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Eyes on the Street: Filling the Gap in the Second Avenue Protected Bike Lane

Crews stripe a new parking lane alongside the existing bike lane on Second Avenue at 21st Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

Two months after a presentation to Manhattan Community Board 6′s transportation committee, and less than one month after the full board voted to support the plan, DOT crews were on Second Avenue today painting new stripes to convert the buffered bike lane in Kips Bay to the parking-protected variety.

Between 23rd and 14th Streets, Second Avenue had four lanes of car traffic sandwiched by a buffered bike lane on the left and a curbside bus lane on the right. Now, the left lane of car traffic has been converted to parking, better protecting southbound cyclists. The new configuration links other segments of protected bikeway on Second Avenue, creating a continuous stretch between 34th Street and 2nd Street.

According to DOT’s seasonally-adjusted counts, weekday motor vehicle traffic between 14th and 15th Streets dropped significantly from 2011 to 2013: Traffic volumes are down 11.8 percent during the morning rush, 23.1 percent midday, and 15.3 percent during the evening’s busiest hour. The agency predicted that converting a general traffic lane to parking would not significantly affect traffic flow on this section of the avenue.

The existing buffered bike lane has been a hotbed of double parking. Like other parking-protected bike lanes, this new stretch will probably see a bit of a learning curve: Some drivers early this afternoon, looking at the new parking signs, decided to park in the bike lane instead of the newly-striped floating lane right next to them.

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Progress for Safer Streets From Queens and Manhattan Community Boards

Last night, the full board of Manhattan Community Board 6 passed a resolution in support of a DOT plan that would fill in a gap between two sections of Second Avenue’s protected bike lane by replacing a car travel lane with parking from 23rd Street to 14th Street. Across the East River, Queens CB 1′s transportation committee was receptive to community requests for traffic calming on 21st Street in Astoria and Long Island City, asking advocates to come back with more specific requests.

If CB 1 requests a study from DOT, 21st Street in Astoria, seen above at 37th Avenue, could become safer for pedestrians. Photo: Google Maps

The CB 6 vote was surprisingly close. Although official numbers from the board will not be available until next week, reports from last night’s meeting indicate that the tally was 15-10, with two abstentions, meaning the plan was just three votes away from deadlock.

Although the plan adds parking and would not significantly affect traffic flow, according to DOT, a source said that there was resistance among some board members to a bike-related proposal or anything that might slow down travel times on the avenue. In the end, the resolution passed, and the buffered bike lane will be converted to a protected lane. Streetsblog has asked DOT when the project will be implemented; we’ll let you know if we hear anything back. Update: DOT says “implementation is scheduled to begin at the end of this month.”

In Astoria, Queens CB 1′s transportation committee was very receptive to a presentation by volunteers from Transportation Alternatives, Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens, Mount Carmel Church, Ravenswood Senior Center and Queensview Co-Op. The groups are asking for shared lane markings for bicyclists and better crosswalks and intersections for pedestrians.

“We got really strong support,” volunteer Juliana Roberts-Dubovsky said. “They recognize that it’s a dangerous street.” Although the committee did not pass any resolutions last night, it asked the TA volunteers and their neighborhood partners to come back with more specific proposals and requests before the board approaches DOT.

“Transportation Alternatives is going to come back, and then the motion will be presented to the full board,” district manager Lucille Hartmann said, adding that while the volunteers will meet again with the committee, the resolution will only go before the full board. “The consensus was that this area requires some changes,” Hartmann said. “The board will support the work that Transportation Alternatives is doing.”

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Tonight: Kips Bay and Astoria Community Boards Consider Complete Streets

There are two community board meetings tonight on complete streets plans in Manhattan and Queens.

21st Street in Astoria and Long Island City could become friendlier to cyclists and pedestrians if CB 1 takes action. Photo: DNA

The full board of Manhattan CB 6 is considering a resolution, passed by its transportation committee on Monday, to support a DOT plan to fill in a gap on the Second Avenue protected bike lane. Currently, the avenue from 23rd Street to 14th Street has a buffered bike lane, while sections to the north and south are protected by a lane of parked cars. DOT’s plan would remove a car travel lane and replace it with parking.

