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Eyes on the Street: The Emergent Sixth Avenue Bikeway

Work has started on the Sixth Avenue bikeway. The pic in the above tweet is at Sixth and 18th Street. The photo below, sent to us by a reader, was taken at 16th Street.

Sixth Avenue is one of the most biked streets in the city but until now cyclists have had to make do with a narrow painted bike lane next to heavy motor vehicle traffic. DOT revealed its plan for phase one of the Sixth Avenue bikeway in late 2015, after years of advocacy led by Transportation Alternatives.

In January DOT announced that phase one would extend between Eighth Street and 33rd Street, six blocks longer than the original plan to begin the redesign at 14th Street. The revised plan also included some concrete pedestrian islands, which were not a feature of the original proposal.

DOT has said it may extend the lane south to Canal Street next year, with a northward expansion to follow at an undetermined date.

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NYC Needs a Car-Free 14th Street When the L Closes — And When It Returns

In 2019, the L train west of Williamsburg will be shut down so the MTA can repair Sandy-related damage to subway tunnels under the East River. Hundreds of thousands of people will have to find other ways to get around, and there’s no conceivable way to do that without dedicating a lot of street space to buses, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Enter the “PeopleWay,” Transportation Alternatives’ concept for a 14th Street solely for transit, cycling, and walking. Yesterday staff and volunteers with TA and the Riders Alliance were out at Union Square making the case for the PeopleWay and gathering signatures for an overhaul of the street. The campaign calls for improvements to be made permanent after the L resumes full service.

Even with a fully functional L train, bus service on 14th Street carries more than 32,000 weekday trips. Car traffic slows them down and leads to unreliable service. Sidewalks are too crowded. Biking without protection next to cabs, trucks, and buses is terrifying.

Now add L train riders to the mix. On a typical day, 50,000 passengers make L train trips that start and end along 14th Street. Another 230,000 ride between Brooklyn and 14th Street. To help all these people get around without the train, optimizing 14th Street for the most spatially efficient modes of travel isn’t a choice so much as a necessity.

TA estimates that a redesign with dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and more pedestrian space can double the capacity of 14th Street.

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NYC Motorists Killed Four People Walking and Biking This Weekend

Po Chu Ng was killed on Sixth Avenue by a driver in an SUV with TLC plates as she crossed the street with the right of way. The driver was not charged. Image: Google Maps

Po Chu Ng was killed on Sixth Avenue by a driver in an SUV with TLC plates as she crossed the street with the right of way. The driver was not charged. Image: Google Maps

New York City motorists killed four people walking and biking this weekend. One of the victims was struck in a Midtown crosswalk while crossing with the right of way, but NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance haven’t filed charges against the driver.

Po Chu Ng was crossing Sixth Avenue at W. 30th Street at approximately 5:15 Saturday afternoon when a driver struck her with a GMC SUV while turning left onto the avenue, the Daily News and Gothamist reported.

Ng, 52, was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital. The driver was a 27-year-old man. WABC reporter CeFaan Kim tweeted a photo showing that the SUV had Taxi and Limousine Commission plates. A Daily News photo shows the SUV sitting in the crosswalk with a pool of blood on the street in front of it.

An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog Ng was crossing Sixth Avenue on the north side of the intersection, west to east, in the crosswalk with the pedestrian signal “in her favor.” But as of this afternoon, the driver, whose name was not released, did not face charges under the Right of Way Law. The spokesperson said the crash is still being investigated.

As part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, in 2014 NYC adopted the Right of Way Law, which penalizes motorists for harming pedestrians and cyclists who are following traffic rules, and Cooper’s Law, which gives the TLC a mechanism to revoke the TLC licenses of cab drivers who kill people who are walking and biking with the right of way. NYPD enforcement of the Right of Way Law remains inconsistent, and the TLC does not use Cooper’s Law, in part because police and district attorneys rarely file charges after a serious crash.

Three of this weekend’s fatal crashes were hit-and-runs, prompting Transportation Alternatives to call on state lawmakers to act this week to toughen penalties against drivers who flee crash scenes.

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Brewer to DOT: Start Looking Into a Bus-Only 14th Street

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wants bus-only lanes on 14th Street. Photo: David Meyer

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wants the city to study making 14th Street car-free so buses can carry the load while the L train is shut down for repairs. Photo: David Meyer

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is calling on DOT to study making 14th Street a bus-only thoroughfare while L train service is disrupted during Sandy-related repairs.

To allow for urgently-needed fixes to the L train tunnel, the MTA is considering either a full shutdown of service between Bedford Avenue and Eighth Avenue for 18 months, or a three-year variation that preserves about 20 percent of current service. At a press event this morning, the Riders Alliance revealed that most L train riders who responded to an online survey prefer to get it over with in 18 months — a position the MTA seems to share.

In either case, said Riders Alliance Deputy Director Nick Sifuentes, the city and the MTA need to take steps to keep people moving: “No matter what the MTA does, a shutdown will profoundly change transportation options for commuters on both sides of the East River.” Sifuentes said survey respondents “called broadly for robust, supplementary bus service in Manhattan and Brooklyn.”

