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Posts from the "East Harlem" Category

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One City, By Bike: Unlocking Uptown Cycling With the Harlem River Bridges

This is part four of a five-part series by former NYC DOT policy director Jon Orcutt about the de Blasio administration’s opportunities to expand and improve cycling in New York. Read part onepart two, and part three.

Photo: Stephen Miller

Biking onto the Madison Avenue Bridge from the Bronx. Bike access to and from Harlem River bridges ranges from inconvenient to very dangerous. Photo: Stephen Miller

Forging good cycling routes across the Harlem River represents a strong organizing principle for a multi-year program to deliver better cycling to Harlem, Washington Heights, and the Bronx.

Just as many of the bike lanes in Brooklyn north of Prospect Park and Manhattan south of 14th Street emerged around the bikeways on the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, the Harlem River bridges present natural focal points for bike network development. A comprehensive set of improvements here would be a major contribution to the “Bill de Blasio bike network” I began to outline in part three of this series. It could also go hand-in-hand with Citi Bike expansion into the Bronx.

While most of the pathways on the Harlem River spans are good or at least decent for cycling, connections from the bridges to Manhattan and Bronx streets run the gamut from inconvenient and unwelcoming to very dangerous. A bike network program for the Harlem River bridges would create safer, more attractive access and egress routes, linking the bridges to ongoing bike network development in the southern Bronx and upper Manhattan. A few examples:

  • The connection from First Avenue to the Willis Avenue Bridge needs traffic calming, longer crossing times and more room for cyclists and pedestrians to protect them from heavy traffic turning from First Avenue onto 125th Street.
  • The Bronx side of the Third Avenue Bridge is characterized by very heavy traffic coming from several directions, with poor design and inadequate signal time for pedestrians and cyclists getting to or from the path. The bridge itself still features “cyclist dismount” signs. Painted bike lanes on Third Avenue in the Bronx are severely worn and require cyclists to negotiate extremely intimidating traffic.

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DOT: No Plans for Park Avenue Bike Infrastructure After Recent Deaths

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The west side of Park Avenue and 108th Street, facing south. Image: Google Maps

DOT will consider design changes at the Park Avenue intersection in East Harlem where drivers have recently killed three cyclists, but there are no plans for new bike infrastructure along the Park Avenue viaduct.

Livery cab driver Nojeem Odunfa hit cyclist Jerrison Garcia at Park Avenue and E. 108th Street Monday morning, reportedly dragging Garcia 80 feet before stopping. Odunfa was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation and careless driving.

“There’s car accidents here all the time,” a local resident told DNAinfo. ”They drive like this is a highway.”

Park Avenue is divided by a Metro-North viaduct from E. 102nd Street northward. There is car parking on northbound and southbound Park along this 30-block stretch, but no bike lanes. Cyclists on Park must share one through-lane with moving vehicles, and riding on Park or biking across Park entails negotiating intersections with limited visibility.

Jerrison Garcia was the third cyclist killed at 108th and Park since July 2012. Image: I Quant NY

It’s no secret that this segment of Park Avenue is dangerous for people on bikes. Garcia was the third cyclist killed at the E. 108th Street intersection since 2012. There were six additional crashes resulting in cyclist injuries on Park between E. 106th and E. 110th Streets from April to September 2013, according to I Quant NY. Data mapped by Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat show dozens of cyclist injuries along the viaduct, and one death, from 1995 to 2007.

The viaduct area is also hazardous for pedestrians, and a DOT project to make it safer to walk there is underway. In light of recent cyclist deaths and injuries, on Monday we asked DOT if the agency is reviewing conditions at Park and E. 108th, and if bike infrastructure improvements along the viaduct are in the works.

Here is DOT’s reply:

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Jerrison Garcia, 25, Third Cyclist Killed Near Park Ave. Viaduct in Two Years

Cyclists on Park Avenue are sandwiched between the viaduct and parked cars while contending with moving vehicles and intersections with limited visibility. Image: Google Maps

Cyclists on Park Avenue are sandwiched between the viaduct and parked cars while contending with moving vehicles and intersections with limited visibility. Image: Google Maps

Update: Cab driver Nojeem Odunfa of the Bronx was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation, careless driving, and a right of way violation, according to NYPD. Odunfa was not immediately charged for killing Jerrison Garcia, and, if past patterns hold, he won’t be. Aggravated unlicensed operation carries nominal penalties and tends to be the default charge against sober unlicensed drivers who kill cyclists and pedestrians in NYC.

For the third time in two years, a driver has killed a cyclist at the same Park Avenue intersection, under the Metro-North viaduct in East Harlem. In addition to recent fatalities, data show that Park Avenue along the viaduct is a hotspot for cyclist injuries.

At around 5:15 this morning, a livery cab driver traveling southbound on Park turned left into Jerrison Garcia, who was also southbound, at E. 108th Street, according to DNAinfo.

