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Posts from the "Pedestrian Infrastructure" Category

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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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A Crosswalk Too Far: Vote for the Least Crossable Street in America

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In Burlington, traveling from one side of the Middlesex Turnpike to another via the nearest crosswalk would require walking more than a mile out of the way. Image via Scribble Maps

In the Boston suburb of Burlington, Massachusetts, the AMC movie theater is right across the street from the Burlington Mall. But if you’re planning to travel between these two destinations on foot, you’re in for quite a hike.

The closest crosswalk is more than half a mile down the Middlesex Turnpike. That means crossing the road — if you’re going to do it “the safe way” — requires a 1.2-mile journey, and it’s definitely not going to be a pleasant one. Local resident David Chase reports that only one side of the street has a sidewalk.

Sadly, this situation isn’t even all that unusual in the United States. In most American cities you can find streets that turn what should be short, easy walking trips into excursions so long and humiliating that you might as well drive. Or, if you don’t have that option, you can take your chances playing a high-stakes game of Frogger.

Streetsblog asked our readers to help us find America’s “Least Crossable Street” by sending in examples of these monster roads. You responded, and hopefully a little public shaming will do some good. Check out the contenders and place your votes below.

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A Crosswalk Too Far: The Hunt for America’s Least Crossable Street

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Good luck walking to church on North Military Trail in West Palm Beach, if you happen to start on the other side of the street.

Last February, Streetsblog readers determined the worst intersection in America. Then you pinpointed a suburban area with streets so windy and disconnected, it would take a seven mile trip to travel between two houses that shared a back yard. And for two years running you’ve helped shame the nation’s most parking-scarred downtowns.

But there’s a special class of shame-worthy street we have yet to fully examine — and they haunt all corners of America. We’re talking about the street with an enticing destination on the other side, but no access, no crosswalk, no safe way to get across. A street that separates more than connects.

Put in this position, a rational person would just make a dash for it rather than walk as much as half a mile out of the way. But that decision can also put you in danger. And that’s the problem.

With some help from our readers and Twitter friends, we’ve put together a little collection of these divisive streets. Please share your own examples in the comments or send them to angie [at] streetsblog [dot] org.

Cincinnati: MLK Boulevard at Vine Street

Here’s an unfortunate scenario in Cincinnati. A key stretch of Martin Luther King Boulevard operates much like a moat. On one side of the street visitors to the University of Cincinnati stay at the Hampton Inn. Almost directly across the street is University Commons — a park area designed to be a “contemplative space.” Wouldn’t it be nice if visitors had access?

But to do that, they have to walk approximately a quarter mile out of the way:

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 2.53.23 PM

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After Quick Work by CB 7 and DOT, Safety Fixes Debut at 96th and Broadway

Press gathers this morning on an expanded pedestrian island at 96th Street and Broadway that, until recently, had been a left turn lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

Press gathers this morning at a sidewalk extension at 96th Street and Broadway that, until recently, had been a left turn lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

After the deaths of Cooper StockAlexander Shear, and Samantha Lee at or near the intersection of 96th Street and Broadway shook Upper West Siders in January, DOT promised fixes to an intersection that locals complained had become even more dangerous to cross after a reconstruction project just a few years before. This morning, the city debuted those changes, including an expanded pedestrian island and new crosswalk.

“By restricting that left turn onto 96th Street, this island is twice as big as it used to be,” DOT Assistant Commissioner Ryan Russo told the assembled press on the brick-pattern sidewalk. ”You’re standing in former road space.”

While northbound drivers can still turn left from Broadway to westbound 96th Street, drivers heading downtown on Broadway must either continue straight or make a right onto the cross street, resulting in less complex signal timing. Drivers are also now prohibited from turning left from westbound 96th Street to southbound Broadway. The design features a new crosswalk in the Broadway median leading across 96th Street to the subway entrance, as well as curb extensions on Broadway at six intersections between 93rd and 100th Streets.

Borough President Gale Brewer said the city was able to act quickly after the fatalities because Community Board 7 had already worked with consultants on a plan to improve pedestrian safety in the area. ”We had a head start,” she said, adding that her office has worked with all 12 Manhattan community boards to compile a list of dangerous streets and intersections [PDF]. ”DOT really is investigating each and every hot spot and will work on a plan for each and every one,” Brewer said.

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Tacoma Vows to Prosecute Rogue Crosswalk Painters

A group calling themselves “Citizens for a Safer Tacoma” has painted five crosswalks around the city, in hopes of pressing officials to take pedestrian safety more seriously.

