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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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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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CB 2 Panel OKs Hudson Street Bike Lane Upgrade, Bowery Ped Safety Tweaks

The Hudson street buffered bike lane is set to become a parking-protected path. Image: DOT

The Hudson Street buffered bike lane is set to become a parking-protected path. Image: DOT

Last night, Manhattan Community Board 2’s transportation committee unanimously supported two safety measures: one to upgrade a bike lane on Hudson Street, and another to tweak pedestrian improvements at the car-clogged intersection of the Bowery and Delancey Street.

Almost two-and-a-half years after asking DOT to upgrade the faded buffered bike lane on Hudson Street to a parking-protected path with pedestrian islands, the committee unanimously endorsed a plan from DOT to do just that [PDF]. The next steps: support from the full board at its April 24 meeting, and construction beginning in July.

The plan actually extends two of Manhattan’s most popular protected bike lanes southward. The Ninth Avenue protected lane will now reach a few blocks further south of 14th Street, on the southbound section Hudson Street, before joining the curbside striped bike lane on Bleecker Street. And on the northbound section of Hudson, cyclists will be able to use a protected bike lane starting at Houston Street before joining the existing Eighth Avenue protected lane.

CB 2’s request in 2011 asked that the lane extend south to Canal Street, but DOT’s plan stops at Houston. When the board made its request then, Hudson Square Connection BID executive director Ellen Baer said her members were split on the concept. While the BID has supported a number of other street safety improvements, it opposed the CB’s request for Hudson Street. Since then, the BID has released a concept plan that includes a protected bike lane along Hudson Street, but asked DOT to leave it out of the plan the agency presented last night.

“So far, we’ve gotten very positive responses, but we continue to go out there and build support for the plan,” Baer told Streetsblog. The BID’s plan includes widening the sidewalk to create space for green stormwater infrastructure, a more significant design change than DOT is proposing north of Houston. “You want to do it all at once,” she said. “You wouldn’t want to put a protected bike lane in this section and then come back.”

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80-Year-Old Pedestrian and MTA Bus Driver Killed in Separate Crashes

Senior Margarita Seda was killed in the middle of the day by a driver making a left turn at at a signalized intersection with marked crosswalks. He was cited for careless driving and failure to yield. Image: Google Maps

Senior Margarita Seda was killed in the middle of the day by a driver making a left turn at a signalized intersection with marked crosswalks. The driver was cited for careless driving and failure to yield. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports. Image: Google Maps

In the last 24 hours, an 80-year-old pedestrian and an MTA bus driver were killed in crashes in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

At around 1:35 p.m. Tuesday, Margarita Seda was struck by the driver of a GMC vehicle as she crossed Grand Street at Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, according to WCBS and the Daily News. WCBS reported that Seda was crossing Grand north to south when the driver, traveling north on Graham, struck her while making a left turn onto Grand. Seda suffered head injuries and died at Bellevue Hospital.

The unnamed motorist was summonsed for careless driving and failure to yield to a pedestrian.

Grand Street and Graham Avenue are two-lane streets that meet at a signalized intersection, and there is strong evidence that the victim was in the crosswalk and had a walk signal, based on published reports and the fact that NYPD cited the driver. If it occurred as described, yesterday’s crash appears nearly identical to the one that killed Maude Savage, the 72-year-old who was hit by an unlicensed driver last November while crossing with the signal at Sutter and Euclid Avenues in East New York. The man who killed Savage was charged criminally, but only because he was driving without a license.

This type of crash is not rare. At least 30 NYC pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by turning motorists since January 2013, and for the most part the drivers were breaking the law by failing to yield. As we wrote after Savage’s death, that this deadly behavior does not apparently meet the standard of criminal negligence is a sign that New York’s criminal justice system is failing to hold drivers accountable for killing law-abiding pedestrians.

The crash that killed Margarita Seda occurred in the City Council district represented by Antonio Reynoso, and in the 90th Precinct, where in 2013 local officers cited 35 drivers for failing to yield to pedestrians, and wrote 311 speeding tickets.

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Reality Check: Bike-Share Station Takes Up Less Space Than Parked Cars

Curb space in front of 99 Bank Street then ...

You have to hand it to residents of 99 Bank Street. The lawsuit to have a bike-share station removed from the street in front of their West Village building is a textbook example of reactionary NIMBYism.

The suit, which has already been rejected in court, claims the station violates a rule against the placement of “street furniture,” and blocks the building entrance. Among the other reported complaints: the bike-share station will impede fire truck access, cause tourists to ride on the sidewalks, and lead to cyclists congregating under the building awning when it rains.

The suit also says the city’s bike-share program “presents a serious threat to public safety,” according to the Daily News.

Reality check: Bike-share has a great safety record. And as for building access, this Citi Bike station, which will hold 31 bikes, replaced a handful of car parking spots that occupied the same curb space, but with taller, blockier objects. If anything, May and her dog Pippin will have an easier time crossing the street mid-block now that there aren’t parked cars hogging curb space and cutting off the view of oncoming traffic.

… and now. Photos: Google Maps, DNAinfo

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CB 2 Committee OKs Varick Street Traffic Calming, Punts on Bike Corrals

With two unanimous 9-0 votes, Manhattan Community Board 2’s transportation committee took one step forward and one step back for livable streets last night, voting for safety fixes at a problematic intersection while punting on a proposal for bike corrals after local NIMBY extraordinaire Sean Sweeney showed up to squash it.

