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Grand Concourse Will Be the Next Arterial With 25 MPH Limit

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Assembly Member Mark Gjonaj unveil the city's second "arterial slow zone" this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Assembly Member Mark Gjonaj unveil the city’s second “arterial slow zone” this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Local elected officials and advocates joined NYC DOT and NYPD this morning to unveil the city’s second “arterial slow zone” on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, where speed limits will be dropped to 25 mph and traffic signals will be retimed to discourage speeding.

The lower speed limit will apply to 5.2 miles of the Grand Concourse from East 140th Street in Mott Haven to Moshulu Parkway in Bedford Park. Along this stretch of the Grand Concourse, there were 12 fatalities between 2008 and 2012, including seven pedestrians, according to DOT. Speeding is the leading cause of traffic fatalities in New York City.

“This is not the Daytona 500,” said Assembly Member José Rivera at this morning’s event. “We should consider placing speed cameras all along the Grand Concourse.”

That’s unlikely to happen immediately. State law limits speed cameras to streets with school entrances within a quarter-mile, prevents them from operating overnight and on weekends, and caps the number at 20 cameras. (DOT has five cameras running and hopes to bring the remainder online this spring.)

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East 106th Street Road Diet and Bike Lanes Head to Manhattan CB 11

DOT is proposing a road diet for East 106th Street. CB 11's transportation committee could vote on it as soon as next month. Image: DOT

DOT is proposing a road diet for East 106th Street. CB 11′s transportation committee could vote on it as soon as next month. Image: DOT

Running between Fifth Avenue and FDR Drive, 106th Street in East Harlem should provide a key bike connection between Central Park and Randall’s Island. NYC DOT is proposing a road diet and painted bike lanes [PDF] to improve safety on the street, and Community Board 11′s transportation committee could vote on the plan soon.

At 60 feet wide, 106th Street currently has two car lanes in each direction, even though one lane each way could handle the existing traffic. The connection to the Randall’s Island bike-pedestrian bridge at 103rd Street is also tricky to navigate. This is especially important since 106th Street is the most direct connection between Central Park and Randall’s Island, due to the prevalence of large super-blocks in East Harlem.

The present design contributes to the disproportionate share of traffic violence on East 106th Street. There were two  pedestrian fatalities in separate crashes in 2005, and a cyclist was killed at the intersection with Park Avenue in 2000, according to CrashStat. It ranks in the top third of Manhattan’s most dangerous streets, according to NYC DOT.

DOT is proposing a classic four-to-three lane road diet, converting the existing four car lanes to two car lanes, bike lanes, and a center median with left-turn lanes. At Second and Third Avenues, median islands would make intersections safer for pedestrians by turning one 60-foot crossing to two 25-foot segments.

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Why Is America Falling Farther Behind Other Nations on Street Safety?

The United States has fallen behind peer nations in reducing traffic fatalities. Image: International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group

The United States continues to fall farther behind peer nations in reducing traffic fatalities. Image: International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group

Vox, the much-anticipated Ezra Klein/Matt Yglesias reporting venture, launched earlier this week to wide fanfare, and one of the first articles explained that “traffic deaths are way, way down” in the United States.

It was exciting to see Vox show an interest in street safety, but writer Susannah Locke missed the mark with her take on the issue.

Locke called a decades-long reduction in traffic deaths to 33,561 in 2012 “a major public health victory.” What we’re talking about here is that only 11 of every 100,000 Americans were killed in traffic that year, which, she rightly points out, is a dramatic improvement compared to the 1970s, when the fatality rate was 27 per 100,000 people.

But compared to our international peers, the United States is still doing a poor job of reducing traffic deaths. Rather than hailing the decline in traffic deaths in America, we should be asking why we continue to fall behind other countries when it comes to keeping people safe on our streets.

Americans are killed by traffic at an appalling rate compared to residents of peer nations, as shown in a review of dozens of countries by the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group [PDF]. In Japan, the traffic fatality rate is much lower — 4.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 2011. In Germany, the rate is 4.9 per 100,000. In Sweden, 3.4 per 100,000. And in the United Kingdom, just 3.1. If the United States had a comparable street safety record, tens of thousands of lives would be saved each year.

