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Posts from the "Traffic Calming" Category


CB 9 Stands by Morningside Road Diet, But DOT Does Not

Council Member Mark Levine, left, and CB 9 support the Morningisde Avenue road diet, but DOT is coming up with a second plan because Council Member Inez Dickens, right, and members of CB 10 oppose removing car lanes. Borough President Gale Brewer, center, who appoints CB members, has not weighed in. Photos: NYC Council

Council Member Mark Levine, left, and Manhattan Community Board 9 support the Morningisde Avenue road diet, but DOT is coming up with a second plan because Council Member Inez Dickens, right, and members of CB 10 oppose removing excess car lanes. Borough President Gale Brewer, center, who appoints CB members, has not weighed in. Photos: NYC Council

A plan to improve pedestrian safety on speeding-plagued Morningside Avenue in Harlem, supported by one community board but stalled by another, is on track for months of additional meetings as DOT goes back to the drawing board.

The current plan, which would remove excess car lanes to create space for turn lanes and pedestrian islands, received a vote of support from Community Board 9 back in November. Earlier this month, Council Member Mark Levine and State Senator Adriano Espaillat urged DOT to move ahead to prevent crashes on a 10-block stretch that had 102 injuries from 2007 to 2011 according to city data. But many members of CB 10, which also covers the area and, like CB 9, plays an advisory role on the issue, are vociferously opposed to removing car lanes — the central safety measure in the plan.

So far, DOT has allowed CB 10 to block the traffic safety plan. This week, the agency said it’s preparing “additional design proposals” to present to both boards in the coming months.

“They’re going to come up with an alternate plan,” said Jonathon Kahn, a steering committee member of the North Star Neighborhood Association, which requested action from DOT after its members expressed concerns about the danger of crossing Morningside. “I expect pretty vigorous discussions once the alternate plan is out.”

Kahn said that, in his discussions with DOT, it did not appear that the agency was completely scrapping its design, but instead coming up with a second proposal that could incorporate CB 10′s objection to removing car lanes.

DOT did not respond to questions about what its new plan will include, but North Star, which will be holding a meeting to discuss Morningside Avenue in about a month, wants the focus to remain squarely on pedestrian safety. “We definitely want to see measures that slow traffic,” Kahn said. “We would also like to see more safe opportunities to cross the street.”

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Lentol Wants 20 MPH Speed Limits on Big, Dangerous Brooklyn Streets

This afternoon, Assembly Member Joseph Lentol announced that he’s sent a letter to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg asking for 20 mph speed limits on the busiest, deadliest roads in his district.

Assembly Member Joe Lentol. Photo: Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership

Assembly Member Joe Lentol. Photo: Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership

“There are three main streets within my district that are notorious for speeders – McGuinness Boulevard, Kent Avenue, and Park Avenue,” Lentol wrote in the January 21 letter [PDF], noting that Mayor de Blasio has proposed expanding the number of 20 mph zones across the city. “I urge you to consider these three roadways when determining where to introduce these new speed zones.”

All three streets strike fear into local residents. Campaigns for traffic calming on McGuinness Boulevard and Park Avenue have led to a few changes by DOT, but advocates along those streets are calling for more significant measures. DOT, which already redesigned much of Kent Avenue to include a two-way protected bike lane, recently proposed a traffic calming plan for the avenue in South Williamsburg after a speeding driver killed a young couple and their unborn child in a hit-and-run crash. The plan has been approved by Community Board 1 and is scheduled to be installed this summer.

State law currently requires streets with speed limits below 25 mph in New York City to include some kind of additional traffic calming measure. “Street layout changes are something that the DOT’s engineers would be tasked to design,” Lentol told Streetsblog in an e-mail. “How DOT and the NYPD goes about that is up to them — of course with community input.”

If DOT agreed to Lentol’s request, it would signify an increased willingness to adjust speed limits on major streets. The city’s Slow Zone program launched with a focus on residential streets but not bigger roads, which consistently see high rates of traffic injuries and fatalities. DOT’s stance could be changing. Recently, the agency lowered the speed limit on Prospect Park West to 25 mph, independently of a Slow Zone project. Streetsblog has asked DOT if it has a response to Lentol’s letter.

Separately, Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell’s bill to lower the citywide speed limit to 20 mph, except where the city council or DOT say otherwise, has gained support from co-sponsors Walter Mosley, Rhoda Jacobs, Gabriela Rosa and Ellen Jaffee.

Lentol said he liked the legislation’s goals but would not commit to backing the bill, which would replace speed limit signs across the city. “I will have to take a more comprehensive look at this legislation to understand the variables involved,” he said, “including of course the cost with such a drastic policy change.”


