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Posts from the "Pedestrian safety" Category

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Rumor Mill: Safety Overhaul in the Works for the “Boulevard of Death”

Word on the street is that Queens Boulevard could be the first major arterial redesign initiated by Polly Trottenberg’s DOT.

DOT is preparing to launch an effort to redesign Queens Boulevard. Photo: gaspi/Flickr

DOT is reportedly preparing to launch an effort to redesign Queens Boulevard. Photo: gaspi/Flickr

At a Friday panel on transportation equity organized by the Congress for the New Urbanism, architect John Massengale said he is working with Transportation Alternatives on conceptual designs that will spark conversation before DOT hosts workshops about the project. ”The idea is that side lanes on the multi-lane boulevard become much, much slower,” Massengale said. The basic framework he envisions would include wider sidewalks and a protected bike lane next to the sidewalk.

DOT has not responded to a request for comment, but a source familiar with the project confirmed that the agency will soon reach out to elected officials and community boards about remaking what’s long been known as the “Boulevard of Death.” Update: ”Safety on Queens Boulevard is a priority for DOT,” an agency spokesperson said in a statement. “We continue to engage elected officials, community boards and other local stakeholders in the coming months in a conversation about Queens Boulevard safety.”

While fatalities on Queens Boulevard dropped after changes made more than a decade ago, the street still ranks as one of the borough’s most dangerous streets. In May, DOT added Queens Boulevard to its arterial Slow Zone program, but did not lower its speed limit to 25 mph.

Volunteers at TA have spent years building support for a safer Queens Boulevard, with a united front of council members and growing interest from community boards along the street.

Massengale said New York will have to continue breaking new ground on street design to eliminate traffic deaths. “These new arterials, they have cut fatalities,” Massengale said, referring to NYC DOT’s protected bike lane and arterial traffic calming projects. “But this design is not going to get to zero, because the only way to get to zero is to slow the cars way down.” Even recently redesigned streets like Second Avenue, he said, don’t have design speeds that match the city’s impending 25 mph speed limit.

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Report: Pedestrian Injuries Caused by Cyclists Declining in NYC

Contrary to the would-be bikelash revivalists among the city press corps, a new study finds that injuries to pedestrians hit by cyclists are on the decline in NYC.

Released this week, the study was authored by Peter Tuckel and William Milczarski of Hunter College, along with NYU’s Richard Maisel. Reporting for CityLab, Sarah Goodyear writes that researchers examined hospital records in New York City and New York State between 2004 and 2011, in addition to California records from 2005 to 2011.

The study adds more recent information to figures Tuckel and Milczarski shared with Streetsblog in 2011, and reflects the same trends. As NYC added bike infrastructure and more cyclists took to the streets, the report says, the rate of injuries to pedestrians caused by cyclists dropped. Writes Goodyear:

In both New York City and New York State, which the researchers considered separately, the current decline began after several years of a steady upward trend. Between 2004 and 2008, the rate of cyclist-caused pedestrian injuries in New York State went from 3.29 per 100,000-person population to 5.45, then dropped to 3.78 by 2011. In New York City, the rate climbed from 4.26 in 2004 to 7.54 in 2008, but then fell again, to 6.06 by 2011.

As the paper states, the sheer number of cyclists in New York City soared during the years in question: The number of people biking into lower Manhattan, for instance, doubled between 2007 and 2011, according to the New York City Department of Transportation.

Overall, Goodyear writes, cyclists injured 7,904 pedestrians in New York State, NYC included, between 2004 and 2011. Ninety-two percent of victims were treated as outpatients.

For the sake of comparison, New York State motorists injured and killed approximately 22,000 pedestrians and cyclists in 2012 alone. City cyclists have killed three pedestrians since 2009, with two fatal crashes occurring in the last two months. Drivers killed 178 pedestrians and cyclists in NYC in 2013, according to NYPD.

The report attributes the drop in injuries to pedestrians becoming more accustomed to cyclists on the streets, safety education campaigns, and a higher number of kids being driven to school and fewer playing outside, though that stat is likely not as relevant in NYC.

