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Posts from the "Walking" Category

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Shared Space: The Street Design NYC’s Financial District Was Made For

Long studied, little implemented: This 1997 Department of City Planning map identified streets ripe for pedestrianization or plazas. Adding shared streets to the mix could open up more possibilities. Image: DCP

Long studied, little implemented: This 1997 Department of City Planning map identified streets ripe for pedestrianization or plazas. Adding shared streets to the mix could open up more possibilities. Image: DCP

For people in cars, the Financial District is a slow-speed maze. For everyone else, it is one of the city’s most transit-rich destinations. Despite this, most of the street space in the area is devoted to cars.

The Financial District is an ideal candidate for pedestrianization, but while it has seen redesigns on a handful of streets, it has yet to see the large-scale creation of car-free space that has been studied and talked about for ages. Could introducing shared space to the mix help transform some of New York’s oldest streets into truly people-first places?

If not for the the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, the Financial District would effectively be a large cul-de-sac — there is no reason for through traffic to use its local streets. The evil twins of West Street and the FDR Drive feed cars to the tunnel and ring off the neighborhood from the waterfront. But within the Financial District itself, most of the streets are narrow and have far more pedestrians than cars.

There are a few places in the Financial District where car-free streets have taken hold over the years. Too often, the goal has been not to create an open, accessible city, but to build a fortress against the threat of truck bombs.

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Arizona Police Arrest “Jaywalking” Professor in Racially-Charged Incident

Arizona earned its reputation for police excess yet again recently when an officer demanded identification of an African-American pedestrian — for the crime of walking in a campus street to avoid construction on the sidewalk — and got violent when she refused to produce it.

Arizona State University professor Ersula Ore was walking around some construction on the Tempe college campus last month when an ASU police officer stopped her. Before she could even explain why she was walking in the street, he asked her for ID. When she bristled at the request, he threatened her with arrest. Before long, he had slammed her violently to the ground, her body exposed, and his hands in all the wrong places.

“The reason I’m talking to you right now is because you’re walking in the middle of the street,” Officer Stewart Ferrin told Ore when he stopped her. “That’s called obstruction of a public thoroughfare.”

“I’ve been here for over three years and everybody walks this street,” she replied. “Everybody’s been doing this because it’s all obstructed. That’s the reason why. But you stop me in the middle of street to pull me over and you ask me, ‘Do you know what this is? This is a street — ’”

“This is a street,” Ferrin interjects.

Then he demands that she put her hands behind her back, she demands that he take his hands off her, and trigger warnings start to fly.

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FHWA: Bike-Ped Investments Pay Off By Cutting Traffic and Improving Health

Marin County rebuilt an old railroad tunnel and created a 1.1-mile non-motorized path, expanding transit access and increasing biking by 95 percent. Photo: ##http://parisi-associates.com/projects/non-motorized-transportation-pilot-program/##Parisi Associates##

Marin County rebuilt an old railroad tunnel and created a 1.1-mile walking and biking path, improving access to transit and increasing biking 95 percent on the road leading to the tunnel. Photo: Parisi Associates

Nine years after launching a program to measure the impact of bike and pedestrian investments in four communities, the Federal Highway Administration credits the program with increasing walking trips by nearly a quarter and biking trips by nearly half, while averting 85 million miles of driving since its inception.

In 2005, the FHWA’s Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP) set aside $100 million for pedestrian and bicycle programs in four communities: Columbia, Missouri; Marin County, California; Sheboygan County, Wisconsin; and the Minneapolis region in Minnesota.

Each community had $25 million to spend over four years, with most of the funding going toward on-street and off-street infrastructure. According to a progress report released this week, about $11 million of that remains unspent, though the communities also attracted $59 million in additional funds from other federal, state, local, and private sources.

“The main takeaway is, we’ve now answered indisputably that if you build a wisely-designed, safe system for walking and biking within the context of a community that is aware of and inspired by fact that it is becoming a more walkable, bikeable place, you can achieve dramatic mode shift with modest investment,” said Marianne Fowler of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and an architect of the pilot program.