Sneckdowns: Taking the World by Storm

Image: Clarence Eckerson/BBC

Image: Clarence Eckerson/BBC

The #sneckdown is now a phenomenon, with nature’s traffic-calming gaining international media coverage and photos popping up from across the U.S. and Canada.

“The snow is almost like nature’s tracing paper,” Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson told the BBC. “It’s free. You don’t have to do a crazy expensive traffic calming study. It provides a visual cue into how people behave.”

The sneckdown dates back to at least 2001, when 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.”

Clarence first documented “naturally occurring neckdowns” for Streetfilms in 2006. Seven years later, Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek coined the hashtag, and the rest is history.

Here are pics from yesterday’s storm. Keep ‘em coming.

Seventh Avenue and 36th Street. Photo: ##

Seventh Avenue and 36th Street. Photo: @Tri_State

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Video: Drivers Endanger Lives on Morningside Avenue as CB 10 Dithers

While Manhattan Community Board 10 fails to take action, proposed measures to make Morningside Avenue safer for pedestrians continue to languish.

Among other changes, DOT has proposed restriping Morningside between 116th Street and 126th Street from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction with a center striped median, concrete pedestrian islands and left turn lanes [PDF]. Community Board 9 voted in favor of the road diet last November, but the plan is stuck in the CB 10 transportation committee, which has held numerous meetings on the project without taking a vote.

At their latest meeting, held earlier this month, people who attended told Streetsblog that CB 10 members passed a resolution calling for more information from DOT, which they said is necessary before deciding whether to endorse traffic-calming on Morningside.

For this video, Harlem resident Maurice Sessoms interviewed people about conditions on the wide avenue, where he clocked motorists traveling as fast as 47 miles per hour. As indicated in the video, a pedestrian struck by a vehicle moving at 40 mph has only a 15 percent chance of surviving.

“I don’t think that it’s safe at all,” said a crossing guard. “I’ve been working on this corner for three years now. The cars speed, they go across the crosswalk. They don’t slow down when it’s raining, when it’s snowing. In bad weather they’re speeding.”


Harlem CBs Look to Weaken Safety Plan; Levine: DOT Should Move Ahead

CB 10′s transportation committee chair is against a road diet on Morningside Avenue, and she wants to bring CB 9 along with her — even though CB 9 already voted in support of the traffic safety plan. Photo: DOT

A 10-block road diet proposed for Morningside Avenue in Harlem continues to face resistance from Manhattan Community Board 10. In the latest development, it seems the transportation committee chair of CB 10 is trying to convince neighboring Community Board 9, which contains the west side of the avenue, to amend its vote in favor of the road diet and fight against it instead. Meanwhile, Council Member Mark Levine says DOT has heard more than enough input from the community boards and urged the agency to move ahead with the project.

Tonight, CB 10′s transportation committee, which has a history of failing to support street safety projects, is set to continue its discussion of the Morningside Avenue proposal, after the full board refused to take action on the matter last week. CB 10′s committee has been discussing the project since at least as far back as September, with members regularly blasting the road diet. Tonight’s committee meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the third-floor conference room of the Harlem State Office Building, 163 West 125th Street.

CB 9 passed a resolution in support of the plan in November [PDF], but board staff and transportation committee chair Carolyn Thompson tell Streetsblog that the committee will reopen the matter at its next meeting on February 6. Under consideration: An amendment that would ask DOT to “identify alternative measures to lane reductions.”

Reducing the number of through lanes from two to one in each direction is the central component of the Morningside Avenue safety plan, imposing order on an excessively wide street that currently encourages a majority of drivers to speed, according to DOT counts. The road diet also creates space for a center median with concrete pedestrian islands and left-turn pockets. Vehicle flow would essentially not be affected, since left-turning vehicles already occupy an entire lane in the current design, except to become safer and more predictable. These features, common in other traffic calming plans throughout the city, have reduced injury-causing crashes 40 percent on Gerritsen Avenue in Brooklyn, which like Morningside borders a park.

The push against the road diet appears to have originated in CB 10, which has fought against traffic calming elsewhere in the neighborhood. Karen Horry, acting chair of CB 10′s transportation committee, said last month that she contacted Thompson, the CB 9 committee chair, to express her surprise that CB 9′s resolution didn’t ask DOT to eliminate the road diet.

“It was agreed between both boards that there will be no lane reduction… CB 9 forgot to put that part on their resolution,” CB 9 staffer Hleziphi Zita told Streetsblog. “So that is why they had to do an amendment.”

