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Envisioning a More Equitable Future for NYC’s Burgeoning Bike-Share

Speakers at this morning's panel on bike-share equity. From left: TA Executive Director Paul Steely White, Pratt Center Policy Director Elena Conte, Bed-Stuy Restoration Executive Vice President Tracey Capers, and City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: David Meyer

From left: TA Executive Director Paul Steely White, Pratt Center Policy Director Elena Conte, Bed-Stuy Restoration Executive Vice President Tracey Capers, and City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: David Meyer

After a rough start, Citi Bike is on a roll. Recent service improvements and expansions have turned around enrollment numbers and led to countless record-setting days for NYC bike-share ridership. But while the service has become a viable and successful new way to get around, bike-share has yet to reach most of the city’s low income neighborhoods and communities of color.

That can change, according to participants at an NYU Rudin Center panel yesterday on bike-share equity, but only if residents of those communities see bike-share as intended for them. Doing that means providing low-cost enrollment fees, enabling local residents to take charge of efforts to promote bike-share specifically and cycling in general, and expanding the Citi Bike network to the city’s more peripheral and transit-poor neighborhoods.

Even Citi Bike's planned expansions won't make it to the poorest parts of Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Upper Manhattan. Image: Citi Bike

The next planned phase of Citi Bike expansion won’t make it to the poorer parts of Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Upper Manhattan. Map: Citi Bike

Station density is the hallmark of an effective bike-sharing system, which means the network should be contiguous with stations spaced close together. But for Citi Bike that also means its limited resources were first deployed in the most affluent parts of the city, and for the most part the network has yet to reach poorer neighborhoods.

“The planning of the network starts in the Central Business District and emanates out from there,” said Pratt Center Policy Director Elena Conte. “The other thing that starts in the Central Business District of Manhattan and emanates out from there… is escalating real estate prices.”

Conte said Citi Bike’s association with gentrification — along with the way the service is branded, marketed, and priced — turns lower-income New Yorkers off the service. “I think the perception of Citi Bike in a lot of communities is that there’s a ‘tell, don’t show’ about how it’s good for you,” she said. “You look at the bikes, they have a corporate logo. You look at who’s on the bikes, they don’t necessarily look like you.”

In Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of the few predominantly black neighborhoods with bike-share stations until this year’s expansion into Harlem, the Bed-Stuy Restoration Corporation has worked to promote the service for NYCHA residents, women, and people of color by organizing community rides, for instance.

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NYPD: “No Criminality” as Truck Driver Kills Woman in Brooklyn Crosswalk

The white arrow represents the path of Latiesha Ramsey, and the red arrow the approximate path of the truck driver who hit her, based on NYPD’s account of the crash. Image: Google Maps

The white arrow represents the path of Latiesha Ramsey, and the red arrow the approximate path of the truck driver who hit her, based on NYPD’s account of the crash. Image: Google Maps

Update: NYPD told the Daily News the truck driver “had the right of way” when he drove over Latiesha Ramsey.

The driver of a box truck fatally struck a woman in a crosswalk in Bedford-Stuyvesant this morning. NYPD filed no charges.

Latiesha Ramsey, 37, was crossing Lafayette Avenue at around 10:20 when the driver ran her over while making a left turn from Lafayette onto Kossuth Place, NYPD told Gothamist. Police said Ramsey was walking south to north in the crosswalk.

Police told Gothamist “no criminality is suspected.” WABC reported that the driver, a 49-year-old man whose name was not released, “was not expected to be charged.”

Reports said Ramsey was pushing a cart of laundry. From DNAinfo:

A witness said the woman, who lived several blocks away on Patchen Avenue, was in the middle of the street heading north across Lafayette Avenue when the light turned green.

As the truck bore down on her, she tried to warn the driver.

“She put her hands up,” Renee Best, 25, who saw the accident, said. “[She yelled] whoa, whoa, whoa — boom.”

She was caught under the truck’s back tire, dragging her about ten feet and her laundry about a block north to Broadway.

“She was face down bleeding through her ears. [The driver] didn’t stop ’til everybody flagged him down,” said Nelson Diaz, 42, who lives nearby.

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Citi Bike Expansion Rolling Along — See the Latest Map

A wave of new Citi Bike stations from Long Island City to Bed Stuy have come online in the past few weeks. Stations in grey are not yet installed or offline.

Well, that was quick. Just over two weeks after cutting the ribbon on the first of 91 new stations, Citi Bike’s expansion into Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and Bedford-Stuyvesant is approaching the finish line.

Nearly two-thirds of the stations are installed and running, with the job scheduled to be complete by the end of the month. Crews have been working from north to south. Work is mostly done on stations in Long Island City, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg, though a few un-installed locations remain in those neighborhoods. Bed-Stuy should see the bulk of the action in the coming week or two.

Expansion in Manhattan as far north as 86th Street is scheduled for this fall. Planned future phases will extend to Harlem, Crown Heights, and other Brooklyn neighborhoods. Council Member Brad Lander says Citi Bike is coming to Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope, and Red Hook next year.

