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Ulrich Back on Board With Woodhaven SBS After DOT Waters Down Turn Bans

DOT has significantly reduced the number of left turn bans in the Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus Service project. Image: DOT

DOT has decided to significantly reduce the number of left turn bans in the Woodhaven Select Bus Service project. Image: DOT

DOT has halved the number of left-turn restrictions and cut about a mile of bus lanes from its plan to enhance bus service on Woodhaven Boulevard.

The changes will dampen the expected improvements in bus speeds and pedestrian safety but have won over Council Member Eric Ulrich, who’s back on board supporting Woodhaven Select Bus Service. Most of the street design, which will add dedicated bus lanes and pedestrian islands along Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards, remains unchanged since the last iteration of the project, and DOT says the effects will be small.

In January, Ulrich told a meeting of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association — which organized against the plan — that DOT’s proposal “stinks.” Chief among Ulrich’s concerns was a proposed left-turn ban at Jamaica Avenue. “I don’t think it’s good,” he said of the plan. “I think we have to go back to the drawing board.”

Eric Ulrich

Eric Ulrich

It was a disappointing change of stance from an elected official who had been one of the project’s main proponents. In 2014, Ulrich co-authored an op-ed in the Daily News calling for “world-class” bus rapid transit on Woodhaven Boulevard.

Later that year, he told Streetsblog that the project was important to improve safety on Woodhaven, where more people lost their lives than any other street in Queens between July 2012 and December 2014, according to Transportation Alternatives.

“Whatever we’re doing now obviously isn’t working,” Ulrich said at the time.

DOT presented the revised project last week [PDF]. In addition to the left turn at Jamaica Avenue, the updated plan preserves left turns at Pitkin Avenue, Forest Park Drive, Myrtle Avenue, Metropolitan Avenue, 67th Road, 62nd Road, and southbound at Rockaway Boulevard — all of which were set for turn bans in the previous iteration of the plan. A section of bus lane between the Belt Parkway and Jamaica Bay has also been cut.

I tweeted at Ulrich to ask if the changes to the project meant he was back on board, to which he responded in the affirmative.

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Check Out This Wonderfully Normal CBS 2 Queens Blvd Bike Lane Story

There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about this CBS 2 feature on the plan to extend the bike lanes on Queens Boulevard. And that’s what makes it noteworthy.

With shots of the street where lanes now exist, reporter Sonia Rincon begins the piece like so: “The DOT is reshaping the landscape of one of the most dangerous roads in the city.” No quick-cut shots intended to invoke mass panic, no Marcia Kramer-style indignation over the prospect of sharing street space with people who aren’t in cars. Just a simple statement of fact.

Rincon spoke with City Council Member Danny Dromm, who explains how adding space for bikes helps slow motorists down, making the street safer.

And get this: Rincon talked with people who ride bikes on Queens Boulevard as part of their day to day lives — people who are grateful that Mayor de Blasio instructed DOT to proceed with phase two of the bike lane project despite Community Board 4 failing to support it.

“Right now I’m going to work, while biking,” said Melody Santos, who indicated she did not ride to work before DOT installed the existing 1.3-mile bike lane segment on Queens Boulevard in Woodside.

Rincon does devote airtime to random quotes from a couple of people who don’t care for cyclists, and to Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who repeats her specious argument that the project should be brought before the Queens Borough Board. Otherwise, Katz claims, making Queens Boulevard safer for people who walk and bike will “cause great difficulties.”

But Rincon closes with Dromm, who notes that the responsibility for engineering safer streets lies with DOT. Anchor Maurice DuBois even wraps the segment by citing Queens Boulevard crash data.

About what you would expect, right? But compared to the fact-free sensationalist screeching New Yorkers were subjected to during the bikelash era, it’s practically a revelation.

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De Blasio Advances Queens Boulevard Redesign Despite CB 4 Shenanigans

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Lizi Rahman and Council Member Danny Dromm led a rally for the Queens Boulevard redesign before last night’s CB 4 meeting. Rahman lost her son Asif in 2008 when he was struck by a truck driver and killed on Queens Boulevard. Photo: David Meyer

Mayor de Blasio has instructed NYC DOT to move forward with the redesign of Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst following a contentious meeting of Queens Community Board 4 last night, in which the chairman hastily pushed through a vote against the bike lane portion of the project.