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Levin to DOT: Deadly McGuinness Blvd Needs Traffic Calming, Speed Cams

McGuinness Boulevard at Nassau Avenue, where Nicole Detweiler died a week ago and Solange Raulston died in 2009. Photo: Google Maps

McGuinness Boulevard at Nassau Avenue, where Nicole Detweiler was killed a week ago and where Solange Raulston was killed in 2009. Photo: Google Maps

A week after Nicole Detweiler was killed while walking on McGuinness Boulevard — at least the third person to be struck and killed on the street in the last five years — Council Member Steve Levin sent a letter to incoming Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg asking her to prioritize traffic calming and and speed cameras on the busy multi-lane road cutting through Greenpoint [PDF]:

Speed cameras from the recently approved pilot program should be installed at PS 34, which is just off of McGuinness Boulevard, and would reduce speeds and increase safety. I also request the implementation of a neighborhood slow zone in the area surrounding PS 34, left-hand turn signals, countdown clocks at crosswalks, and other traffic calming elements.

Council Member Steve Levin. Photo: NYC Council

Council Member Steve Levin. Photo: NYC Council

A state law passed last year allows the city to install up to 20 speed cameras within school zones, which extend a quarter-mile from public and private schools. The city began operating speed cameras last September, issuing drivers $50 tickets for speeding at least 10 mph above the limit during school hours. The cameras are movable, so the city can deploy them in any eligible area where speeding is a problem. Because Albany allowed only 20 cameras, the locations are not disclosed in an effort to maximize the deterrent effect.

An analysis by WNYC last year showed that school zones cover two-thirds of city streets, including 82 percent of all streets in Brooklyn. In addition to PS 34, cited by Levin, other nearby schools include PS 31, PS 110, JHS 126, Brooklyn Automotive High School, Believe Southside Charter School, Believe Northside Charter School and Frances Perkins Academy.

WNYC’s school zone map indicates a nearly mile-long stretch of McGuinness Boulevard, from Greenpoint Avenue to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, is included within a school zone and thus qualifies for speed cameras.

Levin’s letter comes in response to the death of Detweiler, 28, who was hit by a BMW driver and a truck driver at the intersection of McGuinness and Nassau Avenue. The truck driver, 35-year-old Roberto Amador, was arrested for driving with a suspended license. Amador had been arrested just one week earlier for driving with a suspended license on the Upper West Side, according to DNAinfo.

The death rate on McGuinness Boulevard is horrific. In December 2009, cyclist Solange Raulston, 33, was struck and killed by the driver of a flatbed truck at McGuinness and Nassau Avenue, the same intersection where Detweiler was killed. In April 2010, 28-year-old Williamsburg resident Neil Chamberlain was killed by a hit-and-run driver as he walked near the intersection of McGuinness and Calyer Street.

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Eyes on the Street: How Snow Makes the Case for Traffic Calming

See those snowy spots in the road? Perfect opportunity for permanent traffic-calming curb extensions. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Those snowy spots in the road? Perfect opportunity for traffic-calming curb extensions. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Streetsblog asked and you delivered. Earlier we sent out a call for photos of snowy streets where drivers or plows had cleared a path while leaving much of the remaining the asphalt untouched. It’s an easy way to visualize the opportunities for permanent sidewalk extensions like like neckdowns and bulb-outs — but you have to snap a photo before it melts.

In addition to the submissions from New York, the #sneckdown hashtag traveled across the country (much of which is covered in snow at the moment) and even attracted attention from England and Sweden. Here are a few of our favorites from right here at home.

Perhaps the photo that best illustrates the sneckdown idea comes from Jackson Heights, above, snapped by Streetfilms’ own Clarence Eckerson Jr. — who, by the way, created the definitive videos about nature’s traffic calming. If you haven’t watched them already, check it out.

21st Street and 40th Avenue in Long Island City. Photo: Lisa Soverino/Instagram

21st Street and 40th Avenue in Long Island City. Photo: Lisa Soverino/Instagram

Lisa Soverino sent over this photo of 21st Street at 40th Avenue in Queens, where advocates are working with Community Board 1 on getting DOT to study 21st Street for a traffic-calming plan — but built with concrete instead of snow.

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Send Us Your Pics of Snowy Neckdowns and (Un)Plowed Bike Lanes

How is the first snowstorm of the de Blasio era treating you?

Clarence has been out on the streets, perhaps working on a sequel to his “Snowy Neckdowns” blockbuster from 2011 (which was itself a sequel to this 2007 video). After the streets have been plowed and drivers carve out their routes, all that snow piling up at intersections shows us the excess road space that could be reclaimed permanently to calm traffic. Here’s an example that Doug Gordon captured on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn today:

If you see good snowy neckdowns (a.k.a. #sneckdowns), send us your pics and we’ll run the best on the blog.

