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Posts from the "Manhattan" Category

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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:

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At Manhattan Vision Zero Forum, NYPD Says Better Crash Data Coming Soon


The Vision Zero town hall roadshow returned to Manhattan last night with a well-attended forum at John Jay College. Elected officials, agency representatives and the public gathered to discuss the city’s plan to eliminate traffic fatalities and to offer suggestions for the initiative. Like last week’s forum in Astoria, some new details came out over the course of the evening about the city’s next steps for Vision Zero — including hints from NYPD about opening more data to the public. Another highlight: Livery drivers offered their own suggestions to stop the carnage on city streets.

Following up on comments DOT staff made last week, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan told Streetsblog last night that NYPD would be providing more traffic crash information to the public soon, but wouldn’t say what the department might release. “That’s being worked on right now,” he said. “Some of the information might not have been previously available to the public. You’ll see that on the [Vision Zero] website.”

Chan also said that the police would work with the DMV to improve its state-mandated crash report forms, so that NYPD can better analyze crash data. (Last October, while arguing against releasing data to the public, the department told the City Council that it was uninterested in having more precise geographic information on the forms.)

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said that earlier that day, she and Chan met with Dr. George Kelling, the originator of “broken windows” policing, to talk about how the concept can be applied to traffic safety.

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A Safer, Saner Lafayette Street Is on Its Way This Summer After CB 2 Vote

Under the plan, a buffered bike lane would be converted to a protected bike lane with pedestrian islands. Image: DOT

After a unanimous vote at its transportation committee earlier this month, Manhattan Community Board 2′s full board last night unanimously passed a resolution supporting an upgrade of the buffered bike lane on Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue to a protected bike lane. The project [PDF] runs from Spring Street to 14th Street and will include a northbound protected bike lane from Prince Street to 12th Street, pedestrian islands, and narrower car lanes to slow drivers.

The project is set to finish construction this summer. Crews have already started grinding pavement on Lafayette to repave the street, which currently has faded markings and a pockmarked surface.

At last night’s meeting, five people spoke in support of the plan, including Scott Hobbs, deputy director of the Union Square Partnership, and William Kelley, executive director of the Village Alliance BID. Transportation Alternatives also submitted a petition with signatures from nine business owners and 76 people on the street.

“We felt there were tremendous advantages,” transportation committee chair Shirley Secunda said of the plan, noting that it will keep the same number of car lanes while slowing drivers down, upgrading the bike lane, and improving signal timing at crosswalks. “Right now it’s in terrible, terrible shape and very unsafe,” she said. “It’s a tremendously wide street and the way the street will be reconfigured would allow for shorter crossings.”

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Tonight: Crucial Meeting on Lafayette Street Protected Bike Lane

NYC DOT’s proposal for Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue would swap the parking lane and the bike lane and slow speeding drivers with narrower motor vehicle lanes. Image: NYC DOT

NYC DOT’s proposal to upgrade the northbound buffered bike lane on Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue to a protected lane is up for a vote at Community Board 2 tonight, and while the plan sailed through the board’s transportation committee earlier this month, a “Yes” vote is far from a sure thing. Redesign opponents who didn’t show up at the committee meeting are expected to make an appearance at the full board vote, and that could jeopardize the project.

The Lafayette redesign entails a simple change — flipping the current position of the parking lane and the bike lane, which will narrow crossing distances for pedestrians, protect bicyclists, and reduce speeding without removing traffic lanes. It’s an important step toward creating safer north-south biking conditions in the middle of Manhattan island, and tonight you can help put it over the top.

If you support a safer Lafayette Street, it’s important to turn out and prevent this opportunity from slipping away. To sign in to speak, show up by 6:00 at the Tishman Auditorium in the New School, 63 Fifth Avenue.