The city of Tacoma, meanwhile, has reacted defensively, threatening to prosecute the group, according to King 5 News. Kurtis Kingsolver, interim public works director, complained to the television station that it costs the city $1,000 each to remove the guerrilla crosswalks and that they create a safety concern. Apparently rising traffic fatalities and citizen complaints are not enough to compel the city to improveconditions for walking. He said the city must consider things like sightlines, street width, and traffic volumes before installing a crosswalk.

Members of “Citizens for a Safer Tacoma” say they are responding to an increase in traffic collisions. With 15 of their members having been hit by cars, they say they tried to get the city to help, but were turned away.

The threat of arrest isn’t deterring them. “If the city does nothing, we will,” an anonymous spokesman for the group told the television station. “None of us want to go to jail, but we’re more dedicated to the safety of citizens than we are to the law.”

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Imagining a New Atlantic Avenue for de Blasio’s New York

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With the dangerous, highway-like conditions on Atlantic Avenue, much of the surrounding area is under-developed. A chain link fence surrounds this parking lot near Franklin Avenue.

Atlantic Avenue is one of New York’s most prominent streets, and in most respects, it is completely broken.

Stretching more than ten miles, Atlantic cuts through several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens while functioning mainly as an urban highway for private motorists and truckers making their way east, toward the Van Wyck and Long Island, or west, to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

It is plagued with constant, speeding traffic. The avenue’s wide, highway-like conditions induce drivers to floor it, and as a result Atlantic is one of the most dangerous streets in New York City. When Council Member Steve Levin took a speed gun out to Atlantic, he found 88 percent of drivers were going more than 10 miles per hour over the limit. From 2008 to 2012, 25 people were killed on the 7.6-mile stretch of Atlantic between Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights and 76th Street in Woodhaven.

When the city announced that Atlantic would become the first street in the “arterial slow zone” program, with a 25 mph speed limit and re-timed traffic signals, it was welcome news. Atlantic is the kind of monster that has to be tamed if the de Blasio administration is going to achieve its Vision Zero street safety goals, and the new speed limit is a good first step.

In the long-run, though, Atlantic Avenue and the many other city streets like it will need much more comprehensive changes to not only eliminate traffic deaths, but also accommodate the economic growth and housing construction goals that City Hall is after.

Today, much of Atlantic Avenue is an eyesore, especially along the stretch east of Flatbush Avenue. It’s basically an unsightly speedway, and land values along the eastern portion of Atlantic have historically been depressed. Empty lots sit beside carwashes and parking lots. Grassy weeds poke up through a decrepit median. Some portions fall under the shadow of elevated train tracks — the Atlantic Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which otherwise runs below ground.

Does it have to be this way? Can’t we imagine an Atlantic Avenue that is an asset to the neighborhoods which surround it, rather than a challenge to work around?

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Local BID and CB 2 Ask DOT for More Safety Upgrades on Atlantic Avenue

If DOT follows through on local requests, Atlantic Avenue, here at Hoyt Street, could get some pedestrian safety upgrades. Photo: Google Maps

If DOT follows through on local requests, Atlantic Avenue, here at Hoyt Street, could get some pedestrian safety upgrades. Photo: Google Maps

Last week, Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn became the city’s first “arterial slow zone” with a 25 mph speed limit. Now, a business improvement district on the avenue’s western end is asking for pedestrian safety upgrades, and Community Board 2′s transportation committee has signed on.

“Pedestrian improvements are customer improvements,” said Atlantic Avenue BID Executive Director Josef Szende. “[Shoppers] on Atlantic Avenue are all pedestrians, at least at some point in their journey.”

The BID is asking DOT to study the following safety improvements [PDF]:

  • Leading pedestrian intervals at all eleven intersections within the BID area. (LPIs have already been installed at Clinton, Third and Fourth Avenues.)
  • Bus bulb-outs at corners to speed loading time for bus riders and shorten crossing distances for pedestrians.
  • Shared-lane markings for cyclists along Atlantic Avenue.

Community board staff refused to talk about Tuesday’s unanimous vote supporting the BID’s request, but a board member characterized the committee’s discussion as involving very little debate. Szende said the committee was skeptical of the need for shared-lane markings, since there are parallel bike lanes on Dean, Bergen and Schermerhorn Streets, but did not ask the BID to remove sharrows from its letter to DOT.

The committee did request that the BID also ask DOT about improvements to Times Plaza, the triangle between Fourth, Atlantic, and Flatbush Avenues. ”It’s kind of a drab triangle right now. It’s just asphalt. There’s no lighting, there’s no wayfinding,” Szende said. ”We’re asking DOT to take an honest look at these things, to consider them, and come back to us with whatever they think is feasible.”