“I respect those who disagree with us, but in the end, the safety of our neighbors and our children is the most fundamental responsibility we have in this work,” de Blasio said in a statement released this afternoon. “Today, I have instructed the Department of Transportation to move forward on the next phase of safety enhancements to Queens Boulevard, including a protected lane for cyclists.”

The CB 4 meeting last night was a travesty of public process even by the standards of New York City community boards.

Immediately after arguing that Queens Boulevard “is not a park, it is a very heavily traveled vehicular roadway,” CB 4 Chair Lou Walker moved to “accept the safety plan for Queens Boulevard except the bike lane.” The resolution passed in a quick show of hands, with one member opposed and one abstention, but multiple board members appeared to be confused by Walker’s phrasing and the rush to vote.

Some board members walked out in dismay right after the vote, and dozens of people in the audience who supported the bike lane turned their backs to the board and then left the room.

The median bikeway is a centerpiece of the Queens Boulevard redesign and the project would make no sense without it. DOT implemented the same basic template — claiming space on service roads to create continuous paths for walking and biking on the medians — on 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard in Woodside last year. The proposal on the table at CB 4 last night would extend that design another 1.2 miles from 74th Street to Eliot Avenue. A third phase through Rego Park and Forest Hills is scheduled for 2017.

Queens Boulevard is one of the only direct east-west routes across the borough, and many people already brave its chaotic traffic on bikes. The portion of the street covered by this phase of the redesign includes the block between 55th Road and 55th Avenue where a truck driver struck and killed Asif Rahman in 2008.

At a rally before the meeting, his mother, Lizi Rahman, called for action. “It’s been more than 8 years, and ever since I lost my son I have been fighting for a bike lane on Queens Boulevard,” she said. “It was pretty difficult from the beginning — almost for the first seven years I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

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111 Corona Mothers Take Over 111th Street to Call for a Safer Design

Mujeres en Movimiento — a Corona-based group of immigrant Latina mothers — marched on 111th Street this Saturday, calling on NYC DOT and Queens Community Board 4 to move forward with the city’s plan for traffic calming and a protected bike lane on the street.

They were joined by their children, members of Immigrant Movement International Corona, and Queens street safety activists. More than 160 people turned out for the march, which was billed as 111 mothers taking over 111th Street for 111 seconds.

Today 111th Street is a treacherous crossing for Corona residents going to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. With two northbound lanes and three southbound lanes, drivers move at dangerous speeds. DOT’s proposal would calm traffic by expanding medians at crossings, painting new crosswalks, installing a two-way protected bike lane along the park, and reducing the number of motor vehicle traffic lanes to one in each direction [PDF].

NYC DOT first presented a redesign for 111th Street more than a year ago, responding to a campaign organized by IMI Corona, Queens Museum, Make the Road New York, Transportation Alternatives, and Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. But it is currently stalled with no timetable for implementation. CB 4 has failed to advance the project, and Assembly Member Francisco Moya has tried to block it. DOT will only say that it plans to “return to CB 4 later this year.”

Saturday, some demonstrators marched with their bicycles, while others held signs with messages like “Los calles tambien nos pertenecen” (“The streets belong to us too”) and “Un futuro mas seguro para nuestros hijos” (“A safe future for our children”). At 49th Avenue, the group blocked the street to car traffic and paraded around the median between 49th and 50th Avenues.

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Change Is Afoot on Conduit Blvd, a Speedway Dividing Neighborhoods

Conduit Boulevard, a highway-like road in on the eastern Brooklyn-Queens border, has seen four pedestrian fatalities since 2008. Image: DOT

Four pedestrians have been killed since 2008 on Conduit Boulevard, a highway-like surface street that divides Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods. Image: DOT

Conduit Boulevard, a wide and dangerous road where drivers speed to and from JFK Airport, could get much-needed safety improvements from DOT between Atlantic Avenue and Sutter Avenue this year.

The street is designed like a highway, with wide travel lanes and north- and south-bound roads separated by a huge median. Vehicle access from Atlantic Avenue is literally an on-ramp. In Nassau County it becomes the Sunrise Highway, which frequently rates atop the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s list of the state’s most dangerous roads.

