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DOT Can’t Control the Seasons, But de Blasio Can Fund Safer Street Designs

Let's design streets to be safe even during the most dangerous times of year. Chart: DOT

Let’s design streets to be safe even during the most dangerous times of year. Chart: DOT

Today DOT announced a “dusk and darkness” traffic enforcement and education campaign to reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths during fall and winter, when fatal crashes tend to be more frequent.

“As the days get shorter and the weather colder, crashes on our streets involving pedestrians increase — and so we are enlisting data-driven strategies to address that upturn,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement. “Through education and enforcement with our sister agencies, every driver needs to learn about the limited visibility of this season and the dangers of fast turns, especially in the evening hours.”

Trottenberg cited the redesigned approach to the Manhattan Bridge as a project that will “make crossing our busiest streets safer for everybody,” but physical street improvements are not part of the campaign.

There’s nothing wrong with drawing attention to the fact that streets are more dangerous this time of year, but it’s no substitute for street designs that make walking safer year-round.

“’Let’s all try to be more careful’ doesn’t really work,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul White told Streetsblog. “That’s a pre-Vision Zero approach.”

Severe crashes that harm pedestrians increase by almost 40 percent on fall and winter evenings compared to other seasons, according to DOT. In the coming weeks, NYPD will step up police presence and enforcement of dangerous driving behaviors “around sunset hours when data show serious pedestrian crashes increase,” according to a DOT press release. NYPD will also conduct targeted enforcement at intersections with high rates of pedestrian injuries and deaths.

In addition, NYPD and DOT will “educate drivers and other New Yorkers at high-priority Vision Zero target areas” by distributing palm cards, the press release says, some of which will remind motorists that they’re required to yield to pedestrians while making left turns.

Senior centers have already received materials on “improving safety conditions in their neighborhoods and sharing tips for getting around safely,” according to DOT. The Times reported that the city will spend $1.5 million on the campaign.

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Bill Giving Cyclists a Head Start at LPIs Gets a Council Hearing Next Month

Momentum is building for Council Member Carlos Menchaca’s bill to allow cyclists to proceed at traffic signals at the same time that pedestrians get the go-ahead. Intro 1072 would affect intersections with leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs) — signals that give pedestrians a head start to establish themselves in the crosswalk ahead of turning motorists. If the bill passes, cyclists can legally take the same head-start.

The City Council transportation committee plans to hear testimony on the bill on November 15, along with six other bills related to walking and biking.

The text of Menchaca’s bill reads:

A person operating a bicycle while crossing a roadway at an intersection shall follow pedestrian control signals when such signals supersede traffic control signals pursuant to local law, rule or regulation, except that such person shall yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

In practice, that allows cyclists to legally advance with the walk signal at intersections with LPIs. As you can see in the above clip from Brooklyn Spoke’s Doug Gordon, shot at Atlantic Avenue and Hoyt Street, people are already doing that.

The Menchaca bill officially sanctions the behavior and sends a subtle message that signals intended regulate driving don’t always make sense when applied to cycling. With a head start, cyclists can establish themselves in drivers’ visual field and stay out of blind spots.

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East Harlem Rezoning Plan Scraps Parking Minimums to Build More Housing

The Department of City Planning previewed its East Harlem rezoning proposal at Community Board 11 this week [PDF].

The Department of City Planning previewed its East Harlem rezoning proposal at Community Board 11 this week [PDF].

The Department of City Planning is preparing a major rezoning of East Harlem, and it calls for scrapping parking requirements along most of the avenues in the neighborhood.

Earlier this year, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito released the “East Harlem Neighborhood Plan” [PDF], a set of recommendations developed by her office, Community Board 11, Borough President Gale Brewer, and the grassroots social justice group Community Voices Heard. The plan called for “increased density in select places to create more affordable housing and spaces for jobs” and recommended that “any potential rezoning should eliminate minimum parking requirements.”

New York City’s minimum parking requirements drive up the cost of housing by requiring developers to build parking spots that otherwise wouldn’t get built. This adds to construction costs and constrains the supply of new housing.

On Tuesday, representatives from the Department of City Planning previewed the rezoning at Community Board 11’s monthly meeting. All areas that would get upzoned in the plan will also have parking requirements eliminated.

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5 Highlights From Last Night’s Bike-Share vs. Parking Meeting

A dense network of stations is what makes bike-share work so well in these Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Last night’s Brooklyn Community Board 6 bike-share forum lacked the fireworks of previous meetings — no physical threats this time. While the tone was civil, the demands from the anti-bike-share crowd weren’t exactly reasonable.

So far, Citi Bike has proven incredibly popular in CB 6, with some stations getting as much as seven rides per dock each day. That’s a lot more activity than the average free car parking spot ever sees.

