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Tonight: Big Changes Proposed for Intersection Where Ella Bandes Was Killed

Curb extensions, new crosswalks and turn bans could be coming to this deadly intersection on the Brooklyn-Queens border. Image: DOT

Curb extensions, new crosswalks and turn bans could be coming to this deadly intersection on the Brooklyn-Queens border. Image: DOT

Last year, 23-year-old Ella Bandes was killed by a turning MTA bus driver at a complex intersection on the Queens-Brooklyn border. On the anniversary of her death in January, her parents called on DOT to implement more aggressive street safety measures. Tonight, DOT is scheduled to present a plan to Queens Community Board 5′s transportation committee, including new crosswalks, curb extensions and turn bans [PDF].

DOT already installed brighter street lighting beneath the elevated train in January and added pedestrian countdown clocks. “I thought they were just going to improve the lighting and do as little as possible,” said Judy Kottick, Ella’s mother. “But they’re adding a crosswalk, they’re shortening crossing distances.”

The plan would add painted curb extensions at most of the intersection’s corners. It also calls for a new crosswalk across Myrtle Avenue in the middle of the intersection, to match a route many pedestrians already follow. An existing crosswalk across Myrtle Avenue on the intersection’s east side would be widened significantly, and all crosswalks will receive new high-visibility zebra markings under the plan.

The multi-leg intersection, at the transfer point between an elevated train and a subway, is also a hub for bus routes in both boroughs. A 2007 DOT Ridgewood transportation study [PDF] found that the corner where Ella was killed had the neighborhood’s highest pedestrian volumes.

Read more…

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Photo Contest: Send Us Your Soggy, Snowy, Rain-Soaked Walk or Bike Ride!

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This year has dealt us some crazy weather, from the polar vortex to drenching thunderstorms. We know you didn’t hide all winter in a car. You were out walking the walk and riding the bike, whatever the weather. We hope you got a picture of it!

In honor of April showers — and to celebrate the end of an epic winter — we’re co-sponsoring a Showers & Snow photo contest with the Alliance for Biking & Walking and Ortlieb. Send us your gorgeous photo(s) of walkers or bikers in the rain or snow where you live, and you could win a fabulous set of waterproof Ortlieb panniers and bike bags.

Contest details

Photos: Please send high-resolution files (at least 1,600 pixels wide or tall), without watermarks. Please submit no more than 10 photos for this contest. For inspiration, check out the finalists from our last photo contest.

To enter:

  • If you’re on Flickr, add your pictures to the Ortlieb Showers & Snow photo contest Flickr group. In the photo caption field, provide your name, email, city and state, as well as a caption.
  • If you are not on Flickr, email your pictures as a JPG or PNG file to photocontest@bikewalkalliance.org, with the subject line “Ortlieb Showers & Snow photo contest.” In the body of the email, provide your name, address, telephone number, email address, and photo caption. Please submit your images in as few emails as possible.

In both cases, if you didn’t take the picture yourself, please let us know who did!

Prizes: First and second prize winners each get a full set of awesome, waterproof Ortlieb panniers and mountable bags to turn your bike into a badass hauler.

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After CB 4 Committee Signs on, DOT Will Study Safer Fifth and Sixth Avenues

Sixth Avenue at 14th Street, which is part of an area DOT will be studying for pedestrian and bicycle upgrades. Photo: Google Maps

Sixth Avenue at 14th Street, part of an area DOT will be studying for a street redesign. Photo: Google Maps

After a unanimous vote of support from Community Board 5, a request for DOT to study protected bike lanes and pedestrian improvements on Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Manhattan got another boost from the CB 4 transportation committee last Wednesday. After the committee’s unanimous 6-0 vote, a DOT representative said the agency intends to begin studying the potential redesign of the avenues this fall.

“We don’t have any information that we can share with the community board right now, because we are looking at the corridor,” said DOT’s Colleen Chattergoon. “We hope to do some data collection in the late fall.”

While most of Fifth and Sixth Avenues are within the boundaries of Community Board 5, which had already supported the request, advocates are looking for backing from community boards 2 and 4, along the southern sections of the avenues. “You have a constituency who supports making Fifth and Sixth Avenues into public spaces that are safe, efficient, pleasant, and basically serve people better,” said Transportation Alternatives volunteer Albert Ahronheim, before presenting a petition signed by more than 10,400 people and letters of support from 118 businesses along the avenues.

The request now heads to CB 4′s full board on May 7. Advocates hope to secure support from CB 2 soon, as well.

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What Is Your State Doing to Improve Walking and Biking?

