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Posts from the Schools Category


Bronx CB 8 Delays Vote on Play Street Where Driver Killed 8-Year-Old

Bronx Community Board 8 delayed a decision on whether to approve a play street application from the school where a motorist killed 8-year-old Rylee Ramos, when people complained that a play street at a different school would interfere with their driving.

Responding to complaints from motorists, Bronx CB 8 postponed a decision on a play street application from the school where Rylee Ramos was killed by a curb-jumping driver.

When motorists complained, Bronx CB 8 postponed a decision on a play street application from the school where Rylee Ramos was killed by a curb-jumping driver.

The Riverdale Press reports that the 50th Precinct has joined P.S. 307, Horace Mann School, and St. Margaret’s of Cortona in requesting that CB 8 sign off on opening street space to kids during school days. The schools already cordon streets for children, but they want to make it official, which NYPD says is important in the event of a crash.

“By formalizing this process and enforcing it, responsibility for an accident would land squarely on the shoulders of the driver,” Deputy Inspector Terence O’Toole, commanding officer of the 50th Precinct, told the Press.

In 2014 a motorist backed onto the sidewalk on Eames Place outside P.S. 307 in Kingsbridge Heights, striking 10 people and killing Ramos. Since then, according to the Press, the 50th Precinct has positioned barricades to keep motorists off the street at drop-off and dismissal times.

While Horace Mann and St. Margaret’s are applying for drop-off and dismissal play street hours, P.S. 307, which doesn’t have a playground, wants to keep one block of Eames Place open to children for the entire school day.

“We are desperate to find a place for our students to go out and to be able to run around and just have some exercise,” P.S. 307 assistant principal Debra Springsteen told the CB 8 land use committee at a meeting last month. “There’s 150 kids in the lunchroom. They’re screaming at each other in the lunchroom because they just don’t get a chance to be outside. So, that’s why we’re imploring.”

DOT requires that school play street applications be endorsed by the local precinct and community board, and the committee chose to postpone a vote on all three requests until September. “The panel said the delay would allow more time for the community to discuss the issue,” the Press reported.

Despite entreaties from NYPD and school officials, disgruntled motorists carried the day.

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Anthony Foxx to Local Officials: Transport Policy Should Tackle Segregation

Local transportation officials should actively work to reduce segregation and promote equal access to quality schools, three Cabinet members say in a “dear colleague” letter released last week [PDF].

Are good schools accessible by transit, or foot and bike safely? Federal officials say transportation officials have a role to play in improving equality. Image: Streetfilms

Are good schools accessible by walking, biking, and transit? Cabinet members say they should be. Image: Streetfilms

The message from Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, HUD Secretary Julián Castro, and Education Secretary John King urges transportation, housing, and education officials at all levels of government to work together to ensure that people aren’t excluded from economic and educational opportunities.

The call to action builds on HUD’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which requires local governments that receive federal housing funds to analyze segregation patterns and develop plans to reduce it.

“We recognize that a growing body of research supports the benefits of socioeconomic and racial diversity in schools and communities, and that such diversity can help establish access points for opportunity and mobility,” Foxx, Castro, and King wrote. “We also recognize that children raised in concentrated poverty or in communities segregated by socioeconomic status or race or ethnicity have significantly lower social and economic mobility than those growing up in integrated communities.”

In the transportation sphere, the letter recommends a few steps to take. To paraphrase:

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4 Things Schools Can Do to Reduce the Asthma Threat From Idling Cars

Lately, American schools have been pretty responsive to public health and safety threats facing children. Witness the rise of peanut butter bans or the dwindling number of vending machines in schools.

Idling near schools can trigger asthma attacks -- a leading cause of childhood mortality. So why is it considered so acceptable? Photo: IdleFreeVermont

Idling near schools can trigger asthma attacks — a leading cause of childhood mortality. So why do so many parents do it? Photo: IdleFreeVermont

But schools haven’t been very successful at tackling what is arguably a much bigger threat to children’s health: air pollution caused by driving. Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children. Car exhaust can trigger attacks and may cause asthma itself, and schools are where children tend to be especially exposed. In school zones, levels of air pollutants “may significantly exceed community background levels, particularly in the presence of idling school buses,” according to researchers with the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Every morning and afternoon at schools around the country, pick-up and drop-off times are free-for-alls of mindless idling, with tailpipes spitting poisonous chemicals into the air children breathe. “Monitoring at schools has shown elevated levels of benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other air toxics during the afternoon hour coinciding with parents picking up their children,” according to the U.S. EPA.

