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Posts from the "Pedestrian Infrastructure" Category

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“Is It Really The Parking?”: Ozone Park Merchants Spar With Plaza Supporters

A new episode in a long-running conflict has cropped up in Ozone Park: A community group worked with the city to install a pedestrian plaza, but merchants, blaming poor sales on changes to traffic patterns, parking, and plaza upkeep, want the public space removed. A special forum hosted last Thursday by Queens Community Board 10 and DOT gave the two sides a chance to air their views in advance of potential changes. But plaza supporters say the merchants themselves are part of the problem.

A plaza in Ozone Park is nearly a year old. Many nearby merchants, saying it's killing business, want it removed. Image: DOT

A plaza in Ozone Park is nearly a year old. Many nearby merchants, saying it’s killing business, want it removed. Image: DOT

Public space is so scarce in Ozone Park that local children use a nearby municipal parking lot as a playing field. The plaza, installed last fall to carve out some more community space, is backed by the Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services Corporation (BACDYS) as a maintenance partner. Early plans called for it to be installed a couple blocks away in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, but DOT found the design would be better in Ozone Park. The agency held outreach meetings and secured support from, among others, Council Member Eric Ulrich, community boards in both boroughs, and local businesses.

But many business owners in the area are crying foul, saying the plaza has ruined business. They gathered dozens of signatures and outnumbered plaza supporters at last week’s meeting. ”We need to remove this plaza,” said Ozone Park Discount Variety and Hardware co-owner Hasib Ali, who estimated that three-quarters of his customers arrive by car. “All customers come in to complain about parking.” Ali’s business partner, Ahmad Ubayda, said shop owners will be hiring an attorney to fight the plaza.

“I do not want this plaza in front of my business. It’s killing the very existence of my business,” said Khemraj Sadoo, owner of Ozone Park First Class Laundry. “We need that plaza to move from there. We need two-way traffic once again.”

The plaza design, which pedestrianized a short section of Drew Street to connect a triangle-shaped pedestrian island with a nearby block, also extends up one block of 101st Avenue, from Drew Street to 76th Street. That block was converted from two-way car traffic to one-way westbound traffic. The plaza resulted in a net loss of what DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall described as “maybe one or two spots” for parking.

To ensure the plan wouldn’t have an outsize negative impact on parking, Hall said the agency performed surveys of parking occupancy before and after the plaza was implemented, and added parking meters to Liberty Avenue in an effort to improve turnover and access for customers. Most of the time, those on-street parking spots are empty,” Hall said of 101st Avenue. “You could always find a spot if you drove up.”

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Why It Makes Sense to Add Biking and Walking Routes Along Active Rail Lines

Despite high train frequency, southeastern Pennsylvania's Schuylkill River Trail -- 60 miles long and about to double in length -- provides a stress-free biking and walking experience. All photos from ##http://www.railstotrails.org/ourWork/reports/railwithtrail/report.html##RTC##

Despite high train frequency, southeastern Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River Trail — 60 miles long and about to double in length — provides a stress-free biking and walking experience. All photos from RTC

This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh.

You’ve heard of rail-trails — abandoned rail lines that have been turned into multi-use paths for biking and walking. There are more than 21,000 miles of rail-trails across the country, in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

But these trails don’t need to be built on the graves of defunct rail lines. A growing number of them, in fact, are constructed next to active rail lines. In 1996, there were slightly less than 300 miles of these trails. Today there are about 1,400 miles.

Railroads tend to be skittish about approving walking and biking routes because they fear liability if someone gets injured. Even so, 43 percent of rails-with-trails, as they’re known, are located wholly within railroad rights-of-way, while another 12 percent have some segments inside the right-of-way. So negotiating with railroads — from Class I freight railroads to urban light rail operators — is possible, if you know how to approach them.

At the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike conference in Pittsburgh next month, Kelly Pack of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy will be joined by Thomas Baxter of Pittsburgh’s Friends of the Riverfront and Jerry Walls, who chairs the board of the SEDA-COG joint rail authority in central Pennsylvania, to give tips on how to create new rails-with-trails.

While railroads are wary of opening up space near tracks to people walking and biking, there are ways to get through to them. And if advocates in your area aren’t convinced that walking and biking alongside a noisy railroad track is such a great idea, there are arguments to address their perspective, too. Here are eight great things about rails-with-trails.

