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Posts from the "Chinatown" Category

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Safer Bowery, LES Bike Lanes Clear Manhattan CB3 Committee

LES_bike_routes.jpgNew bike routes will provide safer connections on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, in an attempt to divert cyclists from Delancey Street. Image: NYCDOT

NYCDOT unveiled a slate of pedestrian and bicycle improvements to the transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 3 last night. Presenters asked for votes on two street safety projects: the construction of a planted center median on the Bowery between Canal and Division streets, and the addition of new curbside bike routes to improve connections to the Williamsburg Bridge.

Despite a few moments of crankiness from one member ("I can’t in good conscience vote for any more bicycle lanes"), the committee approved resolutions in favor of both measures.

The new bike routes on Suffolk, Stanton, and Rivington streets would complement improvements built last year, which extended the Williamsburg Bridge approach to Suffolk. Slated for implementation in May, the painted, curbside lanes are intended fill in key east-west connections north of where Delancey Street feeds into the bridge path.

The changes are important because Delancey remains extremely dangerous even as biking on the Williamsburg Bridge increases rapidly.

This January, 74-year-old Fuen Bai was killed by a school bus driver while riding in the no-man's-land between the bridge and Allen Street. Every year, traffic injures dozens of pedestrians and cyclists on the corridor, according to CrashStat. Meanwhile, DOT bike counts indicate that cycling on the bridge has quadrupled since 2004. Despite all the people biking over the bridge, the tantalizing proximity of the Allen Street bike path, and the dismal safety record of Delancey Street, the new plan does not address Delancey itself.

DOT's strategy is to divert Williamsburg Bridge bike traffic to calmer, safer side streets. "One of the issues is that people don’t know about the alternatives," Bicycle Program Coordinator Josh Benson told the audience last night. "When you get out there and try this route, it’s gonna make sense. It will change people’s behavior." DOT has no plans to add bike infrastructure to Delancey, he said.

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To Thwart Terror Trial Traffic Snarls, Curb Placard Abuse

The pending trial of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has thrown lower Manhattan into a tizzy, for good reasons. Foremost, of course, is the dread of revisiting the horrors of that day, mingled with fears of new attacks linked to the trial. But there are also concerns that the NYPD's aggressive countermeasures will impede movement, worsen traffic and suffocate the economy of the area, pockets of which never recovered fully from police-ordered street closures and other 9/11 aftershocks. These concerns could be assuaged by a tough, zero tolerance stance on parking placard abuse by government employees.

12_20_2007_NYPDTowsNYPD.JPGTo offset the effects of its terror trial security zone, NYPD should adopt a zero tolerance policy for placard abusers.
Two developments last week brought new attention to the traffic issue. First, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly disclosed the boundaries within which police will spot-check vehicles, restrict delivery times and otherwise impose a massive presence. The "soft perimeter" surrounding Foley Square is bounded by Canal and Frankfort Streets, Bowery and Broadway. (An inner “hard perimeter” will “include 2,000 interlocking metal barriers staffed by uniformed officers,” according to The New York Times.) Second, a proposal floated by Community Board 1 chair Julie Menin to move the trial to Governors Island won the support of new Council Member Margaret Chin and is expected to be formally endorsed by the board this Wednesday.

The soft perimeter appears to include around five-and-a-half linear miles of streets comprising 17 "lane-miles." (These figures exclude Park Row and other streets already taken out of service by the NYPD since 9/11.) Clearly, restricting vehicular travel on these streets will aggravate gridlock, but by how much, and at what “time cost” to travelers? City Hall isn’t saying, of course, but with the help of the Balanced Transportation Analyzer, it’s possible to make a rough estimate.

Assuming that the restrictions take away one-quarter of the carrying capacity of the affected streets (one-half for streets within the inner section), vehicles in the area can expect to spend 2,200 additional hours stuck in traffic each weekday. Scaled to a full year, that translates to $30 million in lost time for motorists, truckers, taxi riders and bus passengers. (Go to the “Cordon” tab of the BTA spreadsheet to view derivation.)

This is a mere drop in the regional bucket, which now loses $13 billion a year to gridlock, according to the Partnership for New York City [PDF]. But locally, where most of that lost time will tick away, the impact could be tangible -- particularly in Chinatown, the epicenter of post-9/11 business closings and a major component of the area targeted by the NYPD.

