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From Minneapolis, Evidence That the Census Undercounts Walking and Biking

Biking jumped 58 percent in the Twin Cities region between 2000 and 2010. Photo: Wikipedia

Biking increased 58 percent in the Twin Cities region between 2000 and 2010. Photo: Wikipedia

The U.S. Census is the most widely cited source of data about how Americans get around. It’s updated regularly and it covers the whole country, but it comes up short in a number of ways. The Census only asks about commute trips, and commuting only accounts for about 16 percent of total household travel [PDF]. What happens when you measure the other 84 percent?

Researchers at the University of Minnesota set out to design a better way to track how people move around the Twin Cities region, and one key finding is that walking and biking appear to be growing a lot faster than the Census indicates.

The UMN survey asked about 1 percent of the region’s residents to keep a travel diary, recording every trip. This resembles the National Household Travel Survey, a more detailed but infrequently-conducted cousin to the Census data on commuting, but the sample collected by the UMN team was much bigger. That’s especially important for measuring less prevalent modes of travel like walking and biking. The UMN study also provided more detailed information about people’s origins and destinations than the National Household Travel Survey.

The UMN team found that driving decreased in the region between 2000 and 2010, while biking and walking grew. Cycling rose over that period from 1.4 to 2.2 percent of trips. That’s about 190,000 daily trips, or a 58 percent increase. Meanwhile, walking grew from 4.5 to 6.6 percent of trips, a 44 percent increase, or almost three quarters of a million daily trips. Residents of the Twin Cities region typically make about 12 million total daily trips.

What’s especially interesting is that the share of biking and walking trips in the UMN survey is much bigger than what the Census indicates — about two to three times larger.

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DOT Redesign of 165th Street in the Bronx: Road Diet and Painted Bike Lanes

An extra-wide section of E. 165th Street in the Bronx is set to get a road diet, bike lanes, and pedestrian islands. Image: DOT [PDF]

Extra-wide E. 165th Street in the Bronx is set to get a road diet, bike lanes, and pedestrian islands. Image: DOT [PDF]

A section of E. 165th Street near the Grand Concourse is set to get a road diet, bike lanes, and concrete pedestrian islands under a DOT plan to cut down on traffic injuries [PDF]. While the redesign would be a big improvement over the status quo, it doesn’t take advantage of the widest sections to put in protected bike lanes.

Between Walton and Sherman Avenues, E. 165th Street is 75 feet wide, expanding from one lane in each direction to two. There’s a lot of open, unmarked asphalt.

With a design like that, it’s no wonder the street is among the most dangerous in the Bronx, with a higher crash rate than 90 percent of the borough’s streets. There were 16 serious injuries on E. 165th Street between Jerome Avenue and the multi-leg intersection with Melrose, Park, and Webster Avenues from 2009 to 2013, according to DOT. Two people were also killed at the intersection with the Grand Concourse, including Yvette Diaz, struck by a hit-and-run driver who was turning left while she was walking in the crosswalk.

Left-turn crashes are especially common on E. 165th Street. Half of all collisions involving pedestrians on this section involved a driver failing to yield, 50 percent higher than the average rate in the Bronx. In addition, 28 percent of all crashes involved a driver turning left, nearly three times the borough-wide average.

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DOT Proposes Road Diets for Two Uptown Avenues

Two dangerous uptown avenues could get road diets and bike lanes this summer under a DOT plan presented to the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee on Monday [PDF]. A plan for Sherman Avenue received the committee’s support, while a design for St. Nicholas Avenue is headed for at least one more month of review.

Map: DOT [PDF]

The CB 12 transportation committee backs a plan for Sherman Avenue but wants more time to consider an identical proposal for St. Nicholas Avenue. Map: DOT [PDF]

There were 25 serious injuries on the 1.2 miles of St. Nicholas Avenue between 169th and 193rd streets from 2009 to 2013, according to DOT, putting it in the most dangerous third of Manhattan streets. Five intersections — at 175th, 177th, 178th, 181st, and 185th streets — are more dangerous than 90 percent of the borough’s intersections.

