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Posts from the Traffic Calming Category

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Who’s Up for Sneckdowns?

Image: Clarence Eckerson/BBC

Image: Clarence Eckerson/BBC

With Blizzard Mania ’16 reaching a fever pitch up and down the Eastern Seaboard, it looks like we’re in for the first serious sneckdowns of the season.

For the uninitiated, sneckdowns are neckdowns created by driving patterns in melting snow or slush. Sneckdowns highlight excess asphalt that could be repurposed for streetscape improvements to slow motor vehicle traffic and make walking safer.

A little backstory: The sneckdown concept goes back decadesIn 2001, Transportation Alternatives wrote: “[T]he next time someone tells you that you can’t have a neckdown on that corner or this corner because there’s not enough room, show them what happens every year when it snows.” Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson Jr. documented “naturally occurring neckdowns” in 2006, Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek coined the hashtag in 2013, and the international sneckdown craze was born.

Use the #sneckdown hashtag to share your photos on social media (find tips from Clarence on page 3 of this PDF). If you’d like to see your pics on Streetsblog — wherever you are — please include a location in your tweet or Instagram. We’ll be on the lookout first thing Monday.

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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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Eyes on the Street: Just Another Brush With Death at a Typical NYC Crossing


The design of 29th Street and 39th Avenue in Long Island City is typical of thousands of New York City crossings: an intersection of relatively narrow streets where drivers are allowed to park to the edge of crosswalks with no design elements to force motorists to slow down.

The combination of poor visibility and lack of traffic-calming features leads to crashes like the one in the video, taken Thursday, when an Access-A-Ride driver sped into a crosswalk while turning left and struck a child with a van’s door-mounted mirror. Luckily it appears the child wasn’t seriously hurt.

Jean Cawley, who sent us the video, has written to DOT officials, including Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia, several times to ask for traffic-calming measures at this intersection and other locations in the area. Cawley also submitted a petition to DOT from residents of Dutch Kills.

Consistent NYPD enforcement wouldn’t hurt either. The 114th Precinct, where the crash in the video occurred, issues an average of just 23 tickets a month to drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians.

Below are images from a two-vehicle collision at the same intersection that sent a cab onto the sidewalk.

“Cars barrel through our streets in a dangerous manner all day, every day,” wrote Cawley in an email to Garcia, with the video and photos attached. “I hope you will help. DOT’s actions may save a life.”

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Manhattan Community Board 9 Votes for Broadway Road Diet

Manhattan Community Board 9 voted last night to approve DOT’s plan for safety improvements along Broadway in West Harlem. The road diet will slim Broadway between 135th Street and 153rd Street from three lanes in each direction to two, widening curbside parking lanes and adding a six foot buffer on either side of the Broadway Malls.

This section of Broadway is a Vision Zero priority corridor, with a high injury rate as well as a high concentration of senior citizens living nearby, who account for four of five pedestrian fatalities since 2007.

The redesign has the support of Council Member Mark Levine. Assembly Member Denny Farrell spoke out against the proposal over the summer but later scaled back his opposition. A well-organized local advocacy campaign by West Harlem residents helped overcome the board’s initial hesitance about the project.

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West Harlemites Put Bike Lanes Back in the Picture for Broadway Redesign

West Harlem residents succeeded in getting NYC DOT to consider adding bike lanes to a road diet project for Broadway between W. 153rd and W. 135th. But they had to fight for it during Thursday night’s Community Board 9 transportation committee meeting.

DOT’s proposal for a road diet with no bike infrastructure didn’t cut it at last night’s CB 9 meeting. Click to enlarge. Image: DOT

DOT had shown a design for the street this summer with wider medians and parking lanes, fewer traffic lanes, but no bike lanes. At a town hall hosted by Assembly Member Denny Farrell last week, several residents called on the agency to add bike lanes to the project. Last night, residents and board members were quick to point out that despite updating its plans to reflect feedback since the summer, DOT’s redesign still didn’t include bike lanes.

“This is a unique opportunity to bring Broadway into the 21st century by bringing bike lanes into the mix,” said neighborhood resident Rose Seabrook. “Bike lanes do nothing to hamper traffic but it helps to organize road traffic by creating that structure.”

At first, the DOT officials argued that cyclists would be fine using a 13-foot-wide parking lane. But board members and residents cited the prevalence of double-parked cars and trucks that would get in the way of cyclists.