Opponents said they would be fine with the bike-share stations if they didn’t occupy curb space that previously served as free car storage. They suggested the docks be moved onto sidewalks and that the station density be cut in half. But sidewalks in Park Slope and Carroll Gardens don’t have room for bike-share stations, and reducing station density would ruin the usefulness of the bike-share system. Bike-share only works well when you don’t have to walk more than a couple of minutes to reach a station.

With the room at capacity, Council Member Brad Lander live streamed the meeting for people stuck outside. The entire one-hour, 45-minute video (which amazingly does not capture the entire meeting) is available on Lander’s Facebook page. Here are the highlights:

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Driver Who Killed 3 People on Bronx Sidewalk Charged With Manslaughter

Nyanna Aquil, left, her grandfather Louis Perez, and Kristian Leka were killed in the Bronx by a curb-jumping driver last Halloween. Bronx DA Darcel Clark charged Howard Unger with multiple counts of manslaughter, assault, and homicide for the crash.

Nyanna Aquil, left, her grandfather Louis Perez, and Kristian Leka were killed in the Bronx by a curb-jumping driver last Halloween. Bronx DA Darcel Clark charged Howard Unger with multiple counts of manslaughter, assault, and homicide for the crash.

District Attorney Darcel Clark filed manslaughter and homicide charges against a motorist who fatally struck three people, including a child, on a Bronx sidewalk last year.

Howard Unger was indicted this week on three counts of manslaughter, three counts of assault, three counts of homicide, one count of misdemeanor reckless endangerment, and one misdemeanor count of falsifying records, according to court records.

Unger, 53, of the Bronx, hit several vehicles before driving a Dodge sedan over the curb on Morris Park Avenue near Bogart Avenue on the afternoon of October 31, 2015.

Unger crashed into a group of people who were out trick-or-treating, killing 10-year-old Nyanna Aquil; her grandfather, 65-year-old Louis Perez; and Kristian Leka, 24, who pushed others out of Unger’s path.

Aquil’s younger sisters, ages 3 and 8, were injured, as were Leka’s 9-year-old sister and his fiancé, according to the Times and DNAinfo.

Prosecutors say Unger is epileptic and “had not been taking medication as prescribed before the crash,” DNAinfo reported.

Image: WCBS

Image: WCBS

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DOT Compromises 111th Street Redesign to Win Francisco Moya’s Support

DOT's updated 111th Street plan (top) maintains two-way southbound traffic flow and omit the new crosswalks included in the original plan (below). Images: DOT

DOT’s updated 111th Street plan (top) maintains two lanes of southbound car traffic and omits crosswalks included in the original plan (below). Images: DOT

DOT has released a watered-down version of its redesign for 111th Street in Corona. The compromise has won over Assembly Member Francisco Moya, who had withheld his support for the original plan, saying 111th Street needed to retain more car lanes.


Assembly Member Francisco Moya. Photo: NY Assembly

The new design will not be as safe to cross as the original proposal. Instead of one southbound moving lane, the compromise plan calls for two southbound lanes. It does not include four painted crosswalks in the original plan. The new design maintains the two-way protected bike lane along Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Currently, 111th Street has two northbound and three southbound car lanes, leading to high traffic speeds. From 2010 to 2014, 23 pedestrians, 24 cyclists, and 92 motor vehicle occupants were injured on 111th Street, and the main goal of the project is to provide safer access to the park for people walking and biking from nearby neighborhoods. The compromise design will improve on the status quo but won’t be as safe as DOT’s original plan.

Moya staked his opposition on the argument that there’s too much traffic on 111th Street to narrow it, particularly during sporting events at nearby Citi Field and Arthur Ashe Stadium. But a DOT analysis concluded that the street could handle current traffic volumes with only one lane in each direction, and volunteers shot video during last October’s World Series games confirming that there just isn’t much traffic, even during huge events.

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CB 7 Parks Committee Votes for Hilly Greenway Detour in Riverside Park

NYC Park wants to divert cyclists from the waterfront greenway to the hillier path marked by the bold dotted green line year-round. Image: NYC Parks

The Parks Department wants to permanently divert cyclists from the flat waterfront greenway to the hillier path marked by the bold dotted green line. Image: NYC Parks

Manhattan Community Board 7’s Parks and Environment Committee voted 4 to 1 last night in favor of the Parks Department’s proposal to route cyclists away from from Riverside Park’s waterfront greenway between 72nd Street and 83rd Street.

The plan would direct cyclists inland at 72nd Street through a hilly wooded path passing through the 79th Street Rotunda, which has a particularly steep incline. The justification is that the waterfront path is too crowded for cyclists and pedestrians to share, but the crowding is only a problem during peak summer months, and the detour would be in effect year-round. It is one of three similar detours in the department’s preliminary Riverside Park Master Plan.