On Sherman, there were seven serious injuries and two fatalities from 2009 to 2013, according to DOT. Two of its intersections, at Academy and Dyckman streets, ranked in the top 10 percent of Manhattan’s most dangerous intersections.

Sherman and St. Nicholas are both 60 feet wide. Each would receive a road diet replacing two car lanes in each direction with one car lane plus a center turn lane and a striped bike lane. CB 12 had asked for bike lanes in the area in 2012. The projects do not include concrete pedestrian islands, though DOT says they could be added at a later date.

The biggest changes would come to the intersection of Sherman Avenue and Broadway, where the slip lane from northbound Broadway onto Sherman would be replaced by an super-sized curb extension that forces drivers to slow down when turning (see below). A median pedestrian island would be added on Sherman, and an existing triangle island on the north side of the intersection would be enlarged. DOT says pedestrian crossing distances will be shortened by 38 percent, from 118 to 73 feet.

“People didn’t really have issues with the proposal for Sherman,” said Liz Ritter, who attended the meeting and sits on the board but not the transportation committee. “It looks like that’s totally going to work out.”

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Bay Ridge CB Overwhelmingly Backs Bike Lanes, Pedestrian Safety Fixes

Bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements are coming to Bay Ridge after a pair of votes at Brooklyn Community Board 10 last week. It’s a turnaround from just a few years ago, when the board gained a reputation as one of the most anti-bike in the city.

After years of work at the community board, bike lanes are coming to Bay Ridge. Map: DOT [PDF]

After years of work at the community board, bike lanes are coming to Bay Ridge. Map: DOT [PDF]

After voting down a 2011 DOT proposal to add bike lanes to Bay Ridge Parkway, CB 10 went back to the drawing board and came up with its own list of streets where it wanted bike lanes. DOT came back with a plan last summer, and the plan finally passed the transportation committee on April 16 before clearing the full board in a 30-5 vote on April 20 [PDF].

“Most of the people were quite satisfied with the changes that DOT made. The process was very long and cumbersome, but in the end the final proposal that DOT brought forth was perfectly in line with the wishes of the committee,” said CB 10 member Bob HuDock. While a handful of people, led by former transportation committee member Alan Bortnick, voted against the plan, it passed the full board with flying colors last week.

“It was a really stunning turnaround from four years ago,” HuDock said. “It was not a very controversial thing. Everybody had seen this plan evolve over the years.”

The proposal [PDF] forms a loop on the northern, eastern, and southern sides of CB 10. Shared lane markings will be added to Sixth Avenue from Fort Hamilton Parkway to 68th Street. Fort Hamilton Parkway will get striped bike lanes, from Sixth Avenue to 92nd Street, and shared lanes from 92nd Street to Marine Avenue. Shared lanes will also be added to Marine Avenue from Fort Hamilton Parkway to Colonial Road.

In the northern section of the neighborhood, striped bike lanes are being added to 68th and 72nd streets west of Sixth Avenue. Fifth Avenue from 65th Street to 72nd Street will receive shared lane markings.

Some of the biggest changes are coming to Seventh Avenue near the Gowanus Expressway, where extra-wide lanes will be narrowed to make room for striped bike lanes.

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De Blasio: Everyone in This City Has to Yield to Pedestrians

At the press event today announcing the de Blasio administration update to NYC’s citywide sustainability plan (now called “OneNYC” — more on that soon!), the mayor fielded a question about bus design and whether bus drivers can be expected to spot and avoid striking pedestrians in crosswalks. The unspoken subtext was the Transport Workers Union campaign to carve out an exemption for MTA bus drivers in the city’s Right of Way Law, which makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to injure people walking or biking with the right of way.