The public is invited to give brief comments to the full board tonight before it takes up the resolution. CB 6 has a history of slow progress on livable streets, so encouragement from users of the Second Avenue bike lane could help make the difference tonight. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m. at 550 First Avenue.

In Astoria and Long Island City, Transportation Alternatives volunteers have been gathering signatures for a petition to Queens CB 1 asking the board to request a redesign of 21st Street to include shared lane markings for cyclists and safety improvements for pedestrians. If the board requests a redesign, DOT says it will consider it.

CB 1 has been downright hostile to livable streets in the past, so demonstrating local support for a complete streets design on 21st Street is important. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at 45-02 Ditmars Boulevard (the entrance is on the 46th Street side). If a resolution passes committee, it will go to the full board, which is scheduled to meet on October 15.

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DOT Proposes Filling the Gap in Second Avenue Protected Bike Lane

The gap in the Second Avenue protected bike lane, from 23rd Street to 14th Street, would be filled under a plan before Community Board 6. Image: DOT

If you ride on the Second Avenue protected bike lane through Kips Bay, you know it can get a little hairy on the way downtown: The section between 23rd Street and 14th Street has no physical protection. On this stretch, the barrier of parked cars yields to a narrow painted buffer, creating an opportunity for illegal parking and offering minimal separation from speeding drivers. Under a DOT plan [PDF], that gap could be filled to create a continuous protected bike lane from 34th Street to 2nd Street.

The plan calls for adding a parking lane to this stretch of Second Avenue, creating protection for the bike lane as well as space for painted pedestrian islands. At intersections where drivers turn left, it includes mixing zones where turning drivers cross the bike lane. Parked cars would take the place of one lane of moving traffic, dropping the number of general traffic lanes from four to three, which matches the configuration south of 14th Street. The Select Bus Service lane on the west side of the avenue would not be affected.

Why the change? Motor vehicle volumes on this stretch of Second Avenue have fallen dramatically in recent years, according to a presentation NYC DOT gave last week to the Community Board 6 transportation committee, and the agency says the new configuration fits the current level of car traffic.

From 2011 to 2013, DOT’s seasonally-adjusted motor vehicle counts between 14th and 15th Streets have shown big drops in mid-week traffic: volumes are down 11.8 percent during the morning rush, 23.1 percent midday, and 15.3 percent during the evening’s busiest hour.

In a sign that car-centric metrics still count at DOT, the presentation notes that the avenue’s “Level of Service” — which measures driver delay – would remain a “B” under the new configuration if traffic volumes hold steady.

DOT presented the proposal to CB 6′s transportation committee on September 9, and committee members requested a walk-through with DOT. The committee is scheduled to meet again on October 7, and the full board meeting is scheduled for October 9. While CB 6 generally supported the redesign of First and Second Avenues in 2010 and 2012, the transportation committee has a record of dragging its feet on these votes.
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Eyes on the Street: Driver Careens Onto Kips Bay Sidewalk, Smashes Store

The remains of a crash scene at 2nd Avenue and 23rd Street after a vehicle was removed from the sidewalk by FDNY. Photo: ddartley/Flickr

Yesterday at approximately 6:00 p.m., the driver of a silver Volkswagen involved in a two-car crash barreled onto the sidewalk at the southeast corner of Second Avenue and 23rd Street, crashing into the front door of a Duane Reade pharmacy. FDNY tells Streetsblog that two people were transported to Bellevue Hospital in stable condition. Witnesses report that the injured were vehicle occupants, not pedestrians.

Video from Streetsblog reader ddartley shows another driver leaving the scene in a dented silver Infiniti SUV after speaking with police. Streetsblog has asked NYPD for more information about the crash; we’ll let you know if we get an update. More images of the scene are available from photographer Ethan Kavet.

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Developer J.D. Carlisle Yanks Support for Kips Bay Plaza, Killing Project

A two-block pedestrian plaza for a Second Avenue service road in Kips Bay, which was on track for implementation this summer, has been indefinitely delayed after adjacent property owner J.D. Carlisle sent a letter to DOT last week saying that it opposed the project.

