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Levine Stands Up for Riverside Drive Road Diet Under Attack By CB 9

A road diet for the speeding-plagued Riverside Drive viaduct is already missing bike lanes. Community Board 9 members want DOT to scrap the road diet, too, but Council Member Mark Levine backs it. Image: DOT [PDF]

A plan to calm traffic on a speeding-plagued stretch of Riverside Drive in West Harlem would be gutted if Community Board 9 members get their way, but Council Member Mark Levine, who represents the area, wants DOT to move ahead with the safety plan.

“It’s all really sensible stuff that’s been succeeding in other parts of this district and this city,” Levine said. “I certainly value all the community input, and it needs to go through all the steps on the community board, but… I think DOT should move forward.”

Council Member Mark Levine.

The proposal features a mix of curb extensions and pedestrian islands on Riverside Drive between 116th and 135th Streets. Between 2008 and 2012, there were 20 serious injuries on this stretch of Riverside, including one pedestrian and 19 motor vehicle occupants [PDF].

The most dangerous section, according to DOT project manager Dan Wagner, is the Riverside Drive viaduct, which runs from just north of the General Grant National Memorial to 135th Street.

The average speed on the viaduct is 36.5 mph, according to DOT, with 79 percent of drivers clocking in above the posted 30 mph limit. In December, Levine and fellow Council Member Helen Rosenthal asked DOT to bring Riverside’s speed limit in line with the citywide 25 mph default [PDF].

DOT says it will do that, but only if the street is also redesigned to reduce speeds. Under the agency’s proposal, the viaduct from the Grant Memorial to 135th Street would be slimmed from two lanes in each direction to one, with the remaining space used for wide striped buffers. (Though Riverside is already a busy cycling route, DOT has refused to propose bike lanes.)

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Who’s Against Better Sidewalks and Bus Stops? These People…

CB 8 members oppose wider sidewalks and bus stops because they fear it will lead to gridlock. Photo: DOT [PDF]

Some CB 8 members oppose wider sidewalks at bus stops because they fear it will lead to gridlock. Photo: DOT [PDF]

Bus bulbs are sidewalk extensions at bus stops that enable passengers to board without the driver pulling in and out of traffic. They save transit riders time, shorten crossing distances for pedestrians, and keep sidewalks from getting cluttered by bus stop furniture. Who could be against that?

Well, on the Upper East Side, a few members of Manhattan Community Board 8 raised a stink Wednesday night about a plan to add bus bulbs to 86th Street. They were convinced bus bulbs would lead to gridlock and refused to believe a DOT analysis showing otherwise.

The plan from NYC DOT and the MTA to upgrade the crosstown M86 to Select Bus Service also calls for real-time bus arrival information kiosks and off-board fare collection, though not bus lanes. The line carries 25,000 riders daily — more passengers per mile than any other NYC bus route — and serves a neighborhood where about three out of every four households do not own a car. The plan would bring a combination of bus bulbs and neckdowns to the corners of Park, Lexington, and Third Avenues [PDF].

DOT first identified the M86 as a possible candidate for Select Bus Service in 2009, and approached CB 8 in 2012 about adding bus bulbs to 86th Street. At the time, the board didn’t object to the suggestion and, seeing that bus bulbs would provide space for off-board fare payment kiosks, asked for the machines [PDF 1, 2]. CB 7, which covers the M86 on the Upper West Side, followed suit and requested off-board fare payment in 2013.

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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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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: Dodging Drivers on the Sidewalk

Video still: Rob Underwood

Video still: Rob Underwood

Heads up, New Yorkers. You never know when your neighborhood sidewalk will turn into a construction detour for motorists.

A National Grid construction crew blocked Prospect Place between Flatbush Avenue and Sixth Avenue this morning. Since the crew failed to cork the street at the top of the block by Flatbush, drivers were expected to just figure it out once they had already turned down Prospect. Of course, some drivers took the most direct route possible: Jumping the curb and driving on the sidewalk with pedestrians.