“The other, more compelling explanation advanced by the researchers is that improvements in bike infrastructure have led to streets that are safer for all users,” writes Goodyear. “They cite NYC DOT reports that show, for instance, a decline of 58 percent in injuries to all users on Ninth Avenue, where a protected bike lane was part of a significant street redesign.” The city doubled the size of its bike network between 2007 and 2010.

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To Make Atlantic Ave Safer, Advocates Want to Hear All About Its Problems

Efforts to improve safety along Atlantic Avenue are moving ahead as advocates gain support and the Department of City Planning continues its study of the dangerous arterial street.

Residents point out dangerous locations on Atlantic Avenue at a meeting hosted by Transportation Alternatives on Saturday. Photo: Mia Moffett

Brooklyn CB 8 transportation committee co-chair Dr. Frederick Monderson points out dangerous locations near Atlantic Avenue at a meeting hosted by Transportation Alternatives on Saturday. Photo: Mia Moffett

Each year, about 140 pedestrians and cyclists are seriously injured or killed on Atlantic Avenue, according to Transportation Alternatives. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranked Atlantic the third-most dangerous street for walking in Brooklyn [PDF], and a poll commissioned last September by TA found that likely Brooklyn voters named Atlantic the worst street for pedestrians in the entire borough [PDF].

With the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero agenda in mind, the Department of City Planning kicked off its transportation study of Atlantic Avenue in June.

DCP has already met with the transportation committees of community boards 2, 3, and 8, which cover the study area between Vanderbilt and Ralph Avenues. Last month, the agency told the CB 2 transportation committee the study should wrap in the spring, with preliminary results scheduled for release in February.

In the meantime, volunteers with TA are asking residents what they want improved along Atlantic. On Saturday, about 30 people attended a presentation [PDF] and walk TA hosted on Atlantic between Classon Avenue and Albany Avenue.

“There’s a misconception that Atlantic Avenue isn’t used by people who aren’t in cars. When you get out there and you’re walking around, you see you’re actually not the only one,” said TA volunteer Mela Ottaiano. Although the city made Atlantic the first 25 mph arterial slow zone before the new speed limit is expanded citywide, it remains a high-speed road. ”We all know those cars are speeding, because you can hear it,” Ottaiano said. ”It was really eye-opening for a lot of people.”

“There are thousands of people that live on the side streets, and they are crossing Atlantic every day,” said Dave “Paco” Abraham, another TA volunteer. In addition to speeding, the group found insufficient lighting, difficult-to-navigate walkways at New York Avenue, and cars parked on the sidewalk.

Members of Community Boards 2 and 8 joined the walk, but there was no one from CB 3. “We reached out to CB 3 to attend the walk. I did not hear back from them,” said TA Brooklyn organizer Luke Ohlson. “We would’ve loved for them to come.”

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Traffic Lights Don’t Belong on a Park Loop

It's full of cyclists and joggers, but Amsterdam's Vondelpark loop is designed differently than the one in Central Park. Photo: Jannes Glas/Flickr

Cyclists, joggers, and walkers coexist on the loop in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark. Photo: Jannes Glas/Flickr

Two separate crashes in which cyclists struck and killed pedestrians on the Central Park loop have garnered more media attention than any other traffic safety issue in the past two months. In addition to the inevitable reemergence of a few bikelash trolls, the collisions have led to a round of less spiteful stories that still miss the mark, framing the whole issue in terms of adherence to traffic lights. Collisions on the loop roads in both Central Park and Prospect Park are preventable, but trying to compel pedestrians and cyclists to obey signals won’t get the job done.

It’s easy to gather a ton of B-roll of cyclists in the parks proceeding through red lights and pedestrians crossing against the signal or outside crosswalks. This type of coverage, however, misses the point: The problem in the park isn’t that people are disobeying the stop lights. The problem is the traffic lights themselves, which cause more conflict than they prevent.

Traffic signals came to New York in 1920, to impose order on what the New York Times recently called “the growing onslaught of automobiles” navigating the city’s right-angled intersections. On the park loops, conditions are quite different: People crossing on foot, no longer on the lookout for high-speed motorized traffic, expect greater freedom of movement, while the stream of joggers and cyclists on the road, unencumbered by bulky metal cages and generally moving at speeds that enable eye contact with other people, can engage with their surroundings in a way that drivers cannot. It’s nothing like the intersection of two city streets, yet it has similar traffic control devices.