Columbia reconfigured a key commuter intersection to making walking and biking easier and safer, resulting in a 51 percent jump in walking rates and a 98 percent jump in biking at that location. In Marin County, the reconstruction of the 1,100-foot Cal Park railroad tunnel and construction of a 1.1-mile walking and biking path provided direct access to commuter ferry service to downtown San Francisco and reduced bicycling time between the cities of San Rafael and Larkspur by 15 minutes. Biking along the corridor increased 95 percent, and a second phase of the project is still to come.

The program helped jump-start the Nice Ride bike-share system in Minneapolis, which grew to 170 stations and 1,556 bicycles by 2013, with 305,000 annual trips. And in Sheboygan County, the ReBike program distributed bicycles to more than 700 people and a new 1.7-mile multi-use path was built, following portions of an abandoned rail corridor through the heart of the city of Sheboygan. “Sixty percent of the population of Sheboygan County lives in close proximity to that corridor,” said Fowler. “And the trail gives them access to almost anything in Sheboygan.”

FHWA could see the impact: At locations where better infrastructure was installed, walking increased 56 percent and biking soared 115 percent. Using a peer-reviewed model, FHWA also estimated changes in walking and biking throughout the four communities. The program led to a 22.8 percent increase in walking trips and a 48.3 percent increase in biking trips. Without the interventions, residents would have driven 85 million more miles since the program launched, according to FHWA.

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Eyes on the Street: More Pedestrian Space at Deadly UES Intersection

The crowded intersection of 60th Street and Third Avenue now has a bit more space for pedestrians. Photo: Stephen Miller

The intersection of 60th Street and Third Avenue now has a bit more space for pedestrians. Photo: Stephen Miller

Last September, 16-year-old Renee Thompson was struck and killed by a turning truck driver at the intersection of Third Avenue and 60th Street. Now, the crowded intersection has painted curb extensions on two of the intersection’s four corners that shorten crossing distances and tighten turns.

A DOT proposal in January to Community Board 8 had them on the west side of the intersection, but the curb extensions were striped on the northwest and southeast corners of the intersection last week. Pedestrians could use the extra space: Sidewalks in the area are narrowed by subway entrances, tree pits, and enclosed sidewalk cafes.

Two blocks to the east, the neighborhood received another improvement with the final touches on the two-way bike path on First Avenue beneath the Queensboro Bridge. The concrete barrier separating cyclists from pedestrians was painted last month in a pattern mirroring the tiling on the bridge’s archways above.

The two-way bike path on FIrst Avenue between 59th and 60th Streets now has a concrete barrier to match its tiled ceiling. Photo: Stephen Miller

The two-way bike path on FIrst Avenue between 59th and 60th Streets now has a concrete barrier to match its tiled, arched ceiling. Photo: Stephen Miller

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Slow Zones, Safer Arterials Win Over CBs in Manhattan and Queens

The scene at last night's Queens CB 3 meeting in Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights. Photo: Daniel Dromm/Twitter

The scene at last night’s Queens CB 3 meeting at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights. Photo: Daniel Dromm/Twitter

At its annual outdoor meeting in Diversity Plaza last night, Queens Community Board 3 voted to support two traffic safety projects: a new neighborhood Slow Zone in Jackson Heights and nine additional pedestrian refuge islands on Northern Boulevard, one of the borough’s most dangerous arterial streets.

“It was not very contentious at all. It was definitely a big majority,” said Christina Furlong of Make Queens Safer. “Nobody was especially against it.” CB 3 says the Slow Zone passed 25-1, with two abstentions, and the Northern Boulevard improvements won over the board for a 25-2 vote, with one abstention.

The board also asked DOT to extend the Northern Boulevard project [PDF], which will add turn restrictions and pedestrian islands to select intersections along 40 blocks between 63rd and 103rd Streets, east to 114th Street.

The Slow Zone will add 20 mph speed limits and traffic calming, including 26 new speed humps, to an area covering nearly one-third of a square mile, bounded by 34th Avenue to the north, 87th Street to the east, Roosevelt Avenue to the south and Broadway and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway to the west. This area, encompassing six schools, two daycare and pre-K facilities, and one senior center, was the site of 28 severe injuries to pedestrians and vehicle occupants from 2008 to 2012, and three traffic fatalities from 2007 to 2014, according to DOT [PDF].