Responding to pressure from Seabrook and others, a DOT official said, to much applause, that the agency would consider adding bike lanes in the project.

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Momentum Builds For Safety Improvements on Broadway in West Harlem

DOT’s Broadway safety plan calls for a road diet between 135th Street and 153rd Street. Many neighborhood residents want the city to go farther and include bike lanes. Image: NYC DOT

West Harlem residents are rallying support for safety improvements on Broadway between 135th Street and 153rd Street ahead of a vote on a DOT redesign proposal at tonight’s Community Board 9 transportation committee meeting.

The plan, which DOT presented publicly in July, calls for a road diet on Broadway, going from three lanes in each direction to two, with extra-wide parking lanes and more pedestrian space around the medians known as the Broadway Malls.

About 60 West Harlem residents attended a town hall on the project last Tuesday hosted by Assembly Member Denny Farrell, and support for changing Broadway was strong. Farrell had opposed the project at the July meeting, but he seems to be coming around, expressing support for the changes with some reservations.

The town hall last Tuesday could mark a turning point, said Transportation Alternatives Upper Manhattan Organizer David Guerrero. “This town hall was tremendously in support of not only the plan, but of further measures,” such as bike lanes, Guerrero said.

Broadway currently runs three lanes in each direction, and its safety record is abysmal. Between 2009 and 2013, there were 455 injuries on this stretch in Upper Manhattan, mostly to motor vehicle occupants, according to DOT. This portion of Broadway was identified as a priority corridor in the agency’s Vision Zero action plan for Manhattan, particularly because of its high concentration of senior citizens. Of the five pedestrian fatalities on the corridor since 2007, four were seniors.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, TA volunteer Glenford “Gino” Jeffrey of West Harlem presented nearly 300 signatures from residents and 30 coalition letters from businesses who support the DOT proposal and the addition of a bike lane. “Now that we’re doing more outreach to people in those neighborhoods, and telling them what’s going on, they’ve come out to support us,” Jeffrey said.

Rose Seabrook also spoke in favor of the proposal at last week’s meeting, but she says it doesn’t go far enough. “Safety improvement on Broadway is really important,” she told Streetsblog. “However, it will be incomplete without dedicated bike lanes.”

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Residents Tell DOT Their Ideas for Safer Streets By Astoria Park

Nearly 60 neighborhood residents came out for a public meeting on Wednesday night to brainstorm ways to calm traffic around Astoria Park in Queens.

Council Member Costa Constantinides organized the meeting in response to the June 27 hit-and-run death of 21-year-old Betty DiBiaso at the intersection of Ditmars Boulevard and 19th Street, at the park’s northeast corner. State Assembly Member Aravella Simotas and DOT also sponsored the event, which was held at Astoria’s Bohemian Hall.

Following DiBiaso’s death, local electeds and community groups pressed the city to make significant safety improvements in and around the park. In the last six years, several people have been killed while walking in the vicinity, and traffic crashes have caused about 100 injuries.

With maps provided by DOT, attendees split into smaller groups to discuss how to make the streets around the park safer. Among the ideas discussed were installing bike lanes, daylighting intersections, and adding speed bumps, speed cameras, and signalized crossings around the park. The proposal to turn Shore Boulevard, which divides the park at its edge along the East River, into a car-free street also came up.

“Everything is on the table,” Constantinides said. “We’re looking for a complete plan that touches all the streets around the park.”

Simotas is on the record supporting a car-free Shore Boulevard. She said the meeting led to “a substantive conversation about improving traffic safety conditions on the streets around Astoria Park,” with “a wide range of opinions expressed on how best to achieve the goals of a safer and more accessible park.”

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Streetsblog USA
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What If Traffic Engineers Were Held to Safety Standards Like Carmakers?

Twenty-one bicyclists and pedestrians were struck by cars on just an 8-block stretch of Tampa's Hillsborough Avenue over a four-year period, including two 15-year-old high-school girls who were killed in two separate incidents. But NHTSA won't be issuing any fines and there won't be a class action suit against the road designer. Image: Google Maps

Tampa’s Hillsborough Avenue has an appalling safety record, including the recent deaths of two 15-year-old high school girls who were killed in  separate incidents. But NHTSA won’t be issuing any fines and there won’t be a class action suit against the street designer. Image: Google Maps

It’s been a rough few days for auto makers.

