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Posts from the Walking Category


Rodriguez Backs Bill to Strengthen Legal Protections for People in Crosswalks

Momentum is building in the City Council for a bill to strengthen pedestrians’ right-of-way. Introduced by Public Advocate Tish James last week, Intro 997 picked up the support of Transportation Committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez today.

Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: NYC Council

Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: NYC Council

The bill fixes a flawed city rule that says people should not start to cross the street at any point after the pedestrian signal begins flashing red. With the proliferation of countdown signals that start flashing early in the pedestrian crossing phase, at many intersections there’s very little time for people to step off the curb before their legal right to cross expires. Police and prosecutors have cited the rule when they avoid applying the city’s Right of Way Law to drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

Under Intro 997, the rule would state that pedestrians in the crosswalk “shall have the right of way for the duration of the flashing cycle and vehicular traffic shall yield the right of way to all such pedestrians for as long as the signal remains flashing.”

Citing the 13 people who’ve been killed while walking in New York over the past two weeks, Rodriguez said in a statement that the bill “will fix an outdated traffic law that defends drivers in the event of a pedestrian accident, even if a crosswalk signal is still counting down.”

The current rule could be amended by the de Blasio administration without legislative action, but City Hall has not acted.

In addition to James and Rodriguez, there are currently four sponsors in the City Council: Margaret Chin, Debi Rose, Peter Koo, and Costa Constantinides.

A hearing on the bill is not yet scheduled. A spokesperson for Rodriguez said the transportation committee’s agenda for the next few months is currently being formulated.


Tonight: DOT Workshop on Atlantic Ave Segment Where Driver Killed Senior

Atlantic Avenue at Grant Avenue, when a driver killed 70-year-old Helen Marszalek. The nearest crosswalks are a block in either direction. Image: Google Maps

Atlantic Avenue at Grant Avenue, where a driver killed 70-year-old Helen Marszalek yesterday. There are no crosswalks at the intersection. Image: Google Maps

Yesterday a motorist killed a senior who was trying to cross Atlantic Avenue at an intersection that has no crosswalks. Tonight DOT will host a public workshop to solicit input on a safer design for Atlantic between Georgia Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard, which includes the site of Monday’s collision.

Helen Marszalek, 70, was walking across Atlantic at Grant Avenue at around 1:30 in the afternoon when she was struck by the driver of a BMW sedan in the westbound lanes. Marszalek, who lived nearby, died at Brookdale University Hospital, DNAinfo reported.

Helen Marszalek. Photo via Daily News

Helen Marszalek. Photo via Daily News

The crash occurred on a segment of Atlantic that the de Blasio administration has singled out for improvements as part of the Vision Zero Great Streets program, which concentrates on four of the city’s most dangerous streets for walking: Atlantic Avenue, Queens Boulevard, Grand Concourse, and Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue.

Atlantic Avenue at the site of the crash is six lanes with a center median. Last summer DOT unveiled plans to redesign medians and add vehicle turn bays between Pennsylvania Avenue and Conduit Avenue, to the west, where the crash rate is higher than on 90 percent of Brooklyn streets. Phase two of the project would focus on Atlantic between Conduit Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard, encompassing the intersection where Marszalek was killed.

Based on phase one plans [PDF], DOT does not intend to reduce the number of car lanes or add bike lanes on Atlantic Avenue, though such design elements are known to reduce injuries and deaths. For phase one, DOT has proposed raising the median, turning it into a barrier that will discourage people from crossing where there are no crosswalks.

Video from the scene of yesterday’s crash showed the BMW with a dented hood and extensive damage to the windshield, indicating a high-speed collision. “I heard the boom,” said witness John Montes, the Post reported. “I ran over, and the woman … wasn’t moving.”

Read more…

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The Randall’s Island Connector Is Finally Here

This spring, the Highbridge re-opened between the Bronx and Manhattan, the first car-free crossing linking the two boroughs. Now the second one in less than a year is open with the debut of the Randall’s Island Connector. The project has been in the pipeline for what seems like forever, and on Saturday it opened to the delight of many South Bronx residents.

The connector provides a direct and easy link between the developing South Bronx greenway network and Randall’s Island, with its athletic fields, picnic tables, miles of beautiful greenways, and stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. From Randall’s Island, you can bike or walk to the big island via the 103rd Street footbridge.

Advance apologies for some of the sound. When the winds are gusting over 30 mph and you are below an Amtrak train trestle, well, those aren’t ideal conditions. But kudos to the hundreds of people who showed up on a cold and blustery fall morning to celebrate the occasion.