Developer J.D. Carlisle once supported a neighborhood association's application to DOT's plaza program, but no longer. In response, DOT has halted work on the plaza. Image: Kips Bay Neighborhood Alliance

DOT, which had hosted two public design workshops for the plaza, says it will not proceed without the support of Carlisle, which owns a two-block retail complex adjacent to the plaza site.

“It was obviously a disappointment, to say the least,” said Erica Rand Silverman, a board member of Kips Bay Neighborhood Alliance, which was the plaza’s sponsor. “We’ve been working on the plaza for a couple years. In that time, Carlisle has been really, really supportive.”

Carlisle provided financial support for maintenance of a three-month demonstration plaza over the summer, Silverman said.

The demo plaza relied on temporary materials from DOT and programming from KBNA. The result apparently left a bad impression and confused some local residents about what a final plaza would look like. ”We did the best we could with the resources we were given,” Silverman said. “We got our tables, but not our chairs. We got our umbrellas, but two weeks before the plaza closed.”

Despite the problems with the summer installation and opposition from some residents of nearby Kips Bay Towers, KBNA collected 1,200 signatures in favor of the plaza by January. Design workshops in January and March moved forward, gathering feedback on the design.

But behind the scenes, J.D. Carlisle was souring on the project. On March 19, the company sent a letter to DOT [PDF] saying that it “staunchly opposed” the plaza, as did its two largest tenants, an AMC Loews movie theater and a Fairway supermarket.

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Curb-Jumping Drivers Kill Women in Manhattan and Brooklyn; No Charges

Luck, not law enforcement, is practically all that protects NYC pedestrians from reckless drivers. Photo: Post

Two pedestrians have been killed by curb-jumping drivers since Friday in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

On Friday evening at approximately 5:40, Martha Atwater was struck by the driver of a Honda truck after she stepped out of Bagel Cafe at the corner of Clinton Street and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights. The unidentified motorist was traveling north on Clinton Street when he “lost control” of the vehicle, mounted the sidewalk, and pinned Atwater against the building, according to reports. From the Post:

“She just came in to buy cookies. She looked happy, she was smiling,” said the cafe manager, Alauddin Shipun.

“She walked out. I heard a big bang and she was gone. Someone was trying to lift her head up and asking her, ‘Are you OK? Are you OK?’”

The 53-year-old driver may have lost consciousness because of diabetes, a police source said.

He remained at the scene and has not been charged.

An ABC report says Atwater was conscious while pinned underneath the vehicle, and that a UPS man called her family from her cell phone. She was pronounced dead at Long Island College Hospital.

Atwater, 48, was an Emmy-winning writer and producer of children’s television shows. She was married and had two young daughters. ”The problem I have now is that I have two children,” said her husband, Tom Wallack. “One is 12 and the other is 16. They need support.”

Sunday morning at around 1:50 a collision between a cab driver and another motorist sent the cab onto the curb on Third Avenue at E. 27th Street in Kips Bay, fatally striking a woman as she stood on the sidewalk. From the Post:

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Details on Fatal Midwood Crash Don’t Mesh With NYPD Victim-Blaming

Avenue O, looking east, with E. 7th Street indicated by the marker in the background. Police say Sara Mishik, 15, stepped between parked cars into the path of the driver who killed her, but NYPD also says she was crossing from north to south (left to right) when she was struck. Image: Google Maps

The driver of a Ford van killed a 15-year-old girl in Midwood Tuesday. It was the second crash in which a child has died in city traffic in less than a week, and at least the fourth time a motorist has killed a pedestrian in the course of six days.

Sara Kishik was crossing Avenue O near E. 7th Street, a residential area where homes line both sides of the street, at approximately 2:50 p.m. when she was struck, according to reports. NY1 says the van was a “private ambulette.” A bystander told DNAinfo that Kishik was thrown into the air upon impact.

A witness, who only gave his name as Vinny, 52, said that the girl was crossing midblock when she was struck by the van, catapulting her into the air.

“She went into the air and hit her head on the ground,” he said.

