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Posts from the Protected Bike Lanes Category

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How Cities Clear Snow From Protected Bike Lanes: A Starter Guide

A Kubota sweeper/plow, center left, clears the sidewalk at 300 South and 200 West, Salt Lake City. Image: SLC

pfb logo 100x22This post is by Tyler Golly of Stantec and Michael Andersen of The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes.

As protected bike lanes have spread from city to city across North America, a problem has followed: snow.

Most protected bike lanes are too narrow for standard street plows. So how are cities supposed to keep them clean?

Last year, the two of us decided to try and help more cities solve this problem by researching the best equipment to use for clearing snow from protected bike lanes. We wanted something like PeopleForBikes’ past post about the best sweepers for clearing protected bike lanes of leaves and debris.

But after talking to city staffers across North America and Europe, we realized that the challenges of winter are different than the challenges of fall. The reason is that winters themselves are so different from city to city.

The snow that piles into a protected bike lane in Chicago is very different in quantity, weight and thaw pattern than the snow in Calgary, which is very different than the snow in New York City.

Moreover, there’s just not as much variation among snow-plowing equipment. As one staffer we spoke to put it, the perfect plow rig for your bike lane is the biggest one that isn’t too big.

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Safer Streets for Corona and Elmhurst vs. Queens Community Board 4

111th Street would receive a two-way protected bike lane, expanded pedestrian space, new crosswalks, and added parking. But CB 4 members are worried about reducing the number of car lanes. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT’s plan would calm traffic on 111th Street by adding a two-way protected bike lane, pedestrian space, crosswalks, and parking. Image: DOT [PDF]

This could be a big year for safer street designs in Corona and Elmhurst. DOT’s plan for a protected bike lane on 111th Street is poised to improve access to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and the agency is expected to move ahead with the second phase of its Queens Boulevard redesign. The way things are shaping up, however, it looks like DOT may have to take the initiative without waiting for Queens Community Board 4 and chair Louis Walker to sign off on these projects.

On Tuesday, two local residents spoke in favor of the 111th Street safety improvements [PDF] at a CB 4 meeting. Martin Luna said that when he and his family bike or go to the park for baseball practice, getting across 111th and its highway-like design is nerve-wracking. “If something happened to me it’s nothing, right, but my kids are more important for me,” he said. “We don’t feel safe in this area.”

But Walker denied that dangerous conditions on 111th are an impediment to park access. “We have access to the park. Don’t say that we don’t have access to the park,” he said. “The park’s not closed, it’s open all the time. It’s very used.”

luna

Martin Luna, left, says he doesn’t feel safe crossing 111th Street with his kids to get to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Photo: Luke Ohlson

Walker was not in the mood to listen to people talk about the plan, which would narrow the traffic lanes and add a two-way protected bike lane along the border of the park. “Just remember, it has not been presented to us — whatever the latest official plans are — and we’ve not voted on it, so that’s the end of that discussion for now,” he said. “I frankly am getting a little tired of hearing about [111th Street], when it hasn’t been presented to us. When it is presented to us we will see what is presented and debate it at that time.”

DOT already presented a plan for 111th Street to CB 4 twice last year, but board members have so far failed to advance it. The department has also conducted two traffic studies because the board is worried that 111th Street can’t handle traffic from major sporting events if the car lanes are trimmed. (Video captured by Transportation Alternatives volunteers during the World Series suggests this is an imaginary problem.) In addition, Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland hosted multiple public design workshops with DOT last summer.

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In the Works: Better Bike Connections Between East Harlem and the Bronx

The two-way bike lane on First Avenue between 124th and 125th will be protected by a raised concrete barrier. Image: DOT

The two-way bike lane on First Avenue between 124th and 125th will be protected by a concrete barrier. Image: DOT

On Tuesday, DOT presented plans to Manhattan Community Board 11 for two short segments of two-way protected bike lanes to improve connections between East Harlem and the Willis Avenue and Triborough bridges [PDF].

Both bridges link the South Bronx and Upper Manhattan, but the current connections to the Manhattan bike network don’t work well.

DOT's plan for 124th Street requires cyclists to use crosswalks to get onto Second Avenue.

Where 124th Street meets Second Avenue, cyclists would use sidewalks and crosswalks to get onto Second Avenue. Image: DOT

To get to Second Avenue, cyclists coming from Willis Avenue are expected to use 125th Street, where they must contend with cars coming from six different directions at the intersection with the Triborough ramps. Similarly, no safe route exists for cyclists hoping to get from the northbound lane on First Avenue to either bridge.