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DOT Waffles on Bed-Stuy Ped Safety Project After Resistance From CB 3

A plan to improve safety at a busy Bedford-Stuyvesant intersection [PDF] may not move forward after members of Brooklyn Community Board 3 opposed it, according to two CB 3 transportation committee members.

DOT buckled after Bed-Stuy community board members said pedestrian safety changes at this intersection would lead to traffic congestion. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT buckled after Bed-Stuy community board members said pedestrian safety changes at this intersection would lead to traffic congestion. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT’s Claudette Workman revealed the news at the CB 3 transportation committee meeting on May 13, said Shawn Onsgard, a public member of the committee. “She just said [it] off the cuff,” he told Streetsblog. “She was taking the safety changes off the table.”

“They said they may not do it, but then again they may do it,” said CB 3 member Doug Williams. “It depends on how much support they get.”

Asked for the status of the project, DOT spokesperson Bonny Tsang said the agency is “still discussing the project with local stakeholders.” DOT did not reply to a question asking if it has stopped moving forward with the design, which it presented to the committee last month.

Update 1:45 p.m.: “We are still discussing this project with the local stakeholders — in fact, we will be meeting with the Council Member, the District Manager and the CB Chair,” Tsang said. “We never said that we are not doing the safety improvements. As we do with many projects, we discuss with the local community if they have concerns about the project and try to address them.”

Onsgard and Williams said most board members were worried that closing two “slip” lanes, which allow drivers to make quick right turns from Fulton Street to Utica Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard, would create congestion. Closing the lanes would create additional space for pedestrians, reducing crossing distances for people transferring between the B46, B25, and A/C trains.

“That slip turn is dangerous,” Williams said. “I would hope that they would change it.”

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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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To Make Atlantic Ave Safer, Advocates Want to Hear All About Its Problems

Efforts to improve safety along Atlantic Avenue are moving ahead as advocates gain support and the Department of City Planning continues its study of the dangerous arterial street.

Residents point out dangerous locations on Atlantic Avenue at a meeting hosted by Transportation Alternatives on Saturday. Photo: Mia Moffett

Brooklyn CB 8 transportation committee co-chair Dr. Frederick Monderson points out dangerous locations near Atlantic Avenue at a meeting hosted by Transportation Alternatives on Saturday. Photo: Mia Moffett

Each year, about 140 pedestrians and cyclists are seriously injured or killed on Atlantic Avenue, according to Transportation Alternatives. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranked Atlantic the third-most dangerous street for walking in Brooklyn [PDF], and a poll commissioned last September by TA found that likely Brooklyn voters named Atlantic the worst street for pedestrians in the entire borough [PDF].

With the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero agenda in mind, the Department of City Planning kicked off its transportation study of Atlantic Avenue in June.

DCP has already met with the transportation committees of community boards 2, 3, and 8, which cover the study area between Vanderbilt and Ralph Avenues. Last month, the agency told the CB 2 transportation committee the study should wrap in the spring, with preliminary results scheduled for release in February.

In the meantime, volunteers with TA are asking residents what they want improved along Atlantic. On Saturday, about 30 people attended a presentation [PDF] and walk TA hosted on Atlantic between Classon Avenue and Albany Avenue.

“There’s a misconception that Atlantic Avenue isn’t used by people who aren’t in cars. When you get out there and you’re walking around, you see you’re actually not the only one,” said TA volunteer Mela Ottaiano. Although the city made Atlantic the first 25 mph arterial slow zone before the new speed limit is expanded citywide, it remains a high-speed road. “We all know those cars are speeding, because you can hear it,” Ottaiano said. “It was really eye-opening for a lot of people.”

“There are thousands of people that live on the side streets, and they are crossing Atlantic every day,” said Dave “Paco” Abraham, another TA volunteer. In addition to speeding, the group found insufficient lighting, difficult-to-navigate walkways at New York Avenue, and cars parked on the sidewalk.

Members of Community Boards 2 and 8 joined the walk, but there was no one from CB 3. “We reached out to CB 3 to attend the walk. I did not hear back from them,” said TA Brooklyn organizer Luke Ohlson. “We would’ve loved for them to come.”

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Bowing to Brooklyn CB 3, DOT Puts Bed Stuy Slow Zone on Ice

Bedford Stuyvesant won’t be getting 20 mph streets after all. Despite months of talks after Brooklyn Community Board 3 rejected a request from neighborhood residents for a 20 mph Slow Zone in February, DOT has decided to pull the plug on a traffic calming plan covering 23 blocks of Bed Stuy, effectively giving the community board veto power over this street safety project.

Brooklyn CB 3 has succeeded in keeping lower speed limits out of Bed Stuy. Photo:  Shawn Onsgard/Facebook

Bed Stuy residents who supported a Slow Zone were ignored by CB 3. Photo: Shawn Onsgard/Facebook

Even support from Borough President Eric Adams, who appoints community board members, wasn’t enough to revive the plan. Instead, in what DOT described as a compromise with CB 3, the agency spent yesterday installing four speed humps near three schools that would have been in the Slow Zone.

