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Posts from the Greenwich Village Category

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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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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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No Charges for Cabbie Who Severely Injured Woman on Sidewalk Near NYU

A yellow cab driver severely injured a woman on a sidewalk in Greenwich Village this morning.

The victim was struck at around 10:50 a.m. on University Place near East Eighth Street. Gothamist says she was “pinned between the taxi and a stucco wall.”

A reporter for Washington Square News, an independent NYU outlet, said the victim was unconscious at the scene. “The woman was facing away from the cab, and when it hit her, she went up in the air and the cab basically pinned her against the wall,” a witness said.

The victim was taken to Bellevue Hospital in critical condition, Gothamist reported. No charges were filed against the driver.

Sidewalk collisions resulted in at least 14 fatalities in the last 12 months alone, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. If the city keeps a data set on the number of people hurt and killed by motorists on sidewalks, in buildings, and other places drivers are not supposed to be, we haven’t seen it.

University Place has excess width and not much car traffic. A narrower roadbed and traffic-calming measures might have prevented this crash.

This morning’s crash is reminiscent of the one that cost tourist Sian Green part of her leg in 2013. Since then, the city adopted Cooper’s Law to yank licenses from cab drivers who hurt pedestrians while violating victims’ right of way. But the Taxi and Limousine doesn’t use the law to take reckless cabbies off the road, in part because police and district attorneys so rarely file charges.

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DOT Extends Sixth Avenue Protected Bike Lane Plan to 8th Street

A rendering from DOT's November proposal for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue. The plan now includes raised pedestrian medians. Image: NYC DOT

DOT’s November proposal for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue included painted pedestrian zones. A new version of the plan calls for raised concrete islands instead. Image: NYC DOT

DOT is extending its plan for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue six blocks and will include some concrete pedestrian islands in the project. Previously, the plan called for a protected bike lane between 14th Street and 33rd Street with painted pedestrian islands at intersections. The revised plan extends south to 8th Street and will include some raised concrete islands.

The Manhattan Community Board 2 transportation committee voted unanimously for the new iteration of the project last night. DOT’s Hayes Lord said work on the project will likely begin in June and wrap up by the end of the summer.

The new design will replace the existing painted bike lane on Sixth Avenue with a six-foot-wide parking-protected lane and a three-foot buffer. The raised pedestrian islands will be narrower than usual, since DOT isn’t going to claim more space by removing a general traffic lane.

The concrete islands were added by DOT at the request of the Community Board 4 transportation committee, which withheld its support because the plan lacked sufficiently safe design at intersections. The Community Board 5 transportation committee endorsed the plan in November but said DOT should have gone farther to prioritize safety and transit.

DOT Project Manager Preston Johnson said larger pedestrian islands and a dedicated bus lane would not be included due to the heavy traffic on Sixth Avenue. “It’s very hard for us to find another space without compromising another user,” Johnson said.

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Eyes on the Street: Seventh Avenue Gets a Bit More Pedestrian Space

Pedestrians have a bit more breathing room, and a head start on turning drivers, at Seventh Avenue South and W. 4th Street.

Pedestrians have a bit more breathing room, and a head start on turning drivers — but not a full plaza as initially proposed — at Seventh Avenue South and W. 4th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

Pedestrians have a little more room to navigate the complex intersection of Seventh Avenue South and W. 4th Street in the West Village.

The intersection now has a dedicated left turn lane for drivers going from Seventh Avenue South to W. 4th Street. The traffic signal gives pedestrians a head start and holds turning traffic before giving drivers a flashing yellow arrow indicating that they can proceed after yielding to people in the crosswalk [PDF].

The plan adds pedestrian space, but less than an earlier version that would have created a plaza on one block of W. 4th Street. Image: DOT [PDF]

The plan adds pedestrian space, but less than an earlier version that featured a plaza on a block of W. 4th Street. Image: DOT [PDF]

Curb extensions are also being painted at six corners near the intersection, shortening crossing distances for pedestrians. The largest is on Seventh Avenue South between Christopher and Grove streets, providing more space for pedestrians at the entrance to the Christopher Street subway station.