What’s shocking is not only that those countries have much lower rates of traffic deaths — it’s that they’ve also reduced those rates at a much more effective clip than the United States. The streets of our peer countries are becoming safer, faster.

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Advocates in Neighborhoods Waiting for Slow Zones Call for 20 MPH Limit


Over the weekend, advocates from Right of Way and residents in a dozen Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens neighborhoods installed dozens of “20 Is Plenty” signs, which urge drivers to slow down, and asked Mayor de Blasio to keep his promise to fast-track Slow Zone installations. The neighborhoods represented in yesterday’s demonstration are among those that have either had their applications for 20 mph zones rejected by DOT or are waiting up to two years for the city to implement the traffic calming program.

“These Slow Zones have massive community support,” said Keegan Stephan of Right of Way. “This is an actionable item that could be implemented immediately.”

On Saturday and Sunday, the group installed 110 custom 20 mph signs, donated by RoadTrafficSigns.com, in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Greenpoint, Astoria, Jackson Heights, Jamaica, the Upper West Side, the Lower East Side, Tribeca and the West Village.

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Morningside Road Diet Supporters Try to Find Common Ground With CB 10

Wednesday night, Harlem road diet supporters and opponents met in an attempt to find common ground on what can be done to improve safety on Morningside Avenue. The move comes in advance of DOT releasing a second plan for the street, after its first design encountered opposition from Community Board 10.

CB 10's chair is worried that adding pedestrian islands to Morningside Avenue will cause problems for double-parkers. Photo: DOT

CB 10′s chair is worried that reducing car lanes to add pedestrian islands to Morningside Avenue will create problems with double-parked drivers. Photo: DOT

The plan to calm traffic on Morningside Avenue [PDF], requested by North Star Neighborhood Association and supported by CB 9, has been waiting for action from neighboring CB 10 since it was released last September. But key CB 10 members object to its central component — a reduction in the number of car lanes to create space for a painted median and pedestrian refuge islands — and the board has refused to take action on the plan. In response, DOT went back to the drawing board and is creating a second plan to be presented in the coming weeks.

About 25 people attended the Wednesday meeting, which was hosted by North Star and included presentations from CB 10 chair Henrietta Lyle and Transportation Alternatives Manhattan organizer Tom DeVito, who talked about how the plan fits into Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero program.

The event featured plenty of crosstalk and heated exchanges, but there was also discussion of the need for a plan that everyone in the room could support. While the meeting ended on a positive note, the path to agreement remains murky: Lyle and many CB 10 members remain opposed to reducing the number of car lanes, and DOT has not yet released its alternative plan.

“I just don’t think it’s a good community position for us to be battling when safety is the number one thing,” said Aissatou Bey-Grecia, a founding member of North Star. The group focused on Morningside Avenue after an unsuccessful bid for a 20 mph Slow Zone in the neighborhood yielded discussions with DOT about the street. “Any change would be a good change, as far as I’m concerned, on Morningside Avenue. But what happens should come out of the collective voice.”

For her part, Lyle alternated between support of unspecified traffic safety improvements and telling the group that there was no pressing reason to implement a road diet on Morningside. Lyle held up a printed Google Map of traffic speeds to show that because Morningside Avenue was not colored in red, yellow or green, it did not require any changes. ”They had nothing on Morningside Avenue, meaning it is okay,” she said.

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Fixing Jay Street Starts With Cracking Down on Illegal Parking

Jay Street, the north-south route often overshadowed by nearby car-clogged Adams Street and Flatbush Avenue, is a major artery in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn, flush with pedestrians going to and from the subway and cyclists heading to the Manhattan Bridge. It’s also overrun with illegally-parked drivers, creating an obstacle course for anyone trying to navigate the street.

In addition to longer-term design changes, improving Jay Street could start with better enforcement against illegal parking in bus stops and bike lanes. Photo: Street Plans Collaborative

Improving Jay Street could start with more enforcement against illegal parking in bus stops and bike lanes. Photo: Street Plans Collaborative

After years of advocacy by its Brooklyn activist committee, Transportation Alternatives hosted a presentation [PDF] and forum last night to solicit ideas on how to improve the street through short-term action and long-term design fixes. The event attracted nearly 100 people and included representatives from DOT and NYPD. It was co-sponsored by a suite of local groups and officials, including the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, DUMBO BID, Forest City Ratner Companies, Community Board 2 and Council Member Stephen Levin.