This surface speedway cuts through East New York, Cypress Hills, and Ozone Park, limiting residents’ access to transit and curtailing safe walking and biking options within their own neighborhoods. In the neighborhoods along the 2.2-mile stretch covered by DOT’s project, most households don’t own cars.

DOT plans to present safety improvements to Brooklyn Community Board 5 and Queens Community Board 10 later this spring. The department is currently gathering feedback on the project via an online portal.

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A Car-Free Plaza Is the Key to DOT’s Safety Plan for Myrtle-Wyckoff

wyckoff_myrtle

Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

The dangerous intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Wyckoff Avenue at the Bushwick-Ridgewood border is in line for a major DOT redesign this year. The proposal calls for pedestrianizing the block of Wyckoff between Myrtle and Gates to reduce potential motor vehicle turns at the intersection by 70 percent.

Myrtle-Wyckoff is a major transit hub, where the elevated M Train crosses paths with the underground L, and six bus routes converge at the Ridgewood Bus Terminal on Palmetto Street. Since 2009, three pedestrians have been killed at the six-legged intersection — two by MTA bus drivers. Two years ago, hundreds of people gathered there to remember Ella Bandes, who was struck and killed by a bus driver in 2013, and call for safety improvements.

In 2014, the city eliminated five of the 25 potential turns at the intersection, and last year the MTA rerouted the B26 away from the westbound turn from Wyckoff onto Palmetto. With the car-free plaza, the number of turns would fall even more dramatically — bus drivers would make five turns and drivers of personal vehicles would be limited to three turning movements.

According to DOT, three times as many pedestrians as cars pass through the block of the proposed plaza. Making it car-free would allow pedestrians to travel between the train station and bus terminal without having to cross motorized traffic lanes. The proposal also calls for demarcating the bus-only blocks by the bus terminal with red paint, and for converting Wyckoff to a one-way street south of the intersection.

On Tuesday night, about 60 people came to a public workshop hosted by DOT at International School 77 and weighed in on how they want to use the proposed plaza space.

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DOT Proposes East-West Bike Route on 31st Ave in Queens

DOT's proposed 31st Avenue bike lane would connect the East River waterfront to the Flushing Bay Promenade. Image: DOT

In line with a proposal made last year by the Queens Bike Initiative, DOT’s 31st Avenue plan would create a bike route between the East River waterfront and the Flushing Bay Promenade [PDF]. Image: DOT

Last summer, a group of Queens residents began organizing as the Queens Bike Initiative. Their mission: to push the city to build bike connections linking their neighborhoods in northern Queens to the borough’s parks. Nine months later, DOT has presented a plan to stripe a bike route on 31st Avenue [PDF], which the Queens Bike Initiative is lauding as the first step toward realizing their greater vision.

Between new bike lanes in Astoria, the second phase of the Queens Boulevard bike lane coming to Elmhurst and Corona, and the protected lane on 111th Street, the Queens bike network is set to grow significantly this year. Still, there are few east-west bike routes, especially in the northern part of the borough.

Last week at Queens Community Board 1, DOT presented the first phase of an east-west route that will eventually connect Socrates Sculpture Park to the Flushing Bay Promenade. This phase consists of painted bike lanes and sharrows on 31st Avenue, from Vernon Boulevard to the BQE, and will be completed this year. DOT does not a have a timeline for the next leg of the route, which is located in Community District 3.

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No Charges for Driver Who Killed Dorothy Heimann, 90, in Whitestone

The Whitestone intersection where a turning driver mortally injured 90-year-old Dorothy Heimann. Image: Google Maps

The Whitestone intersection where a turning driver mortally injured 90-year-old Dorothy Heimann. Image: Google Maps

NYPD and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown filed no charges against a driver who hit a 90-year-old woman last month, causing fatal injuries.

The victim was struck in the 109th Precinct, which made news last year for initiating a crackdown on walking in response to a series of pedestrian deaths at the hands of motorists.

Dorothy Heimann was crossing Clintonville Street at around 9:50 a.m. on February 7 when the driver hit her with a Jeep SUV while turning left from 17th Avenue, according to NYPD and accounts published by Gothamist and Ridgewood Times.