Here’s the meat of de Blasio’s response — you can see it at about the 1:26 mark in this video:

As you know, we’re training a lot of people who work for the city of New York in how to be safer and better drivers. MTA we do not control. But I think there’s an opportunity to work with the MTA to figure out what will help these drivers to do their work more safely. I think that the whole picture should be looked at — the routes that they cover, the schedules they’re on, the kind of training they need. If the equipment creates a problem, obviously — what’s more important than safety? What’s more important than saving people’s lives and avoiding horribly injured people? This is what we come here first to do in government.

So if it turns out that the design of the buses creates a safety problem — can we fix that with different mirrors or other adjustments? That’s a valid question. But in the here and now, our message to everyone in this city, whether they work for the city, or they work for the MTA, or a private individual, is you have to drive safely. You have to yield to pedestrians. You have to respect that there’s new laws now that clearly penalize those who do not yield to pedestrians. We’re here to save lives and everybody has to be a part of that.

Streetsblog USA
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FHWA Will Help Cities Get Serious About Measuring Biking and Walking

This counter in San Francisco gives planners reliable, up-to-date data about bike trips on Market Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick/Streetsblog SF

The lack of good data on walking and biking is a big problem. Advocates say current metrics yield a spotty and incomplete picture of how much, where, and why Americans walk and bike. The U.S. Census only tells us about commuting — a fairly small share of total trips. The more detailed National Household Transportation Survey comes with its own drawbacks: It’s conducted infrequently and doesn’t provide useful data at a local scale.

Without a good sense of people’s active transportation habits, it’s hard to draw confident conclusions not only about walking and biking rates, but also about safety and other critical indicators that can guide successful policy at the local level. A new program from the Federal Highway Administration aims to help fill the gap.

U.S. DOT announced today that FHWA will help local transportation planners gather more sophisticated data on walking and biking. The agency has selected metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) in 10 regions — Providence, Buffalo, Richmond, Puerto Rico, Palm Beach, Fresno, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Memphis — to lead its new “Bicycle-Pedestrian Count Technology Pilot Program.”

FHWA says the program will provide funding for equipment to measure biking and walking trips. Writing on U.S. DOT’s Fast Lane blog, FHWA Deputy Administrator Gregory Nadeau adds that “each MPO will receive technical assistance in the process of setting up the counters; uploading, downloading and analyzing the data; and –most importantly– using the data to improve the planning process in their community.”

The first counts will be available in December. Following the initial pilot, a second round of regions may be chosen to participate, Nadeau writes.

This would be an enormous improvement over what they do in Cleveland, where I live, as well as many other regions: recruit volunteers to stand at intersections with clipboards once a year and count cyclists by hand.

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Creating Safer Streets Linking the South Bronx to Randall’s Island

Current conditions on 132nd Street, which will provide access to the Randall’s Island Connector greenway segment. All photos and renderings by Civitas courtesy of New York Restoration Project

132nd Street as envisioned in The Haven Project recommendations.

The South Bronx neighborhoods of Port Morris and Mott Haven are a stone’s throw from 480-acre Randall’s Island, but a ring of highways and industry separates residents from all that parkland. Now, the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) is working with local advocates and health researchers to create better walking and biking connections between the South Bronx and Randall’s Island, taking advantage of a long-planned greenway segment set to open this summer.

The South Bronx has high rates of asthma, diabetes, and obesity, making it especially urgent to provide opportunities for physical activity. The Randall’s Island Connector, a nearly-complete greenway segment running beneath the Hell Gate Bridge, will help by linking the South Bronx to Randall’s Island with a car-free path. But to reach the connector after it opens, residents will still have to navigate streets overrun by trucks and lined with industrial uses.

That’s where NYRP and its initiative, The Haven Project, come in. Launched after a community meeting last June, the project aims to create safer access to the greenway. The first round of recommendations has been released [PDF] — including plans for waterfront greenways, new street trees, protected bike lanes, and safer pedestrian crossings — and a full report is scheduled for June.