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New Bronx River Greenway Link Would Remake Asphalt Expanse

Caption. Image: DDC

This plan to redesign a complex pair of intersections and expand the Bronx River Greenway is a huge step up from the expanse of asphalt on the street today, but it’s still missing a key crosswalk. Image: DDC

After years of inter-agency wrangling, a wide-open intersection in the Bronx is set for a complete redesign that will include a new link in the Bronx River Greenway. The city presented a preliminary design [PDF] to Community Board 6′s transportation committee last Thursday. While the plan is a big step forward, it lacks a crosswalk that would make it better for pedestrians.

Update: “We are working with DDC to have the crosswalk added to the design,” DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail.

Today, the multi-leg intersection of East Tremont Avenue, 177th Street, and Devoe Avenue is a difficult place to walk. Extra-wide car lanes ring two tiny concrete islands marooned in a sea of white-striped asphalt. Crosswalks are fading away, and sidewalks on the west side of Devoe Avenue are crumbling.

In March, advocates and neighborhood residents, organized in part by the Bronx River Alliance and artists Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín of Boogie Down Rides, created a video to show how difficult it is to walk across the intersection.

bronx_before

Current conditions. Image: DDC

The southern end of the project, which includes two spans across the Bronx River, handles cars going to and from the Cross Bronx Expressway, the Bronx River Parkway, and the Sheridan Expressway. On the northern end, East Tremont Avenue is a major crosstown street and bus hub. The plan, designed by consultant The RBA Group for the Department of Design and Construction, requires coordination between NYC DOT, the state DOT, the Parks Department, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the MTA.

“This project has been going on for years,” said Bronx River Alliance greenway coordinator Claudia Ibaven. “Since there are a lot of agencies involved, it was taking more time.”

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Atlanta’s Pleasantdale Road Voted the Least Crossable Street in America

Atlanta's Pleasantdale Road was voted America's least crossable street by our readers.

Streetsblog readers voted Atlanta’s Pleasantdale Road the nation’s least crossable street. Image: Google Maps

Streetsblog readers have spoken, choosing Atlanta’s Pleasantdale Road as the “least crossable street in America,” which beat tough competition from Phoenix, Kansas City, and other cities.

Here's a closeup of Pleasantdale Road, our "winner." Image: Google Maps

If you don’t want to walk a mile out of your way to a crosswalk, you have to scramble across a five-lane speedway. Image: Google Maps

To legally walk from the bus stop at Pleasant Shade Drive to the apartment complex across the street using the nearest crosswalk would require a three-quarter-mile trip.

Jacob Mason, the reader who submitted this entry, said at some points Pleasantdale Road is even worse: The detour to use a legal pedestrian crossing can stretch to as long as 1.7 miles.

Mason also notes that Pleasantdale Road is five lanes wide, with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour, but it’s surrounded by apartment buildings. Nearby residents are faced with a horrible choice: walk a mile out of your way to a crosswalk, or take your life in your hands and make a dash for it.

The area is reminiscent of where Raquel Nelson‘s 4-year-old son was struck and killed by an intoxicated driver in nearby Cobb County. Nelson was tried and convicted of vehicular homicide, in a case that rested on the fact that she and her children were “jaywalking” instead of walking a third of a mile down the road to the nearest crosswalk. Mason says Pleasantdale Road reflects how that kind of injustice is built in to the environment of the Atlanta region.

Coming in close behind Pleasantdale Road in the competition were West Indian School Road in Phoenix and Middlesex Turnpike in Burlington, Massachusetts. Thanks to everyone who submitted entries and voted. Hopefully, this will help provide the impetus for some positive change.

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Pedestrian Injuries Down Nearly 30% After 4th Ave Road Diet in Sunset Park

Photo: NYC DOT

With paint, epoxy, and gravel, DOT widened skinny medians to make safer crossings on Fourth Avenue. Pedestrian injuries have dropped 29 percent following the redesign. Photo: NYC DOT

A year and a half after implementing a road diet on 50 blocks of Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park, DOT returned to the Brooklyn Community Board 7 transportation committee last night with a report on how the redesign has affected safety. The results are positive: More people are walking on Fourth Avenue, while speeding, crashes, and pedestrian injuries are all down significantly [PDF].