We also want to know how well the Sanitation Department is keeping the protected bike lane network clear. Winter biking is more practical than most people realize. It’s actually pretty damn comfortable if you keep your ears and extremities well-insulated. But unplowed, snow-packed bike lanes can ruin it for days on end. Remember how long the Prospect Park West bike lane went unplowed in 2011?

The city did a good job on the Eighth Avenue protected bike lane this morning:

How about the other protected lanes and the bridge paths? Do the protected bike lane conditions match the status reports on the city’s plow tracker? (According to the tracker, as of 12:30 p.m., all of Prospect Park West has been plowed within the last three hours.) Send us your pictures and reports in the comments or tweet us at @StreetsblogNYC.


DOT Plans Road Diet and Bikeway Upgrade on Deadly Section of Kent Avenue

On Kent Avenue, DOT is proposing converting one northbound lane to parking and turning the southbound parking lane into a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT

On Kent Avenue, DOT is proposing converting one northbound lane to parking and converting the southbound parking lane into a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT

Last night, Brooklyn Community Board 1′s transportation committee unanimously recommended the board support a DOT project [PDF] to calm traffic on a deadly stretch of Kent Avenue between Clymer Street and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The project also upgrades a link in the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway to a two-way protected bike lane.

Last March, hit-and-run driver Julio Acevedo, who police say was traveling 69 mph, killed Raizy and Nathan Glauber, both 21, in a two-car crash on this section of Kent Avenue at Wilson Street. Acevedo, facing charges including criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter, is scheduled to go to trial next year.

Since the crash, DOT has installed traffic signals at Wilson and Hooper Streets. The agency says crosswalks will be added at these locations next year, once crews begin striping again in March. (Currently, there are no marked crosswalks between Clymer Street and the BQE, a distance of four-tenths of a mile.)

This section of Kent Avenue is currently a median-divided road with parking on the east and west sides of the street. There is one southbound car lane and two northbound car lanes. A DOT study in May found that 82 percent of northbound drivers exceeded the 30 mph speed limit, similar to measurements taken last March by Transportation Alternatives and Council Member Steve Levin, which found 89 percent of drivers breaking the limit.

“When roads are overbuilt, this is the way people drive,” said DOT’s Ted Wright, adding that car volumes on Kent could be accommodated in one lane in either direction without any impact on traffic. ”This is about limiting the speeds of vehicles on the northbound side,” he said.

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Harlem’s CB 10 Continues Assault on Safer Streets and Better Buses

This modest change to Morningside Avenue is too radical for Community Board 10. Will it be too radical for Bill de Blasio’s DOT? Image: NYC DOT

According to Harlem’s Community Board 10, there is apparently no such thing as a street redesign worth pursuing. Over the course of two-and-a-half hours Tuesday night, members of the board’s transportation committee declined to support a road diet for Morningside Avenue, attacked a community-based street safety plan installed on Mount Morris Park West, and asked DOT to reconsider Select Bus Service on 125th Street again – this time on the pretense that it would harm the elderly and disabled.

The ongoing dysfunction at CB 10 should be a wake-up call to Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who has promised at least 20 Bus Rapid Transit routes and set a goal of eliminating traffic fatalities in 10 years. As it currently stands, New York’s community board process is incompatible with those goals, since in effect it enables a small group of people to veto changes to the street, sometimes without any meaningful community involvement. Community boards can be venues for constructive feedback and criticism, but too often they are simply forums to say “no” to change.

Each community board is supposed to represent the interests of people who live in the district — upwards of 100,000 people per board. In the CB 10 district, the vast majority of those people don’t own cars and rely on walking and transit. On Tuesday, there were just four committee members in the room, most of them threatening the cancellation of safety improvements proposed for Morningside Avenue, criticizing other traffic calming projects, and complaining about bus enhancements on 125th Street.

The Morningside Avenue redesign, requested by the North Star Neighborhood Association, has already been vetted at a public forum jointly hosted by Community Boards 9 and 10, which both cover the project area. CB 9 has already passed a resolution in support of the plan. Tuesday night, Karen Horry, acting chair of the CB 10 transportation committee, said she was surprised that CB 9′s resolution [PDF] did not ask DOT to reconsider the road diet, which is the centerpiece of the plan. ”The community has a great deal of concern about the lane reductions, so we were hoping you could address alternatives,” she said to Josh Orzeck, representing DOT’s Manhattan borough commissioner’s office at the meeting.

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