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CB 2 Panel Unanimously Supports Lafayette-4th Avenue Protected Bike Lane

Under the plan, a buffered bike lane would be converted to a protected bike lane. Image: DOT

Under the plan, a buffered bike lane would be converted to a protected bike lane. Image: DOT

In a unanimous 9-0 vote last night, Manhattan Community Board 2′s transportation committee endorsed a DOT plan to upgrade a buffered bike lane on Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue to a parking-protected lane, complete with new pedestrian islands, car lanes of an appropriate width for the city, and improved signal timing for pedestrians. The plan now moves to CB 2′s full board meeting on March 20.

“We’re here as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero campaign,” DOT project manager Preston Johnson said, pointing to safety gains similar projects have yielded on other Manhattan avenues. “This is a project that fits in with that by improving safety for all road users.” From 2007-2011, he said, six pedestrians, one cyclist and five motor vehicle occupants were severely injured in crashes on this section of Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue.

The proposal [PDF] does not remove any car lanes, but instead narrows them on the avenues. Currently, lanes on Fourth Avenue feature a 14-foot-wide travel lane and a 21-foot-wide shared parking and moving lane. Under the plan, car lanes would be narrowed to 11 feet, with the right-hand lane on Lafayette slimming down to 10 feet.

“You really have a highway standard… which is inappropriate for this context,” Johnson said. “These moving lanes are just overly wide, and we’re able to repurpose that space more efficiently.”

Under the plan, the existing buffered bike lane, which ranges from nine to 11 feet wide on the left side of the street, will shift to the curb. Pedestrian islands will be added to the floating parking lane to shorten crossing distances, which are currently 71 feet on Fourth Avenue and 48 feet on Lafayette Street, curb-to-curb.

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Mixed Messages From NYPD at Manhattan Vision Zero Forum

From left, State Senator Brad Hoylman introduces Sergeant Amber Cafaro, Manhattan borough director of the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit Kassandra Perez, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Tom DeVito of Transportation Alternatives and Christine Berthet of CHEKPEDS. Photo: Stephen Miller

From left, State Senator Brad Hoylman introduces Sergeant Amber Cafaro, Manhattan borough director of the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit Kassandra Perez, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Tom DeVito of Transportation Alternatives and Christine Berthet of CHEKPEDS. Photo: Stephen Miller

At the first of what is sure to be many forums on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero agenda, nearly 100 residents, advocates, city officials and elected representatives gathered in Manhattan last night to talk about what implementing the Vision Zero Action Plan will look like, including immediate actions from the city and longer-term efforts at the state level.

While most of the speakers last night were on the same page, it became clear very quickly that NYPD, at least as represented by Sergeant Amber Cafaro of NYPD’s Manhattan South patrol borough, was giving mixed messages about its street safety priorities.

The forum, convened by State Senator Brad Hoylman, included a panel featuring Cafaro, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Manhattan borough director of the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit Kassandra Perez, Tom DeVito of Transportation Alternatives, and Christine Berthet, co-founder of the Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety. The event also featured remarks by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Members Corey Johnson and Helen Rosenthal. There were no representatives from the Taxi and Limousine Commission or District Attorney Cy Vance’s office at last night’s forum.

Trottenberg revealed a few of DOT’s street design priorities in Manhattan this year, including Ninth Avenue at 41st and 43rd Streets, Lafayette Street, part of Hudson Street and Houston Street at Sixth Avenue, where Jessica Dworkin was killed by a turning truck driver. In about a month, she said, DOT will host the first of its borough-wide street safety meetings, where it will ask local communities about traffic safety hotspots before preparing an action plan for each borough.

Perez said the mayor’s office will play a big role in coordinating borough-level input on Vision Zero implementation, acting as a go-between between city agencies, borough presidents, community boards, and neighborhood groups.

Trottenberg also had some observations about the important role drivers play on our streets. “New York state is one where driver’s ed has not really kept pace with the way our roadways are used now,” she said. ”When you get behind the wheel of a car and are in control of three tons of metal, you have an awesome responsibility. More of a responsibility than someone walking down the road.”

This perspective was not echoed by NYPD’s Cafaro, who began her remarks last night by listing the number of pedestrian and cyclist injuries last year in Manhattan South, followed by do’s-and-don’ts for pedestrians and cyclists. “Just be mindful when you’re out there — don’t use your phone, headphones, texting,” she said. Cafaro, whose dark predictions about bike-share crashes last year failed to materialize, did not list similar advice for drivers.