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Study: People Living Near Biking and Walking Paths Get More Exercise

Walking and biking activity increased for people living near new facilities, in three U.K. communities examined. Connect2 is the name of the nonprofit group that helped install the infrastructure. Image: American Journal of Public Health

New bike/ped infrastructure in three UK communities (labeled “Connect2″ — the name of the nonprofit group that helped install the infrastructure) led to more physical activity. Graph: American Journal of Public Health

People who live near safe, high-quality biking and walking infrastructure tend to get more exercise than people who don’t, according to a study published last week in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers surveyed randomly selected adults before and after new bike/ped infrastructure was built in three communities in the U.K. Two of the selected communities opened bike and pedestrian bridges with well-connected “feeder” infrastructure. The other community upgraded “an informal riverside footpath” into a boardwalk during the study period.

Over three years, about 1,500 people responded to annual surveys about their walking and biking habits as well as other exercise behavior. During the first year of the survey — before the bike/ped improvements had been completed — there was no difference in biking and walking levels between people living close to the project areas and people living farther away. But by the final survey year, after the new infrastructure had been built, a disparity began to emerge.

Researchers found that people living within 0.6 miles of a protected bikeway got about 45 minutes more exercise biking and walking per week than people living 2.5 miles away. For every kilometer (0.6 miles) closer respondents lived to the infrastructure improvement, they exercised roughly 15 minutes more per week. People without access to a car were most likely to exercise more in response to the infrastructure improvements.

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Bronx Advocates Push for New Pedestrian Plaza in Soundview

Today, Harrod Place separates a green triangle from a busy park. A local group hopes to convert it to a plaza. Photo: Google Maps

Harrod Place separates an underutilized green triangle (left) from a park. A local group hopes to convert it to a plaza. Photo: Google Maps

Near the intersection of Morrison and Westchester Avenues in Soundview, just a block from the Bronx River Parkway, one block separates a forlorn green triangle from Parque de Los Niños and its well-used benches and baseball diamonds. Now, a local group is hoping to phase in public space upgrades to the area through DOT’s plaza program. The first step received support from Community Board 9 last month.

Last fall, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice applied to the plaza program, hoping to eventually convert a section of Harrod Place into a plaza linking the commercial area along Westchester Avenue with the park. In May, DOT hosted a workshop at the public library on Morrison Avenue to present concepts and gather feedback.

The plan would start with curb extensions and plaza upgrades. The local group behind the plan hopes for a full plaza eventually. Image: DOT

Improvements would start with curb extensions and public space upgrades. The local group behind the plan hopes to eventually pedestrianize one block of Harrod Place  – the side street in this plan. Image: DOT

DOT came back with a plan to add painted curb extensions, planters, benches, tables and chairs [PDF]. It would remove three parking spaces while DOT says four spaces could be added elsewhere on Harrod by adjusting regulations. YMPJ, advised by the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership, has promised to maintain the space and aims to program it with public art, a farmers market, and exercise groups. The plan gained the support of CB 9 on June 19.

“It’s a pretty underutilized street in many ways,” YMPJ executive director David Shuffler said. His group has spoken with many of the adjacent businesses, which he said do most of their loading through front doors on Westchester Avenue.

While DOT’s proposal doesn’t make Harrod car-free, Shuffler hopes the project can evolve into a fully pedestrianized plaza. “My understanding is that this would be the first phase, and they would be looking for funds for the second phase, which is the complete plaza,” he said. ““We talked to the local businesses, and they said it was okay.”

DOT says its crews have patched potholes and addressed other road conditions in preparation for the first round of changes, which Shuffler hopes to see implemented within a month.

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Shared Space: The Street Design NYC’s Financial District Was Made For

Long studied, little implemented: This 1997 Department of City Planning map identified streets ripe for pedestrianization or plazas. Adding shared streets to the mix could open up more possibilities. Image: DCP

Long studied, little implemented: This 1997 Department of City Planning map identified streets ripe for pedestrianization or plazas. Adding shared streets to the mix could open up more possibilities. Image: DCP

For people in cars, the Financial District is a slow-speed maze. For everyone else, it is one of the city’s most transit-rich destinations. Despite this, most of the street space in the area is devoted to cars.

The Financial District is an ideal candidate for pedestrianization, but while it has seen redesigns on a handful of streets, it has yet to see the large-scale creation of car-free space that has been studied and talked about for ages. Could introducing shared space to the mix help transform some of New York’s oldest streets into truly people-first places?

If not for the the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, the Financial District would effectively be a large cul-de-sac — there is no reason for through traffic to use its local streets. The evil twins of West Street and the FDR Drive feed cars to the tunnel and ring off the neighborhood from the waterfront. But within the Financial District itself, most of the streets are narrow and have far more pedestrians than cars.