Those conditions lead cyclists to seek safer routes that violate the letter of the law. According to DOT, 40 percent of cyclists on First Avenue between 125th and 124th travel against northbound traffic. In the last few years, cyclists have been injured at all four intersections of 125th and 124th with First and Second.

DOT’s plan calls for a barrier-protected two-way bike lane on First between 125th and 124th and a parking-protected two-way lane on 124th Street between First and Second. This will create safer connections for southbound cyclists from Willis Avenue and northbound cyclists heading to the Triborough, especially.

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Amsterdam Ave Protected Bike Lane Finally Happening After 28-13 CB 7 Vote

Hundreds of people packed into Goddard Riverside Community Center last night to speak out in favor of DOT's proposed redesign of Amsterdam Avenue. Image: Luke Ohlson/Transportation Alternatives" width="529" height="397" /></a> Hundreds of people packed into Goddard Riverside Community Center last night to speak out in favor of DOT's proposed redesign of Amsterdam Avenue. Photo: Luke Ohlson/Transportation Alternatives

Hundreds of people packed into Goddard Riverside Community Center last night, most to speak in favor of DOT’s proposed redesign of Amsterdam Avenue. About a hundred more were denied entry because the venue reached capacity. Photo: Luke Ohlson

By a count of 28 in favor and 13 opposed, Manhattan Community Board 7 voted last night to endorse DOT’s plan for a protected bike lane along Amsterdam Avenue from 72nd Street to 110th Street. The vote affirmed a safety project that Upper West Siders have worked toward for several years, but the meeting itself devolved into farce, with some board members making a last-minute attempt to stop the redesign despite the long public process, endorsements from major elected officials, and the large crowd who turned out to support it.

More than 200 people packed the meeting room at Goddard Riverside Community Center, the vast majority in favor of the project. With a larger meeting room, the crowd would have been a lot larger — at least 100 people were denied entry after the room reached capacity.

DOT’s plan would calm traffic on Amsterdam Avenue by replacing a general traffic lane with a parking-protected bike lane and concrete pedestrian islands [PDF]. With four northbound moving lanes, Amsterdam’s current design leads to dangerous speeding and higher-than-average injury rates. The bike lane would provide a safe northbound complement to the southbound protected lane on Columbus Avenue. The project is on track to be implemented in the spring.

Local City Council members Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine spoke in favor of the project last night. But some board members appointed by Rosenthal and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer did their best to stop it.

In a ploy to prevent any change, former CB 7 Chair Sheldon Fine proposed a substitute resolution that called on DOT to address safety on Amsterdam Avenue without the protected bike lane. The resolution requested that DOT instead make the Columbus Avenue bike lane two-way, a design that doesn’t exist on any wide NYC avenue with frequent intersections and would introduce new conflict points between turning drivers and northbound cyclists. Fine argued that this wouldn’t amount to tossing several previous CB 7 votes out the window, but most people on the board weren’t buying it.

“This conversation has been going on for five years,” board member Mel Wymore told Fine. “What you’re proposing is first of all sandbagging a two-year process and secondly, the DOT had already told us that what you’re proposing would not be the safety improvements that we’re asking for here. We need a good bike lane not for the bikes, but to calm the traffic and save lives.”

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Why Arguments Against the Amsterdam Protected Bike Lane Don’t Hold Up

Tomorrow night, CB 7 will vote on whether to endorse DOT's proposal for a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue from 72nd Street to 110th Street. Image: DOT

Tonight, CB 7 will vote on DOT’s proposal for a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue from 72nd Street to 110th Street [PDF]. Image: DOT

This is the day Manhattan Community Board 7 will finally vote on DOT’s redesign of Amsterdam Avenue from 72nd Street to 110th Street, which will calm traffic and bring safety improvements — including a protected bike lane — to what is now a surface speedway cutting through the heart of the Upper West Side. It’s been a long time coming: CB 7 first asked DOT to design a protected bike lane for Amsterdam in 2009, and local residents have been asking for safety improvements longer than that.

The case for a protected bike lane and pedestrian refuges is clear. Despite serving as a neighborhood main street, Amsterdam is currently designed like a highway, with four northbound travel lanes that encourage speeding. From 2009 to 2013, two people were killed and another 36 severely injured along the project’s length, according to DOT. Just last month, on January 18, 73-year-old sculptor Thomas McAnulty was killed by a motorcyclist while walking across Amsterdam at 96th Street. Protected bike lanes are proven to reduce fatalities and severe injuries, and the neighborhood currently lacks a northbound complement to the bike lane on Columbus Avenue.