On Day of Remembrance, Mayor Pledges to Take Vision Zero “a Lot Farther”

Hundreds of people walked from City Hall to the United Nations yesterday to remember victims of traffic violence and call for action to prevent more loss of life on the streets. Addressing the crowd before the march, Mayor de Blasio said his administration’s effort to eliminate traffic deaths “has just started” and pledged to “take it a lot farther.”

At the insistence of the de Blasio administration and NYC street safety advocates, Albany enacted legislation in 2014 to lower the default speed limit to 25 mph and increase the number of speed enforcement cameras on NYC streets, and traffic deaths in the city are on pace for a historic low this year. Even with that improvement, however, it’s all but certain that more than 200 people will be killed in New York traffic before 2015 is over. The persistent message yesterday from victims’ families, advocates, and elected officials was that more must be done.

Noting that traffic violence had claimed more than a dozen lives in the last few weeks, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said the city must implement proven safety measures like pedestrian islands, protected bike lanes, and speed cameras more expeditiously. “We are not yet to the point where these common sense improvements are done routinely,” he said.

The de Blasio administration has made incremental progress on street redesign but will have to dramatically accelerate the pace of change to achieve the rapid reduction in traffic deaths that Vision Zero calls for. DOT’s high-impact street transformations, like the redesign of 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard, don’t cover enough ground each year in a city with 6,000 miles of streets. The department’s political timidity and the lack of budgetary resources for quick, effective safety improvements have been a drag on progress.

Yesterday the mayor’s message was on target. De Blasio said plainly that “redesigning streets saves lives” and speeding enforcement changes behavior. “There are a lot of things that have been accepted as the status quo that we should not accept,” he said. “We have to jolt that reality, we have to change that to the core.”

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De Blasio Hasn’t Done It, So Tish James Intros Bill to Legalize Walking

A bill from Public Advocate Tish James would clean up outdated city traffic rules that NYPD and district attorneys say are an obstacle to applying the Right of Way Law.

Public Advocate Tish James

Public Advocate Tish James

Under the current rules, adopted before the existence of pedestrian countdown clocks, people who enter a crosswalk when the signal is flashing the “don’t walk” symbol do not have the right of way. At many crossings, DOT programs signals so the flashing hand and countdown timer appear after just a few seconds, taking up most of the walk phase.

In practice, this means those who step off the curb immediately after getting a walk signal would be the only people who could cross the street with the protection of the law. And people walking across a wide street, like Atlantic Avenue, would have to stop and wait in the median for the next light cycle to begin, even if they have time to get to the sidewalk before the countdown expires, or else lose the right of way to oncoming motorists.

“Too many innocent New Yorkers are dying crossing our city streets,” said James, according to the Daily News. “If a pedestrian enters the crosswalk after the hand starts flashing or the countdown begins, the driver can’t be held liable. It’s an outdated law.”

The Right of Way Law, also known as Section 19-190, took effect in August 2014. It was intended to be the legislative centerpiece of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, but police and prosecutors have used it only a handful of times.

“DAs and NYPD have used this little-known provision of law to justify failing to bring a Right of Way charge against a turning driver who strikes a pedestrian in the crosswalk,” said attorney Steve Vaccaro in an email to Streetsblog. “The de Blasio administration is aware of this problem, and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg could rewrite Section 4-03(c)(2) today if she wanted. It is the administration’s inaction that makes this legislation necessary.”

James will introduce the bill today.


Upper West Siders Call on DOT to Make Amsterdam Avenue a Complete Street

Next week — November 10 to be precise — DOT is expected to present a proposal to redesign Amsterdam Avenue for greater safety. The redesign is a long time coming. This summer marked the third time in the past six years that Manhattan Community Board 7 has asked DOT for a protected bike lane on Amsterdam.

On Halloween, neighborhood residents rallied with Transportation Alternatives for a “complete street” design of the avenue, with pedestrian islands and a protected bike lane. Until something changes, Amsterdam remains one of the most dangerous streets on the Upper West Side, with high rates of speeding and injuries.

The two local City Council members, Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine, have called on DOT to implement a protected bike lane on Amsterdam. You’ll see them in this footage of the rally captured by TA’s Luke Ohlson.

“This street you’re looking at right here represents cutting edge, state-of-the-art design principles from about a half century ago,” Levine said at the rally. “We know today that we can build streetscapes that balance the needs of motorists, of mass transit riders, of pedestrians, of bicyclists, of the disabled.”