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How good are your state’s policies on walking and biking?

The Alliance for Biking and Walking has made it easy to find out with this at-a-glance chart, released as part of its biannual Benchmarking report this week.

According to the Alliance, state policies are getting progressively better for walking and biking. Now, 34 states publish goals to increase levels of active transportation. That’s up from 29 states just two years ago. Nearly every state — 44 — now sets goals to reduce pedestrian fatalities, and 43 states have set goals for bike fatalities. Even states that aren’t known for walking and biking seem to at least be talking the talk. The Alliance reports that Florida now has a policy aiming to get more people walking, and Nevada is trying to increase cycling.

Cities are getting with the program as well, the Alliance finds.

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Mixed Signals From Bratton’s NYPD Jaywalking Directive

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s memo ordering precincts to focus on dangerous jaywalking offenses looks like a positive sign, but it still directs officers to write out citations in a way that ensures many won’t be heard in court.

The Daily News reports that Bratton issued guidelines Tuesday that instruct beat cops to issue warnings to “elderly and handicapped” pedestrians “absent reckless disregard for safety.” Senior Kang Wong was left bloodied after a jaywalking stop on the Upper West Side earlier this year. Charges against him were dropped and he is suing the city.

“If pedestrian actions are not causing a safety risk or the ends of justice are not met by issuing a summons,” the memo reads, “warn and admonish the violator instead.”

Attorney Steve Vaccaro says Bratton’s directive appears to address the department’s tendency to concentrate on generating mass summonses for technical violations that are more likely to stick in court — what Vaccaro calls the “fish in a barrel approach” — rather than targeting behaviors that are more likely to result in injury. “I think this would be consistent with a data-driven approach to dangerous violations,” he says.

On the other hand, the memo cites the NYPD Patrol Guide rule that says pedestrian summonses should be processed through New York City Criminal Court. As Vaccaro wrote in a March Street Justice column, the Criminal Court does not adjudicate traffic offenses. The current protocol is a waste of time and resources for NYPD, the courts, and people who are ticketed, says Vaccaro.

With tickets being thrown out of court, the practice also works against Bratton’s stated goal of encouraging “safe pedestrian practices,” and provides no judicial check against bogus summonses. ”If the summonses will never be heard, cops can do whatever they want,” Vaccaro says. “The tickets are never reviewed.”

NYPD had issued 916 jaywalking summonses as of Sunday, according to the Daily News, compared to 532 tickets total in 2013.

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More Walking and Biking, Better Health: New Evidence From American Cities

States with higher rates of walking and biking to work tend to have lower rates of diabetes. Click to enlarge. All graphics: Alliance for Biking and Walking

New data from the Alliance for Biking and Walking’s 2014 Benchmarking report bears out the notion that people tend to be healthier in cities where walking and biking are more prevalent.

The Alliance compiled active commuting rates in the 50 largest American cities as measured by the U.S. Census. Then it compared that data with health information from the CDC. On health outcomes like diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, a pretty clear correlation emerges.

Not all of it can be explained by active commuting, of course. But notice how, in the top chart, as statewide active transportation rates increase, diabetes rates decline.

About 9 percent of Americans have diabetes, but the incidence varies greatly between different places. Diabetes tracks closely enough with walk and bike commute rates that the Alliance and other researchers have concluded there’s a strong correlation.

Rates of elevated blood pressure display a similar pattern:

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Local Climate Doesn’t Exert Much Influence on Biking and Walking

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There is no link between colder temperatures and levels of walking and biking to work. Click to enlarge. All graphics: Alliance for Biking and Walking

Which state has the highest share of people who walk to work? It’s not temperate California.

Actually, Alaska, the coldest state in the U.S., has the highest rate of active commuting. About 8 percent of workers there commute by foot and another 1 percent by bike.

That illustrates something that researchers have noticed for a long time — climate isn’t a strong indicator of where people walk and bike a lot, or where they do not.

In its big biannual benchmarking report, the Alliance for Biking and Walking cross-referenced climate data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with walk and bike commutes rates in U.S. cities. They found only a “weak relationship” between climate and active commuting.

The top chart shows major American cities on a spectrum from the most cold-weather days to the fewest. Note that biking and walking rates are scattered all over the place, even as the cities grow colder from left to right.

When you look at cities that have lots of hot days, though, a relationship does appear. As this chart shows, some of the cities with the lowest bike and walk commuting rates also have some of the hottest days — Forth Worth, Jacksonville, Las Vegas.

