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Posts from the Pedestrian Infrastructure Category

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DOT’s Slow Zone Signs Now Just Another Sidewalk Obstacle [Updated]

Top to bottom: Slow Zone signs at E. 167th Street and Longfellow Avenue in the Claremont section of the Bronx, site of the city’s first 20 mph residential zone, in 2011 and 2014. Photos: Noah Kazis (top), Google Maps

Slow Zone signs at E. 167th Street and Longfellow Avenue in the Claremont section of the Bronx, site of the city’s first 20 mph residential zone, in 2011 (top) and 2014 (bottom). Photos: Noah Kazis (top), Google Maps

Launched in 2011, the DOT Neighborhood Slow Zone program is intended to keep drivers from exceeding 20 mph in residential areas. Strengthening and expanding the program should be a key aspect of Vision Zero, but instead, DOT has watered down some Slow Zone features, apparently in response to motorist complaints about curbside parking.

This week DOT unveiled a proposal for a new Washington Heights Slow Zone, west of Broadway from W. 179th Street to Bennett Avenue, to the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee. According to the DOT presentation [PDF], the residential area within the proposed zone was the site of one traffic fatality, one serious pedestrian injury, and four serious injuries to vehicle occupants from 2007 to 2015.

“We all have young children, preschool age or younger,” resident Andrea Martinsen told DNAinfo, referring to parents who attended the Monday meeting. “We find that navigating the neighborhood can be really difficult, especially when it comes to cars speeding and spots where there are no crosswalks.”

Another resident who supports the plan told DNAinfo that some people initially opposed slowing drivers down if it meant losing parking spots. But DNA’s Lindsay Armstrong reports that “the DOT has since changed the way that it installs signage to decrease the impact on parking.”

A look at existing Slow Zones reveals that DOT is pushing “gateway” signage from the roadbed onto the sidewalk. In Inwood, where Manhattan’s first residential Slow Zone was implemented, prominent parking lane signage alerting drivers that they were entering the 20 mph zone was later shunted to sidewalks. The same thing happened in the Claremont section of the Bronx, the first neighborhood Slow Zone in the city.

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DUMBO Street Upgrades: Big Curb Expansions + Contraflow Bike Lane

DOT's proposal for DUMBO (left) includes expanded pedestrian space and a contraflow bike lane. Today, pedestrians have a long crossing on Jay Street (right). Images: DOT [PDF]

DOT’s proposal for DUMBO (left) includes expanded pedestrian space and a contraflow bike lane. Today, pedestrians have a long crossing on Jay Street (right). Click for larger view. Images: DOT [PDF]

DUMBO, where NYC DOT launched its public plaza program more than seven years ago, is set to get more pedestrian space as the city expands sidewalks and reworks oddly-shaped intersections beneath the Manhattan Bridge. The project also includes a contraflow bike lane to improve connections from DUMBO to the Manhattan Bridge, Jay Street, and Downtown Brooklyn [PDF].

The biggest change is coming to the intersection of Jay and Prospect Streets, one block from the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge bike path. Currently, pedestrians have to cross 80 feet of asphalt on the north side of the intersection, though half that distance is marked as off-limits to vehicles by white paint. DOT will replace this painted area with concrete, adding a chunk of pedestrian space and cutting the crossing to 27 feet. Curb extensions will also be added to the intersection’s northwest and southeast corners.

The project also includes a new bike connection. Currently, cyclists heading south from DUMBO to the Manhattan Bridge, Downtown Brooklyn, or the Sands Street bike path must take a long detour (or break the law) because Jay Street is one-way northbound between Prospect and York Street. The new design adds a contraflow bike lane on the west side of the block to eliminate that detour, while converting the existing northbound bike lane to sharrows.

This would be Brooklyn’s second contraflow bike lane; the other was installed in 2013 on Union Street in Gowanus.

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“Boulevard 41″ Poised to Reclaim Space for People Near Bryant Park

While Vision42 might not happen soon, Boulevard 41 is more likely. The plan from the Bryant Park Corporation has approvals in hand but needs funding from adjacent property owners. Image: Bryant Park Corporation [PDF]

A plan from the Bryant Park Corporation to replace car parking with seating has approvals in hand but needs funding from adjacent property owners. Image: Bryant Park Corporation [PDF]

A crowded Midtown block could get more space for people and plantings if adjacent property owners decide to foot the bill.

