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Posts from the Pedestrian Infrastructure Category

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Construction Begins on New 151st Street Bridge to Hudson River Greenway

The view from what will be the eastern landing of a new bike/ped bridge linking 151st Street to the Hudson River Greenway. Photo: Delphine Taylor

The state broke ground this month on a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge linking West Harlem with the Hudson River Greenway.

For cyclists, the bridge will provide stair-free access between the greenway and the intersection of 151st Street and Riverside Drive, spanning the Henry Hudson Parkway and the Amtrak line that runs along the Hudson. Right now the nearest access points, at 148th and 155th streets, have stairs and no ramps. The nearest crossings with ramps are at 135th Street, south of Riverbank State Park, and 158th Street.

The 158th Street connection received a $2 million staircase and ramp from the state Department of Transportation in 2006. Earlier this summer, NYC DOT installed a two-way bike lane on 158th Street as part of a larger package of bikeway improvements linking the Hudson River Greenway to the High Bridge.

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Turn Times Square Back Into Traffic Hell? Tell Bratton and de Blasio: No Way

Replacing people with cars? Not a good idea, public space advocates say. Photo: Nicolas Vollmer/Flickr

Try to picture ramming a road through this crowd and cramming them onto the sidewalk. Photo: Nicolas Vollmer/Flickr

Since Mayor Bill de Blasio won’t rule out the threat of removing the Times Square plazas, first raised by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, it’s time to take action. Two petitions are circulating to urge the mayor not to give Times Square back to cars.

One petition organized by the Design Trust for Public Space and backed by the Municipal Art Society and a similar petition from Transportation Alternatives call on Bratton and de Blasio to do the right thing by the hundreds of thousands of people who walk in Times Square every day.

“Commissioner Bratton and Mayor de Blasio want to rip up the pedestrian plazas. We can’t let that happen,” the Design Trust’s petition says. “Aggressive street performers and ‘desnudas’ are an enforcement problem. They aren’t a plaza problem.”

Here’s what some of the signatories are saying…

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Bratton Won’t Stop Talking About Removing Times Square Plazas

It wasn’t just an offhand remark. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has reiterated his desire to eliminate the public plazas at Times Square and go back to the days when people were spilling off the sidewalk into the path of traffic. This time, he’s insisting that taking away space for people won’t just cure Times Square of topless women and costumed characters — it’ll actually improve traffic safety.

He's the Energizer bunny of car-centric thinking. Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr

He’s the Energizer bunny of windshield perspective. Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr

The year after the plazas were installed, pedestrian injuries fell 40 percent at Times Square, and injuries to car drivers and passengers dropped 63 percent along Broadway in Midtown, according to a 2010 DOT report [PDF]. At the same time, pedestrian volumes in Times Square increased 11 percent after the plaza opened.

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal crunched the numbers and found that total traffic injuries in Times Square have fallen nearly 25 percent in the five years since the redesign compared to the five previous years. Times Square is safer now than it was before the plazas were installed.

Not so, says Bratton.

“That story was really, very inappropriate in its findings. It took a look at Seventh Avenue and Broadway. It didn’t look at the cross streets, it didn’t look at the larger Times Square area,” he said on WGTK-AM 970, reports Politico. “When you look at the larger Times Square area, actually, accidents have gone up. So, all the traffic that has been pushed into the side street… it tells a very different story.”

Whatever stats Bratton is referring to, they clearly don’t account for the huge growth in foot traffic to Times Square since the plazas arrived. Even if injuries haven’t declined — and all indications are that they have — with all the added people walking in Times Square now, the average person is clearly safer from traffic.

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Eyes on the Street: Clinton Street’s New Bikeway

The bikeway isn't complete yet, but it's already getting used. Photo: Stephen Miller

The bikeway isn’t complete yet, but it’s already getting used. Photo: Stephen Miller

A new two-way bikeway is under construction to provide a connection between the Williamsburg Bridge and the East River Greenway.

The route along Clinton Street extends the existing two-way protected bike lane between Delancey and Grand an additional five blocks to South Street, where it connects to the waterfront bike path beneath the FDR Drive.

The waterfront greenway, which runs along South Street, will also be getting an upgrade: concrete barriers to protect greenway users from cars and trucks. DOT says the installation schedule for this component of the project is still being determined.