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5 Things You Should Know About the State of Walking and Biking in the U.S

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While walk and bike commute rates aren’t changing rapidly, since 2005 walking to work has ceased a long-term decline, and biking to work has started to rise after many years of stagnation. All graphics: Alliance for Walking and Biking.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking released its big biannual benchmarking report today, a 200-page document that measures the scope, status, and benefits of biking and walking across the United States, using 2011 and 2012 data to update its previous reports.

Streetsblog will be running a series of posts looking at the Alliance’s findings over the next few days. To start it all off, here are a few of the key takeaways:

1. Biking and walking are growing — slowly

Nationwide, 3.4 percent of commuters got to work by foot or bike in 2011 and 2012.

In those two years, walking accounted for 2.8 percent of work trips, up from 2.5 percent in 2005 but not perceptibly different than any year since. Nationwide, bike commute mode share stood at 0.6 percent in 2012, up from 0.4 percent in 2005 but not much different than when the previous benchmarking report came out two years ago.

The Alliance calls this a continuation of the “very gradual trend of increasing biking and walking to work.”

2. But walking to work is growing more noticeably in cities

In the 50 largest cities, however, a recent increase in walking is somewhat more discernible. The walking commute share rose to 5 percent in 2012 — half a percentage point higher than in 2005. Meanwhile, bike commuting in the 50 largest cities rose to 1 percent mode share in 2012 from 0.7 percent in 2005.

Boston had the highest share of walking commuters at 15 percent, and Portland had the highest share of bike commuters at 6.1 percent.

Keep in mind that these mode-share numbers are based on the Census, which only counts people who bike or walk for the longest part of their commute more than three days a week. As we’ll see, this understates total biking and walking activity.

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Rockaway Students Want DOT to Use Extra Asphalt for Walking and Biking


Rockaway Freeway, a multi-lane divided road beneath the A train on the Rockaway peninsula, is hardly friendly territory for walking or biking. A group of teens interning with the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance is looking to change that. Their goal: Gather 10,000 signatures on a petition asking DOT to convert some under-used road space, created as part of a traffic-calming project years ago, into a safe place for walking and biking.

“There are two striped buffers that aren’t being used for anything,” said Sebastian Rahman, 15, a sophomore at Scholars Academy in Rockaway Park and an intern with RWA. “People still do use them to get from point A to point B, even though it isn’t really isn’t safe.”

“You have people speeding there,” said intern Kaitlyn Kennedy, 16. “It’s not the safest place to be walking.” A road diet reduced the number of lanes and added the striped buffered areas more than a decade ago, but Rockaway Freeway continues to be a dangerous road: Last December, a teen driver killed one of his passengers and seriously injured another in a late-night crash on the road at Beach 41st Street.

“We saw the Rockaway Freeway as a great opportunity,” Rahman said. After Hurricane Sandy wiped out portions of the boardwalk, he continued, “there was no more connectivity between the east side and the west side of the peninsula.” Together, the student interns have come up with a concept that mixes new planted areas with more space for pedestrians and a dedicated bike path.

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GWB Will Get Bike-Ped Upgrades as Part of Cable Rehab Project

Yesterday, the the Port Authority board authorized a $1.03 billion rehabilitation of the George Washington Bridge’s suspension cables that will also fix problem spots for cyclists and pedestrians using its shared paths. But the upgraded biking and walking routes will still be two feet narrower than the recommended width for shared-use paths.

Say goodbye to these stairs on the George Washington Bridge path...in 2024. Photo: Google Maps

Say goodbye to these stairs on the George Washington Bridge path… in ten years. Photo: Google Maps

Today, users of the south path face a hairpin turn on the Manhattan side. The north path, which remains closed, has staircases on both sides of the Hudson. Under the plan, both paths would be upgraded to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, eliminating the hairpin turn and the stairs.

The north path will receive upgrades first and then reopen to the public before the south path is closed for construction.

The fixes were welcomed by Transportation Alternatives and the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition, which both worked with the Port Authority as it was planning the project.

In his testimony, Neile Weissman, who serves as president of the New York Cycle Club, also praised the changes but prodded the Port Authority to widen the paths, which at 8 feet would fall below federal guidelines, which call for a minimum of 10 feet, or up to 14 feet for busy shared-use paths.

“We have a budget and a limited amount of revenue,” Port Authority spokesperson Chris Valens told Streetsblog. ”We did what we thought we could accommodate based on the project and the cost of the project.” Valens added that with both the north and south paths open, it might be possible to designate one path for cyclists and another for pedestrians, though no final decision has been made.

Construction is set to begin in 2017, with final completion in 2024.