Thousands of residents and hundreds of businesses and neighborhood groups have signed on in support of redesigning Amsterdam, but opponents of the project are still trying to undermine it ahead of tonight’s vote. Here’s a look at why their arguments don’t hold up.

The safety argument. Bizarrely, CB 7 transportation committee co-chair Dan Zweig has argued that a protected bike lane on Amsterdam will make the street less safe, because removing parking spaces will expose pedestrians to drivers who fly onto the sidewalk. The truth is that the same basic design strategies the city is proposing for Amsterdam have reduced injuries by an average of 20 percent on the Manhattan avenues where they’ve been installed. Adding the bikeway will narrow the roadway, reducing the prevalence of speeding, and adding pedestrian refuges will shorten crossing distances for pedestrians while leading drivers to take turns more carefully. New York knows from experience that these changes save lives.

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The Transformation of Queens Boulevard, Block By Block

For many years, New York City’s Queens Boulevard was known as the “Boulevard of Death.” The street cuts through the heart of the Queens, expanding at some points to a chaotic 12 to 16 lanes of traffic — which makes it extremely dangerous for human beings. From 2003 to 2013, 38 pedestrians and cyclists were killed and 450 suffered severe injuries.

Last year, the New York City DOT announced a $100 million dollar commitment from the de Blasio administration to humanize Queens Boulevard and make it safer, a flagship project in the city’s Vision Zero initiative. Instead of waiting until the planned permanent reconstruction in 2018 to make any changes, DOT wanted to build in safety improvements immediately. After holding public workshops with communities along the corridor, 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard have been redesigned, and the changes are already making a huge difference.

If you’re an urban planner, transportation engineer, or advocate wondering just what can be done with what seems to be an irredeemably messed up street, then this is the Streetfilm for you. We got an exclusive tour of the changes with NYC DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo, going block-by-block over the creative solutions the DOT team implemented. Queens Boulevard is as complicated a roadway as there is: Nearly every block is different. To add a functional bike lane and pedestrian mall seemed highly unlikely. Yet here it is.

I’ll admit, I’m especially excited about this project since I’ve lived near Queens Boulevard for years. I was skeptical when the announcement was made that I would see any truly life-altering change, and even if the city pulled it off, it would take years and years. But the installation has been swift and extremely well thought out. The service road is noticeably slower, narrower, and easier to navigate for people walking or biking. So much so that I was motivated to document the transformation with this Streetfilm, which I hope will be a learning tool that people can put to use in their communities. If you can put a good protected bike lane on Queens Boulevard, then just about any street in America should be in play.

In 2015, no one was killed on Queens Boulevard.

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Evidence That Split-Phase Signals Are Safer Than Mixing Zones for Bike Lanes

Mixing zones, rendered above, are DOT's standard treatment for left-turns on corridors with protected bike lanes. Image: DOT

Mixing zones are DOT’s standard treatment for intersections where motor vehicle traffic turns across the path of protected bike lanes, but they are not as safe as intersections where pedestrians and cyclists get exclusive signal time. Image: DOT

When DOT presented plans for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue, one point of contention was the design of intersections. How many intersections will get split-phase signals, where cyclists and pedestrians crossing the street get a separate signal phase than turning drivers? And how many will get “mixing zones,” where pedestrians and cyclists negotiate the same space as turning drivers simultaneously?

DOT tends to opt for split-phase signals only at major intersections, like where Sixth Avenue crosses 14th Street and 23rd Street. At other cross streets with turning conflicts, the mixing zone is the go-to treatment. Manhattan Community Board 4 wants to change that, asking DOT to include more intersections with dedicated crossing time for pedestrians and cyclists in the Sixth Avenue project.

The evidence backs up CB 4’s assertion that split-phase signals are safer. Data from previous protected bike lane projects in Manhattan show that the reduction in injuries on streets that mostly received split-phase treatments was more than double the improvement on streets that mostly received mixing zones.

A 2014 DOT report [PDF] analyzed three years of before and after crash data from Manhattan’s protected bike lanes. The last section of the report shows the change in total crashes with injuries on 12 protected bike lane projects — six with primarily split-phase treatments (segments of Eighth Avenue and Ninth Avenue below 23rd Street, and two unconnected segments of Broadway in Midtown), and six with primarily mixing zones (segments of First Avenue, Second Avenue, Columbus Avenue, Broadway, and Eighth Avenue above 23rd Street). We don’t have access to the raw numbers DOT worked with, but the aggregate data strongly suggests that split phase treatments are significantly safer.