The Seventh Avenue South Alliance has signed on as a maintenance partner for the space, DOT said. Completion is set for late fall.

DOT had initially proposed creating a full-size plaza on W. 4th Street between Christopher and Grove streets, but CB 2 members objected over fears it would inhibit truck deliveries and increase traffic on other side streets. The department then proposed the turn lane option instead.

The intersection is just north of where Seventh Avenue South crosses Bleecker Street. DOT added a similar treatment there in 2012, including a dedicated turn lane and leading pedestrian interval followed by a flashing yellow arrow for turning drivers [PDF].

Last year, CB 2 asked DOT to study a complete streets treatment for the length of Seventh Avenue South, including a protected bike lane. DOT has yet to propose a protected bike lane for Seventh Avenue South.

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DOT Replaces a Block of the Fifth Avenue Bike Lane With Sharrows

Bye bye, bike lane. Hello, sharrows in a turn lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

Bye bye, bike lane. Hello, sharrows in a turn lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT’s recent design tweaks to Eighth Street have come with an unwelcome change on Fifth Avenue. As the Fifth Avenue bike lane approaches Eighth Street, it now morphs into sharrows that overlap with a turning lane for motorists. The dedicated space for cycling is gone, and the new design is incompatible with the protected bike lane that advocates and the local community board have called for on Fifth Avenue.

While the southern end of Fifth Avenue doesn’t carry much car traffic, as the street approaches its terminus at Washington Square Park, many drivers turn left onto eastbound Eighth Street. The left-side bike lane was sacrificed to make way for a new design to handle this turning traffic.

The intent of the design is to separate the turning motorists from people crossing Eighth Street, who now have “a split-phase leading pedestrian interval,” giving them a head start before drivers receive a flashing yellow turn arrow. But it also calls for cyclists to do a non-intuitive merging movement around turning drivers, including many MTA buses and tour buses. Since bus drivers swing right before making tight left turns, the bike stencils direct cyclists to take a path that could conflict with the path of buses.

An earlier version of the plan, presented to Manhattan Community Board 2 last November, added the turn lane but kept the bike lane [PDF].

DOT says it will finish markings and signal work by the end of the month.

More than a year ago, DOT committed to studying protected bike lanes on Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, in response to local elected officials and community boards, but hasn’t produced anything since then.

This section of Fifth Avenue, with its low volume of traffic, would be an ideal location to begin building out protected lanes on these important north-south streets. With its corner sidewalk extensions, however, the new intersection design won’t work with a protected bike lane:

5th_ave_8th_street

The new intersection design at Fifth Avenue and Eighth Street is incompatible with a protected bike lane on Fifth.

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DOT’s Latest Missed Opportunity for Protected Bike Lanes

Nope, no room for a protected bike lane here. Image: DOT [PDF]

Nope, no room here for a protected bike lane, or even a striped bike lane. Image: DOT [PDF]

Eighth Street, which cuts eastbound across Greenwich Village just above Washington Square Park, had two traffic lanes until recently. A road diet by the Department of Transportation dropped it to one lane and added new pedestrian crossings. Left out of the redesign: bike lanes. Instead, there are “extra-wide parking lanes” that also accommodate double-parked drivers.

Last November, the plan went before Community Board 2 [PDF], which usually doesn’t hesitate to support bike lanes. “I specifically asked why the wide parking lanes instead of bike lanes and as I recall the only concrete reason they gave is that they didn’t want to create a bike lane that doesn’t go all the way across town,” said CB 2 transportation committee vice-chair Maury Schott. The board eventually passed a resolution supporting the plan. It did not ask for bike lanes.

DOT calls this design "bike-friendly." Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT calls this design “bike-friendly.” Photo: Stephen Miller

Crosstown bike lanes already exist on Ninth and 10th streets, said a DOT spokesperson, and the new Eighth Street design is “bike-friendly” with its extra-wide parking lanes.