DOT policy prohibits speed humps on streets with bus routes or with more than one lane of traffic. That rules out Franklin Avenue, which would have received a lower speed limit and traffic calming measures if the Slow Zone was implemented. Elizabeth Giddens is a member of the Brooklyn Waldorf School parents association, which asked DOT to consider the neighborhood for traffic calming. “Franklin, which needs the most attention, is getting the least,” she said in an email. “It has the worst numbers for speeding, injuries, and deaths.”

Franklin is two lanes wide between Lafayette Avenue and Atlantic Avenue in Bed Stuy, but just one lane wide elsewhere thanks to a recent road diet project. Giddens said she hopes DOT will consider slimming the rest of Franklin to one lane and installing a speed camera on the street.

West of Classon Avenue, the story is different: Implementation of a Slow Zone is expected to be complete this month [PDF]. Why not in Bed Stuy? It all comes down to community board boundaries. Classon is the dividing line between CB 2 and CB 3. In February, CB 2 voted in favor of a Slow Zone bounded by Washington Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, Bedford Avenue, and Fulton Street, while CB 3 rejected it. Board chair Tremaine Wright told Streetsblog days later that dangerous driving is “not an issue in our community.”

“Drivers race on Bedford, Classon and Franklin all the time,” said Coco Fusco, who has lived on Monroe Street between Franklin and Classon Avenues for 15 years. “One guy drove through my front fence a few years ago,” she said. “I find it very strange and problematic that CB 3 has not provided an argument against the Slow Zone. The CB 3 leader dropped it rather than deal with a mountain of popular support.”

CB 3 chair Tremaine Wright has not responded to a request for comment.

Update: “Pursuing anything less than the fully planned Slow Zone sends the wrong message,” Borough President Adams said in a statement.

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Can Atlantic Ave Become a Great Street? DCP Will Study the Possibilities

The Department of City Planning has launched a study of Atlantic Avenue between Vanderbilt and Ralph Avenues. The study area stretches two blocks in either direction. Image: DCP

The Department of City Planning has launched a study of Atlantic Avenue between Vanderbilt and Ralph Avenues. The study area stretches two blocks in either direction. Image: DCP

Atlantic Avenue is one of the most prominent streets in Brooklyn, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. The major thoroughfare, paralleled by the LIRR and a subway line just two blocks away, remains a barrier between neighborhoods, plagued by speeding traffic and lined with auto body shops. Can it become an urban street that welcomes people instead of repelling them? The Department of City Planning is going to look at the possibilities along 2.4 miles of Atlantic Avenue.

DOT made Atlantic the first arterial slow zone in the city to receive a 25 mph speed limit, and volunteers with Transportation Alternatives have adopted it as one of their advocacy priorities. Borough President Eric Adams imagines a completely revamped Atlantic Avenue with new development and pedestrian-friendly streets. “In ten years’ time we want to see a completely different Atlantic Avenue,” he told Streetsblog in April.

That effort is getting an assist from the Department of City Planning’s transportation division, which launched a study of Atlantic between Vanderbilt Avenue and Ralph Avenue. While it doesn’t cover the entire stretch to East New York and into Queens, these 2.4 miles includes key sections of Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Crown Heights.

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Eric Adams Calls on Brooklyn Community Board 3 to Back Bed-Stuy Slow Zone

After a setback at Brooklyn Community Board 3 in February, Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hill residents asking for a 20 mph Slow Zone stepped up their organizing efforts. But a last-minute decision by CB 3 chair Tremaine Wright has stalled any action by the board until at least September. Faced with Wright’s obstruction, advocates turned to Borough President Eric Adams, who wants the project to move forward.

“I’m in support of the Bed-Stuy Slow Zone, and I will work in partnership with Community Board 3 to expedite this action,” Adams said in a statement. “The only thing that should be speeding in this community and others is the approval and implementation of these slow zones.”

The Slow Zone had been on the agenda for CB 3’s general board meeting Monday night, but the item was struck before the meeting, the last one before the board’s summer break. “[DOT was] going to come back, but the board changed its mind,” assistant district manager Beryl Nyack said. Nyack referred questions about who made the decision to Wright, who has not replied to requests for comment.

Wright is a co-founder of the Brooklyn Alliance for Safer Streets. The group “educates and advocates for roadways which promote walking, cycling and other forms of active transportation,” according to a description on its Facebook page. “BASS provides community residents and leaders with the tools to envision and create a safer and healthier urban streetscape.”

Despite this role, Wright told Streetsblog after the board voted against the Slow Zone in February that traffic safety is “not an issue in our community, by and large.”

Supporters of the Slow Zone say the board is opposing the project for the wrong reasons. Leah Bassknight has lived on the corner of Jefferson Street and Franklin Avenue for the past decade and has a 7-year-old son. She doesn’t agree with CB 3’s opposition to the Slow Zone. “I think their concern is that this is not a real concern of people who live in the community — just of parents whose kids go to the Waldorf School,” she said. “People who live in the community and don’t attend that school care about this.”

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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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