In the survey, respondents suggested bus lanes in both Brooklyn and Manhattan and along the Williamsburg Bridge, as well as a number of other measures, including Citi Bike expansion, more capacity for bicycling on the Williamsburg Bridge, increased service on nearby subway lines, and increased ferry service.

“The shutdown will not be easy, but a robust set of alternatives would reduce the pain,” said Kate Slevin of the Regional Plan Association. “For example, 14th Street could become reserved for buses, pedestrians and bikes, and the Williamsburg Bridge could offer dedicated bike and bus routes. The MTA and DOT need to be bold.”

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NYC Motorists Kill 2 Pedestrians and Critically Injure 2 Others in 3 Days

Giovani Romano was charged with failing to yield for fatally striking Alfiya Djuraeva at 20th Avenue and Bath Avenue in Brooklyn. He was not charged for taking her life. Image: Google Maps

Giovani Romano was charged with failing to yield for fatally striking Alfiya Djuraeva at 20th Avenue and Bath Avenue in Brooklyn. He was not charged for taking her life. Image: Google Maps

In four separate crashes since Thursday, at least two people have been struck and killed while walking, and two others were critically injured.

Last Thursday afternoon Giovani Romano hit 56-year-old Alfiya Djuraeva with a Buick while turning left at 20th Avenue and Bath Avenue in Bath Beach, according to the Daily News and WNBC. Djuraeva suffered trauma to her head and torso and died at Lutheran Hospital.

Romano, 74, was issued a desk appearance ticket for failing to yield, but was not charged for the act of killing Alfiya Djuraeva. The crash occurred in the 62nd Precinct and in the City Council district represented by Vincent Gentile.

Early Saturday morning, a BMW driver going the wrong way on 181st Street near Amsterdam Avenue in Washington Heights hit two people and a pickup truck, then fled the scene, the Daily News reported. A male pedestrian, 46, was killed. The second victim, a 46-year-old woman, was hospitalized. The deceased victim’s name was being withheld pending family notification, NYPD told Streetsblog.

Police charged Jonathan Segura, 34, with manslaughter, leaving the scene, and drunk driving, after Segura turned himself in, the News said.

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DOT Commits to Sixth Ave Protected Bike Lane From 14th to 33rd Streets

What Sixth Avenue could look like. Rendering: The Street Plans Collaborative and Carly Clark for Transportation Alternatives [PDF]

What Sixth Avenue could look like. Rendering: The Street Plans Collaborative and Carly Clark for Transportation Alternatives [PDF]

DOT says it will begin planning and outreach later this year for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue between 14th and 33rd Streets in Manhattan.

The announcement comes after years of advocacy by the Transportation Alternatives Manhattan activist committee, which called for protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands on Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue. The effort garnered support from local community boards, business improvement districts, and City Council members Corey Johnson and Dan Garodnick. Now, DOT is officially on board.

Currently, there are northbound protected bike lanes on the east side (First Avenue) and west side (Eighth Avenue) of Midtown, but not in between. Nevertheless, there’s a huge appetite for cycling along the spine of Manhattan, and many people on bikes have to mix it up with car traffic on some of the city’s widest and most chaotic streets. In May, DOT added buffers to the existing bike lane on Sixth Avenue between Christopher and 14th streets.

DOT hasn’t committed to a southbound protected bike lane on Fifth Avenue. The agency instead views the Sixth Avenue project as a pair with the southbound protected bike lane on Broadway in Midtown. There is also a buffered bike lane on Fifth Avenue south of 23rd Street.

Will the Sixth Avenue bike lane extend north of 33rd Street, where cyclists face the most intense car traffic? “One step at a time,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “The goal is, we’ll continue to work our way north, as we have on a lot of these projects.”

Transportation Alternatives has an online petition to thank City Hall for the Sixth Avenue project and urge the city to bring protected bike lanes to more Midtown avenues.

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Developers Adding More Parking Than They’re Supposed To, Thanks to DCP

For years, the City Planning Commission approved special permits that let developers in Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea get around limits on parking construction in the Manhattan core. Recently, the city implemented a new formula that reformers hoped would curtail these permits. But Community Board 4, Council Member Corey Johnson, and Borough President Gale Brewer say the city’s math is flawed, resulting in too much new parking. They’re asking the Department of City Planning to come up with a better measuring stick.

The city's rules allow buildings like this to exceed Manhattan parking regulations. Rendering: Related Companies and Zaha Hadid Architects

Luxury condos are securing exemptions to the Manhattan parking cap established in response to the Clean Air Act. Rendering: Related Companies and Zaha Hadid Architects

Since 1982, new buildings south of West 110th Street and East 96th Street have been subject to parking maximums established in response to the Clean Air Act.

But in practice, the city allows exceptions. If developers want to build more parking than allowed, they can apply for a special permit. For a long time, the city reflexively granted these permits for new buildings on the West Side, leading to the addition of thousands of parking spaces that otherwise wouldn’t have been built.