Cinton Street is getting a two-way bikeway and painted curb extensions. Image: DOT [PDF]

Clinton Street is getting a two-way bikeway and painted curb extensions. Image: DOT [PDF]

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It’s de Blasio and Bratton vs. the World on Times Square Plazas

Let’s start with some basic facts: Most people like Times Square better now that it has more room for people. Gone are the days when the sidewalks were so meager that you had no choice but to walk in traffic. After Broadway went car-free through Times Square in 2009, pedestrian injuries plummeted 40 percent. Retail rents soared. And yet, going against just about everyone else who has something to say about it, Mayor Bill de Blasio is entertaining the idea of eliminating the plazas.

The mayor and his police commissioner aren't sold on this whole "streets for people, not cars" thing. Photo: Mayor's Office/Flickr

The mayor and his police commissioner aren’t sold on this whole “streets for people, not cars” thing. Photo: Mayor’s Office/Flickr

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton started things off when he said he’d like to remove the plazas to curb topless women and people in cartoon costumes hustling for tips in Times Square. “I’d prefer to just dig the whole darn thing up and put it back the way it was, where Broadway is Broadway and not a dead-end street,” Bratton told 1010 WINS.

Asked about Bratton’s comments, de Blasio didn’t reject the idea. “Commisssioner Bratton and I have talked about that option… That’s a very big endeavor, and like every other option comes with pros and cons,” he said. “So we’re going to look at what those pros and cons would be. You could argue that those plazas have had some very positive impacts. You could also argue they come with a lot of problems.”

Tearing out the plazas would, among other things, run directly counter to de Blasio’s Vision Zero street safety goals. After the plazas were installed, pedestrian injuries fell 40 percent at Times Square, and injuries to car drivers and passengers dropped 63 percent along Broadway in Midtown, according to a 2010 DOT report [PDF]. The incidence of people walking in the roadway at Times Square fell 80 percent.

“People forget just how disastrous it was. There was clearly no room to walk and people were just forced into the street,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said by phone. “Times Square rivaled Queens Boulevard as the most dangerous location in the city.”

“To suggest that cars and trucks be reintroduced into the most pedestrian-rich intersection in North America is just unbelievable,” White added. “It betrays just a fundamental misunderstanding of traffic safety, and I think it’s very worrisome for the future of Vision Zero that relatively minor challenges having to do with hustlers and hucksters in Times Square is enough to go back to the bad old days when Times Square was deadly.”

The reaction to Bratton and de Blasio’s trial balloon from politicians and leaders in the local business community was fast and furious:

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Eyes on the Street: Seventh Avenue Gets a Bit More Pedestrian Space

Pedestrians have a bit more breathing room, and a head start on turning drivers, at Seventh Avenue South and W. 4th Street.

Pedestrians have a bit more breathing room, and a head start on turning drivers — but not a full plaza as initially proposed — at Seventh Avenue South and W. 4th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

Pedestrians have a little more room to navigate the complex intersection of Seventh Avenue South and W. 4th Street in the West Village.

The intersection now has a dedicated left turn lane for drivers going from Seventh Avenue South to W. 4th Street. The traffic signal gives pedestrians a head start and holds turning traffic before giving drivers a flashing yellow arrow indicating that they can proceed after yielding to people in the crosswalk [PDF].

The plan adds pedestrian space, but less than an earlier version that would have created a plaza on one block of W. 4th Street. Image: DOT [PDF]

The plan adds pedestrian space, but less than an earlier version that featured a plaza on a block of W. 4th Street. Image: DOT [PDF]

Curb extensions are also being painted at six corners near the intersection, shortening crossing distances for pedestrians. The largest is on Seventh Avenue South between Christopher and Grove streets, providing more space for pedestrians at the entrance to the Christopher Street subway station.

The Seventh Avenue South Alliance has signed on as a maintenance partner for the space, DOT said. Completion is set for late fall.

DOT had initially proposed creating a full-size plaza on W. 4th Street between Christopher and Grove streets, but CB 2 members objected over fears it would inhibit truck deliveries and increase traffic on other side streets. The department then proposed the turn lane option instead.

The intersection is just north of where Seventh Avenue South crosses Bleecker Street. DOT added a similar treatment there in 2012, including a dedicated turn lane and leading pedestrian interval followed by a flashing yellow arrow for turning drivers [PDF].

Last year, CB 2 asked DOT to study a complete streets treatment for the length of Seventh Avenue South, including a protected bike lane. DOT has yet to propose a protected bike lane for Seventh Avenue South.

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Eyes on the Street: 33rd Street Plaza Comes to Life

The view at Penn Plaza. Photo: Stephen Miller

The view at Penn Plaza. Photo: Stephen Miller

There is now a plaza at Penn Plaza.