Blood stains at the intersection marked the roughly 80 feet that police said Garcia was dragged until the livery cab came to a rest on 108th Street.

Garcia, 25, was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital. The 65-year-old driver, who reportedly works for Glory Car and Limo Service, was taken into police custody. NYPD told Gothamist “it was more than likely he would be charged with driving with a suspended license.”

Park Avenue is divided by the viaduct from E. 102nd Street northward. There is parking on northbound and southbound Park Avenue along this stretch, but there is no designated lane for cyclists, who must share one narrow through-lane with moving vehicles while negotiating intersections with limited visibility.

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A Woman Dies, So East Harlem’s Top Cop Taunts Street Safety Advocates

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Thomas Harnisch, commanding officer of the 25th Precinct, reacted to a woman’s death on the subway tracks at Union Square by antagonizing Transportation Alternatives and advocate Keegan Stephan of Right of Way on his personal Twitter account.

After a woman was killed by a subway train in Union Square yesterday, Captain Thomas C. Harnisch, commanding officer of the 25th Precinct, took to Twitter to harangue street safety advocates. His comments, since deleted, claim advocates “seize on a tragedy and assign culpability having no facts… to further your agenda.”

Harnisch, whose officers were busted last year writing bogus tickets to cyclists for using a bike path, used his personal account to send Transportation Alternatives and street safety advocate Keegan Stephan a link to a news story about a woman who fell onto the subway tracks and was killed by an oncoming train on Saturday. “Let me guess, driver’s fault right?” he said.

Stephan replied, “A woman is dead and you are using this as an opportunity to criticize our attempts to save lives?”

Minutes later, Harnisch replied using the 25th Precinct’s official account: “Isn’t that what you do? Seize on a tragedy and assign culpability having no facts? To further your agenda?” The tweet was later deleted, but Stephan posted a screen capture.

This tweet about traffic safety advocates from Captain Thomas C. Harnisch, commanding officer of East Harlem's 25th Precinct, was deleted yesterday after Harnisch first tweeted from his personal account.

This tweet about traffic safety advocates from Captain Thomas C. Harnisch, commanding officer of East Harlem’s 25th Precinct, was deleted yesterday. Image via Keegan Stephan/Twitter

NYPD’s public information office has not replied to questions about Harnisch’s comments.

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Select Bus Service Launches on 125th Street

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at today's event marking the launch of Select Bus Service on 125th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at today’s event marking the launch of Select Bus Service on 125th Street. Behind the podium are City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Mark Levine, Carmen Bianco of New York City Transit, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, and City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: Stephen Miller

On Sunday, Select Bus Service launched on a route that stretches from 125th Street in Harlem to LaGuardia Airport. Public officials marked the occasion — the first SBS route to debut during the de Blasio era — at a Harlem press conference today. With off-board fare collection and dedicated bus lanes (on part of the route), the upgrades will speed cross-town trips for 33,000 bus riders daily, on both the M60 SBS route and local routes that will benefit from the bus lanes only.

Not that long ago, it seemed like SBS on 125th Street might never happen. The bus lanes were originally planned to extend between Second and Morningside Avenues, but after State Senator Bill Perkins led objections to the planning process, the plan was scaled back, calling for bus lanes between Second Avenue and Lenox. The entire project appeared dead soon after, then was revived in October after closed-door meetings with Perkins and other erstwhile opponents.

At today’s press conference, elected officials made the case for extending the bus lanes west to Morningside.

“While it’s a fabulous day for East Harlem, it’s a slightly less wonderful day for Central and West Harlem, because a key feature of this route, which is the bus-only lane you see right here, stops — comes to an abrupt halt — at Lenox Avenue,” said Council Member Mark Levine. ”That’s simply not fair to residents in the western part of this wonderful street.”

Levine, whose call for extending the bus lane was echoed by State Senator Adriano Espaillat, said he hoped that it could be implemented as soon as this fall.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito thinks success on the initial segment will lead to westward expansion. “Once people start using this and really seeing the benefits, you’re going to start getting the support of people asking and clamoring for more,” she said. ”Some of us, we thought this wouldn’t move forward.”

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East 106th Street Road Diet and Bike Lanes Head to Manhattan CB 11

DOT is proposing a road diet for East 106th Street. CB 11's transportation committee could vote on it as soon as next month. Image: DOT

DOT is proposing a road diet for East 106th Street. CB 11′s transportation committee could vote on it as soon as next month. Image: DOT

Running between Fifth Avenue and FDR Drive, 106th Street in East Harlem should provide a key bike connection between Central Park and Randall’s Island. NYC DOT is proposing a road diet and painted bike lanes [PDF] to improve safety on the street, and Community Board 11′s transportation committee could vote on the plan soon.