The local business improvement district, the Bryant Park Corporation, wants to convert the curbside lanes of 41st Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway into a pedestrian seating zone as part of proposal it’s calling “Boulevard 41″ [PDF]. The plan, which received approvals from DOT, FDNY, and Community Board 5 [PDF] last year, is on hold, however, until the Bryant Park Corporation secures funding from adjacent property owners.

“The intention was to cover the entire cost of the project with private money coming from the buildings on the block,” said Ignacio Ciocchini, vice president of design for the Bryant Park Corporation. The block is split between about seven property owners whose territory falls under three BIDs covering Bryant Park, Times Square, and the Garment District, so Ciocchini had additional hoops to jump through before getting a green light for the project.

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Take a Look and Vote on the New Proposals for a Car-Free 42nd Street

A group of planners and architects is advocating for 42nd Street to be transformed into a car-free street with light rail. Image via Vision42 [PDF]

One of the four final design concepts for transforming 42nd Street into a car-free street with light rail. Image via Vision42 [PDF]

For nearly 15 years, a group of architects and planners who go under the banner of Vision42 have advocated for a car-free 42nd Street with light rail and expanded pedestrian space [PDF]. Hoping to catch the interest of the de Blasio administration, last spring the group launched a competition seeking conceptual designs for a re-imagined 42nd Street. Now the four finalists are up for a public vote.

Vision42 received 123 submissions from around the world in a contest run by The Architect’s Paper. A panel of judges narrowed the field to four final entries. Each won a $3,000 prize funded by a grant from the New York Community Trust, and now you can vote online for your favorite design concept.

Another conceptual design extends the greenery of Bryant Park out onto 42nd Street. Image via Vision42 [PDF]

Another conceptual design extends the greenery of Bryant Park out onto 42nd Street. Image via Vision42 [PDF]

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DOT Proposes Riverside Drive Traffic Calming, But Not Bike Lanes

Riverside Drive is getting a road diet and a 25 mph speed limit, but bike lanes? Fuhgeddaboudit. Image: DOT [PDF]

Riverside Drive is getting a road diet and a 25 mph speed limit, but bike lanes? Fuhgeddaboudit. Image: DOT [PDF]

Last night, DOT presented a plan to the Manhattan Community Board 9 transportation committee that would bring pedestrian safety improvements and a road diet to Riverside Drive, but DOT is proposing no bike lanes for the popular cycling route [PDF].

The plan for Riverside Drive stretches from 116th to 135th Streets, which ranks in the top third of high-crash Manhattan corridors and was the site of 20 serious injuries from 2008 to 2012. Of those injuries, 19 were motor vehicle occupants and one was a pedestrian.

The average midday speed on the Riverside Drive viaduct in West Harlem is 36.5 miles per hour, according to DOT, with 75 percent of all drivers exceeding the street’s current 30 mph limit. Council Members Mark Levine and Helen Rosenthal asked DOT last month to lower the speed limit on Riverside to the new citywide default of 25 mph [PDF]. The agency said last night that the speed limit on all of Riverside Drive will soon drop to 25 mph, with signals retimed to match the change.

The project also includes two blocks of 116th and 120th Streets between Riverside and Broadway. East of Broadway, 120th Street is already one lane in each direction and 116th Street is a pedestrian walkway on the Columbia University campus. Due to low traffic volumes, those two east-west streets will receive road diets, dropping them from two lanes in each direction to three, including a center turning lane with pedestrian safety islands. The road diet includes an extra-wide parking lane to provide breathing room for cyclists, but no bike lanes.

On 120th, four refuge islands would be installed — one each at Riverside and Broadway, plus two at Claremont Avenue — while on 116th, just two refuge islands would be installed at Riverside and Broadway, with none at Claremont to accommodate trucks that would be unable to turn around them.

An audience member suggested closing the curved “slip lane” from Claremont Avenue to 116th Street, but DOT said that roadwork would exceed the project’s budget. Instead, the department is proposing adding a sidewalk and parking to the eastern side of the triangle at 116th and Claremont. Parking would also be added to the southern side, though some residents worried it might impact visibility for drivers going from Claremont to 116th.

The plan as currently designed results in a net gain of six parking spaces, but some community board members wanted more. “We need to be finding extra spaces to take care of people who are not well enough off to have a garage and the luxury of a garage,” said CB 9 member Ted Kovaleff, who asked that DOT add angled parking to 116th and 120th Streets to squeeze in more cars. DOT project manager Dan Wagner explained that adding diagonal parking would mean there wouldn’t be space for pedestrian islands.

