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Posts from the Pedestrian Infrastructure Category

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Wider Sidewalks Coming to Flushing’s Crowded Main Street

Pedestrians crossing Roosevelt Avenue at Main Street, the location of the Flushing-Main Street subway station, at around noon today. Photo: David Meyer

Foot traffic on Roosevelt Avenue at Main Street, the location of the Flushing-Main Street subway station, at around noon today. Photo: David Meyer

Main Street in Flushing gets more foot traffic than anywhere else in New York after Times Square, but its sidewalks are too narrow to handle all those people. So later this month, the city will begin expanding the sidewalks on four blocks of Main Street, Council Member Peter Koo, DOT, and the Department of Design and Construction announced this afternoon.

Set to begin next Monday, the project will also add a one-block bus lane and high-visibility crosswalks, part of a bottom-up reconstruction of Main Street between 37th Avenue and 40th Road.

This section of Main Street is located at the convergence of the 7 train, the Long Island Railroad, 13 MTA bus routes, and many private bus lines. At any given point in the day, the sidewalks are overflowing with commuters and shoppers, 83 percent of whom arrive by foot or transit, according to DOT.

Council Member Peter Koo (center) spoke this afternoon alongside DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Photo: David Meyer

Council Member Peter Koo (center) with DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Photo: David Meyer

Downtown Flushing’s streets are designed primarily to move motor vehicles, however, and people walking on Main Street have to contend with heavy car traffic. In 2015 alone, 28 pedestrians were injured and two were killed along the .9-mile stretch of Main Street between Northern Boulevard and Elder Avenue, according to Vision Zero View.

The $7.8 million reconstruction project will add between two and eight feet of sidewalk space, depending on the location, building on a 2011 project that used paint and flexible bollards to narrow the roadway and expand space for pedestrians. That project led to an 11 percent decline in traffic injuries, according to DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Casting the wider sidewalks in concrete, she said, will “deliver on Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero goals.”

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Basic Pedestrian Upgrades Coming to Conduit Blvd, But No Bike Infrastructure

conduit_key

Four people have been killed while walking on Conduit Boulevard between Atlantic and Sutter since 2008. The DOT plan would reconfigure six locations for improved safety. Map: DOT

Last month, DOT revealed its plan to make Conduit Boulevard less of a barrier between neighborhoods near the southeast Brooklyn-Queens border [PDF]. With better, more frequent pedestrian crossings, the project should make it easier for residents to get from one side of Conduit to the other, but the design doesn’t include any bike infrastructure and leaves much of the high-speed geometry of the street intact.

With few pedestrian crossings, wide travel lanes, and separate east- and westbound roadways divided by a large median, Conduit Boulevard functions a lot like a highway. Until recently, the speed limit was 40 mph — much higher than the 25 mph citywide default — and drivers still exceed it routinely. Since 2008, four pedestrians have been killed in the project area.

Residents of East New York, Cypress Hills, and Ozone Park must contend with those conditions to access transit, parks, and schools in their neighborhoods. Beaten paths on the median attest to the substantial foot traffic despite the lack of crosswalks and high traffic speeds.

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Walking across S Conduit and Pine Street, where there is no pedestrian crossing. Photo: DOT

The DOT project consists of basic safety improvements — adding signalized crossings and sidewalk connections, restricting left turns, and narrowing the most highway-like sections of the roadway. DOT also lowered the speed limit on the corridor to 30 mph in June, bringing it more in line with the citywide 25 mph default limit.

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Electeds Urge DOT to Make Safety Improvements PS 41 Parents Asked For

Elected officials, Community Board 2, and parents and staff at PS41 want a protected bike lane and shorter crossing distances on Seventh Avenue South. Is DOT listening?

Elected officials, Community Board 2, and parents and staff at PS41 want a protected bike lane and shorter crossing distances on Seventh Avenue South. Is DOT listening? Image: PDF

Local, state, and federal electeds are calling on DOT to make long-sought safety improvements in the West Village, including a protected bikeway on Seventh Avenue South.

In a June 30 letter to DOT, City Council Member Corey Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Deborah Glick, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler asked DOT to act on street safety resolutions passed by Community Board 2 in 2014.

One of those resolutions requested that DOT expand the West Village Slow Zone, installed in 2015, east from Seventh Avenue to Sixth Avenue, with north-south boundaries at W. 11th Street and W. Houston Street. The other called for a redesign of Seventh Avenue South from Canal Street to W. 14th Street, including a protected bike lane, shorter crosswalks, and more pedestrian space [PDF].