Expecting pedestrians and cyclists in Central Park to obey traffic lights is like expecting drivers on the Belt Parkway to use hand signals before they change lanes. It’s the wrong technique, applied to a situation where it just won’t work.

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Eyes on the Street: Brooklyn Hit-and-Run Aftermath at 4th Ave and Degraw

An officer from the 78th Precinct inspects the vehicle on Degraw Street after its driver fled yesterday morning. Photo: Mike Donohue

After the driver fled the scene, a 78th Precinct officer inspects a car on Degraw Street. Photo: Mike Donohue

Reader Mike Donohue sends this eyewitness account of a driver who fled the scene of a crash in Park Slope Sunday morning.

At about 9:45 a.m., Donohue was on his bike, stopped at a red light on Degraw Street at Fourth Avenue. When the light turned green for traffic on Degraw, a driver heading north on Fourth Avenue ran the light and made a high-speed left turn onto Degraw, crashing into a road construction site and hitting a parked car. With airbags deployed and steam rising from the engine, Donohue says the driver got out “and started slowly jogging away.”

A group of people, including Donohue and members of the construction crew, began following the driver before he disappeared near the Wyckoff Gardens housing complex at Third Avenue and Baltic Street. Donohue called 911 while trailing the suspect before returning to the crash scene to snap a photo.

“I’m pretty sure criminality is suspected,” Donohue said. “At one point, the cops told me that he’d run over a little girl, and they were going to do everything they could to catch the guy.”

NYPD’s press office did not immediately have any information on the crash, and could not confirm that a child was injured. FDNY said it responded to a call at 9:52 a.m. of a pedestrian struck on Fourth Avenue at Union Street, two blocks south of Degraw. One person was transported to Methodist Hospital, but the fire department did not have information available on the victim’s age or condition.

Update (Thursday, October 2): 78th Precinct community council chair N. Wayne Bailey told Streetsblog that at the council’s meeting on Tuesday, officers said the crash resulted in some property damage but no injuries, and that they did not make any comments about a little girl being struck. NYPD continues to search for the driver.

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Eyes on the Street: Safer Streets Come to Jackson Heights

New curb extensions are popping up on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

New curb extensions are popping up on 35th Avenue in Jackson Heights. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

In June, Queens Community Board 3 overwhelmingly supported two traffic safety projects: a neighborhood Slow Zone for part of Jackson Heights and new pedestrian islands on Northern Boulevard. Now those improvements plus multiple Safe Routes to School projects are being installed. Clarence Eckerson Jr. snapped some photos earlier this week as DOT crews poured concrete and installed new signs and speed humps.

The Slow Zone covers the area between 34th and Roosevelt Avenues, with the eastern boundary at 87th Street and the western boundary along Broadway and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway [PDF]. It is bringing 20 mph speed limits and 26 new speed humps to the area, which contains six schools, two daycare and pre-K facilities, and one senior center. Slow Zones are popular with CB 3, where they have already been installed in Corona and Jackson Heights/East Elmhurst.

On Northern Boulevard, crews are installing nine new pedestrian refuge islands at key intersections along 40 blocks between 63rd and 103rd Streets [PDF]. At its June meeting, CB 3 asked DOT to extend the project east to 114th Street with more pedestrian islands. Pedestrian islands have already been installed at 63rd Street, where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed on his way to school last December.

DOT has installed pedestrian islands on Northern Boulevard, including here at 89th Street. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

DOT has installed pedestrian islands on Northern Boulevard, including at 89th Street. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

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No Charges for Van Driver Who Killed Elderly Woman in Crosswalk

The day after a commercial van driver killed an elderly woman in a Manhattan crosswalk, no charges have been filed, though NYPD implied but failed to confirm that the victim had the right of way. The company that employs the driver, meanwhile, refused to say if he will face any disciplinary action, and he could be back behind the wheel tomorrow.

Image: WNBC

Image: WNBC

At approximately 1:30 p.m. yesterday, the driver turned left from eastbound Kenmare Street onto Elizabeth Street, striking East Village resident Sui Leung, 82, in the crosswalk on the north side of the intersection. She was transported to Downtown Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

“Police did not suspect any criminality and the driver was not charged,” the Daily News reported yesterday. That remains the case today.