“Do you prefer more parking or do you prefer pedestrian safety? I think that’s the debate,” Wagner said.

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Eyes on the Street: New 215th Step-Street, With Bike Ramp, Taking Shape

Photos: Brad Aaron

Looking up the northern section of the 215th Step-Street from Broadway, with bike ramp on the left. Photos: Brad Aaron

It’s been a year since we checked up on the 215th Step-Street in Inwood, where the northern section of the long, steep stairway looks to be nearly finished — complete with bike ramp.

These stairs serve as a car-free street between Broadway and the 1 train and residential blocks that make up the northwest corner of the neighborhood. “The ancient passageway was built in an era when the automobile was still a relatively new contraption and getting up or down a hill required nothing more than a decent pair of shoes,” writes Cole Thompson at My Inwood. Check Thompson’s site for photos of the step-street dating from 100 years ago, when Broadway was paved with cobblestones and there’s not a car in sight.

As promised, the Department of Design and Construction is rehabbing the northern and southern sections one at a time, with one remaining open. Locals have waited for the city to fix the stairs since the late 90s, at least, and while it seems doubtful that DDC will meet its spring deadline (the project, which began last January, was supposed to take 17 months), Inwoodites may be using the new northern section before long.

How cool is it that, on a public stairway built before the city ceded the streets to motor vehicles, the reconstructed stairs will feature a bike ramp as a modern amenity.

The stairs in 2008.

The stairs in 2008.

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Eyes on the Street: Super-Sized Ped Space at Deadly Sixth and Houston

Most of the intersection of Houston Street and Sixth Avenue used to be wide-open asphalt. DOT is now putting the finishing touches on expanded pedestrian space at this deadly crossing. Photo: Stephen Miller

Most of the intersection of Houston Street and Sixth Avenue used to be wide-open asphalt. DOT is now putting the finishing touches on expanded pedestrian space at this deadly crossing. Photo: Stephen Miller

Jessica Dworkin, 58, was on a push scooter at Sixth Avenue at Houston Street when a tractor-trailer truck driver turned into her path and crushed her in August 2012. After Dworkin’s death, local residents clamored for safety fixes. Now more than two years later, and 18 months after proposing the changes to Manhattan Community Board 2, DOT is putting finishing touches on expansions to pedestrian space and changes to traffic signals in a bid to prevent future tragedies [PDF].

The plan adds high-visibility crosswalks, tweaks traffic signals to give more time to pedestrians, creates a new pedestrian island, and enlarges existing pedestrian refuges. Images: DOT

The plan upgrades crosswalk markings, tweaks traffic signals to give more time to pedestrians, creates a new pedestrian island, and enlarges existing pedestrian refuges. Images: DOT [PDF]

Most of the concrete has already been cast, expanding the Houston Street median as it approaches the intersection from the east and enlarging pedestrian space between Houston and Bedford Streets on the west side of the intersection. A new pedestrian island has also been added to divide four lanes of westbound Houston. The changes not only break up Houston Street into shorter, more manageable distances for pedestrians, but also narrow the distance across Sixth Avenue on the south side of the intersection by 25 feet.

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Vote to Decide the Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014

streetsie_2014

If you’re searching for reasons to feel positive about the future, the street transformations pictured below are a good start. Earlier this month we asked readers to send in their nominations for the best American street redesigns of 2014. These five are the finalists selected by Streetsblog staff. They include new car-free zones, substantial sidewalk expansions, superb bike infrastructure, awesome safety upgrades, and exclusive transit lanes.

Which deserves the distinction of being named the “Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014″? We’re starting the voting today and will post a reminder when we run the rest of the Streetsblog USA Streetsie Award polls next Tuesday. Without further ado, here are the contenders:

Western Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Before

Before

After. (We're using a rendering because the project is not quite yet 100% complete.)

After. (We’re using a rendering because the project is not quite 100 percent complete.)

The Western Avenue road diet narrowed dangerously wide traffic lanes on this one-way street to make room for safer pedestrian crossings, a raised bike lane, and bus bulbs. Brian DeChambeau of the Cambridge Community Development Department, the lead agency on the project, adds these details about the redesign:

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DOT Lincoln Square Plan Leaves Cyclists Knotted in Dangerous Bowtie Traffic

A DOT safety plan for streets near the Lincoln Square bowtie focuses mostly on pedestrians while leaving cyclists to mix it up with cars and trucks for five blocks near the complex crossing. The proposal, which includes expanded sidewalks, additional crosswalks, new turn restrictions, and a few bike lane upgrades, could be on the ground as soon as next summer.