“One major issue with air pollution is that it is invisible,” says Anneka Whisker of the group Moms for Clean Air. “Out of sight, out of mind.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five things schools can do to help reduce pollution from idling and asthma.

1. Encourage active transportation

To reduce air pollution at school, make walking and biking as safe and practical as possible.

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NYC High School Students Aim to Make Their Mark at Youth Bike Summit

Each year, students and educators from across the country gather at the Youth Bike Summit to strategize about how young people can make an impact in bike advocacy. This year’s summit will be happening in Seattle in mid-February — the first outside New York City. Students from two NYC high schools are raising funds to make the trip.

Bicycle clubs at El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice in Williamsburg and International High School at Union Square are working to send a delegation of students to Seattle. At the summit, El Puente’s students will present findings from a survey of their classmates about the potential for bicycling to relieve stress. Students from International High School, who are all recently-arrived immigrants learning English, hope to present a film about what bicycling has meant to them both in New York and in their countries of origin.

Both bike clubs have been working with Recycle-A-Bicycle to teach students bike maintenance as part of earn-a-bike programs, and have brought in Bike New York to teach safe riding skills. The after-school groups work mostly indoors in the winter, but when the weather warms up and daylight lasts longer, they go out for rides.

One of the milestones for El Puente students is pedaling over the Williamsburg Bridge on a trip to Manhattan. “I never knew how to ride a bike until bike club,” said Marielis Palen, 17, a senior at El Puente. “It took me three rides to finally get comfortable going over the bridge. It was funny because I really didn’t want to do it, because I was so scared.”

Once they get going, though, the students seem to never stop biking. Last October, a group of El Puente students rode in the Tour de Bronx. They hope to ride in the Five Boro Bike Tour in May.

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DOT Unveils Kensington, Windsor Terrace Safety Measures After Child’s Death

Schools dot the area where parents have pleaded with DOT to help slow speeding drivers. Image: DOT

Schools dot the area where parents have pleaded with DOT to help slow speeding drivers. Image: DOT

DOT is planning a number of street improvements for Kensington and Windsor Terrace after a hit-and-run driver killed a child last year.

Last November Lynn Reynolds, 78, drove a minivan over 14-year-old Mohammad Uddin as he walked home from school on E. Seventh Street at Caton Avenue in Kensington. Reynolds reportedly exited her vehicle after the crash before driving off. Her attorney said she “didn’t see” Uddin because it was dark.

As reckless drivers endanger children near neighborhood schools, and with another school under construction at the intersection where Uddin was killed, City Council Member Brad Lander joined parents who have for over a year urged the city to implement traffic safety measures in the area. DOT announced its plan [PDF] last week at a packed community meeting attended by Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

DOT is working up a proposal for a road diet on Caton Avenue from Coney Island Avenue to Ocean Parkway, which would convert the street to one through-lane in each direction with a painted median, turning lanes, and pedestrian refuge islands “in select locations.” The plan may incorporate left turn treatments at Caton Avenue and Ocean Parkway, where pedestrians contend with speeding drivers and long crossing distances. No bike lanes included.

DOT is looking to reduce the speed limit around the new PS/IS 437 school, at Caton and E. Seventh, and PS 230 Lower to 20 miles per hour, with signage and speed bumps, pending studies to be completed this spring. New stop signs, signals, and markings would be installed on the streets around PS/IS 437, and E. Seventh and E. Eighth Streets would be made one-way. Parking regulations would be altered to establish drop-off zones for school buses and parents who drive their kids to the new school. Lander and DOT have requested a crossing guard for PS/IS 437.

The NYC School Construction Authority will add curb space on Caton Avenue between E. Seventh and E. Eighth Street, reducing crossing distances at the E. Seventh corner.

This spring, DOT will study new traffic control measures on blocks north of PS/IS 437 and PS 130, from Vanderbilt Street to Terrace Place between McDonald Avenue and 19th Street. Leading pedestrian intervals may be initiated at E. Seventh St. and Caton, Albemarle Road and Dahill Avenue, and Dahill Road at 12th Avenue, depending on the results of a study.

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Survey: With Parents Worried About Safety, Few NYC Students Bike to School

Although 70 percent of students said they live Images: Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Although most sixth-graders surveyed live close enough to school to bike there, few of them do. Most students and their parents said local streets aren’t safe enough for biking. Images: Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Just one percent of sixth-graders surveyed at 15 schools in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx said they get to class by bike, scooter, or skateboard, according to a survey released by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene last week [PDF]. Although most students live within walking distance of school, many of them take buses or cars to get to class. The report’s implication is clear: The rate of walking and biking to school in NYC may be far higher than other parts of the country, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.

