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Posts from the Walking Category

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A bill from Public Advocate Tish James would clean up outdated city traffic rules that NYPD and district attorneys say are an obstacle to applying the Right of Way Law.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 It’s an outdated law.”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

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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.”

Streetsblog USA
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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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Campaign for a People-First Rockaway Freeway Meets Cars-First Inertia

The Rockaway Bike Parade beneath the elevated train on Rockaway Freeway earlier this month. Photo: Rockaway Waterfront Alliance

The Rockaway Bike Parade beneath the elevated train on Rockaway Freeway earlier this month. Photo: Rockaway Waterfront Alliance [PDF]

Rockaway Freeway, one of the few east-west routes across the Queens peninsula, isn’t a safe place to walk or bike. A local coalition has been trying to change that by repurposing street space, but their efforts are running up against the red tape of city bureaucracy and a car-centric community board.

Rockaway Freeway runs beneath an elevated train. A road diet more than a decade ago narrowed the street to one lane in each direction, cutting down on crashes. But poor visibility around the concrete elevated structure is still a problem, and there isn’t enough safe space to walk or bike. People are stuck using either narrow, crumbling sidewalks or striped areas in the roadway next to moving car traffic.

“This corridor wasn’t designed as a roadway. It was designed as an elevated railway,” said Jeanne Dupont, executive director of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance. In fact, some sections of the street have already been demapped, handing ownership from DOT to other city agencies or private developers.

“There’s sidewalk on the north side pretty much the whole length. On the south side, it is spotty,” said Community Board 14 district manager Jonathan Gaska. “You do see people every now and then walking in the striped area, and the occasional cyclist.”

Clearly the status quo is far from ideal, but the community board’s idea of how to fix it would make it tougher to implement the walking and biking improvements that the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance envisions.

Gaska said the long-term plan is to widen Rockaway Beach Boulevard, which runs parallel to the elevated train and turns into Edgemere Avenue. Then, sections of Rockaway Freeway would be converted to parking. “During the summer, traffic is insane, especially going east and west… That’s a big concern here, and parking is a nightmare in the summer, especially on the weekends,” he said. “Cars are very important for the residents here, and we keep that in mind.”

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Brooklyn Beep Eric Adams Funds Eight Concrete Curb Extensions

Eight new concrete curb extensions are coming to five Brooklyn intersections after a $1 million pledge from Borough President Eric Adams.

Curb extensions reduce crossing distances for pedestrians and help drivers make slower, safer turns. Photo: DOT [PDF]

Curb extensions reduce crossing distances for pedestrians and help drivers make slower, safer turns. Photo: DOT [PDF]

Curb extensions, also known as neckdowns or bulb-outs, extend the sidewalk at intersections to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians and slow drivers as they turn around a corner.

“Our youngest and oldest Brooklynites are at particular risk when crossing some of our busiest streets,” Adams said in a press release. “Redesigning our crossings through sidewalk extensions is a common-sense approach that helps take our most vulnerable out of harm’s way.”

Eight concrete neckdowns will be added to five intersections in Sheepshead Bay, East Flatbush, Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Borough Park. The intersections were chosen because they are high-crash locations in areas with an above-average concentration of senior citizens. Three of the five intersections are located in areas included in NYC DOT’s Safe Streets for Seniors program.

Here’s the full list:

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Watch New Yorkers Using the 33rd Street Plaza With Streetfilms

Catch it while you can. Before the temporary plaza on 33rd Street at Seventh Avenue closes on October 3, Clarence Eckerson Jr. of Streetfilms stopped by to grab video of New Yorkers enjoying some breathing room in one of Midtown’s most crowded corners.

The plaza was installed in July, along with a temporary sidewalk extension on 32nd Street between Herald Square and Penn Station. The pedestrian spaces could return permanently after the trial period ends next month.

The plaza has proven immensely popular, getting rave reviews at a recent Community Board 5 meeting. The sidewalk extension, however, has come under attack — both from a tabloid columnist who thinks homelessness can be fixed with car traffic, and from 32nd Street neighbors who want more curbside loading zones.

The projects, supported by DOT and CB 5, were conceived and sponsored by real estate giant Vornado, which owns major properties near Penn Station, including Penn Plaza, the Manhattan Mall, and the Hotel Pennsylvania.

Before the public space is removed and given back to cars in less than three weeks, the 34th Street Partnership is hosting a workshop tomorrow evening to gather feedback on what people think of the plaza. It’s scheduled for tomorrow at 6 p.m. RSVP is required.

Streetsblog USA
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Surgeon General’s Warning: Unwalkable Places Are Hazardous to Your Health

Physical activity is essential to people’s health, but dangerous streets and spread-out, sprawling communities prevent Americans from getting enough of it, says the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy.

Murthy issued a call to action this morning to highlight how walking — and building walkable places — can benefit a nation where chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis afflict one in two people. Walking (or wheelchair rolling) is a simple and free way for people to get exercise, said Murthy, and even busy people can work it into their lives by making utilitarian trips on foot.

This isn’t the first time a surgeon general has highlighted the health benefits of walking, but it might be the strongest and clearest call to action of its kind so far.

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued his Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities this morning. Screenshot from event.

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued his Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities this morning.

The surgeon general’s campaign — #StepItUp — says explicitly that the transportation and planning professions should strive to improve public health through design that fosters walking. The first two goals of the call to action are to “make walking a national priority” and to “design communities that make it safe and easy to walk for people of all ages and abilities.”

“Thirty percent of Americans report they do not have sidewalks in neighborhoods,” Murthy said. “We can change that. We can change it by city planners, transportation professionals and local government leaders working together to improve the safety and walkability of neighborhoods for people with all abilities. Community leaders and the law enforcement can work together to make sure that no American is ever unsafe walking out the door.”

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