At 60 feet wide, 106th Street currently has two car lanes in each direction, even though one lane each way could handle the existing traffic. The connection to the Randall’s Island bike-pedestrian bridge at 103rd Street is also tricky to navigate. This is especially important since 106th Street is the most direct connection between Central Park and Randall’s Island, due to the prevalence of large super-blocks in East Harlem.

The present design contributes to the disproportionate share of traffic violence on East 106th Street. There were two  pedestrian fatalities in separate crashes in 2005, and a cyclist was killed at the intersection with Park Avenue in 2000, according to CrashStat. It ranks in the top third of Manhattan’s most dangerous streets, according to NYC DOT.

DOT is proposing a classic four-to-three lane road diet, converting the existing four car lanes to two car lanes, bike lanes, and a center median with left-turn lanes. At Second and Third Avenues, median islands would make intersections safer for pedestrians by turning one 60-foot crossing to two 25-foot segments.

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Safety Fixes to Park Ave, Triboro Bridge Ramps Clear CB 11 Committee

Poor visibility leaves pedestrians at risk on Park Avenue in East Harlem. Curb extension have already been installed at 104th Street, right. Photos: DOT

Poor visibility leaves pedestrians at risk on Park Avenue in East Harlem. Curb extension have already been installed at 104th Street, right. Photos: DOT

A deadly section of Park Avenue in East Harlem is on track for safety fixes, as is the dangerous confluence of ramps and streets at 125th Street and the RFK Triborough Bridge, following a unanimous vote by the Manhattan Community Board 11 transportation committee Tuesday evening.

The Park Avenue viaduct carries Metro-North trains over the center of the street north of 97th Street. South of 111th Street, it’s a stone structure with poor visibility around corners. From 2007 to 2011, there were 19 severe injuries, including six pedestrians and one cyclist, on that stretch, according to DOT. It’s only gotten worse since then: In July 2012, 18-year-old Shaquille Cochrane was killed on his bike by a cab driver at 108th Street. Last June, cyclist Marvin Ramirez, also 18, was killed at the same intersection. Last November, a taxi driver struck a box truck at 102nd Street, sending it onto the sidewalk, killing 65-year-old Olga Rivera. A vehicle occupant was also seriously injured in the crash.

In 2009, DOT installed concrete neckdowns and new pedestrian signals at 104th and 105th Streets as part of a safety project near PS 72. Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and CB 11 asked the agency to extend similar improvements to the rest of the viaduct. Now DOT is proposing narrower lanes on cross-streets, concrete curb extensions, and new pedestrian signals [PDF]. It is also planning to upgrade lighting in pedestrian tunnels beneath the viaduct and re-stripe crosswalks as high-visibility “zebra” markings.

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NYPD Ticketing People for Riding Bikes on the Willis Avenue Bridge Bike Path

NYPD is at it again, handing out tickets to cyclists for riding on a bike path. This time, the 25th Precinct was handing out sidewalk-riding summonses to people riding the shared bicycle-pedestrian path on the Willis Avenue Bridge between East Harlem and Mott Haven.

If it looks like a bike path and is marked as a bike path, NYPD will ticket you for cycling on it. Image: DOT

If it looks like a bike path and is marked as a bike path, NYPD will ticket you for cycling on it. Image: DOT

Just before 9:00 this morning, reader Joe Rienti was commuting from East Harlem to Fordham University when he was stopped by an officer immediately after getting on the bridge path at 125th Street. He wasn’t the only one. Rienti said officers had pulled over four other cyclists. Streetsblog also received a report from a reader who escaped getting a ticket but was told to dismount by officers who were already busy handing out summonses.

Rienti says the officer told him that the precinct had received complaints about cyclists using the path. Rienti told the officer that it’s a shared-use path where cyclists are allowed. ”He sort of just shrugged his shoulders and wrote the ticket,” Rienti said. ”I thought he was going to give me some sort of warning.”

“There used to be signage saying you can’t bike there because they were doing construction, but they took it down,” Rienti said. In fact, DOT’s work to replace the Willis Avenue Bridge wrapped in 2010; the project website touts a “combined pedestrian/bicycle pathway along its north side.” In a video describing the project, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan says “the new bridge has important safety enhancements…[including] new pedestrian walkways and bikeway.” The city’s bike map [PDF] indicates that the bridge’s north side is a designated “bike/pedestrian path.”

Streetsblog asked the 25th Precinct about the ticketing, but the precinct referred questions to One Police Plaza, which has not replied to our inquiries. Rienti said he contacted Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito about the ticketing blitz and will fight his summons in court.

Update: Rienti says in a followup e-mail that he received another ticket on his commute home tonight on the Willis Avenue Bridge after an officer brushed away the DOT bike route information Rienti showed him. “He told me that you can only bike where there is a sign telling you it’s okay,” Rienti said, adding that he also plans to fight the second ticket in court.