Speeding is down on Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park. So are crashes, injuries and fatalities. Image: DOT

Speeding is down on Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park. So are crashes, injuries and fatalities. Image: DOT

DOT implemented the road diet between August and December of 2012, converting Fourth Avenue from three lanes in each direction to two, adding turn restrictions, widening pedestrian medians, and expanding the width of the parking lanes. For its study, DOT looked at crash, speed, and traffic data for the 12 months before and after the road diet was implemented.

Over that period, total crashes have dropped 13 percent, crashes with injuries have decreased 8 percent, and pedestrian injuries have decreased 29 percent. Before the road diet, 47 percent of drivers were speeding. After the road diet, the proportion of drivers speeding shrank to 29 percent.

In the six years before the road diet, there were seven fatalities along this section of Fourth Avenue. There was one death while the road diet was being implemented in late 2012, and none in the 17 months since.

Pedestrian activity has ticked up slightly at intersections along Fourth Avenue, and motorist travel times have remained mostly steady. Northbound trips during the morning rush hour now average 15 seconds shorter than before, while southbound evening rush hour trips take an average of 88 seconds longer over the 2.5-mile route.

DOT is already planning to build out the design using concrete, with a capital project from 33rd Streets to 47th Street partially funded. DOT is looking for additional funds, and CB 7 transportation committee chair Ryan Lynch suggested the board ask Council Member Carlos Menchaca to use discretionary funds to support the project. Eventually, DOT hopes to reconstruct all of Fourth Avenue between 65th Street in Bay Ridge and Atlantic Avenue in Park Slope.

DOT noted in its presentation that the final design for Fourth Avenue has yet to be determined, but it’s likely that it will mirror the paint-and-planters design that’s resulted in the significant safety gains described last night.

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The Most Dangerous Places to Walk in America

Pedestrians are especially at risk on wide, fast arterial roads like this. Photo: Smart Growth America/Cheryl Cort

Walking should be the healthiest, most natural activity in the world. It is, after all, one of the first things humans learn to do.

But in far too many places, walking can be fatal, thanks to roads designed for speeding cars.

In 2012, 4,743 pedestrians lost their lives in traffic collisions in the U.S., and over the last decade, nearly 50,000 people have been killed while walking — that’s 16 times more Americans than were killed by natural disasters. Another 670,000 pedestrian were injured over that period, one every eight minutes.

Not all streets are equally dangerous. In a new update of its Dangerous by Design report [PDF], released today, Smart Growth America catalogs the most perilous places in the U.S. to walk. By looking at the places that are especially hazardous, we can determine the factors that are putting people at risk and figure out how to fix them.

Here’s a look at what America’s most dangerous streets for walking tend to have in common.

They’re in the Sunbelt

Don’t let the sunshine lull you into a sense of security. Sunbelt cities have hazardous streets.

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A Crosswalk Too Far: The Hunt for America’s Least Crossable Street

n_military

Good luck walking to church on North Military Trail in West Palm Beach, if you happen to start on the other side of the street.

Last February, Streetsblog readers determined the worst intersection in America. Then you pinpointed a suburban area with streets so windy and disconnected, it would take a seven mile trip to travel between two houses that shared a back yard. And for two years running you’ve helped shame the nation’s most parking-scarred downtowns.

But there’s a special class of shame-worthy street we have yet to fully examine — and they haunt all corners of America. We’re talking about the street with an enticing destination on the other side, but no access, no crosswalk, no safe way to get across. A street that separates more than connects.

Put in this position, a rational person would just make a dash for it rather than walk as much as half a mile out of the way. But that decision can also put you in danger. And that’s the problem.

With some help from our readers and Twitter friends, we’ve put together a little collection of these divisive streets. Please share your own examples in the comments or send them to angie [at] streetsblog [dot] org.

Cincinnati: MLK Boulevard at Vine Street

Here’s an unfortunate scenario in Cincinnati. A key stretch of Martin Luther King Boulevard operates much like a moat. On one side of the street visitors to the University of Cincinnati stay at the Hampton Inn. Almost directly across the street is University Commons — a park area designed to be a “contemplative space.” Wouldn’t it be nice if visitors had access?

But to do that, they have to walk approximately a quarter mile out of the way:

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 2.53.23 PM

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