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Posts from the "Walking" Category

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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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Talking Headways Podcast: A Deep Dive Into Biking and Walking Census Data

We were so excited about the first-ever Census report exclusively on biking and walking that we devoted this entire episode of the Talking Headways podcast to an interview with its author, Brian McKenzie.

Bike commuting is up 60 percent since 2000, the Census shows, and people with low incomes are by far the biggest proportion of the riding public.

People who bike and walk are hungry for reliable data. While government statistics on how much we drive are easy enough to come by, where would you go to find out how much we’re walking and biking? Strava? No. The Census is a better gauge of how active transportation patterns are shifting.

The Census data does have its limitations, and Brian talks candidly about those. But the data sheds light on who’s walking and biking for transportation, and how that’s changing in specific places.

Go on a dive deep with us. Here is a full half-hour just for you bike-ped dataheads. Enjoy. And talk to us in the comments.

PS: Talking Headways is available on iTunes or Stitcher or by signing up for our RSS feed.

PPS: Many thanks to those of you who have already donated to our spring pledge drive — especially those who specifically mentioned that you enjoy the podcast. Keep it coming!

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Tacoma Vows to Prosecute Rogue Crosswalk Painters

A group calling themselves “Citizens for a Safer Tacoma” has painted five crosswalks around the city, in hopes of pressing officials to take pedestrian safety more seriously.

The city of Tacoma, meanwhile, has reacted defensively, threatening to prosecute the group, according to King 5 News. Kurtis Kingsolver, interim public works director, complained to the television station that it costs the city $1,000 each to remove the guerrilla crosswalks and that they create a safety concern. Apparently rising traffic fatalities and citizen complaints are not enough to compel the city to improveconditions for walking. He said the city must consider things like sightlines, street width, and traffic volumes before installing a crosswalk.

Members of “Citizens for a Safer Tacoma” say they are responding to an increase in traffic collisions. With 15 of their members having been hit by cars, they say they tried to get the city to help, but were turned away.

The threat of arrest isn’t deterring them. “If the city does nothing, we will,” an anonymous spokesman for the group told the television station. “None of us want to go to jail, but we’re more dedicated to the safety of citizens than we are to the law.”

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Low-Income Americans Walk and Bike to Work the Most

People with low incomes bike and walk far more than everyone else. Image: U.S. Census

People with low incomes commute by biking and walking far more than more affluent Americans. Image: U.S. Census

The U.S. Census Bureau just released its first-ever report exclusively on walking and biking. Using data from the American Community Survey, the report shows how rates of active transportation vary by age, income, education, race, and the availability of a vehicle. It’s a lot more detail than the usual Census data release on how people get to work, which only breaks active commuting down by gender.

The Census report shows that low-income people bike and walk to work the most, hands down. Of those who make less than $10,000 a year, 1.5 percent commute by bike and 8.2 percent walk. In the $25,000-34,999 range, those numbers are halved. Then at the highest earning levels, active commuting rates start to creep back up. The income stats provide more evidence that safe walking and biking infrastructure isn’t mainly the concern of geared-up weekend warriors with expensive bikes.

Looking at education reveals more of a U pattern, with active commuting rates bottoming out in the middle. Out of five educational attainment levels categorized by the Census, people who’ve completed a graduate or professional degree — the highest level — have the highest bike commute rate (0.9 percent) and second-highest walk commute rate (2.7 percent). People who have not completed high school — the lowest level — walk to work the most (3.7 percent) and bike to work the second most (0.7 percent).

Compared to education, there’s a much clearer linear relationship between vehicle ownership and active commuting. Workers with no available vehicle walked four times more and biked three-and-a-half times more than workers with one available vehicle. Rates of active transportation decline with each additional vehicle.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Whole Foods Takes the Whole Bike Lane (and Sidewalk)

Who needs newly-built loading docks when you can take over the sidewalk and the bike lane? Photo: Brooklyn Spoke/Twitter

Whole Foods commandeers Third Avenue. Photo: Brooklyn Spoke/Twitter

The huge surface parking lot and inward-facing, suburban-style design were bad enough. Now the Gowanus Whole Foods Market is taking over the Third Avenue bike lane and sidewalk as a private loading zone.

Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke snapped a photo of a Whole Foods forklift and piles of pallets using the Third Avenue buffered bike lane and sidewalk as a private loading zone earlier this week. One would expect a newly-built food market to be well-integrated with existing infrastructure, but since Whole Foods opened late last year, its loading activities have overflowed onto the street and sidewalk along Third Avenue.

“You can’t blame the drivers or the people manning the loading dock for this situation,” Gordon writes. “The design forces them to do this just to keep the store stocked.”

In its 2011 traffic study [PDF], Whole Foods said only that “truck loading docks would be located along Third Avenue” and that all truck loading activity would occur between midnight and 5 p.m. There was no mention of the amount of space needed or required to accommodate deliveries or whether that space would take over the sidewalk and street.

Community Board 6 voted in support of the project in June 2011. According to the board’s minutes, the interaction of loading zones with Third Avenue only came up as a concern briefly during the land use committee hearing on the proposal. As a condition for its approval, the board requested that Whole Foods conduct a traffic study one year after opening.

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Imagining a New Atlantic Avenue for de Blasio’s New York

atlantic_parking

With the dangerous, highway-like conditions on Atlantic Avenue, much of the surrounding area is under-developed. A chain link fence surrounds this parking lot near Franklin Avenue.

Atlantic Avenue is one of New York’s most prominent streets, and in most respects, it is completely broken.

Stretching more than ten miles, Atlantic cuts through several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens while functioning mainly as an urban highway for private motorists and truckers making their way east, toward the Van Wyck and Long Island, or west, to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

It is plagued with constant, speeding traffic. The avenue’s wide, highway-like conditions induce drivers to floor it, and as a result Atlantic is one of the most dangerous streets in New York City. When Council Member Steve Levin took a speed gun out to Atlantic, he found 88 percent of drivers were going more than 10 miles per hour over the limit. From 2008 to 2012, 25 people were killed on the 7.6-mile stretch of Atlantic between Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights and 76th Street in Woodhaven.

When the city announced that Atlantic would become the first street in the “arterial slow zone” program, with a 25 mph speed limit and re-timed traffic signals, it was welcome news. Atlantic is the kind of monster that has to be tamed if the de Blasio administration is going to achieve its Vision Zero street safety goals, and the new speed limit is a good first step.

In the long-run, though, Atlantic Avenue and the many other city streets like it will need much more comprehensive changes to not only eliminate traffic deaths, but also accommodate the economic growth and housing construction goals that City Hall is after.

Today, much of Atlantic Avenue is an eyesore, especially along the stretch east of Flatbush Avenue. It’s basically an unsightly speedway, and land values along the eastern portion of Atlantic have historically been depressed. Empty lots sit beside carwashes and parking lots. Grassy weeds poke up through a decrepit median. Some portions fall under the shadow of elevated train tracks — the Atlantic Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which otherwise runs below ground.

Does it have to be this way? Can’t we imagine an Atlantic Avenue that is an asset to the neighborhoods which surround it, rather than a challenge to work around?

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