A DOT proposal would nibble around the edges of the Lincoln Square bowtie to make this wide-open expanse more pedestrian-friendly. Photo: DOT

A DOT proposal would nibble around the edges of the Lincoln Square bowtie to make this wide-open expanse more pedestrian-friendly. Photo: DOT [PDF]

The plan [PDF], developed after a community workshop in June, was presented last night to dozens of Upper West Side residents who crowded into the Manhattan Community Board 7 transportation committee meeting. While the proposals were generally well-received, many in attendance urged the city to do more, particularly for people on bikes. DOT staff were not receptive to extending the protected path through the intersection but said they will adjust the plan based on feedback, with hopes of securing a supportive vote from the board in January. Implementation would then be scheduled for sometime next year.

The intersection, where Columbus Avenue crosses Broadway and 65th Street, ranks as one of the borough’s most dangerous, according to crash data from 2008 to 2012. It is in the top five percent of Manhattan intersections for the number of people killed or seriously injured in traffic.

DOT’s proposal aims to reduce conflicts between drivers and pedestrians with turn restrictions and sidewalk extensions at key locations to create shorter, more direct crosswalks. The agency is also proposing to lengthen median tips and expand pedestrian islands in the bowtie. In places where it cannot use concrete due to drainage issues, DOT proposes adding pedestrian space with paint and plastic bollards.

One of the biggest changes: DOT is proposing a ban on drivers making a shallow left turn from southbound Columbus onto Broadway. The agency would add new crosswalks spanning Broadway on both sides of Columbus. With the turn ban, pedestrians and cyclists should not have to worry about drivers — except MTA buses, which are exempt from the restriction — cutting across their paths at dangerous angles.

Immediately south of the bowtie, DOT is proposing a ban on left turns from southbound Broadway onto eastbound 64th. This would allow the agency to fill the existing cut across the Broadway mall with a concrete pedestrian area. A smaller concrete curb extension would be installed on the west side of this intersection, at the northern tip of triangle-shaped Dante Park. A new crosswalk would also run across Broadway to the north side of 64th Street.

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Tonight: Support Pedestrian Safety Fixes for Lincoln Square Bowtie

Lincoln Square is a dangerous spot for pedestrians. Will opposition from a local BID stop safety fixes in their tracks? Photo: DOT

Lincoln Square, where Broadway crosses Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side, is a dangerous intersection for walking, but the local BID has a history of opposing safety improvements. Photo: DOT

The city is scheduled to unveil proposed safety improvements this evening for the busy, complex intersection where Columbus Avenue meets Broadway, known as the Lincoln Square bowtie. With the design changes going before the Community Board 7 transportation committee tonight, nearby residents and advocates have started a petition to support the proposal, countering expected opposition from the surrounding Lincoln Square Business Improvement District.

According to crash data collected by NYPD, there have been 13 traffic injuries at intersections on Broadway between 64th and 66th Streets so far this year, including seven pedestrian injuries and three cyclist injuries. A nearby intersection was the site of a fatal crash in 2012: 78-year-old Shirley Shea was crossing 67th Street and Columbus Avenue when a turning school bus driver struck her, inflicting mortal injuries.

Susan Shea-Klot, Shea’s daughter, wrote to Streetsblog last year and described the aftermath of the collision. The crash caused brain trauma and eventually left Shea unable to speak, kept alive by a ventilator and a feeding tube before she died. Shea-Klot expressed frustration that there were no meaningful consequences or changes after her mother’s death:

The police completed the investigation and issued a report which stated that the driver claimed not to have seen my mother in the crosswalk. No charges were filed against the driver by anyone… Buses should not be permitted to make right turns when pedestrians are crossing. Why can’t we put people first; when did the rights of the automotive vehicle and its drivers usurp those of the more plentiful pedestrians? We in this city should be ashamed of ourselves and our acceptance of this nonsensical status quo. Enough!

In June, DOT hosted a workshop with Community Board 7 to gather ideas for pedestrian safety improvements near the bowtie. Sources who have been briefed on DOT’s plan say it includes turn restrictions, expanded pedestrian islands, and striped bike lane markings on Columbus Avenue.

“The proposals that are being brought back to the community right now are a result of that workshop that happened in June,” said Transportation Alternatives Manhattan organizer Tom DeVito. “These are community-originated ideas, and it’s time that changes are made to that mess of an intersection.”

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