PDF]. The group has also received a letter of support from State Senator Brad Hoylman.

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At Jean Chambers Vigil, Urgent Pleas for Action Before Another Life Is Lost

John Chambers addresses last light's vigil for his wife Jean, killed last week by a turning driver at West End Avenue and 95th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

John Chambers speaks at the vigil for his wife Jean, who was killed last week by a turning driver at West End Avenue and 95th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

Yesterday evening, more than 100 people gathered on the corner of 95th Street and West End Avenue to remember 61-year-old Jean Chambers, killed last week by a turning driver while she had the “walk” signal. Jean’s husband and other traffic violence victims spoke at the vigil, and Council Member Helen Rosenthal announced that in the wake of this latest death, DOT will soon redesign at least 10 blocks of West End Avenue.

Jean Chambers is the fourth person killed in traffic within a two-block radius on the Upper West Side since January. After two nearby deaths at 96th Street and Broadway, DOT quickly implemented recommendations that had been developed last year. But it took yet another death to bring more street safety changes to the neighborhood.

“Jean came to 95th Street expressly to avoid 96th Street, because 96th Street and West End is especially treacherous,” said John Chambers, Jean’s husband. “There’s an irony there. She was very conscientious.”

Last night, Rosenthal said DOT has committed to a redesign of West End Avenue, a wide street with ill-defined lanes that handles lots of car traffic going to and from the West Side Highway. “It will be at least ten blocks, and I think it’s going to be longer,” she said, adding that DOT will be making big changes soon. “It’s going to be faster than you’ve ever seen,” she said. DOT said it hopes to work with Rosenthal and Community Board 7 to develop the project in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, there are a number of smaller changes DOT is making. Another speed hump on 95th Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive is planned, and a leading pedestrian interval at 95th Street and West End Avenue will be installed next week, DOT says. A ban on left turns from 95th to West End, the maneuver made by the driver who killed Chambers, was approved just days before Chambers’s death and implemented very recently [PDF]. The ban is only in effect from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on weekdays, however. Rosenthal hopes DOT will make it around-the-clock and install signs reminding drivers coming off the West Side Highway at 95th Street to drive carefully.

Many of these changes have been requested for years by parents at PS 75, where Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his Vision Zero action agenda in February. John Decatur is a father of three and has two children at PS 75, where he serves as co-president of the PTA. “Many parents have told me about nearly getting hit by cars. At the crosswalk where Jean was killed, I had my kids in the crosswalk. A driver leaned out and said, ‘Get your fucking kids out of the crosswalk,” he said. “I had the light.”

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