If the witness account is accurate, it’s a sign the driver may have been speeding. In addition, multiple reports indicate the driver was eastbound on Avenue O, and that Kishik was crossing from north to south. If that is the case, she would have been at least halfway across the street when she was hit, having already crossed the westbound lane. It is impossible to imagine an attentive driver traveling at 30 mph or less on a clear afternoon failing to see a 15-year-old crossing the street directly in front of him.

Nevertheless, NYPD immediately assigned blame to the deceased victim. The Daily News says that according to police Kishik “stepped in the road from between two parked cars.” Within hours, NYPD issued its standard “No criminality suspected” statement to the press.

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In Mistake-Marred Letter, CB 6 Lends Voice to East Side Bike-Share NIMBYs

Community Board 6 is concerned about a bike-share station at 18th and Irving Place that DOT already eliminated from consideration. Image: NYC DOT

Where can bike-share stations be located, according to the East Side’s not-in-my-backyard crowd? Not Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, which is both too serene for bikes and too crowded with protestors. Not around the corner from the Israeli consulate, which is too fat a target for terrorists who, as Marcia Kramer could tell you, prefer to deliver explosives via bike. Not in areas that are too residential. Nor in areas with store entrances or medical offices. And if that leaves anywhere — the sidewalk under a 42nd Street overpass was recommended as a model location — no station should have more than ten docks.

Each of those objections was raised in a document sent by Manhattan Community Board 6 to the Department of Transportation last week, cataloguing 14 locations that the board had received complaints about. A letter drafted by transportation committee chair Fred Arcaro and signed by board chair Mark Thompson endorsed some of the residents’ complaints — even one about a non-existent station proposal — and enclosed the rest without comment while requesting a formal DOT response to each one. While the letter notes that the CB received many comments supporting bike-share, none of those are included.

In January, CB 6 voted 39 to 2 in support of the broader bike-share program, and overall the board has tended to take positions in favor of projects like the redesign of First and Second Avenues. But as transportation committee chair, Arcaro has repeatedly stood in the way of livable streets improvements in the district, and his letter adds the community board’s imprimatur to some truly baseless complaints.

The shoddiness of this anti-bike NIMBYism is perhaps best illustrated by one of the three stations singled out in Arcaro and Thompson’s letter. They complain of a station in front of the service entrance of 130 East 18th Street, a residential building on the corner of Irving Place. That location, however, wasn’t selected by the Department of Transportation for a bike-share station.

As DOT reps explained at a CB 6 meeting I attended in May, the station had only ever been included as an option on the maps DOT used to gauge community preferences for station locations, which included five times more options than would ultimately be selected. Once the residents said they didn’t want a station there, it was taken off the list.

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Pietro Palumbo Killed by Driver in Manhattan, No Charges Filed

A pedestrian killed in Kips Bay last week has been identified as 76-year-old Pietro Palumbo.

Palumbo was crossing East 23rd Street near Second Avenue at around 1 a.m. on Friday, May 18, when reports say he was struck by a 1997 Acura driven by a 72-year-old woman. According to DNAinfo, the then-unidentified victim was crossing East 23rd “south to north in the middle block” when he was hit by the westbound motorist.

DNAinfo reported that Palumbo was in a wheelchair, while the Post said he was using a walker after a recent hip surgery. An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog he had no information on which version of the incident was correct.

A witness told the Post that the impact of the collision sent Palumbo “literally, 20 feet flying into the air.” Said the witness: “He just came down and smashed the windshield and went straight to the ground.” DNAinfo said Palumbo was “discovered lying in the street with severe injuries to his body.” He was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital.

Despite indications that the unidentified driver was traveling at an excessive speed, NYPD confirmed that “no criminality is suspected.”

This fatal crash occurred in the 13th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Ted Berntsen, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 13th Precinct council meetings happen at 6:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at the 13th Precinct station house, located at 230 East 21st Street. Call the precinct at 212-477-7411 for information.

Palumbo was at least the second vulnerable street user killed in the city since Friday. Last night, 33-year-old Amjad Barakat was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver in Bay Ridge. As of this writing, no fewer than 43 pedestrians and cyclists have died on city streets in 2012.