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Bed-Stuy CB Freaks Out Over Adding Pedestrian Space to Fulton and Utica

Giving more space to pedestrians at a busy transfer point between the bus and the subway? Brooklyn CB 3 isn't interested. Image: DOT [PDF]

Giving more space to pedestrians at a busy transfer point between the bus and the subway? Brooklyn CB 3 isn’t interested. Image: DOT [PDF]

Creating more space for pedestrians at a dangerous, crowded transfer point between bus lines and the subway — sounds like a no-brainer, right? Not at Brooklyn Community Board 3, where the default position is to reflexively reject even the smallest street safety change.

Fulton Street and Utica Avenue are both dangerous streets that the de Blasio administration has targeted at Vision Zero priority corridors in need of safety improvements. There were 58 traffic injuries at the intersection of the two streets between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT.

DOT is proposing to replace “slip lanes,” which allow drivers to make quick right turns from Fulton Street to Utica Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard, with sidewalk extensions that would tighten turns and shorten crossing distances. The additional space would reduce exposure to motor vehicle traffic for people transferring between the B46, B25, and A/C trains [PDF].

Upon seeing the plan Monday night, CB 3 members recoiled, Camille Bautista of DNAinfo reports:

[C]ommunity members said it would bottleneck traffic coming from Atlantic Avenue. Other residents took issue with the elimination of turning lanes, which could add congestion on an already crowded Fulton Street.

“I know that you have your study, but your study really cannot compare to the study I have by using that intersection every day,” said board member C. Doris Pinn, who stressed the potential for more traffic jams and accidents.

The intersection tweaks complement the introduction of Select Bus Service on the B46, New York City’s second-busiest bus route, with nearly 50,000 passengers each day. Four miles of Utica Avenue would receive dedicated bus lanes in the plan, which also got panned at Monday’s CB 3 meeting. “To me it feels like you’re pushing this down the community’s throat,” one woman said, according to DNAinfo.

In the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Community District 3, more than two-thirds of households don’t own cars, according to the U.S. Census. The area is represented in the City Council by Laurie Cumbo, Robert Cornegy, and Darlene Mealy, who each appoint members to CB 3, along with Borough President Eric Adams.

Last year, CB 3 stonewalled a 20 mph Slow Zone requested by neighborhood residents. DOT eventually decided not to extend the slow zone into CB 3’s turf after board chair Tremaine Wright dismissed street safety as a real concern.

Select Bus Service is scheduled to start late this summer or this fall, with related pedestrian safety improvements to be phased in after service begins.

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Eyes on the Street: Curb Extensions on Park Avenue in East Harlem

Crews install a concrete neckdown at Park Avenue and 111th Street. Photo: NYC DOT/Facebook

Crews install a concrete neckdown at Park Avenue and 111th Street. Photo: NYC DOT/Facebook

People crossing Park Avenue in East Harlem often have a tough time seeing cars coming down the street. A stone viaduct that carries Metro-North trains overhead reduces visibility for walkers, cyclists and drivers alike. This week, DOT poured concrete for neckdowns at East 111th Street as part of a larger street safety project.

The neckdowns at 111th Street expand the short sidewalk in the median below the train viaduct, allowing pedestrians to safely stand in a visible location before crossing the street.

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Get Ready For a Very Uncomfortable Year on the Brooklyn Bridge

There’s crowded, and then there’s the Brooklyn Bridge on a nice warm day with construction fencing off half the walking and biking path. Image: DOT

Just as the weather warms and tourists once again mob the Brooklyn Bridge to admire the skyline and snap some photos, DOT has announced that construction work will narrow the one place on the bridge path that’s even remotely close to comfortably wide.

The maintenance work involves “steel improvements at tower locations as well as structural joint repair on the Brooklyn approach.” For people walking and biking on the bridge path, that will mean squeezing around construction fences blocking off one side of each tower.

Nowhere to pause for photos, nowhere to not be in the way of other people. Image: DOT

Image: DOT

During overnight hours, part of the Brooklyn side of the path will also be halved.  The closures, which are more intrusive than previous construction barriers, will be in place through December. Additionally, between April 6 and April 20 DOT will close half the Manhattan approach during overnight hours.

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