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Bill to Protect Pedestrians and Cyclists Will Resurface in Albany

VUannouncement.JPGAssembly Member Brian Kavanagh, speaking, with Daniel Squadron and Scott Stringer at last year's rally for Hayley and Diego's Law. To Squadron's right are Wendy Cheung, Hayley Ng's aunt, and Jon Adler, representative for the families of Ng and Diego Martinez.

With the state legislative session underway, Albany will soon turn its attention to business that lawmakers never got the chance to address last year. One bill to keep an eye on would give police and prosecutors a new tool to protect pedestrians and cyclists.

After two preschoolers were killed in Chinatown last January by a van driver who left his vehicle idling and unattended, lawmakers and advocates drafted "Hayley and Diego's Law." The bill is what's known as a "vulnerable user law." It would create a new offense called careless driving, which would carry penalties of up to $750 in fines and 15 days in jail for drivers who hit and injure vulnerable street users -- including all pedestrians and cyclists.  

The basic purpose of the bill is to create an intermediate offense appropriate for situations in which prosecutors cannot, or will not, bring criminally negligent homicide or vehicular manslaughter charges. Law enforcement will still need to be pressed to prosecute cases of careless driving, as well as to bring stronger existing criminal charges when warranted. Says Peter Goldwasser of Transportation Alternatives, "Part of our job as advocates will be to make sure that law enforcement knows there are new laws on the books." Passing this law will go a long way toward making it easier for police and prosecutors to pursue justice for victims of traffic violence.

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Gerson Bill Mandating Review of Transpo Projects Is Now Law

gerson_1.jpgIn one of his final acts as a City Council member, Alan Gerson won passage for a bill that may slow down major street projects.

New York City's 2009 legislative session didn't end without a parting gift from outgoing Lower Manhattan rep Alan Gerson. A new law that passed City Council unanimously before the end of the term mandates that any significant changes to the streetscape be subject to comment by both the local council representative and the community board. Though the comments are not binding, the law seems primed to slow down the process of re-designing streets at a time when projects to enhance bus service and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists are top priorities in New York City, and hundreds of New Yorkers are still dying every year on city streets. Mayor Bloomberg signed the bill into law on December 28.

The law tacks on up to 65 days of back-and-forth between the city, council members and community boards on major street projects, after which DOT is not obligated to make any changes. Ian Dutton, the vice chair of Manhattan Community Board 2's Traffic and Transportation Committee and a resident of Gerson's district, noted the seeming superfluity of the law: "When we really needed it was over the last 50 years when they were pushing highway projects on us that we didn't want. Now we have a DOT that is really responsive to the neighborhoods for the first time." Dutton did add that "it may help going forward if there's an administration that wants to rip up all these bike lanes and pedestrian plazas."

The law is a variation on an idea that Gerson had floated for over a year. An earlier version of the legislation would have required local input into almost any new transportation project, big or small. 

The bill that passed City Council is somewhat more limited. It covers "major realignments of the roadway," particularly the addition or removal of a lane of traffic or parking on more than four blocks or "1,000 consecutive feet of street." That would certainly apply to one of Gerson's chief targets, the Grand Street bike lane, and probably the Chatham Square reconfiguration as well. Any true bus rapid transit project would fall under the scope of the law.

Even on projects where the law applies, however, it might have little effect.

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Concrete Truck Plows Into Canal Street Sidewalk, Injuring Eight

Canal_St_accident_11Nov09.jpgPhoto: Matt Hogan.
Eight people were injured this afternoon after a concrete truck careened into the sidewalk on the one-block diagonal linking Canal Street to the Bowery.

Vehicles exiting the Manhattan Bridge have turned this block, often teeming with people waiting for the Fung Wah Bus, into a constant danger zone. Here's what an employee at the jewelry store across the street told the Tribeca Trib:

"Ever since I was a kid, trucks come flying off the bridge," he said. "It’s at least three or four times a year, this happens, and it’s always these trucks. They fly right off that thing like there’s no tomorrow."

After 10 years at the store, John said he no longer ventures across the intersection for his lunch for fear of becoming the next casualty.

Update: Reader Matt Hogan informs us that the truck bed was packed with what looked like 50-pound bags of cement at the time of the crash. The rear of the vehicle is outfitted with an apparatus for mixing and pouring out concrete.

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Streetfilms Shorties: NYPD Blockage on Manhattan Bridge Approach

The debut Streetfilms Shortie caught an errant scooter blocking a bike lane. This time it's New York's Finest, camped out in the Manhattan Bridge bike path at Canal and Chrystie.

A half-step forward, two steps back.