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Study: Bike-Share Has Boosted the Share of Female Riders in Manhattan

Bicycling in Manhattan has long been a male-dominated mode of transportation, but a new study says bike-share is helping improve the gender balance in the borough’s bike lanes. Another change since the blue bikes hit the streets last summer: Manhattan bike riders are far more likely to follow the rules of the road.

Photo: NY Daily News

Photo: Daily News

The Hunter College study [PDF], culled from observations of more than 4,000 cyclists at locations below 86th Street in Manhattan, showed that women account for 31.1 percent of Citi Bike riders, but comprised only 23.6 percent of other non-delivery cyclists. That’s still below the national average: In North America, about 43 percent of bike-share users are female, according to the League of American Bicyclists.

Another key finding verified what many New Yorkers could tell you by intuition: Citi Bike riders make up a larger share of bike ridership on avenues with protected bike lanes than on streets without them. Bike-share riders, the study says, are 32 percent of riders in protected bike lanes, but only 18.1 percent of cyclists on streets without a bike lane at all.

The study found that delivery cyclists made up 18.4 percent of cyclists on the road, while Citi Bike riders comprised 23.2 percent of all riders. All other types of recreational or transportation riders added up to 56.2 percent of people on bikes. (The survey takers could not classify 2.2 percent of cyclists.) The share of Citi Bike riders is slightly below a DOT count of the Citi Bike service area in August, which put the number at 29 percent.

The report comes from professors Peter Tuckel, a sociologist, and William Milczarski, an urban planner. (A previous study they authored on cyclist-on-pedestrian injuries drew fire from fellow Hunter College academics.) For this study, the professors had students observe 4,316 bicyclists age 14 and over at 98 different locations in Manhattan below 86th Street. Counts were performed between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. from June 10 to November 1, though nearly three-quarters of the data was gathered in the final three weeks of October.

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Manhattan Community Boards Want to Fix 57 Dangerous Places for Peds

Yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer compiled a list of 57 pedestrian danger hotspots identified by community board district managers and sent it to city agency heads serving on Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero task force. Many of the locations in Brewer’s list have a long track record as dangerous locations, including many where people have died crossing the street.

Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

“It’s essential that the proper resources be dedicated to implementation and enforcement” of safety fixes at these and other locations, Brewer wrote in her letter to Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg [PDF]. “This list is not meant to be exhaustive or definitive… but represents community input to help inform the Task Force.”

The mayor’s Vision Zero task force is charged with coming up with a strategy by February 15 to eliminate traffic fatalities within a decade. It includes the police, transportation, health and taxi commissioners.

In her letter, Brewer also said that district managers wanted more comprehensive and uniform crash data from DOT and NYPD so they could be better informed about pedestrian safety needs in their neighborhoods. “Many advocates have expressed frustration with the way that NYPD has historically published many datasets in static, PDF formats,” she wrote. As a council member, Brewer led the push for city agencies to release easily-accessible data. “I would urge NYPD and all City agencies to publish real-time data in open, machine- readable formats, such as CSV or Excel.”

The locations identified by district managers [PDF] were chosen for a number of reasons, including a history of fatalities or injuries, confusing design or signal timing, wide crossing distances and insufficient crossing times, high volumes of turning drivers, and lack of traffic enforcement.

Brewer requested three locations from each district manager. Some replied with only one location in need of pedestrian safety improvements, while others listed as many as 15 intersections and streets. At some of the locations, DOT has not proposed safety enhancements. At others, plans are awaiting community board support or have already been installed.

A couple of these locations have been the site of NYPD traffic enforcement operations, including some against pedestrians, but most are not known to have already been targeted by police.

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Brewer Asks Community Boards to Identify Dangerous Places for Walking

When it comes to street safety improvements, New York’s community boards are usually in a position where they react to proposals from NYC DOT. Now, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer could turn that dynamic on its head: She’s asked each board’s district manager to identify three traffic safety hotspots, saying that she’ll work with city agencies to make sure they’re addressed.

Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

The issue tops the agenda at the monthly meeting Brewer will hold with community board district managers tomorrow evening.

“Citywide proposals such as lowering the speed limit will help, but a plan that will work has to be detailed and comprehensive. That means working with Community Boards and the Department of Transportation, as well as NYPD,” Brewer said in a press release. “I support Mayor de Blasio’s ‘Vision Zero’ plan and look forward to submitting a master list of these hotspots to his traffic task force.”

De Blasio has directed his Vision Zero task force to come up with a plan by February 15 outlining how to eliminate traffic fatalities within a decade.

Streetsblog has asked all 12 Manhattan district managers about locations they’ve identified for traffic safety improvements.

CB 11 manager George Sarkissian is hoping DOT will make improvements along the Park Avenue Metro-North viaduct, which has poor visibility for drivers and pedestrians, resulting in a history of deadly crashes. DOT has installed curb extensions at a few locations; Sarkissian said he hopes they can be added along the entire stretch of Park Avenue between 102nd and 111th Streets. Also of concern: Heavy car traffic accessing the 96th Street Transverse across Central Park and along Pleasant Avenue from 114th to 120th Streets heading to and from the big-box stores at East River Plaza.

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Harlem CBs Mull Morningside Traffic Calming, Open Door to Bike Lane Plans

Today, Morningside Avenue is a wide expanse of asphalt where most drivers speed. Photo: DOT

On Wednesday evening, Manhattan Community Boards 9 and 10 jointly hosted a public forum on traffic calming for Morningside Avenue, including a presentation by NYC DOT about its safety proposals. Board members were generally receptive to DOT’s plan, which is expected to go back to each board for resolutions of support, while offering their own suggestions — some reasonable, some not so much. DOT said at the meeting it would like positive votes before moving ahead with the plan.

Wednesday’s forum was called after CB 9′s full board voted to table the plan and CB 10 declined to take any action on it last month. The plan DOT presented Wednesday was identical to the one it had presented to the boards a month ago [PDF]. ”We’re here tonight just to continue the dialogue,” DOT Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione said. “We’re not in any sort of rush to implement anything and we want to work toward community consensus.”

The plan calls for a road diet on Morningside Avenue between 116th and 126th Streets. Currently two lanes in each direction, Morningside would be trimmed to one lane in each direction plus a striped median with left-turn lanes and concrete pedestrian islands. The proposal is similar to road diets DOT has implemented on nearby St. Nicholas Avenue and Gerritsen Avenue in Brooklyn. DOT’s Josh Benson pointed out that Gerritsen, which like Morningside Avenue runs alongside a park, saw a 40 percent decrease in injury-causing crashes after the road diet was implemented.

While this type of road diet is known for smoothing out traffic flow, a few board members were skeptical. CB 9 transportation committee co-chair Ted Kovaleff suggested reversible rush-hour lanes instead, an idea that DOT rejected as too difficult to implement. Benson said that right now, Morningside is designed to handle more traffic than it currently accommodates. “It’s not really that busy in terms of what other streets in Manhattan have, traffic-wise,” Benson said, addressing concerns that drivers would divert to other avenues because of the road diet.

After one board member questioned why the city was interested in changing Morningside’s configuration at all, Benson pointed out that safety improvements were requested by the North Star Neighborhood Association. “There’s a public safety issue, which is we have New Yorkers that are dying,” Benson said. In 2006, there were two fatalities on Morningside Avenue. From 2007 to 2011, there were nine serious injuries; four were pedestrians and one was a cyclist.

During a recent speed survey, DOT found that 58 percent of northbound drivers and 66 percent of southbound drivers were exceeding the 30 mph limit. The street is on the border of the 26th and 28th Precincts. Through August, the latest month for which data is available, the two precincts issued a combined 701 speeding summonses [PDF 12]. Benson said NYPD has issued 260 speeding summonses on these 10 blocks of Morningside so far this year.

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