Rob Underwood was walking home after taking his kids to P.S. 282 when he came across the scene. “It looked like one of the drivers had gotten out of his car to yell at the construction workers and then got back in his car to drive around on the sidewalk,” he said. Other drivers followed. One SUV driver almost got stuck, with the vehicle fenced in on the sidewalk by an old fire call box. At another point, a livery car driver idled on a curb ramp as a woman walking with a stroller and child tried to get by.

“After probably six cars tried to go through, cars tried to go out in reverse back to Flatbush, which is probably dangerous, but less dangerous than driving on the sidewalk,” Underwood said.

In September, DOT issued a street construction permit to a National Grid subsidiary for gas work on this block of Prospect Place. The permit expires on Sunday.

Update 12:45 p.m.: “As part of our ongoing gas main replacement program, National Grid is upgrading and installing about 200 feet of gas main and new service lines to homes for our customers on Prospect Place. We have appropriate permits from DOT allowing temporary traffic control devices to close the street periodically,” National Grid spokesperson Karen Young said in an e-mail. “Safety is our number one priority; we have a flagger onsite and proper barricades to close off the street as needed to complete work and protect the public and our workers. The barricade was breached this morning and we took immediate action to secure the area to ensure the safety of the community and our crews.”

Streetsblog USA
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Pima County Holds Better Sidewalks Hostage to Get a Road Expansion

Pima County is insisting on widening Broadway Avenue, whether Tucson wants it or not. Photo: Jude Ignacio and Gerardine Vargas via ##http://blog.preservationleadershipforum.org/2014/02/11/sunshine-mile/#.VIi7kWTF9Ns##Preservation Leadership Forum##

Pima County insists on widening Broadway Boulevard, whether Tucson wants it or not. Photo: Jude Ignacio and Gerardine Vargas via Preservation Leadership Forum

West of downtown Tucson, Arizona, the city runs up against the interstate first and then the mountains, cutting off development. But east of downtown, the city sprawls on for miles. The Sunshine Mile, a shopping and dining corridor centered on Broadway Boulevard, stretches two miles just east of downtown, between Euclid Avenue and Country Club Road.

Pima County and its Regional Transportation Authority are pushing the city to widen Broadway for the length of the Sunshine Mile. And they’re threatening to withhold money for bringing the sidewalks into compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act until Tucson complies.

The long and sordid story begins in the mid-1980s, when engineers predicted that traffic on Broadway would skyrocket from about 35,000 vehicles per day to 56,000 by 2005. To prepare for that veritable onslaught, planners concocted a scheme that involved widening Broadway from less than 100 feet to 150 feet.

The projections never came to pass. Traffic on Broadway has never exceeded 45,000 cars a day, according to Laura Tabili of the Broadway Coalition, which is fighting the road widening. In line with the rest of the country, traffic has actually been declining for the last 10 years. The most recent daily traffic counts on Broadway are now down below 35,000, less than in 1987, and in general the volume is only that high east of the target area.

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Eyes on the Street: Keeping Trash Off the Sidewalks in Buenos Aires

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Trash on the street in Buenos Aires …

Clarence Eckerson has been following our #sidewalkhogs competition while in South America. He sends this photo from Buenos Aires.

“Not only have I seen very few cars parked on sidewalks,” writes Clarence, “there are hundreds of spaces in the city where trash pick up is located in the street in what were once parking spaces.”

This is a logical alternative to the piles of garbage that obstruct and stink up city sidewalks, attracting vermin and even endangering pedestrians. How nice it would be if NYC, where so many people can barely conceive of using street space for anything other than automobile storage, could get behind it.

Maybe Clarence can find out if these bins require community board approval.