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Turn Out Tonight to Support Livable Streets With Staying Power

allen_street_improvements.jpgThe current round of pedestrian and bike improvements for Allen and Pike Street might be just the beginning.
Tonight's Manhattan CB3 committee meeting is an important one for advocates looking to make the current round of pedestrian and bike improvements on Allen and Pike Streets more permanent. This is a major reclamation project [PDF] stretching from Houston to the East River and a big success for bottom-up planning.

The changes underway right now rely mainly on paint, planters, and paving surfaces to set aside space for public plazas and bike lanes. It's a great example of what you can do on a shoestring, but without a second phase of construction, the reclamation will have a temporary feel to it. The next iteration of this project might include plazas raised to sidewalk grade, for instance, or bike lanes with more robust physical protection. A solid showing in favor of further upgrades could help secure Parks Department funding for more long-term construction.

Representatives from Parks and DOT will be on hand at tonight's CB3 meeting. To voice support for investment in this promising livable streets project, head over to the BRC Senior Services Center at 30 Delancey Street (between Chrystie and Forsyth). The meeting starts at 6:30.

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Eyes on the Street: A Safer, More Sociable Boulevard Takes Shape

allen_street_improvements.jpg

A reader sends this view of Pike Street, taken from the Manhattan Bridge bike path late last week. You'll notice the square of light pavement connecting two mall segments. That's the intersection with Monroe Street, one of four locations slated for pedestrian plazas in DOT's most recent plan for Pike and Allen Streets [PDF]. A center median protected bike path running from Houston Street down to the water -- the first of its kind in New York City, I believe, depending on how you categorize the Sands Street bike path -- is also in the works. DOT's project presentation characterizes these changes as interim improvements that can help generate support for further funding and more permanent construction.

The pedestrian and bike improvements on this corridor are the result of a painstaking bottom-up process that Sarah wrote about last September. Residents have been clamoring for safer walking, safer biking, and more welcoming public spaces on Allen and Pike for a long time. Soon, they'll be able to enjoy the benefits of more humane streets. (We have a request in with DOT to find out when the project will wrap up.)

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Gerson on Grand Street Safety: Never Mind the Facts

City Council member Alan Gerson didn't have much new to say at his sidewalk protest of the Grand Street bike lane. But a handful of reporters and a few cyclists pressed him to defend the idea that projects designed to improve street safety should be subject to greater City Council review.

Gerson's assertion of "dangerous conditions" on Grand Street basically amounted to this: The row of parked cars on the south side used to protect only pedestrians; now it protects pedestrians and cyclists, so there's a perception among some of the older residents that they're at greater risk because cyclists are riding next to the curb.

But do the data back up the perception? In a word, No. According to DOT's study of Grand Street, injuries are down 28.8 percent since the protected lane was installed nine months ago. Which only makes sense, because the parking-protected bike path has narrowed the traffic lane, sending cues for drivers to slow down and making a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists.

Gerson was not swayed by statistical evidence. "Sometimes anecdotal testimony reflects the reality," he said. For bike lane opponents, however, reality intruded rather inconveniently this afternoon.

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Lunch Break Fun: Gerson Leads Protest of “Dangerous” Grand St. Bike Lane

grand_street1.jpgNon-motorized New Yorkers negotiate the hair-raising Grand Street sidewalk and bike lane. Photo: Ben Fried.

Anyone heading over to Chinatown for lunch? If not, and you work in Manhattan, you might want to change your plans. This rally, promoted by Council Member Alan Gerson, promises to be a can't-miss event:

Rally to Protest Dangerous Conditions with the Grand Street Bike Lane

WHEN: Friday, August 21, 2009 at 12:30pm

WHERE: Corner of Grand St and Mott St

WHAT: Rally to protest dangerous conditions caused by the Grand Street bike lane and to demand that the NYC Department of Transportation conduct more community outreach before deciding where to place bike lanes.

WHO: NYC Council Member Alan J. Gerson, local business owners and residents

That would be the same "dangerous" bike lane that has calmed traffic by narrowing the right-of-way for motorists. Oh, and it gives cyclists a nice, protected east-bound link in Lower Manhattan's bike network.

Alan Gerson wants "more community outreach." That's one way to put it. Given that the bike lane was vetted by Community Board 2, which approved the project in a nearly unanimous vote last year, isn't this more like a demand to give small, vocal groups veto power over street safety projects? I think it's pretty much official at this point: The District 1 City Council contest is a race to the bottom when it comes to livable streets.

To reiterate, the place to be at 12:30 today is the corner of Grand and Mott. After the jump, more pictures of the hazardous Grand Street bike lane.

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