“It’s been so long since it was really re-imagined. It’s outdated,” said Levin, who added that he was recently looking for a cause to champion during his second term. “Jay Street was the thoroughfare that jumped out to me as the street most in need of improvement.”

Forum leaders said cracking down on illegal parking emerged as a top issue in the five break-out groups. “The whole parking issue is really the crux of the problems on Jay Street,” said event organizer Eric McClure. The problem isn’t related to lack of available spaces nearby: The city halved off-street parking requirements in the area in part because there’s already a glut of available off-street spaces.

Dante Orsini, 67, lives in the Concord Village co-op, which sits between Jay and Adams Streets at Tillary Street and notified its residents about last night’s meeting. Orsini usually walks or drives along Jay Street and agreed that it needs fixes, especially south of Tillary. Double parking was his top complaint, he said before the meeting.

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Sneckdowns: The Early Years

All photos: Michael King

Madison Avenue, in the year 2000. All photos: Michael King

Before there were hashtags and #sneckdowns, there was Michael King, taking pictures of residual snow on NYC street corners. A principal with Nelson\Nygaard, King is an architect by training and a pioneer of traffic calming street design in the United States. He captured these images to show how much asphalt can easily be claimed to make streets safer.

King says he used these photos for his own research and to make the case for curb extensions at NYC DOT, where he was named the agency’s first director of traffic calming in 1997. The Brooklyn photos were taken in the mid- to late-90s, and King says they may have influenced the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project (which was in the works for years but implemented quite recently). The Central Park and Upper East Side photos are from 2000.

Enjoy, and get ready for more sneckdowns coming soon: The forecast calls for six inches of snow starting Sunday evening.

central_park_snow

The 96th Street Central Park transverse.

central_park_no_snow

The same transverse, sneckdownless. Look at those wide lanes — so much room to speed.

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Bed Stuy CB Chair: Street Safety “Not an Issue in Our Community”

Earlier this month, Brooklyn Community Board 3 voted against a 20 mph Slow Zone in Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant. In a recent interview, CB 3 Chair Tremaine Wright told Streetsblog that the board voted against it in part because dangerous driving is not an issue in the neighborhood, and Slow Zone supporters did not demonstrate that the plan would address a real problem.

Brooklyn CB 3 Chair Tremaine Wright. Photo: Amsterdam News

Brooklyn CB 3 Chair Tremaine Wright. Photo: Amsterdam News

The 0.2-square mile area proposed for a Slow Zone averages 62.4 traffic injuries annually, according to DOT, with six severe injuries or fatalities per road mile [PDF]. A quick look at NYC Crashmapper shows dozens of pedestrians and cyclists injured in the area over the past couple of years.

I asked Wright if reckless driving is a problem in the neighborhood. “Not on the blocks in this proposed area,” she said. “And that’s why it’s key that they must be able to articulate the rationale for doing it.”

I followed up with a question about other parts of the neighborhood, including Atlantic Avenue, which runs along the southern border of the CB 3 district. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranks Atlantic as the third most-dangerous road in Brooklyn for pedestrians, and Brooklyn voters polled by Transportation Alternatives overwhelmingly identified it as the worst street for pedestrians in the borough. In 2012, at least two pedestrians were killed on Atlantic Avenue in Bed Stuy, including Maria Tripp, who was run over while crossing at Ralph Avenue, and William Boney, 49, struck while crossing at Troy Avenue.

“I don’t think we’ve had a lot of accidents along Atlantic,” Wright said. “There’s a place for pedestrians to stop and pause midway. We don’t get a lot of reports of dangerous activity there.”

“If we’re having fatalities related to traffic incidents, that would be reported to us by our police department, probably. We’re not getting a lot of that,” Wright said. (Last year, the 79th and 81st precincts, which cover the same area as CB 3, issued only 36 and 40 citations, respectively, for failure to yield to pedestrians.)

Wright said many streets in Bed Stuy have already received speed humps or other traffic calming measures, which she claimed diminishes the case for the Slow Zone. “Why is this the area that needs traffic calming, considering all of the traffic calming that has already occurred?” Wright asked. “It sounds like it’s just being dropped in.”