The project received $200,000 from Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s participatory budget, far less than the $2 million that the Parks Department reps said is needed for a full build-out. In lieu of securing funds for the full project, the money will go toward partial measures: paving gentler turns onto the detour route at 72nd Street and 83rd Street, installing bright LED lights, and trimming surrounding trees to increase visibility. The project would be implemented next year.

Ultimately, the master plan calls for regrading the path to make it flatter. That would be an expensive capital project that would cost even more than $2 million, said Riverside Park Chief of Design and Construction Margaret Bracken. Until then, the detour will be in effect and the path will be hilly. The LED lights will at least improve visibility at night.

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Read Brad Lander’s Pitch-Perfect Statement on Bike-Share and Parking

City Council Member Brad Lander released a pitch-perfect response to complaints about bike-share and curbside parking today. Other NYC pols should take note.

Council Member Brad Lander.

Every time bike-share expands to new neighborhoods, some people get upset — mainly because the local supply of free curbside car parking shrinks by a fraction of a percent. Last week Assembly Member Dan O’Donnell, who represents the Upper West Side, demonstrated how not to respond — he validated those complaints by process-truthing and promising to “restore critical parking spaces,” as if parking for bikes that are used multiple times a day is a less productive use of curb space than storing private cars.

In Brooklyn, Community Board 6 has invited people to complain about stations they don’t like, with the expectation that DOT will move at least some of them, despite the fact that station sitings were guided by a lengthy public process.

Lander’s district overlaps with that of CB 6. A statement posted today on his web site is a remarkable example of how elected officials should communicate the value of these types of changes. Here’s an excerpt:

There are approximately 25,000-30,000 parking spots in CB6. Citi Bike has taken away 150-200 of them — about ½ of 1 percent. I know that is small comfort if several of them are right near your house. But it is also important to remember that 57% of the households in our community don’t own cars. And for every parking spot lost to Citi Bike, there are approximately 5-8 bike-share trips per day (far more times than a typical side-street parking spot would be used).

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Driver Who Killed Cyclist on City Island Bridge Pleads Guilty to Homicide

Gabriela Aguilar-Vallinos

Gabriela Aguilar-Vallinos

A motorist who fatally struck a woman riding a bike on the City Island Bridge pled guilty to felony leaving the scene and homicide.

Gabriela Aguilar-Vallinos was on her way home from work at around 11:45 p.m. on September 11, 2015, when Michael Moreno hit her with a Hyundai sedan, then left the scene.

Aguilar-Vallinos sustained head trauma and died at Jacobi Hospital. She was 27.

Former Bronx DA Robert Johnson charged Moreno with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and felony leaving the scene. The case was disposed by Johnson’s successor Darcel Clark.

The top charge against Moreno — manslaughter — is a class C felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Last week Moreno pled guilty to leaving the scene and homicide, class D and E felonies, respectively.

A more severe charge than homicide under state law, class D leaving the scene carries penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison.

Moreno is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.


Drivers Have Killed Seven People in Bike-Obsessed 19th Precinct in 2016


19th Precinct CO Deputy Inspector Clint McPherson and City Council Member Ben Kallos

Blanca Pagan, the senior who was struck last Friday by a driver who failed to yield, was at least the seventh pedestrian killed by a motorist this year in the 19th Precinct, on the Upper East Side. Deputy Inspector Clint McPherson, the precinct’s commanding officer, has prioritized ticketing people on bikes, with encouragement from local City Council members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick.

Pagan, 73, was in the crosswalk at York Avenue and E. 89th Street at around 3 p.m. when Pjerin Gjerji hit her with a Chevrolet van while turning right from York onto 89th, NYPD told Gothamist. Police charged Gjerji, 48, with failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care.

Pagan, who lived nearby, was a retired nurse who came to NYC from Puerto Rico when she was a child, the Daily News reported. She died less than three weeks after a motorist struck and killed Lee Strong while backing into a crosswalk at Third Avenue and E. 71st Street, also in the 19th Precinct.

City crash data show the 19th Precinct has a high rate of traffic injuries compared to other precincts. Motorists have killed at least 13 people walking in the 19th Precinct in the last 24 months, according to data compiled by Streetsblog.

The crash that killed Blanca Pagan occurred in Kallos’s City Council district. To hear McPherson and Kallos tell it, cyclists are the 19th Precinct’s most pressing traffic hazard.

McPherson was named the precinct CO this year after his predecessor, Deputy Inspector James M. Grant, was identified as a target of an NYPD corruption investigation. “From what I understand, bikes are a big problem,” McPherson said at a precinct community council meeting, not long after taking over for Grant — who himself concentrated on bike crackdowns as motorists killed people in crosswalks.

“One of the top complaints I get in the district is about bikes,” Kallos told Our Town after a bike ticket blitz earlier this year, which according to Our Town was conducted in collaboration with Kallos and Garodnick.

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