NYPD’s public information office told Streetsblog that the driver had a green light. A visit to the intersection today showed that pedestrians are given the “walk” signal concurrently with green lights on Kenmare, meaning turning drivers must yield to pedestrians. When Streetsblog asked NYPD to confirm that Leung had the right of way, a department press officer said, “We don’t know that yet.”

When a driver strikes a pedestrian or cyclist with the right of way, it is a violation of Section 19-190, a local law that took effect August 22. Days later, a pedestrian in an Upper East Side crosswalk with the signal was killed by a turning driver. At first, NYPD told Streetsblog that “both of them had the right of way,” then weeks later the department filed its first-ever Section 19-190 charges against the driver.

Police would not release the identity of the driver who struck Sui Leung because no charges had been filed, but the van involved was clearly marked as belonging to Party Rental Ltd. of Teterboro, New Jersey.

Streetsblog asked Party Rental Ltd. if the company had taken any disciplinary action against the driver since the crash. “We determine that based on what we hear from the authorities,” said Barney Drew, the company’s vice president of human resources. Drew would not say whether the company had been in contact with NYPD since the crash, or if the company would keep the employee off the road pending the results of the investigation. ”He’s not driving today because it’s his off day,” he said. “I am being purposely evasive because you’re asking questions about an ongoing process.”

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Garodnick Endorses Complete Streets for Fifth and Sixth Avenues

The next time someone tries to tell you that complete street designs with pedestrian islands and protected bike lanes are controversial, point them to what’s happening on Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Avenues in Manhattan, where a united coalition of parents, business owners, elected officials, and community boards are begging DOT to design streets in the image of the already-remade First, Second, Eighth, and Ninth Avenues.

Think Fifth Avenue could be safer and better for bus riders, cyclists, and pedestrians? Dan Garodnick does. Photo: Canon/Flickr

Think Fifth Avenue could be safer and better for bus riders, cyclists, and pedestrians? Dan Garodnick does. Photo: Canon/Flickr

Advocates for a redesigned Fifth and Sixth Avenues are furthest along. Last week, they secured the endorsement of Council Member Dan Garodnick. ”Complete streets help to reduce the conflicts that exist every day between cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians in Midtown Manhattan,” Garodnick said in a statement. “The Department of Transportation should be looking to repeat their most successful strategies wherever they can, and Fifth and Sixth Avenues — with significant crashes annually — are ripe for review.”

The campaign has already received backing from Council Member Corey Johnson and Community Boards 2, 4, and 5. It’s also gathered the support of numerous business improvement districts and small businesses. Next month, Transportation Alternatives is hosting a “walk, bike, shop” event along Fifth and Sixth Avenues to thank local merchants for their support [PDF]. Next up: securing meetings with Council Members Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez, who cover the area’s final southernmost blocks.

That momentum has spilled westward, where an effort led by parents and staff at PS 41 to expand the West Village slow zone has grown into a complete streets campaign for Seventh Avenue. Last Thursday, CB 2′s full board followed the lead of its transportation committee by unanimously endorsing a resolution asking DOT to study a complete streets redesign for Seventh Avenue, Seventh Avenue South, and Varick Street. In passing what could be considered a model resolution for boards wanting safer arterial streets [PDF], CB 2 asked DOT to consider pedestrian islands, narrowed car lanes, protected bike lanes, bus lanes, bus bulbs, leading pedestrian intervals, and split-phase traffic signals.

Seventh Avenue is also likely to come up at the next meeting of CB 4′s transportation committee, which covers the avenue through Chelsea, scheduled for October 15.

“There’s so much support from the community boards, from the electeds, that DOT will really have the chance to be bold,” said Transportation Alternatives organizer Tom Devito. “It’s clearly a testament to a shift in the belief in what our streets are for.”

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Queens CB 2 Endorses Long Island City Pedestrian Upgrades

Image: DOT

Image: DOT

DOT has a plan to make it safer to walk near Court Square and Queens Plaza in Long Island City.