On average, crashes with injuries declined 30 percent on the six “split-phase” redesigns and 13 percent on the six “mixing zone” redesigns.

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CB 4 Transpo Committee Endorses Sixth Ave Protected Lane

A rendering from DOT's November proposal for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue. The plan now includes raised pedestrian medians. Image: NYC DOT

A rendering from DOT’s November proposal for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue. The plan now includes raised pedestrian medians. Image: NYC DOT

DOT is set to move forward with a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue from 8th Street to 33rd Street after members of the Community Board 4 transportation committee gave the project a thumbs-up last night.

In November, the committee declined to support the proposal because members felt the new design did not do enough to protect pedestrians and cyclists. Of particular concern was the lack of raised concrete pedestrian islands and split-phase signals, which give cyclists and pedestrians dedicated time to cross streets without conflicts with turning traffic. Since then, CB 2 and CB 5 committees both endorsed the plan.

Last night, committee members reiterated many of their concerns but ultimately voted to endorse the plan.

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DOT’s Astoria Park Safety Plan Calls for 3 Protected Bike Lanes

DOT wants to turn Shore Boulevard into a one-way street with a protected bike lane. Image: DOT

DOT wants to convert a motor vehicle lane on Shore Boulevard into a two-way protected bike lane [PDF]. Image: DOT

Last June, a hit-and-run driver killed 21-year-old Betty DiBiaso at the intersection of 19th Street and Ditmars Boulevard, next to Astoria Park. The loss of DiBiaso prompted a neighborhood-wide discussion about the need to improve street safety around one of Queens’ most visited parks, and on Tuesday night DOT showed Queens Community Board 2 its proposals for the area [PDF].

Despite all the pedestrian and bike traffic, streets near the park lack basic traffic-calming features and safe access for people walking or biking. Since 2009, more than a hundred people have been injured on streets around the park.

The plan DOT showed Tuesday calls for major changes to sections of Shore Boulevard, 20th Avenue, and Hoyt Avenue, with new two-way protected bike lanes on those streets. Separately, DOT is studying a number of other possible improvements for the area, including daylighting intersections and improving pedestrian crossings around the park’s borders and adding speed bumps by the intersection where DiBiaso was killed.

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Amsterdam Bike Lane Will Get Full CB 7 Vote, Despite Transpo Committee

The proposed redesign of Amsterdam Avenue will repurpose a motor vehicle lane and parking spots to create safer conditions for biking and walking. Image: DOT

Upper West Siders may finally get a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue — but it won’t be due to the support of Manhattan Community Board 7’s transportation committee. Last night, in a split 4-4 vote, the committee failed to support a resolution in favor of DOT’s plan for a protected bike lane from 72nd Street to 110th Street. Despite that, CB 7 Chair Elizabeth Caputo said she would bring the proposal to the full board for a vote on February 2. DOT hopes to build the new design over the course of three months this spring.

Amsterdam is a neighborhood street passing through the Upper West Side’s residential and retail core, but its four northbound moving lanes encourage reckless driving speeds. First presented in NovemberDOT’s plan will repurpose a motor vehicle lane and about 25 percent of Amsterdam Avenue’s on-street parking to make room for a protected bike lane and raised concrete pedestrian islands, as well as left-turn bays at 79th Street, 86th Street, and 96th Street [PDF]. In response to concerns at November’s meeting about double-parked delivery vehicles, DOT added metered commercial parking at various points along the corridor.

Council members Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine have endorsed a protected bike lane for Amsterdam. Rosenthal and Caputo spoke in favor of the plan last night, and audience support was overwhelming — few people spoke against the proposal during the public comment section of the meeting. Yet the committee could not muster a majority vote in favor.

Co-chairs Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert bemoaned the loss of parking and pushing an endless list of alternative routes. Zweig, who was reappointed to the board by Rosenthal and Borough President Gale Brewer last year, put loss of parking at the top of his list of concerns.

Three-quarters of Upper West Side households don’t own cars, and a DOT survey of 436 people on Amsterdam found that only 10 arrived by driving. On nearby Columbus Avenue, retail continues to thrive after the installation of a protected bike lane, and injury crashes fell 25 percent, according to DOT [PDF]. Zweig wasn’t swayed and continued to request that DOT come back with a proposal for Amsterdam Avenue that excludes a bike lane, absurdly arguing that protected bike lanes would put pedestrians on sidewalks more at risk of getting hit by out-of-control drivers:

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