Wright’s comments came after she participated in a panel last Friday on the role community boards play in city planning. During the forum, Wright said that bike lanes, road diets, and plazas “are happening to us” and that community boards need a bigger role in the planning process.

Some community boards have actively worked with city agencies to develop blueprints for bike lanes and pedestrian upgrades. I asked Wright if CB 3 is looking to plan in advance for these types of traffic safety improvements. “We could do proactive stuff, but community boards are volunteer. We’re not going to be able to come up with a plan for everything. We pick and choose,” she said, adding that CB 3 members and meeting attendees are most interested in land use and zoning, not street safety. ”That is not an issue in our community, by and large,” Wright said.

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Sneckdowns 4: Ain’t Snow Stoppin’ Us Now

Since our last round-up, the sneckdown has drawn attention from publications as varied as The Economist, The Week, Fast Company, Village VoiceAtlantic Cities, and Treehugger. With coverage and photos piling up like so much traffic-calming slush, sneckdown emissary and archivist Clarence Eckerson posted a detailed explainer, dating the concept back to the 1990s. Meanwhile, the city of Raleigh asked residents to send photos of “wasted space at intersections.” Clearly, even amid the chaotic weather, the idea that there should be more room for people on U.S. streets has struck a chord.

There is a rumor that WPIX reporter Arthur Chi’en is putting together a sneckdown segment for tonight. While we look forward to that, here are some shots taken in New York City over the last week. For more, check out what sneckdown spotters are seeing in Boston, Seattle, Kansas City, Oklahoma CityLouisville, and Omaha.

Photo: ##https://twitter.com/Streetfilms/status/432944105409101825##@Streetfilms##

34th Avenue and 85th Street, Jackson Heights. Photo: @Streetfilms

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Brooklyn CB 7 Working for Safer Streets in Sunset Park

Community Board 7 in Brooklyn continues to emerge as a force for safer neighborhood streets.

This week, the CB 7 transportation and public safety committees held a joint meeting to address pedestrian safety issues in the district, which encompasses Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace. The board also sent a letter this month to the 72nd Precinct asking for more traffic enforcement.

“We have some advocates at the top­ tier level of the community board,” says Ryan Lynch, CB 7 transportation committee chair and vice board chair. Among those working for improvements is new board chair Dan Murphy, whom Lynch calls “a pretty fierce advocate for safer streets.”

In 2013, CB 7 requested nearly two dozen street safety measures from DOT and NYPD. The board has worked with DOT in recent years on improvements to Fourth Avenue and Park Circle, and also engages with community groups, including UPROSE, which Lynch says “has been working on these issues in Sunset Park for years.”

One area the board is focused on is reducing pedestrian deaths on Sunset Park avenues. “We’ve had a number of fatalities along the avenues over the last six months,” says Lynch.

On Tuesday, about 40 people attended the first of two planned street safety forums. “It was really just a kick-off to identifying new areas that need attention in Sunset Park,” Lynch says. In what has to be considered an encouraging sign, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson’s office sent someone to the forum. “We haven’t had a representative from the district attorney’s office in quite a long time at a community board meeting.”

CB 7 also wants lower speed limits and traffic calming around senior centers and parks, like DOT has done with Slow Zones near schools,.

On February 6 the board dispatched a letter to Captain James Grant, commanding officer of the 72nd Precinct. The letter lauds the precinct for reducing crime overall, and asks Grant to devote “the same focus and dedication” to dangerous driving, particularly speeding and failure to yield. The letter points to recent efforts by the 78th Precinct, where traffic safety has become a priority. The board has yet to receive a reply from Grant.

Lynch says CB 7 will be reaching out to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, and would like to develop a multi-lingual crowdsourced traffic conditions map, modeled on the Make Brooklyn Safer maps for Fort Greene and Park Slope. And there will be other forums in the district, including one in Windsor Terrace in March, to be co-hosted by City Council Members Brad Lander and Carlos Menchaca.

“CB 7 has taken the mantle of being one of the more progressive community boards on pedestrian safety issues,” says Lynch. “This is the first of hopefully many efforts to get more attention to our district.”