Hunter and Crescent Streets between Queens Plaza South and 44th Drive form a triangle of sorts, in an area dotted with bus and train connections, including the Court Square subway station, which serves as a stop on the 7, E, G, and M lines. Traffic flow on the street grid inside the triangle is (to use DOT’s word) disjointed, with seemingly random one-way street segments. Worse, the area lacks crosswalks where they should naturally be, leading pedestrians to dead ends and circuitous crossings.

At the request of local residents, the Long Island City Partnership, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene — which is headquartered at Queens Plaza South and 28th Street — DOT has proposed a number of changes to the streetscape [PDF].

Fresh concrete would be added at the triangle where Hunter Street and 27th Street meet at 43rd Avenue, leading pedestrians to and from a 43rd Avenue crosswalk on the east side of the intersection. The sidewalk would be extended with paint on Crescent Street from Hunter Street to 43rd Avenue, repurposing excess asphalt to slow drivers and shorten crossing distances. Planters on Crescent would be maintained by the LIC Partnership, which operates the local BID.

On 44th Drive at Jackson Avenue, DOT proposes landscaped center-lane pedestrian islands, painted neckdowns to slow turns and augment sidewalk space, and new truck turn restrictions. DOT would “investigate” installing all-way stop controls for crossings at Hunter Street and 43rd Avenue, Crescent Street and 44th Road, and Crescent Street at 42nd Road.

DOT presented the plan to Community Board 2 last week, and according to the Queens Gazette informed board members that the project may result in a net gain of one on-street parking spot. The proposal was endorsed unanimously.

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Bowing to Brooklyn CB 3, DOT Puts Bed Stuy Slow Zone on Ice

Bedford Stuyvesant won’t be getting 20 mph streets after all. Despite months of talks after Brooklyn Community Board 3 rejected a request from neighborhood residents for a 20 mph Slow Zone in February, DOT has decided to pull the plug on a traffic calming plan covering 23 blocks of Bed Stuy, effectively giving the community board veto power over this street safety project.

Brooklyn CB 3 has succeeded in keeping lower speed limits out of Bed Stuy. Photo:  Shawn Onsgard/Facebook

Bed Stuy residents who supported a Slow Zone were ignored by CB 3. Photo: Shawn Onsgard/Facebook

Even support from Borough President Eric Adams, who appoints community board members, wasn’t enough to revive the plan. Instead, in what DOT described as a compromise with CB 3, the agency spent yesterday installing four speed humps near three schools that would have been in the Slow Zone.

DOT policy prohibits speed humps on streets with bus routes or with more than one lane of traffic. That rules out Franklin Avenue, which would have received a lower speed limit and traffic calming measures if the Slow Zone was implemented. Elizabeth Giddens is a member of the Brooklyn Waldorf School parents association, which asked DOT to consider the neighborhood for traffic calming. ”Franklin, which needs the most attention, is getting the least,” she said in an email. “It has the worst numbers for speeding, injuries, and deaths.”

Franklin is two lanes wide between Lafayette Avenue and Atlantic Avenue in Bed Stuy, but just one lane wide elsewhere thanks to a recent road diet project. Giddens said she hopes DOT will consider slimming the rest of Franklin to one lane and installing a speed camera on the street.

West of Classon Avenue, the story is different: Implementation of a Slow Zone is expected to be complete this month [PDF]. Why not in Bed Stuy? It all comes down to community board boundaries. Classon is the dividing line between CB 2 and CB 3. In February, CB 2 voted in favor of a Slow Zone bounded by Washington Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, Bedford Avenue, and Fulton Street, while CB 3 rejected it. Board chair Tremaine Wright told Streetsblog days later that dangerous driving is “not an issue in our community.”

“Drivers race on Bedford, Classon and Franklin all the time,” said Coco Fusco, who has lived on Monroe Street between Franklin and Classon Avenues for 15 years. “One guy drove through my front fence a few years ago,” she said. “I find it very strange and problematic that CB 3 has not provided an argument against the Slow Zone. The CB 3 leader dropped it rather than deal with a mountain of popular support.”

CB 3 chair Tremaine Wright has not responded to a request for comment.

Update: “Pursuing anything less than the fully planned Slow Zone sends the wrong message,” Borough President Adams said in a statement.