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“Adam Ruins Everything” Explains the Origins of “Jaywalking”

Think the origins of “jaywalking” in 1920s car industry propaganda are too esoteric for a mainstream audience? Watch this clip from truTV’s “Adam Ruins Everything” that adapts research from Peter Norton’s Fighting Traffic, a history of how motordom conquered American streets in the early 20th century. It’s a good sign when productions backed by the entertainment industry start devoting attention to topics like this.

Hat tip Michael Briggs.


How to Fix NYC’s Streets? GOOD Magazine Turns to the Bronx

Fordham Road and Webster Avenue in the Bronx is one of New York City’s busiest intersections. The junction of the Bx12 and Bx41 Select Bus Service routes, it is crowded with pedestrians, including people going to and from the Fordham Metro-North station. As part of a series examining transportation issues across the nation, GOOD Magazine looked at how the intersection is being tweaked to make it better for bus riders, safer for pedestrians, and less chaotic for drivers.

The video, produced by Doug Patterson, includes interviews with Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool, Columbia University planning professors Elliott Sclar and Floyd Lapp, and yours truly.

It gives a good overview of the rationale for Select Bus Service and the intersection’s pedestrian improvements, showing how a series of different projects can help transform streets over time.

Called “the worst intersection in New York” by New York Magazine in 2012, the intersection is incredibly busy: About 80,000 people walk through each day. In 2008, DOT identified it as the city’s most dangerous intersection for pedestrians. Over the years, it’s received everything from countdown clocks and retimed signals to pedestrian refuge islands. A “slip lane” on the intersection’s northeast corner, which allowed drivers to make high-speed turns, was replaced with additional pedestrian space. Next door, the city is rebuilding Fordham Plaza, a bus hub and outdoor market above the train station.

Over the years, projects have involved multiple city and state agencies, local elected officials, and community groups working, piece by piece, to reclaim this busy Bronx hub from the automobile.


Tomorrow: Rally for a Verrazano-Narrows Path, Now a Real Possibility

A preliminary report from the MTA shows new bicycle and pedestrian paths on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge are feasible. Advocates want to work with the MTA on the details. Image: WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff for MTA [PDF]

A preliminary report from the MTA shows new bicycle and pedestrian paths on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge are feasible. Advocates say they want to work with the MTA on the details. Image: WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff for MTA [PDF]

Supporters of building a bicycle and walking path across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge are gathering tomorrow in Bay Ridge to rally for the project. The MTA released a preliminary report this week evaluating the prospects for a path, and it depicts a more complex undertaking than many advocates expected. The advocates working for walking and biking access on the bridge aren’t deterred and say the fact that the MTA is taking the idea seriously is a major step in the right direction.

The Verrazano Bridge opened in 1964 without bicycle and pedestrian access, an oversight that advocates have been trying to correct for a long time. In 1997, the Department of City Planning hired Ammann & Whitney, the firm that designed the bridge, to study the feasibility of adding a bikeway [PDF]. Since the bridge is controlled by the MTA, the city’s report largely sat on a shelf since its release nearly two decades ago.

More recently, a coalition of advocates renewed the push for a Verrazano-Narrows path under the banner of the “Harbor Ring,” a loop of connected bike paths around Upper New York Bay.

After advocates earned endorsements from elected officials, last year the MTA hired consultant WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff for its own feasibility analysis. On Tuesday, the authority briefed advocates and the press on the preliminary results of the study [PDF].

Read more…


Eyes on the Street: Randall’s Island Connector to Open in “Coming Weeks”

The Randall’s Island Connector is still fenced off, but not for long. EDC says an opening date will be scheduled “in the coming weeks.” Photo: Stephen Miller

The Randall’s Island Connector, a greenway link between the South Bronx and Randall’s Island, is almost complete. Bronxites are anticipating a ribbon-cutting any day now from the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which is building the project.

The new path crosses the Bronx Kill, a narrow waterway separating Randall’s Island from the Bronx. Without it, the only way to bike or walk from the Bronx to Randall’s Island is over narrow paths on the Triborough Bridge that include stairs, sharp curves, and a steep ascent to bridge level.

In contrast, the connector will provide a flat, direct crossing from E. 132nd Street in Port Morris to 330 acres of public parks and greenways on Randall’s Island.

Construction crews are currently finishing up handrail installations and minor fencing work, EDC says, before the city schedules a grand opening.

EDC wouldn’t give an exact opening date — but it should be soon. “As we put the finishing touches on the Randall’s Island Connector and schedule a grand opening event in the coming weeks, we are excited for the many opportunities that this neighborhood asset will provide for the community,” an agency spokesperson said.