News broke last week that Volkswagen will be fined because the carmaker manipulated the data from its diesel vehicles to make emissions look lower, deceiving U.S. environmental regulators.

And on Thursday, General Motors reached a $900 million settlement with the Justice Department for covering up a defect in its ignition switches that claimed the lives of at least 120 victims over 17 years. Almost 1,500 victims have been pursuing a civil suit against the company.

Most of the chatter about the GM deal has been in the vein of this USA Today editorial calling the punishment too lenient. It looks like all GM’s employees will escape criminal charges, even though the company knew about the problem before the faulty cars even went into production in 2002. The newspaper noted that the company’s stock was up 11 cents on the news of the settlement’s details.

Auto defects are a serious issue. According to Edmunds.com “63 million passenger vehicles were recalled in 2014,” the biggest year for recalls ever. Most of the defects are not as serious as what GM is under fire for. The ignition switch problem affected 7 million vehicles over 17 years, Edmunds reports.

What’s interesting, from a safety perspective that encompasses streets as well as vehicles, is that the auto companies are held to account for dangerous conditions to a much greater degree than the engineers who design our streets.

After all, about 33,000 people are killed on American streets annually — a much higher rate than most of our peer countries — and street design is a major factor. But the designers of streets are rarely, if ever, sued when someone is killed because of dangerous, high-speed conditions.

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StreetFilms
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20’s Plenty: The Movement for Safer Speeds in the UK

Five years ago, Streetfilms was in the UK town of Warrington to talk with the great folks behind 20’s Plenty For Us, a largely volunteer group trying to get speed limits reduced to 20 mph. The first film drew broad interest in the 20’s Plenty movement, and on a recent trip I caught up with them again.

Founder Rod King MBE reports some amazing statistics: More than 14 million residents of the UK now live on streets with speed limits of 20 mph or less, including 3 million in London. Despite being a very small organization, 20’s Plenty has empowered 263 local campaigns across the UK asking for 20 mph streets. The film captures some of the impact of 20’s Plenty in Central London, Liverpool, and Cambridge. It’s amazing to see energized volunteers deploying all sorts of creativity to get the message out: stickers, banners, yarn-bombing, children’s art, t-shirts. The success has been remarkable.

20’s Plenty is now campaigning for “Total 20 By 2020″ — the goal of making most of the streets in the entire country 20 mph. For viewers in the United States, this film is like a road map for building public support and getting your community energized around lower speed limits.

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Mayor’s Report Card: Traffic Deaths Falling, But Policy a Mixed Bag

Each year, the City Charter requires the mayor to issue a report showing whether city agencies are meeting their goals. This year’s report card is a mixed bag for street safety, DOT, and NYPD. While fatalities are down, the direction of the enforcement and street design policies behind Vision Zero is less clear.

Moving violations are down overall, but up for the most dangerous violations. Yet cell phone tickets are in a free-fall. Photo: NYC DOT/Flickr

Moving violations are down overall, but up for “hazardous violations.” Photo: NYC DOT/Flickr

The document, called the Mayor’s Management Report, gathers data for each fiscal year. The latest edition covers fiscal year 2015, which ended June 30.

During that period, traffic fatalities declined 13 percent compared the year before, including a 20 percent drop for motor vehicle occupants and an 8 percent drop for pedestrians and cyclists. Only fiscal year 2011 saw fewer traffic deaths. (The report does not measure serious injuries, which are subject to less statistical noise than fatalities.)

NYPD issued 4 percent fewer traffic tickets last year, but 11 percent more summonses for “hazardous violations,” which include failing to yield to pedestrians, improper turns, double parking, and running red lights. Still, police issued slightly more hazardous violations in 2011 than last year [PDF].

Tickets for using a cell phone while driving fell 11 percent last year to 125,787, continuing a downward trend from a peak of 231,345 in 2010 [PDF]. Interestingly, the report says the “desired direction” for hazardous violations and cell phone summonses is “neutral” rather than “up.”

Moving violations issued by the Taxi and Limousine Commission to for-hire drivers jumped 113 percent last year to 10,738, and cell phone violations increased 25 percent to 5,690 tickets. At the same time, summonses for unlicensed for-hire operation fell 16 percent to 12,497 [PDF].

The police made 8,155 drunk driving arrests, down from the previous two years. Last year, 31 people died in DUI crashes, also down from the previous two years but up from 2011 and 2012.

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