There are a few places in the Financial District where car-free streets have taken hold over the years. Too often, the goal has been not to create an open, accessible city, but to build a fortress against the threat of truck bombs.

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Eyes on the Street: More Pedestrian Space at Deadly UES Intersection

The crowded intersection of 60th Street and Third Avenue now has a bit more space for pedestrians. Photo: Stephen Miller

The intersection of 60th Street and Third Avenue now has a bit more space for pedestrians. Photo: Stephen Miller

Last September, 16-year-old Renee Thompson was struck and killed by a turning truck driver at the intersection of Third Avenue and 60th Street. Now, the crowded intersection has painted curb extensions on two of the intersection’s four corners that shorten crossing distances and tighten turns.

A DOT proposal in January to Community Board 8 had them on the west side of the intersection, but the curb extensions were striped on the northwest and southeast corners of the intersection last week. Pedestrians could use the extra space: Sidewalks in the area are narrowed by subway entrances, tree pits, and enclosed sidewalk cafes.

Two blocks to the east, the neighborhood received another improvement with the final touches on the two-way bike path on First Avenue beneath the Queensboro Bridge. The concrete barrier separating cyclists from pedestrians was painted last month in a pattern mirroring the tiling on the bridge’s archways above.

The two-way bike path on FIrst Avenue between 59th and 60th Streets now has a concrete barrier to match its tiled ceiling. Photo: Stephen Miller

The two-way bike path on FIrst Avenue between 59th and 60th Streets now has a concrete barrier to match its tiled, arched ceiling. Photo: Stephen Miller

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New Bronx River Greenway Link Would Remake Asphalt Expanse

Caption. Image: DDC

This plan to redesign a complex pair of intersections and expand the Bronx River Greenway is a huge step up from the expanse of asphalt on the street today, but it’s still missing a key crosswalk. Image: DDC

After years of inter-agency wrangling, a wide-open intersection in the Bronx is set for a complete redesign that will include a new link in the Bronx River Greenway. The city presented a preliminary design [PDF] to Community Board 6′s transportation committee last Thursday. While the plan is a big step forward, it lacks a crosswalk that would make it better for pedestrians.

Update: “We are working with DDC to have the crosswalk added to the design,” DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail.

Today, the multi-leg intersection of East Tremont Avenue, 177th Street, and Devoe Avenue is a difficult place to walk. Extra-wide car lanes ring two tiny concrete islands marooned in a sea of white-striped asphalt. Crosswalks are fading away, and sidewalks on the west side of Devoe Avenue are crumbling.

In March, advocates and neighborhood residents, organized in part by the Bronx River Alliance and artists Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín of Boogie Down Rides, created a video to show how difficult it is to walk across the intersection.

bronx_before

Current conditions. Image: DDC

The southern end of the project, which includes two spans across the Bronx River, handles cars going to and from the Cross Bronx Expressway, the Bronx River Parkway, and the Sheridan Expressway. On the northern end, East Tremont Avenue is a major crosstown street and bus hub. The plan, designed by consultant The RBA Group for the Department of Design and Construction, requires coordination between NYC DOT, the state DOT, the Parks Department, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the MTA.

“This project has been going on for years,” said Bronx River Alliance greenway coordinator Claudia Ibaven. “Since there are a lot of agencies involved, it was taking more time.”

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Atlanta’s Pleasantdale Road Voted the Least Crossable Street in America

Atlanta's Pleasantdale Road was voted America's least crossable street by our readers.

Streetsblog readers voted Atlanta’s Pleasantdale Road the nation’s least crossable street. Image: Google Maps

Streetsblog readers have spoken, choosing Atlanta’s Pleasantdale Road as the “least crossable street in America,” which beat tough competition from Phoenix, Kansas City, and other cities.

Here's a closeup of Pleasantdale Road, our "winner." Image: Google Maps

If you don’t want to walk a mile out of your way to a crosswalk, you have to scramble across a five-lane speedway. Image: Google Maps

To legally walk from the bus stop at Pleasant Shade Drive to the apartment complex across the street using the nearest crosswalk would require a three-quarter-mile trip.

Jacob Mason, the reader who submitted this entry, said at some points Pleasantdale Road is even worse: The detour to use a legal pedestrian crossing can stretch to as long as 1.7 miles.

Mason also notes that Pleasantdale Road is five lanes wide, with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour, but it’s surrounded by apartment buildings. Nearby residents are faced with a horrible choice: walk a mile out of your way to a crosswalk, or take your life in your hands and make a dash for it.

