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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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Tonight: Important Complete Streets Meetings in Manhattan and Queens

Tonight’s a big night for livable streets events, with community board meetings on proposals for Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, and Long Island City. Plus, join Streetsblog at ARTCRANK if you’re looking for some fun.

Key community board meetings tonight are:

  • Manhattan Community Board 2’s transportation committee will consider a resolution requesting that DOT study complete street treatments for Seventh Avenue South, including protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands. The board has already requested similar changes to Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The effort for Seventh Avenue South grew out of a failed attempt to extend the West Village Slow Zone. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
  • On the East Side, Manhattan Community Board 3’s transportation committee will hear presentations on the Move NY fair tolling plan and a proposal from DOT to tweak the Clinton Street approach to the Williamsburg Bridge, which is used heavily by bicyclists coming to and from Grand Street. The Lower East Side Business Improvement District will also be presenting its proposals for streetscape improvements on Orchard Street. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
  • The general meeting of Queens Community Board 2 will hear a presentation from DOT on planned pedestrian safety improvements in Long Island City, covering the Hunter/Crescent Area Triangle. The plan for this area, between Queens Plaza South and 44th Drive, would convert some streets to two-way travel, enlarge pedestrian islands, and add painted curb extensions. DOT already presented an earlier version of the plan to CB 2’s transportation committee in March [PDF]. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Not in the mood for a community board meeting? Join Streetsblog at Brooklyn Brewery tonight for ARTCRANK, a celebration of bike culture featuring hand-made, bike-inspired posters created by New York area artists. Plus, there will be food and drink. Limited edition, signed copied of all posters will be available for sale. Admission is free and Streetsblog will be raffling off accessories from Timbuk2 and Shinola, so come show your support.

In other community board news: On Tuesday evening, Manhattan Community Board 7 voted overwhelmingly in support of the West End Avenue road diet. The plan now includes pedestrian islands at 72nd and 79th Streets, in addition to those already planned at 95th and 97th Streets, according to West Side Rag. Milling and paving on West End Avenue has already begun, and Council Member Helen Rosenthal says the new striping will be complete by the end of October.

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Eyes on the Street: An Early Look at the Lafayette Protected Bike Lane

lafayette_street_1

Crews have been making good progress on the Lafayette Street redesign [PDF], the first protected bike lane project installed by the de Blasio administration. As of yesterday, the striping work had progressed from Spring Street up past 4th Street, where Philip Winn of Project for Public Spaces snapped these photos.

The Lafayette Street project will convert the northbound buffered bike lane into a protected lane from Prince to 12th Street. Some intersections will get pedestrian islands between the bike lane and motor vehicle lanes. DOT is really knocking this one out fast — Community Board 2 voted in favor of it less than a month ago. The redesign isn’t complete but people are already making good use of it:

lafayette_street2

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DOT Passes on Protected Bike Lanes for Tribeca, Gets CB Committee Support

With the exception of the Hudson River Greenway, routes between Tribeca and Greenwich Village can hardly be described as bike-friendly. Cyclists must compete with gridlock near Canal Street and the Holland Tunnel, while wide north-south arteries like Varick Street and Sixth Avenue are daunting roads. DOT is proposing a mix of upgrades between Warren Street and Washington Square, including buffered bike lanes and shared lanes — but nothing that would physically protect cyclists from the often-heavy traffic in this area. The plan received a 6-5 supportive vote from Community Board 1’s Tribeca committee Wednesday night.

DOT's proposed bike route from Washington Square to Warren Street is a mix of bike lanes and sharrows. Image: DOT

The route winds its way through the Village, Soho, and Tribeca [PDF]. Starting from the north, Washington Square would receive curbside green bike lanes on its east and south sides, and shared lane markings on the two-way section of Washington Square North.

West Broadway and LaGuardia Place would receive shared lane markings from Sixth Avenue to W. Third Street. Where LaGuardia Place widens slightly for one block between W. Third and Washington Square South, DOT is proposing bike lanes.

Cyclists on West Broadway looking to continue southbound would be directed to Varick via Broome Street, which would receive a green striped bike lane along the southern curb. However, for the block between Thompson Street and Sixth Avenue, DOT is proposing to add on-street parking along the south side of the street and install sharrows instead of a lane. From Sixth Avenue to Varick Street, Broome Street widens; the street would have curbside parking on both sides and an adjacent bike lane.

