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Posts from the Protected Bike Lanes Category

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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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StreetFilms
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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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DOT Extends Sixth Avenue Protected Bike Lane Plan to 8th Street

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’s November proposal for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue included painted pedestrian zones. A new version of the plan calls for raised concrete islands instead. Image: NYC DOT

DOT is extending its plan for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue six blocks and will include some concrete pedestrian islands in the project. Previously, the plan called for a protected bike lane between 14th Street and 33rd Street with painted pedestrian islands at intersections. The revised plan extends south to 8th Street and will include some raised concrete islands.

The Manhattan Community Board 2 transportation committee voted unanimously for the new iteration of the project last night. DOT’s Hayes Lord said work on the project will likely begin in June and wrap up by the end of the summer.

The new design will replace the existing painted bike lane on Sixth Avenue with a six-foot-wide parking-protected lane and a three-foot buffer. The raised pedestrian islands will be narrower than usual, since DOT isn’t going to claim more space by removing a general traffic lane.

The concrete islands were added by DOT at the request of the Community Board 4 transportation committee, which withheld its support because the plan lacked sufficiently safe design at intersections. The Community Board 5 transportation committee endorsed the plan in November but said DOT should have gone farther to prioritize safety and transit.

DOT Project Manager Preston Johnson said larger pedestrian islands and a dedicated bus lane would not be included due to the heavy traffic on Sixth Avenue. “It’s very hard for us to find another space without compromising another user,” Johnson said.

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DOT Proposes Complete Street for Second Ave Above 68th Street

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DOT plans to add a protected bike lane and bus lane to Second Avenue north of 68th Street. Image: DOT

With the conclusion of Second Avenue Subway construction on the horizon, DOT is preparing to move forward with a 2010 plan to add a bus lane and protected bike lane to Second Avenue on the Upper East Side. The project will close a gap in the Second Avenue bus lane and extend the protected bike lane on the avenue from 105th Street to 68th Street. Construction should begin this summer if the MTA meets its schedule for restoring the street.

The plan, which DOT presented to the Manhattan Community Board 8 transportation committee yesterday, promises to create a much safer neighborhood street and nearly 60 blocks of continuous protected bike lane stretching from East Harlem to the UES, but between 68th Street and the Queensboro Bridge, the bike lane will give way to sharrows. For now, DOT has no proposal to extend the Second Avenue protected lane to 34th Street and close a dangerous gap remains in the east side bike network.

After subway construction no longer impedes the surface of Second Avenue, DOT will paint a bus lane for M15 Select Bus Service, filling a gap between 105th Street and 60th Street. Like other M15 bus lanes, these will be enforced from 7 to 10 a.m. and from 2 to 7 p.m. Midday and in the evening, the bus lane will be used for metered parking, and overnight it will be free parking.

The new protected bike lane segment will run from 105th to 68th, though there will be a one-block gap in protection between 69th Street and 70th Street to accommodate a wider sidewalk and new subway entrance. Intersections with one-way streets where car traffic turns across the bike lane will get the “mixing zone” treatment, while at two-way streets, signals will give cyclists and pedestrians a head start on left-turning drivers. At other crossings, pedestrian islands will be installed between the bike lane and car traffic.

From 68th Street to the Queensboro Bridge, a “transitional design” will only add sharrows, providing no protection where traffic becomes most intense. DOT Acting Director of Bicycle and Greenway Programs Ted Wright said at last night’s meeting that a protected lane was too much to tackle in this project since congestion on Second Avenue is so severe, but that a future project could extend the protection.

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What Protected Bike Lanes on Midtown Cross Streets Might Look Like

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The 1st Street bike lane by Union Station in Washington, DC, via Streetfilms

We reported yesterday that DOT is exploring the potential for crosstown protected bike lanes in Midtown. Currently, the painted crosstown bike lanes on Midtown cross streets tend to get blocked by cars. Here’s how one reader put it:

My main complaint as a crosstown cyclist in midtown during the workday are streets that are so calm that nothing moves, but are also so packed that you can’t even filter through. There are two types of (one-way) streets in midtown: those with two traffic lanes, and those with one; both with two parking lanes… The result is that it’s impossible to filter through stopped vehicles in the two-lane streets and it is faster to walk on the sidewalk (I wouldn’t bike on it!).

So how might a protected bike lane work on streets that are narrower than the wide avenues where most of the protected bike infrastructure in NYC has been added? In Manhattan, the main example is the parking-protected bike lane on Grand Street, first installed in 2008. But you don’t need a whole parking lane of street width to protect a bike lane.

Readers pointed out that a concrete curb can do the trick just fine. There’s a great example of this treatment on 1st Street by Union Station in DC, which Clarence Eckerson recently highlighted with a short Streetfilm.

Another reader shared this example from Vancouver:

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6 Manhattan Electeds Ask DOT for Complete Streets on Fifth and Sixth Ave

DOT has put out a plan to add a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue from 14th Street to 33rd Street [PDF], and Manhattan electeds want more. A letter from State Senator Brad Hoylman and five other representatives calls for a more thorough complete street redesign along all of Sixth Avenue and Fifth Avenue from Greenwich Village to Central Park.

In addition to Hoylman, Assembly members Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried, City Council members Dan Garodnick and Corey Johnson, and Borough President Gale Brewer signed on to the letter to DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione, calling on the department “to take necessary steps to study and implement Complete Streets infrastructure on Fifth and Sixth Avenues as swiftly as possible.”

Members of both Community Board 4 and Community Board 5 have asked DOT for a bolder design in its Sixth Avenue plan. Since green lights were lengthened on Sixth Avenue in Midtown in conjunction with the pedestrianization of several blocks of Broadway a few years ago (signal time was basically reallocated from Broadway to Sixth, increasing average vehicle speeds [PDF]), it should be possible to repurpose a full traffic lane relatively painlessly. But the current plan does not include raised concrete pedestrian refuges, wider sidewalks, or bus lanes, and the bike lane is not as spacious as it should be:

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