Just another day at the intersection of Carmine Street, Clarkson Street, Varick Street and Seventh Avenue South. Photo: Doug Gordon

A request for traffic calming and pedestrian safety fixes at the intersection of Clarkson Street, Carmine Street, Varick Street and Seventh Avenue South moved ahead after the committee agreed to drop further consideration of converting one block of Carmine Street to one-way operation. The intersection, which floods with traffic bound for the Holland Tunnel, would receive curb extensions on the northeast and northwest corners to reduce the crossing distance and daylighting treatments on the southwest corner through removal of on-street parking. The proposal was put forth by Brooklyn Spoke blogger Doug Gordon, who works nearby, and will move to the full board on January 24 before advancing to DOT and NYPD for agency consideration.

In a surprise move, the committee sent plans for three on-street bike corrals back to DOT for further study. Bike corrals were presented for three locations, each to be maintained by an adjacent business that had requested the bike parking: Spring Street Natural on the southwest corner of Spring and Lafayette Streets, Little Cupcake Bakeshop on the southeast corner of Prince and Mott Streets, and Organic Avenue at the corner of Sullivan and Houston Streets.

Sean Sweeney, winner of Streetsblog’s 2008 NIMBY of the Year award, pounced on these bike corral installations. “Why is SoHo DOT’s petri dish?” he asked. “Experiment somewhere else!”

Although DOT’s Inbar Kishoni pointed out that corrals are being installed in several other neighborhoods, and that the committee had already voted in support of a bike corral at Cafe Habana at Prince and Elizabeth Streets, Sweeney’s opposition scared away enough members from supporting the corrals. In the end, Committee Chair Shirley Secunda put forward a resolution asking DOT for more planning, education, and outreach before installing bike corrals.

So, thanks to Sweeney, instead of safer sightlines at intersections and on-street bike parking that would help relieve the spatial crunch on crowded sidewalks, SoHo and these local businesses will be getting nothing, at least for the time being. Chalk up another win for Sweeney’s SoHo Alliance.

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Pressure Mounts for Safer Intersection After Jessica Dworkin’s Death

In the wake of Jessica Dworkin’s death, community members are waiting for DOT and NYPD to take action to reduce the dangers caused by motorists at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Houston Street.

At a meeting on September 20, Manhattan Community Board 2 passed two resolutions that recently passed the board’s transportation committee. The first asks DOT to study the intersection, as well as other problem locations in the area, and evaluate potential pedestrian safety improvements.

Flowers to honor the memory of Jessica Dworkin remain at Sixth Avenue and Houston Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT scheduled a walk-through of the intersection with community members last week, but cancelled for unknown reasons, with a commitment to reschedule. Streetsblog has asked DOT why the event was cancelled and when the agency plans to follow through.

The second request from CB 2 asks the City Council to pass proposed bills and resolutions to change NYPD traffic safety protocols. Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who represents the neighborhood, has not taken a position on the reform package.

Earlier this month, 6th Precinct Community Affairs Officer Martin Baranksi said there was little that could be done. “For all intents and purposes, I think it was just a terrible accident,” he told the CB 2 transportation committee. “You know, it happens.”

Crossing guard Esperanca Varela often sees dangerous behavior from drivers, who swerve around crossing pedestrians while turning. She said she occasionally sees traffic enforcement at the intersection, “But they can’t be out here all the time.”

There is a red light camera for westbound traffic on Houston Street at Sixth Avenue, but the camera is not operational.

Until city agencies take action, nearby seventh-graders have been studying pedestrian safety at the intersection, documenting behavior and recording video for a class project, according to Phillip Kassen, director of the Little Red School House.

“Once these flowers are gone,” Varela said, looking at the shrine to Dworkin on a fence at the corner where she was killed, “People are going to forget.”

But Ian Dutton, former CB 2 transportation committee vice chair, says that Dworkin’s death has been an awakening for the community. “Sentiments about crossing this intersection range from uncomfortable to terrified,” he said. “I really don’t think anyone is going to go back to business as usual.”

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Trucker Who Killed Jessica Dworkin Cited for Careless Driving

Photo via DNAinfo

The truck driver who killed Jessica Dworkin in the West Village Monday morning was summonsed for failure to yield and failure to exercise due care, according to NYPD, but was not cited for possible violations related to truck size and safety mirrors.

Dworkin, 58, was riding a foot-propelled scooter west on Houston Street just before 9 a.m. Monday when she was caught by the rear wheels of a flatbed semi whose driver, identified by the Post as Greg Smith, was turning right from Houston onto Sixth Avenue.

Dworkin was dragged by the truck for two blocks, until witnesses were able to get Smith’s attention. She died at the scene.

A DNAinfo profile described Dworkin as an artist and SoHo “stalwart” known for her volunteer work:

Dworkin, who also went by the name “Jessica Blue,” moved into 128 Thompson St. between West Houston and Prince streets from Massachusetts in the 1970s, said close friend Craig Walker, who knew her for more than 20 years.

Talkative and warm by nature, the self-described artist regaled him with tales of writing for Interview and Details magazines, and frequenting Studio 54 in her younger years, he said.

Photos from the scene seem to indicate that Smith’s truck exceeded 55 feet, the maximum length allowed on surface streets without a permit. The cab is also missing the required front-mounted crossover mirrors, which give truck drivers a view of what’s directly in front of them. An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog that two citations were issued: one for failure to yield to a pedestrian and one for failure to exercise due care, a violation of state vulnerable user laws.

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