The campaign for Seventh Avenue improvements is spearheaded by parents and staff at PS 41, which is located on W. 11th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues.

“As children and their caregivers travel to and from the school, they are too often forced to navigate among speeding cars — conditions that have resulted in both actual hits and near misses,” the letter [PDF] reads. “The same school community would also benefit from a Complete Street redesign of Seventh Avenue, which has the potential to greatly improve pedestrian crossing times and reduce traffic collisions.”

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The New York of 2016 Needs the Wide, Generous Sidewalks of 1906

The Times ran a feature on the pedestrian crush in New York City today, and as good as the photos are, they don’t do the situation justice. To get a sense of just how inadequate the sidewalks are in Midtown, you need to go there — or failing that, watch this Streetfilm from 2009 with narration by Streetsblog publisher Mark Gorton.

Believe it or not, these scenes of people overflowing off the sidewalk were shot during a post-recession ebb in pedestrian traffic, according to DOT counts cited by the Times. Since this video was made, the crowding has actually gotten worse.

New York didn’t always have such meager sidewalks — over the years, the city systematically shrank pedestrian space to make room for motor vehicles. Here’s a look at the sidewalk on Lexington Avenue and 89th Street today, and the much more accommodating dimensions near the turn of the 20th Century, courtesy of architect John Massengale:

Here’s the 1909 plan to shave 15 feet of sidewalk off Fifth Avenue to widen the roadbed for cars:

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Eyes on the Street: Bigger Sidewalk, Shorter Crossing at Riverside and 116th

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A tipster sent this photo of the sidewalk expansion underway at the corner of Riverside Drive and W. 116th Street in Manhattan. (It’s one of the elements in a DOT safety plan for Riverside that survived after the agency watered down the project at the behest of Community Board 9.)

Once the concrete is poured, the distance to walk across Riverside will be shorter and drivers will have to make slower turns onto 116th around the squared-up corner.

Image: DOT

Image: DOT

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To Improve Walking and Biking Across the Harlem River, DOT’s Thinking Big

Some Harlem River Bridge -- including the Madison Avenue Bridge depicted in this image -- may be in line for two-way protected bike infrastructure. Image: DOT

The Madison Avenue Bridge is one of several Harlem River crossings where DOT is considering a protected bikeway. Image: DOT

There are 16 bridges linking Manhattan and the Bronx, but if you walk or bike between the boroughs, safe, convenient routes are still scarce. That could change if DOT follows through on ideas the agency released this spring to improve walking and biking access over the Harlem River bridges [PDF].

Currently, 13 of the 16 bridges along the river have pedestrian access and just five (including the Randall’s Island Connector) have bike paths. The streets and ramps feeding into the bridges are mainly designed for motor vehicle movement and poorly equipped to keep pedestrians and cyclists safe.

Most nearby residents don’t own cars, and the conditions make it especially difficult for them to make short trips between the boroughs. “I know it could be more efficient for people to get to and from the Bronx, as opposed to waiting for the bus,” said Transportation Alternatives’ Sandra Hawkins. “Some of [the bridges] are not easily navigable for walking or cycling.”

After Bronx and Uptown residents called for safer access between the boroughs, DOT launched a series of workshops last summer to gather ideas for its “Harlem River Bridges Access Plan,” which will guide walking and biking improvements on the bridges and the neighborhood streets they connect.

DOT’s final plan is set to be released in the fall, but in March, the agency shared some of the improvements it is considering based on what people have said so far. The projects cover both short-term fixes that can be implemented quickly at low cost, and more time- and resource-intensive capital projects.

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Ride the New Pulaski Bridge Bikeway With Streetfilms

Today was a milestone for traveling between Brooklyn and Queens: NYC DOT opened the Pulaski Bridge bike path to lots of cheers with a celebratory ride.

Before today, the Pulaski Bridge walking and biking path was dangerously congested, with more pedestrians and cyclists crammed on to its narrow right-of-way every year. The solution? Convert one lane of the roadway to a two-way bike lane, making the original path exclusively for walking. Read up on the project in Streetsblog’s coverage of the grand opening.