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CB 2 Panel OKs Hudson Street Bike Lane Upgrade, Bowery Ped Safety Tweaks

The Hudson street buffered bike lane is set to become a parking-protected path. Image: DOT

The Hudson Street buffered bike lane is set to become a parking-protected path. Image: DOT

Last night, Manhattan Community Board 2′s transportation committee unanimously supported two safety measures: one to upgrade a bike lane on Hudson Street, and another to tweak pedestrian improvements at the car-clogged intersection of the Bowery and Delancey Street.

Almost two-and-a-half years after asking DOT to upgrade the faded buffered bike lane on Hudson Street to a parking-protected path with pedestrian islands, the committee unanimously endorsed a plan from DOT to do just that [PDF]. The next steps: support from the full board at its April 24 meeting, and construction beginning in July.

The plan actually extends two of Manhattan’s most popular protected bike lanes southward. The Ninth Avenue protected lane will now reach a few blocks further south of 14th Street, on the southbound section Hudson Street, before joining the curbside striped bike lane on Bleecker Street. And on the northbound section of Hudson, cyclists will be able to use a protected bike lane starting at Houston Street before joining the existing Eighth Avenue protected lane.

CB 2′s request in 2011 asked that the lane extend south to Canal Street, but DOT’s plan stops at Houston. When the board made its request then, Hudson Square Connection BID executive director Ellen Baer said her members were split on the concept. While the BID has supported a number of other street safety improvements, it opposed the CB’s request for Hudson Street. Since then, the BID has released a concept plan that includes a protected bike lane along Hudson Street, but asked DOT to leave it out of the plan the agency presented last night.

“So far, we’ve gotten very positive responses, but we continue to go out there and build support for the plan,” Baer told Streetsblog. The BID’s plan includes widening the sidewalk to create space for green stormwater infrastructure, a more significant design change than DOT is proposing north of Houston. “You want to do it all at once,” she said. “You wouldn’t want to put a protected bike lane in this section and then come back.”

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Pedestrian Islands Coming to Deadly Northern Boulevard Intersection

The striped median on Northern Boulevard at 61st Street, right, is set to receive concrete pedestrian islands, like those on Hillside Avenue, right. Image: DOT

The striped median on Northern Boulevard at 61st Street, right, is set to receive concrete pedestrian islands, like those on Hillside Avenue, right. Image: DOT

The intersection of Northern Boulevard and 61st Street in Woodside, where an unlicensed truck driver making a left turn through a crosswalk killed 8-year-old Noshat Nahian on his way to school last December, is set for some pedestrian safety fixes after months of work by elected officials and street safety advocates.

Members of Make Queens Safer said they hoped it was the first of many design changes DOT would make to Northern Boulevard, which ranks as one of the most dangerous streets for pedestrians in Queens.

The plan for the 61st Street intersection, first reported by the Daily News, includes the addition of concrete pedestrian islands and the elimination of left turns from westbound Northern Boulevard to southbound 61st Street. It will also adjust signals to increase crossing time for pedestrians and feature new school zone crosswalk markings and signage. DOT has already restricted some on-street parking to “daylight” the intersection’s northeast corner and improve visibility for pedestrians and drivers. Construction is set to begin this month and wrap up within weeks.

Immediately prior to announcing his Vision Zero agenda last January at PS 152, where Nahian was walking to school before he was killed, Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the intersection with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

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Dateline Nashville: Students Spotted Walking to School — Outside!

Today in what’s wrong with everything: The Nashville news media is apparently aghast that students at a local high school had to take a walk.

According to WKRN, on the way back from a field trip around 100 students from the Nashville School of the Arts were dropped off about eight-tenths of a mile from school. The students, the station reports, were forced to endure 15 minutes of walking after bus drivers left them at a McDonald’s to attend to other routes.

“As the buses left,” says anchor Bob Mueller, barely concealing his incredulity, “the only way to get those students back to school was to walk.”

WKRN’s Nick Caloway did the same walk himself to double-check the school district’s half-mile estimate of the journey, which school officials said was within the official “walk zone.” Caloway does a pretty good job detailing road conditions that might make what should be a routine activity dangerous. He makes a point of saying the road was “busy” and that one section of sidewalk was closed, though these details are seemingly offered only to strengthen the argument that the students should not have been walking.

How sad that an activity that was commonplace for generations is now completely foreign to much of the U.S. Given the tone of the coverage you’d think these kids flew back from their field trip by flapping their arms.

As for the students, one described the experience as “not fun.”

“It was sunny, it was windy,” she said.

(Hat tip to Lenore Skenazy at Free Range Kids.)