… and NYC. Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr. and ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/ascentstage/8811078813##John Tolva/Flickr##

… and NYC. Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr. and John Tolva/Flickr

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Eyes on the Street: Whole Foods Takes the Whole Bike Lane (and Sidewalk)

Who needs newly-built loading docks when you can take over the sidewalk and the bike lane? Photo: Brooklyn Spoke/Twitter

Whole Foods commandeers Third Avenue. Photo: Brooklyn Spoke/Twitter

The huge surface parking lot and inward-facing, suburban-style design were bad enough. Now the Gowanus Whole Foods Market is taking over the Third Avenue bike lane and sidewalk as a private loading zone.

Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke snapped a photo of a Whole Foods forklift and piles of pallets using the Third Avenue buffered bike lane and sidewalk as a private loading zone earlier this week. One would expect a newly-built food market to be well-integrated with existing infrastructure, but since Whole Foods opened late last year, its loading activities have overflowed onto the street and sidewalk along Third Avenue.

“You can’t blame the drivers or the people manning the loading dock for this situation,” Gordon writes. “The design forces them to do this just to keep the store stocked.”

In its 2011 traffic study [PDF], Whole Foods said only that “truck loading docks would be located along Third Avenue” and that all truck loading activity would occur between midnight and 5 p.m. There was no mention of the amount of space needed or required to accommodate deliveries or whether that space would take over the sidewalk and street.

Community Board 6 voted in support of the project in June 2011. According to the board’s minutes, the interaction of loading zones with Third Avenue only came up as a concern briefly during the land use committee hearing on the proposal. As a condition for its approval, the board requested that Whole Foods conduct a traffic study one year after opening.

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DOT Proposes Crosswalk Fix Where Renee Thompson Was Killed

In September, 16-year-old Renee Thompson was walking to the subway after getting off work just after 10 p.m., when, crossing Third Avenue at 60th Street, she was hit and killed by a turning truck driver. Now DOT is proposing shorter crossing distances at the intersection, but  Community Board 8’s transportation committee wants the agency to go further and also look at the dangers pedestrians face just one block away, where drivers jostle along Second Avenue to get on to the Queensboro Bridge.

The plan adds curb extensions to two corners at 60th Street and Third Aveune. Image: DOT

The plan adds curb extensions to two corners at 60th Street and Third Aveune. Image: DOT

The plan [PDF], which adds painted curb extensions and flex-post bollards to the northwest and southwest corners, would shorten crossing distances on Third Avenue from 65 feet to 53 feet, and on 60th Street from 35 feet to 25 feet. It also adds a left-turn lane on Third Avenee and lengthens the existing left-turn lane from 60th Street to Third Avenue, which is heavily used by trucks heading north after exiting the bridge. Both streets are mapped as truck routes.

Sidewalks at the intersection are crowded, and narrowed by enclosed sidewalk cafes, tree pits, and subway entrances on all four corners.

There were 12 pedestrian injuries at the intersection from 2007 to 2011, according to DOT, and in addition to Thompson’s death last September, there was another fatality at the intersection in 2010: Thomas Richards, 67, of Queens Village was in the crosswalk when he was killed by a cab driver who witnesses say was speeding.

A resolution supporting the curb extension at Third Avenue [PDF] passed the committee unanimously last Thursday and now heads to the full board, which is scheduled to meet tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Hunter College.

The resolution also asks DOT to come back within six months with a pedestrian safety plan for the area around the Queensboro Bridge at Second Avenue, an issue CB 8 transportation committee co-chair A. Scott Falk said DOT staff was receptive to.

“We’re very glad that they’re making a proposal for 60th and Third,” Falk told Streetsblog. “It’s been one of my priorities for the board in 2014 to get real pedestrian improvements around the bridge.”

StreetFilms
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Eyes on the Street: NYC Keeps Rolling Out the Bioswales in Queens

Photos: Clarence Eckerson

It’s fair to say that I’ve been geeking out over streetscape improvements in NYC that incorporate plantings to manage stormwater runoff (here, here, and here). These sidewalk expansions are popping up all over the place near my apartment in Jackson Heights.

Recently, I was on Junction Boulevard between the Long Island Expressway and Queens Boulevard and saw some significant street reclamations. Some photos:

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