If a lane of the Pulaski can be taken from cars and given to active transportation, the same can be done on other bridges. One place I’d love to see NYC DOT tackle next? The insanely crowded bike-pedestrian path on the Brooklyn Bridge is begging for a solution like this.

Streetsblog USA
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Fast Changes to City Streets: A 9-Step Guide for Creative Bureaucrats

Marshall Avenue and Monroe Avenue, Memphis, Tenn. Photo: John Paul Shaffer

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.

For most of the 20th century, cities answered transportation problems by adding more pavement.

More freeways. More lanes. More parking lots. More things that couldn’t be reversed or revised.

So it made sense, at the time, for the public process around civil engineering projects to focus, above all else, on not making mistakes. Generations of city workers embraced the value of “Do it once and do it right.”

But today’s transportation problems are different, and so are the projects that respond to them. Naturally enough, the process of planning and designing such projects has begun changing, too.

From the experimental lawn chairs scattered across New York’s redesigned Times Square on Memorial Day 2009 to the row of plastic posts on Denver’s Arapahoe Street after a bike lane retrofit last fall, city projects are tackling big problems with solutions that are small, cheap, fast and agile. But until now, no one has created a short, practical guide for cities that want to create a program to do things like these.

Today, we’re publishing that guide.

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DOT’s Meeker Ave Safety Project Gets — You Guessed It — Meeker

DOT's updated proposal for Meeker Avenue opts for new neckdowns instead of a closed slip lane at the triangle formed by Metropolitan Avenue, Havemeyer Avenue and N. 5th Street. Image: DOT

DOT’s updated proposal for Meeker Avenue opts for curb extensions instead of a car-free space at the triangle formed by Metropolitan Avenue, Havemeyer Avenue, and N. 5th Street. Image: DOT

DOT has watered down its safety plan for the area around Meeker, Union, and Metropolitan avenues. And for the second time in as many meetings, Brooklyn Community Board 1’s transportation committee could not make quorum last night to vote on the project.

DOT’s plan calls for sidewalk extensions and crosswalks at several intersections where Meeker, Union, and Metropolitan converge. It’s not a “complete street” redesign of the length of Meeker, but it would be a step up for pedestrian safety at these locations. There were three fatalities and more than 90 injuries in the project area between 2009 and 2013.

DOT wants to bring pedestrian safety improvements to this around around Meeker Avenue in North Brooklyn. Image: DOT

Map: DOT

Last night’s presentation included a few modifications from what DOT showed in January. Significantly, the plan no longer calls for pedestrianizing the short segment of North 5th Street between Metropolitan and Havemeyer. Instead, DOT will add neckdowns at three corners.

DOT Project Manager Julio Palleiro said the change was made at the request of the Church of the Annunciation, whose front entrance faces the would-be plaza. The church initially OK’d the car-free space, but came back to DOT after last month’s presentation. “They made a very strong case about elderly folks that need to get up to the front door here, and by having them over here that will add an extra 30 or 40 feet, which is significant for elderly people,” Palleiro said.

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Streetsblog USA
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Traffic Engineers Still Rely on a Flawed 1970s Study to Reject Crosswalks

When St. Louis decided not to maintain colorful new crosswalks that residents had painted, the city’s pedestrian coordinator cited federal guidance. A 2011 FHWA memo warns that colorful designs could “create a false sense of security” for pedestrians and motorists.

Shoddy, 50-year-old research is an obstacle to grassroots street safety efforts like this fleur-de-lis crosswalk in St. Louis. Photo: Rally St. Louis

That may sound like unremarkable bureaucrat-speak, but the phrase “false sense of security” is actually a cornerstone of American engineering guidance on pedestrian safety.

You’ll find the words “false sense of security” in Washington state DOT’s crosswalk guidelines too. The city of Stockton, California, makes the same claim. The list goes on.

What gives? Well, you can trace this phrase — and the basis of some engineers’ reluctance to stripe crosswalks — to one very influential but seriously flawed study from the 1970s.

In 1972, a researcher named Bruce Herms conducted a study of crosswalk safety in San Diego. He found that intersections with marked crosswalks had higher injury rates than ones with unmarked crosswalks. He concluded that marked crosswalks should only be installed where they are “warranted” because they can give pedestrians a “false sense of security,” encouraging risky behavior.

But there were problems with the study. For one, Herms didn’t actually study why people made certain decisions at crosswalks — that “false sense of security” was just speculation on his part.

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