Then the city revised its Manhattan parking regulations in 2013, with DCP issuing new guidelines for developers looking for exemptions from parking maximums [PDF]. Has the new policy made a difference? Apparently not.

The city now requires developers seeking special permits to measure trends in the area over the past decade, by calculating changes in the number of residences and parking spaces within one-third of a mile of the project. Echoing the parking maximums in the law, DCP aims for there to be 20 percent as many new parking spaces as there are new apartments south of 59th Street. On the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, the ratio is 35 percent.

If the extra spaces being requested push that ratio above the target, it’s likely the permit will be denied. If the ratio stays below the target, the city is likely to approve the permit.

It sounds scientific, but by only looking at new development and new parking, DCP rigs the game.

For years, neighborhoods like Hell’s Kitchen and West Chelsea had lots of extra parking but little new residential development. In the past decade, that’s changed. As a result, City Planning’s numbers show the number of new apartments far outpacing the supply of new parking spaces. This opens the door for lots of special permits to get the parking ratio up to the department’s 20 percent target, but ignores the fact that the neighborhood had lots of parking to begin with.

“They are missing a very fundamental element of the calculation,” said CB 4 Chair Christine Berthet. “It’s broken. It clearly doesn’t work.”

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PS 41 Parents and Staff Build Momentum for Protected Bike Lane on 7th Ave

What began as a push to extend a neighborhood slow zone has grown into a complete streets request for Seventh Avenue. Image: PS 41 Parents

What began as a push to extend a neighborhood slow zone has grown into a complete streets request for Seventh Avenue. Image: PS 41 Parents [PDF]

Manhattan community boards have already asked DOT to study protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands for Amsterdam, Fifth, and Sixth Avenues. Now a coalition of public school parents, teachers, and administrators is making headway in a campaign to redesign Seventh Avenue with a complete streets focus that protects pedestrians and cyclists.

Last Thursday, CB 2’s transportation committee unanimously passed a resolution asking DOT to study the avenue below 14th Street. CB 4’s transportation committee, covering Chelsea, is likely to take up the request next month.

The push for complete streets on Seventh Avenue began with concerns about intersections on Seventh Avenue South, which runs through the West Village from 11th Street until it becomes Varick Street at the intersection of Clarkson and Carmine. Built along with the IRT subway, the avenue opened in 1919, slashing across the West Village’s diagonal street grid and creating multi-leg intersections that continue to pose a threat to pedestrians.

It’s these intersections that worry a group led by PS 41 principal Kelly Shannon and Heather Campbell, chair of the school’s Parents’ Action Committee. The group had asked DOT to extend the West Village neighborhood slow zone eastward to cover schools between Seventh and Sixth Avenues. After the city rejected that request in July, the parents came back to CB 2’s transportation committee last week, focused on improving safety at multi-leg intersections along Seventh Avenue South.

They presented a complete streets redesign featuring a protected bike lane, pedestrian islands, and a northward extension of the median made out of flexible posts that currently divides traffic on Varick Street approaching the Holland Tunnel [PDF]. The group has also received a letter of support from State Senator Brad Hoylman.

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Eyes on the Street: Hudson Street Protected Bike Lane Under Construction

Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke fame tweeted these photos from Hudson Street in the West Village, where DOT is installing a parking-protected bike lane that’s seeing use before the green paint goes down.

The upgrade was requested by Community Board 2. As Streetsblog reported in April, it converts the buffered bike lane on Hudson into a parking-protected lane between Houston and Bank Street, where it links up with the existing Eighth Avenue bike lane. It also extends the protected lane on Ninth Avenue south of 14th Street a few blocks, connecting it to the Bleecker Street striped lane.

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After CB 4 Committee Signs on, DOT Will Study Safer Fifth and Sixth Avenues

Sixth Avenue at 14th Street, which is part of an area DOT will be studying for pedestrian and bicycle upgrades. Photo: Google Maps

Sixth Avenue at 14th Street, part of an area DOT will be studying for a street redesign. Photo: Google Maps

After a unanimous vote of support from Community Board 5, a request for DOT to study protected bike lanes and pedestrian improvements on Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Manhattan got another boost from the CB 4 transportation committee last Wednesday. After the committee’s unanimous 6-0 vote, a DOT representative said the agency intends to begin studying the potential redesign of the avenues this fall.

“We don’t have any information that we can share with the community board right now, because we are looking at the corridor,” said DOT’s Colleen Chattergoon. “We hope to do some data collection in the late fall.”

While most of Fifth and Sixth Avenues are within the boundaries of Community Board 5, which had already supported the request, advocates are looking for backing from community boards 2 and 4, along the southern sections of the avenues. “You have a constituency who supports making Fifth and Sixth Avenues into public spaces that are safe, efficient, pleasant, and basically serve people better,” said Transportation Alternatives volunteer Albert Ahronheim, before presenting a petition signed by more than 10,400 people and letters of support from 118 businesses along the avenues.

The request now heads to CB 4’s full board on May 7. Advocates hope to secure support from CB 2 soon, as well.

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