The area is reminiscent of where Raquel Nelson‘s 4-year-old son was struck and killed by an intoxicated driver in nearby Cobb County. Nelson was tried and convicted of vehicular homicide, in a case that rested on the fact that she and her children were “jaywalking” instead of walking a third of a mile down the road to the nearest crosswalk. Mason says Pleasantdale Road reflects how that kind of injustice is built in to the environment of the Atlanta region.

Coming in close behind Pleasantdale Road in the competition were West Indian School Road in Phoenix and Middlesex Turnpike in Burlington, Massachusetts. Thanks to everyone who submitted entries and voted. Hopefully, this will help provide the impetus for some positive change.

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CBs Eye Safety Tweaks on 155th Street Through Denny Farrell’s Windshield

Today, a confusing flow of turning drivers puts pedestrians at risk at the intersection of 155th Street, St. Nicholas Place, and Edgecombe Avenue. Image: DOT

Today, a confusing flow of turning drivers puts pedestrians at risk at the intersection of 155th Street, St. Nicholas Place, and Edgecombe Avenue. Image: DOT

A dangerous Upper Manhattan intersection could get pedestrian safety upgrades [PDF], if three community boards can agree on a plan. Wednesday evening, DOT invited neighborhood residents and members of Community Boards 9, 10, and 12 to a meeting that resulted in some consensus, though implementation remains about a year away. As at last year’s meeting, however, the show was stolen by local Assembly Member Herman “Denny” Farrell, the powerful chair of the Ways and Means Committee, who critiqued the project from a windshield perspective.

The junction of 155th Street, Edgecombe Avenue, St. Nicholas Place, and Harlem River Driveway is a six-legged intersection with crosswalks that stretch up to 95 feet. With drivers coming from what can often feel like all directions, crossing the street is a challenge. From 2008 to 2012, there were 72 injuries at the intersection, including eight severe injuries. Three of the severe injuries were pedestrians; the remainder were motor vehicle occupants, according to DOT. In 38 percent of pedestrian crashes, the pedestrian was crossing with the signal.

Both former Council Member Robert Jackson and the 30th Precinct requested safety improvements, and DOT held site walk-throughs and meetings with the public in 2012 and 2013. DOT’s plan would add curb extensions at all six corners of the intersection and a concrete pedestrian island on the southern side of the intersection on St. Nicholas Place. It would also add up to four turn bans to reduce conflicts between pedestrians and turning drivers.

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Two of the Most Dangerous Streets in Queens Set for Safety Upgrades

DOT is proposing nine new pedestrian islands on Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights, including a few with left-turn bans. Photo: DOT

DOT proposes nine new pedestrian islands on Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights. Photo: DOT

DOT has proposed concrete safety improvements for Northern Boulevard and Broadway, two of the most dangerous streets in Queens. If supported by Community Boards 2 and 3 next month, the projects could be implemented by the end of the year.

On Northern Boulevard between 63rd and 103rd Streets, DOT has proposed adding nine pedestrian islands in the existing striped median [PDF]. Currently, there are five islands in this 40-block, 1.8-mile stretch, which ranks in the most dangerous 10 percent of Queens streets.

Since 2008, there have been three pedestrian fatalities on this part of Northern Boulevard, including Olvin Jahir Figueroa, age 3, and Miguel Torres, age 11. A DOT study of the intersection with 61st Street showed that a third of all pedestrians at the intersection are school-aged children. The street is 70 feet wide, which is difficult to navigate for people who can’t walk fast. In 46 percent of crashes that injured pedestrians, the victim was crossing with the signal.

Four of the nine new islands, at 75th, 78th, 96th, and 102nd Streets, will include left turn bans. DOT has already installed similar pedestrian islands and turn bans at Northern Boulevard and 61st Street, where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed by an unlicensed truck driver making a left turn last December. Nahian was walking to PS 152, where Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his Vision Zero agenda in January.

DOT presented the plan to Community Board 3′s transportation committee last Tuesday. Committee members were generally receptive and urged DOT to do more, including adding more trees and greening, according to Make Queens Safer, which has been campaigning for a safer Northern Boulevard. Some of the islands will have trees, while underground utilities in some locations prevent trees from being planted.

“Northern Boulevard still has a lot of complex problems that remain unaddressed,” Make Queens Safer said in a statement. “The city should do everything in its authority to create a more comprehensive transformation of this outmoded highway into a model design for arterial roads.”

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