The agency is proposing even less for Varick Street, which is often full of traffic bound for the Holland Tunnel and Canal Street. Varick would receive shared lane markings in the leftmost lane from Watts Street to Beach Street, and for the single block between Broome and Watts, Varick would only receive bike route signage.

DOT proposed routing cyclists onto the sidewalk on the east side of Varick at Albert Capsouto Park, to avoid one block of rough cobblestone surface between Canal and Laight Streets. The sidewalk, which is not heavily used, would receive stencils like the ones through City Hall Park, but CB 1 committee members strongly objected to the concept. The resolution supporting the proposal included a request that DOT examine alternatives to the sidewalk route at Albert Capsouto Park, which DOT says it will reconsider.

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Eyes on the Street: Collision Leaves NYU Bus on Greenwich Village Sidewalk

Photo: Philip Winn

A two-vehicle collision left an NYU bus on a Greenwich Village sidewalk this morning, in an NYPD precinct where speed enforcement, for all intents and purposes, is non-existent.

Tipster Philip Winn snapped these photos at Lafayette Street and E. 4th Street at around 9:30 a.m., after the second vehicle, a passenger car, had been towed away. FDNY got the call at 8:26, according to a spokesperson. The NYU bus was on the sidewalk at the northeast corner of the intersection, with windows shattered, according to another witness.

An employee with NYU buses told Winn both drivers were injured. One person was transported to Bellevue Hospital, FDNY said.

Chad Marlow, a member of Community Board 3, wrote to EV Grieve:

“I passed by the NYU bus this morning. Couldn’t get too close because my kids were with me and it didn’t look good. The bus definitely collided pretty violently with a black car (not certain if private or livery). When I passed by there were two fire trucks and at least one ambulance on the scene. It looked like the firefighters were making an effort to pry open the black car.”

Motor vehicles operated on NYC surface streets should never collide with enough force to cause serious injury to vehicle occupants, much less require the jaws of life. Fortunately, this crash that ended with at least one vehicle on a sidewalk apparently did not result in a pedestrian being injured or killed.

A study conducted by doctors and researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center found that 6 percent of pedestrians injured by motorists were struck while on a sidewalk. No fewer than three NYC pedestrians have died at the hands of curb-jumping motorists in recent weeks, with many more known injured. Just days ago a motorist hit up to 10 people on a sidewalk in East Flatbush, leaving four in critical condition, including a 2-year-old child who was reported brain dead. Curb-jumping drivers have recently inflicted serious injuries upon seniors in Manhattan and Queens.

Photo: Philip Winn

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Tonight: CB 2 Seeks Changes to Sixth and Houston Following Deadly Crash

The transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 2 is looking for input on how to improve safety at Sixth Avenue and Houston Street, the intersection where Jessica Dworkin was killed by a truck driver two weeks ago.

“Everything’s open,” says committee chair Shirley Secunda, “from street geometry to police enforcement and investigation to current regulations as well as need for new regulations.”

Dworkin was riding a foot-propelled scooter west on Houston Street around 9 a.m. on August 27 when she was caught by the rear wheels of a flatbed semi as the driver turned right from Houston onto Sixth. The trucker was cited for careless driving.

“There has been a tremendous outpouring of grief from the community, in no small part because we have all had our own near-misses at that crossing,” says Ian Dutton, a former CB 2 member who was a neighbor of Dworkin’s. “I have adult, fully-abled friends who refuse to cross on that specific crosswalk because of aggressive, speeding drivers.”

Dworkin was the second person to die at Sixth and Houston in recent memory. Five years ago this month, 28-year-old Hope Miller was killed by a truck driver as she crossed Houston on her way to an acting class.

The committee may also address bridge tolls and truck size regulations, Secunda said. Since he was traveling east to west, there is speculation that the driver may have cut through the city to avoid the westbound toll on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The truck that killed Dworkin appeared to exceed 55 feet, the maximum length allowed on surface streets without a permit, and the cab was missing required front-mounted crossover mirrors.

Committee recommendations would be presented as resolutions to the full board, and if approved would be directed to city agencies and electeds.

“I’m also going to ask that the board take a firm stand on the NYPD policy of immediately declaring ‘no criminality’ when the details are far from clear,” says Dutton, “that the board fully endorse the package of bills including the Crash Investigation Reform Act, and ask Chris Quinn’s rep why the speaker has yet to voice her opinion.”

Tonight’s meeting will be held at the Church of Our Lady of Pompei, 25 Carmine St., Father Demo Hall, at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend and participate.