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NYC Motorists Killed Three Pedestrians on City Sidewalks Today

Three pedestrians were killed on NYC sidewalks today in two separate crashes. Just before 7:30 a.m. on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, a 22-year-old man driving a new Camaro ran over and killed two men on the sidewalk, and just before 1 p.m., a woman was killed on an East Harlem corner after a taxi driver struck a box truck, which careened onto the sidewalk. So far, no charges have been filed, though witnesses say the Queens Boulevard driver was speeding and the East Harlem cabbie ran a red light, according to reports.

The driver of a yellow 2014 Chevrolet Camaro was heading westbound on Queens Boulevard when he crashed into two parked vehicles at Van Loon Street before jumping the curb and striking a phone booth, a lamp post, and two pedestrians — Man Chit Cheng, 59, and Muang Lin, 41 — who died at Elmhurst Hospital, according to FDNY.

Cheng, identified by the Post as Min Tin Cheng, was walking to work at a nearby construction site. He is survived by a wife and four grown children.

The driver, who has not been identified by police, was also transported to Elmhurst Hospital with minor injuries and is now in police custody on two outstanding warrants for failure to appear in court to face previous unspecified charges. The Collision Investigation Squad is investigating, and as of yet no charges have been filed relating to this crash. According to Gothamist, witnesses say the driver was speeding and crashed when he attempted to brake.

“The driver must’ve been speeding,” Council Member Danny Dromm told Streetsblog, adding that while speeding enforcement in the precinct has increased dramatically over last year, it’s not enough. “It’s going to take a while for it to sink in for drivers,” he said. “When people find out where speed cams or red light cams are, drivers take note and obey the law.” Dromm urged NYPD to take the investigation of these two men’s deaths seriously, and pointed to a march scheduled for tomorrow evening in his district to protest pedestrian deaths in Jackson Heights. “This is something that we can’t fool around with anymore,” he said. “We have to change people’s mentality on this. This is totally unacceptable.”

The crash occurred in the 110th Precinct, which issued 198 speeding tickets in September, the latest month for which information is available. Through the end of September, the precinct had issued 2,243 speeding tickets so far this year [PDF]. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Ronald D. Leyson, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 110th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:00 p.m. on the third Monday of the month at the Flander’s Field VFW Post #150, 51-11 108th Street. Call 718-476-9311 for information.

At 12:51 p.m., a taxi driver traveling westbound on East 102nd Street crashed into a box truck traveling southbound on Park Avenue, sending the truck into the southwest corner of the intersection, where it struck Olga Rivera, 65, who was standing on the sidewalk. She was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital.

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Tomorrow: Celebrate a Safer East Side With TA and Melissa Mark-Viverito

First Avenue at 79th Street, with bike and pedestrian improvements. Photo: DOT

Tomorrow, Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and Transportation Alternatives will take a well-deserved victory lap on the First and Second Avenue protected bike lanes.

Streetsblog readers know how difficult it was to overcome the misinformation campaign waged by a small number of business owners who didn’t want to see street improvements come to East Harlem. But there are a lot more businesses that support safer streets, and they will be joining in tomorrow’s celebration.

From a TA press release:

“This ride is about celebrating the work we did as a community to bring protected bike lanes to El Barrio/East Harlem,” says City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The local businesses that Transportation Alternatives will be visiting understand that the bike lanes will help, not hinder, their ability to thrive in our community. I thank Transportation Alternatives, El Museo del Barrio and our local businesses for helping to organize this tour.”

“Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito has demonstrated tremendous leadership by uniting community residents and local businesses around the shared goals of safe neighborhood streets and a strong local economy,” says Caroline Samponaro, Senior Director of Campaigns and Organizing for Transportation Alternatives.

DOT completed work on the First Avenue project on October 15, bringing a smoother, safer ride for cyclists and shorter crossing distances for pedestrians from 72nd to 125th Street.

The tour will visit several bike-friendly businesses and murals in Mark-Viverito’s district. Participating businesses include East Harlem Café, El Paso Taqueria, Heavy Metal Bike Shop, Amor Cubano, Camaradas El Barrio, Spaha Soul, Sabor Borinqueno, El Barrio Juice Bar, and Coco Le Vu Candy Shop and Party Room.

Tomorrow’s ride starts at El Museo del Barrio, at Fifth Avenue and E. 105th Street, at 1 p.m.

Also tomorrow, the TA Queens committee will lead a walking rally for traffic calming and pedestrian safety improvements to 21st Street in Astoria. Queens Community Board 1 has shown interest in making improvements to the street, and has indicated the board may request a study from DOT. City Council members and candidates are expected to be on hand for the walk, which starts at 2 p.m. at the entrance to Queensbridge Park, at Vernon Boulevard and 41st Avenue.