The survey, first reported by Capital New York, is from the newly-formed Center for Health Equity, funded with $3.2 million in the de Blasio administration’s executive budget to address public health problems that disproportionately affect communities of color. The health department surveyed 1,005 sixth-graders, 24 parents, and principals at 15 schools in East Harlem, Bedford Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Highbridge, and Morrisania. It is not a representative sample of all NYC students, but it shows how kids get to school in walkable areas where most people are in the habit of getting around without driving.

Although 75 percent of students live within 20 blocks of school (about a mile), not all of these kids walk or bike to class. About 60 percent of all students said they walk, and just one percent arrive by bike, scooter, or skateboard. Nearly four in ten students don’t walk or bike, with 24 percent taking an MTA bus or subway, 14 percent being driven to school, and two percent riding a yellow school bus.

While a 61 percent mode share for active transportation might sound good compared to a national average of 13 percent, there’s a lot of room for improvement. The schools surveyed are located in zip codes that had a Walk Score greater than 85 out of 100, placing them in some of New York’s more walkable neighborhoods.

It’s hard to say how these numbers compare to other NYC schools because students and parents are rarely surveyed on travel choices. DOT said that in the relative handful of schools it works with directly, it typically finds that three-quarters of elementary students walk to school. At most middle and high schools, three-quarters of students walk or take transit. As with the DOHMH study, DOT said bike-to-school numbers barely register.

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Study: Safe Routes to School Programs Boost Walking and Biking 30%

In just two generations, the share of American kids who walk or bike to school has plummeted — dropping from 50 percent in 1969 to 13 percent today. Can the trend be reversed? Yes, according to new research that shows the impact of street safety infrastructure and other programs implemented with federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) funds.

Photo: United Way

study published in this quarter’s Journal of the American Planning Association found that over time, SRTS programs produce significant increases in the share of children who walk or bike to school — an effect that grows more pronounced over time. The average increase in walking and biking rates attributable to SRTS programs over a five-year period was 31 percent, the researchers concluded.

The authors examined 801 schools in Florida, Oregon, Texas, and the District of Columbia, using data collected by the National Center for Safe Routes to School from 2007 to 2012 — yielding data from 378 schools with SRTS programs and 423 without. They say the study is the first SRTS research based on such a large geographic sample of schools, enabling them to isolate the effect of different types of Safe Routes to School strategies.

The effect of “education and encouragement” programs grew over time, with SRTS schools seeing progressively larger differences in each successive year. Over five years, the researchers found, this tactic led to a 25 percent increase in walking and biking to school, controlling for demographic differences, neighborhood characteristics, and other factors. Meanwhile, infrastructure investments like safer sidewalks or bike lanes led to a one-time 18 percent increase.

While Safe Routes to School programs work, they’re also in jeopardy. Dedicated federal funding for SRTS was cut in the last transportation bill, and that fight is expected to resume once Congress takes up the next one.


DOT Scores TIGER Grants for Vision Zero and Rockaways Transpo Study

City Hall and Senator Charles Schumer announced yesterday that NYC DOT had secured a $25 million federal grant for street safety and greenway projects in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. Notably, the press release announcing the funding hailed street design improvements as a “critical” component of the city’s Vision Zero safety agenda. In addition, a separate $1.4 million federal grant will fund a transportation study for the Rockaways.

A planted concrete median extension at Fourth Avenue and 45th Street will be funded in part by a federal TIGER grant. Rendering: NYC DOT [PDF]

The awards are from US DOT’s competitive TIGER program, which doesn’t always distribute funds to New York City. While the city nabbed two awards from the program this year and has received awards from the program in the past, all three of New York’s TIGER applications were rejected last year.

The $25 million grant comes on top of $21.2 million in federal highway safety funds distributed by the state earlier this year to similar projects. These grants can supplement dollars from the city’s vast capital budget, which also funds DOT’s bike and pedestrian programs.