Schott isn’t convinced. There were 12 cyclist injuries on Eighth Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway from 2008 to 2012, according to DOT. The bike lanes on Ninth and 10th Streets are narrow, he said, and the agency recently came to CB 2 with a bike lane proposal for Spring Street that doesn’t stretch across town or connect with the Hudson River Greenway.

DOT often expects cyclists to share “extra-wide parking lanes” with double-parked cars. What makes this example so galling is that the street is 34 feet wide. That’s exactly the same width as Grand Street, which DOT redesigned in 2008 [PDF], keeping parking on both sides of the street and repurposing extra space to create a parking-protected bike lane.

In addition to the road diet, the Eighth Street plan also includes sizable curb extensions. Most are in the process of being painted, but some along Sixth Avenue will be cast in concrete later this year. It also includes new crosswalks at MacDougal, Greene, and Mercer streets. Two bike corrals will be added on 8th Street.

DOT is also installing split-phase leading pedestrian intervals, which hold turning cars with a red arrow while pedestrians cross before giving turning drivers a flashing yellow arrow. The signals will be installed in coming weeks on Eighth Street at Broadway and Fifth Avenue, and on Ninth Street at Sixth Avenue.

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Eyes on the Street: A Buffer for (Some of) the Sixth Avenue Bike Lane

Buffers are nice, but fall far short of a complete street with a protected bike lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

Buffers are a nice interim improvement, but a lot more needs to change on Sixth Avenue. Photo: Stephen Miller

Parts of the notoriously skinny Sixth Avenue bike lane are about to get slightly less cramped. DOT is narrowing the car lanes on the newly-repaved avenue to make room for buffers on the bike lane from Christopher Street to W. 14th Street.

While the buffers are a welcome upgrade, they’re no long-term fix for one of the city’s most intimidating — and busiest — biking streets. Sixth Avenue is overrun by motor vehicle traffic and double-parking. Without a protected bike lane, it remains incredibly hostile for people on bikes.

Protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands for Sixth and Fifth Avenues have overwhelming support from council members and community boards representing the area. DOT, which promised to begin studying complete street upgrades for both avenues more than a year ago, told Streetsblog this week that it is “currently studying the feasibility of implementing a variety of safety improvements.”

Hat tip to Dave “Paco” Abraham

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Eyes on the Street: Super-Sized Ped Space at Deadly Sixth and Houston

Most of the intersection of Houston Street and Sixth Avenue used to be wide-open asphalt. DOT is now putting the finishing touches on expanded pedestrian space at this deadly crossing. Photo: Stephen Miller

Most of the intersection of Houston Street and Sixth Avenue used to be wide-open asphalt. DOT is now putting the finishing touches on expanded pedestrian space at this deadly crossing. Photo: Stephen Miller

Jessica Dworkin, 58, was on a push scooter at Sixth Avenue at Houston Street when a tractor-trailer truck driver turned into her path and crushed her in August 2012. After Dworkin’s death, local residents clamored for safety fixes. Now more than two years later, and 18 months after proposing the changes to Manhattan Community Board 2, DOT is putting finishing touches on expansions to pedestrian space and changes to traffic signals in a bid to prevent future tragedies [PDF].

The plan adds high-visibility crosswalks, tweaks traffic signals to give more time to pedestrians, creates a new pedestrian island, and enlarges existing pedestrian refuges. Images: DOT

The plan upgrades crosswalk markings, tweaks traffic signals to give more time to pedestrians, creates a new pedestrian island, and enlarges existing pedestrian refuges. Images: DOT [PDF]

Most of the concrete has already been cast, expanding the Houston Street median as it approaches the intersection from the east and enlarging pedestrian space between Houston and Bedford Streets on the west side of the intersection. A new pedestrian island has also been added to divide four lanes of westbound Houston. The changes not only break up Houston Street into shorter, more manageable distances for pedestrians, but also narrow the distance across Sixth Avenue on the south side of the intersection by 25 feet.

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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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