The finishing touches were added to a temporary pedestrian space occupying the full breadth of 33rd Street just west of Seventh Avenue earlier this week. The plaza stretches a little less than halfway to Eighth Avenue, replacing what used to be westbound traffic lanes with planters, sculptures, a terraced seating area, and a painted surface to grab the attention of passing commuters.

The plaza was funded by Vornado Realty Trust, which owns a number of large properties nearby, including Penn Plaza, the Hotel Pennsylvania, and the Manhattan Mall. Vornado received the backing of DOT and Community Board 5 for its plan earlier this year,

The space was busy during yesterday’s evening rush hour. “I’m a New Yorker. I like to have a place to sit,” said Eva, who commutes by Long Island Rail Road from Flushing Estates and refused to give her last time. “In this area here, you don’t have a park, you don’t have a place to come sit down at lunchtime,” she said. “It’s nice.”

Rush hour outside Penn Station. Photo: Stephen Miller

Rush hour outside Penn Station. Photo: Stephen Miller

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Eyes on the Street: Third Avenue Bus Island Nears Completion

Third Avenue at 57th Street has a new bus stop and a new block-long pedestrian island. Photo: Stephen Miller

Third Avenue at 57th Street has a new bus stop and a new block-long pedestrian island. Photo: Stephen Miller

Pedestrians and bus riders at one of the most dangerous intersections in Midtown now have a bit more breathing room. Work on a block-long pedestrian island on Third Avenue is complete, providing space for pedestrians between drivers turning right onto 57th Street and traffic heading uptown. It also includes a new bus stop and shelter [PDF].

The intersection, crammed with crosstown traffic and cars heading to the free Queensboro Bridge, ranks low for pedestrian safety. There were 39 pedestrian injuries and one death there from 2008 to 2012, according to DOT. Itself a Vision Zero priority intersection, the crossing sits at the juncture of two priority corridors.

The new Third Avenue pedestrian island, viewed from 56th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

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Ferreras: “My Focus Is to Make 111th Street One Hundred Percent Safe”

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Council Member Julissa Ferreras, left, listens in during a workshop about a plan for 111th Street yesterday. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

A grassroots effort to improve safety on extra-wide 111th Street in Corona yielded a DOT plan for a road diet, better pedestrian crossings, and a protected bike lane this spring. Then two members of Queens Community Board 4 stymied the proposal, at least for the time being. To keep the project moving forward, Council Member Julissa Ferreras has organized two neighborhood town halls this month.

Nearly 50 people turned out yesterday afternoon for the first meeting at the New York Hall of Science. DOT gave a presentation before splitting participants into small groups to get feedback on the proposal [PDF] and hear concerns about safety on 111th Street, which widens to become a multi-lane divided road alongside Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The heart of the plan is reducing the street to one motor vehicle lane in each direction and adding a curbside protected bike path next to the park. With fewer car lanes, speeding will be reduced and crossing the street to get to the park won’t be so challenging.

Most attendees were in favor of the change. “It’s going to be safe for me and my kids,” said Delia Tufino, who began bicycling a year ago as part of a program launched by Immigrant Movement International and the Queens Museum. “I think it’s important to bring the community out,” she said of the workshop.

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33rd Street at Penn Station Will Go Car-Free This Summer

33rd Street west of Seventh Avenue will become a temporary pedestrian plaza this summer. The project could be made permanent in the future. Photo: Google Maps

33rd Street west of Seventh Avenue and east of the Madison Square Garden loading docks will become a temporary pedestrian plaza this summer. The project could be made permanent in the future. Photo: Google Maps

Real estate giant Vornado Realty Trust last night unveiled plans to open up space for people on a couple of busy blocks near Penn Station. The proposed car-free zones include a new pedestrian plaza on 33rd Street west of Seventh Avenue. Phase one will consist of a three-month trial this summer and fall, and the changes could be made permanent afterward.

Vornado is proposing to make part of 33rd Street off-limits to through traffic, creating a pedestrian plaza from Seventh Avenue to the Madison Square Garden loading docks about halfway down the block toward Eighth Avenue. Vornado executives told CB 5 the space could be used for seating or events, reports Bloomberg.

The company is also proposing more limited extensions of pedestrian space on 32nd Street between Seventh Avenue and Sixth Avenue. The street will get a sidewalk extension along the entire north side of the block, as well as plantings on the south side of the block near Seventh Avenue, with traffic trimmed to one lane. The pedestrian areas will connect with plazas at Herald Square.

The proposal received a unanimous endorsement at a joint meeting of the Community Board 5 parks and transportation committees last night, reports Transportation Alternatives senior organizer Tom DeVito. It now advances to the full board on June 11.

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