The TIGER grant will help support a pedestrian safety redesign near the Metro-North station at Park Avenue and 125th Street in Harlem, where DOT is planning wider sidewalks and narrower car lanes on Park Avenue, as well as curb extensions at 124th, 125th and 126th Streets. It will also fund the capital construction of a road diet initially installed with paint and flexible posts on two sections of Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, from 8th to 18th Streets in Park Slope and from 33rd to 52nd Streets in Sunset Park. Extensions of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway will also get a boost from the grant, one near the Gowanus Canal and another in Bay Ridge, where wider sidewalks and a two-way protected bike path on Hamilton Avenue will connect to the existing greenway near Owl’s Head Park.

The TIGER grant will also support eight Safe Routes to School projects:

  • PS 154 Harriet Tubman School in Harlem will receive three curb extensions and six pedestrian islands
  • PS 54 in Woodhaven, Queens will receive four curb extensions and four pedestrian islands
  • PS 239 in Ridgewood, Queens will have a nearby complex intersection simplified and receive expanded pedestrian islands and sidewalks
  • PS 199 Maurice Fitzgerald School in Long Island City, Queens will receive five curb extensions and two pedestrian islands
  • PS 92 Harry T. Stewart in Corona, Queens will receive six curb extensions and four pedestrian islands
  • PS 13 Clement C. Moore in Flushing, Queens will receive seven curb extensions and one pedestrian island
  • Our Lady’s Catholic Academy in South Ozone Park, Queens will receive five curb extensions and three pedestrian islands
  • Our Lady’s Queen of Peace School in New Dorp, Staten Island will have a nearby complex intersection simplified and receive four curb extensions, a plaza, and improved traffic channelization.

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De Blasio and DOT Ring In the New School Year With More Speed Cameras

Mayor de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg today officially announced the expansion of the city’s speed camera program, which will eventually bring automated enforcement to 140 school zones across the boroughs. Today’s event also underscored the fact that streets around schools won’t be as safe as they could be, thanks to restrictions imposed by Albany.

All 140 speed cameras allowed by Albany will be operational next year. Will state lawmakers lift constraints that prevent cameras from saving lives? Photo: ##

All 140 speed cameras allowed by Albany will be operational next year. Will state lawmakers lift constraints that prevent cameras from saving lives? Photo: @NYCMayorsOffice

At a press conference this morning at PS 95, on Hillman Avenue in the Bronx, de Blasio and Trottenberg were joined by NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan and State Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein, a key supporter of legislation that brought the first 20 speed cams to NYC streets last year.

“Our kids are going to be safer walking to school and coming home because of this new enforcement,” said de Blasio via a press release. “We are sending a powerful message that we take safety near our schools seriously, and we will enforce the law to keep children safe.”

With the new school year set to start Thursday, DOT is on its way to deploying the 120 additional cameras authorized by state lawmakers earlier this year. Twenty-three cameras will be up and running this week, according to a de Blasio spokesperson, with 40 to 50 cameras operational by the end of 2014. All 140 cameras are expected to be online by the end of 2015.

Speeding was the leading cause of traffic deaths in NYC in 2012, contributing to 81 fatal crashes. Automated enforcement is vital to reducing traffic casualties, but NYC’s cameras come with a bevy of conditions that limit their effectiveness. Per today’s press release:

DOT is permitted to place cameras within a quarter mile of a corridor passing a school building, entrance or exit of a school on the corridor. The cameras are only active on school days during school hours, one hour before and one hour after the school day, as well as during student activities at the school, and 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after school activities.

In addition, cameras can only ticket drivers who speed by 11 or more miles per hour, and the penalty for speed cam tickets is a nominal $50 fine, with no license points. According to a Transportation Alternatives analysis of DMV data, the majority of fatal speeding-related crashes statewide occur on weekends or between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weeknights — hours when speed cameras aren’t normally allowed to operate. To prevent as many injuries and deaths as possible, state lawmakers should remove these restrictions.

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In Austin, Posts and Paint Bring a New Bike Bridge From Good to Great

All photos: Nathan Wilkes

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Here are a few images from Austin bikeway engineer Nathan Wilkes that show how a protected lane can cheaply add a lot of value to a larger project.

The bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Little Walnut Creek, visible in the top right background above, officially opened Monday after 17 years of planning. It created a direct link between Hart Elementary School and the residential neighborhood to the north — but the link also required pedaling on a wide street that many people would see as unsuitable for children.

Furness Drive before the new bike lanes. Image: Google Street View

The new bidirectional protected bike lane, Wilkes wrote in an email, “is on both sides of the bridge and makes seamless transitions between on and off-street infrastructure.” The 1.1-mile biking improvement cost $20,000, compared to $1.2 million for the bridge itself.

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