Clintonville Street at 17th Avenue, in Whitestone, is a signalized intersection of two-way residential streets. There is no exclusive turn signal, according to Google Maps photos, so if the driver had a green light, it’s likely Heimann would have been crossing with the right of way.

Heimann, who lived in Whitestone, suffered head trauma. She died on March 4.

The Right of Way Law gives police and prosecutors a tool to hold drivers accountable for harming pedestrians and cyclists who are following traffic rules, but NYPD and city DAs rarely use it. As is usually the case when law enforcers don’t file charges for a serious crash, NYPD withheld the name of the motorist.

Gothamist reported that the driver fled the scene, but the NYPD spokesperson I talked with said she saw no indication that the crash was a hit and run.

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The Boulevard of Life, Phase 2: DOT’s Plan for Queens Blvd in Elmhurst

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Hundreds of people were injured in crashes on this 1.2-mile stretch of Queens Boulevard from 2010 to 2014. Image: DOT

Last night DOT presented a plan to redesign Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst with protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements to Community Board 4 [PDF]. While local Council Member Danny Dromm has supported the project, DOT may have to proceed without an endorsement from CB 4, judging by the reactions of key board members.

Queens Boulevard is designed like a surface highway funneling east-west motor vehicle traffic across the borough. It’s unavoidable for people walking or biking, but also deadly.

DOT installed 1.3 miles of bike lanes and safer pedestrian space along the Queens Boulevard service roads in Woodside last year. The current plan would basically extend that design 1.2 miles from 74th Street to Eliot Avenue. A third phase through Rego Park and Forest hills is slated for 2017, and then capital reconstruction of the street would begin in 2018, casting the recent changes in concrete.

Like the design in Woodside, the next phase of the redesign aims to improve safety on Queens Boulevard by making the service roads function more like local streets, with more predictable motor vehicle movement and a continuous bike lane and pedestrian path running along the median.

qbphase2

The basic template for the second phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign. Image: DOT

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Hit-and-Run Drivers Killed Three Victims in Four Hours on Sunday [Updated]


Fatal Park Slope hit and run by Gothamist

Correction: Park Slope Stoop reports that the Park Slope victim was walking, not riding a bike. The copy in this post has been altered accordingly.

Hit-and-run drivers killed three New York City pedestrians within a few hours on Sunday.

Jose Contreras, 63, was struck by the driver of a black SUV as he crossed Webster Avenue at E. 175th Street, near the Cross Bronx Expressway, at approximately 1:30 a.m., according to the Times and WABC.

A hit-and-run driver killed Jose Contreras on Webster Avenue in the Bronx. Photo via WPIX

A hit-and-run driver killed Jose Contreras on Webster Avenue in the Bronx. Photo via WPIX

WABC reports:

Contreras was celebrating his sister’s 80th birthday and pulled over his car, his family said. He was going back in to check on his family because they were taking awhile to get out of the catering hall, and was crossing the street when he was hit.

“I left my father in the car, and I figured that’s where he would be when I came back out,” Joseph Contreras, the victim’s son, told the Post. “But when I came back out, he was in the middle of the street, laying in his own blood.”

Contreras died at Saint Barnabas Hospital.

At around 4:40 a.m., 48-year-old Besik Shengelia was retrieving items from his SUV on 111th Street near 109th Avenue in South Ozone Park when he was struck by a driver who left the scene. The make and model of the vehicle that hit Shengelia is unknown. He was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital.

WABC, which reported that Shengelia worked for Uber, spoke with witnesses, including a woman who stopped other drivers from running over Shengelia after he was hit.

“It’s a shame that people was driving by and nobody stopped. National Grid saw me stopping traffic, and they came and helped us,” says [Sonia] Ramirez.

“The street does have a problem late at night with people speeding up and down the street, basically, and something needs to change around here,” eyewitness David Moore says.

The Post reported that Shengelia was “a former commander of the Georgian navy during the country’s 2008 war with Russia” who moved to the city with his family.

About 20 minutes after Shengelia was struck, the driver of a Nissan Altima ran a red light and hit a pedestrian in Park Slope.

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