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Vanessa Gibson Endorses Grand Concourse Protected Bike Lane

Council Member Vanessa Gibson wants protected bike lanes on the Grand Concourse. After meeting with Bronx Transportation Alternatives volunteers this week, Gibson signed onto the campaign, joining four other council members whose districts include the Concourse.

Below 162nd Street, there is no bike infrastructure whatsoever on the Grand Concourse. Above 162nd, where the street becomes a divided road with service lanes, there is a buffered bike lane that’s frequently obstructed by double-parked cars.

The Grand Concourse is one of four “Vision Zero Great Streets” in the city supposed to receive safer designs as part of upcoming reconstruction projects. It consistently ranks as one of the state’s most dangerous roads for pedestrians.

Gibson joins council members Fernando Cabrera, Andrew Cohen, Rafael Salamanca, Ritchie Torres in supporting TA’s “Complete the Concourse” campaign, which has amassed 2,500 petition signatures. The effort also has the tacit support of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., who committed to safer bike lanes on Grand Concourse in his February “State of the Borough” address.

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TA Calls on de Blasio to Act After Driver Kills Cyclist, 78, on Northern Blvd

NYPD filed no charges and issued no summonses after a driver struck and killed Michael Schenkman, 78, while he biked on Northern Boulevard in Bayside.

Michael Schenkman was the 16th cyclist killed by a New York City motorist this year. Photo via Facebook

Michael Schenkman was the 16th cyclist killed by a New York City motorist this year. Photo via Facebook

New York City motorists have now killed 16 cyclists this year, compared to 14 cyclist fatalities in all of 2015, according to city crash data. After yesterday’s crash, Transportation Alternatives called on Mayor de Blasio to pick up the pace of Vision Zero safety improvements.

Schenkman was eastbound on Northern Boulevard near 223rd Street at around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday when a motorist traveling in the same direction hit him with a Chevrolet sedan. Schenkman, who lived in Flushing, sustained head and body trauma and died from his injuries at North Shore Manhasset Hospital, police said.

The NYPD public information office said Schenkman “collided in the left lane” with the car. A photo published by the Daily News shows the car with a dented hood and a large hole in the windshield — the type of damage that would occur in a high-speed collision. Information released by NYPD did not mention driver speed.

As is customary when police don’t ticket or charge a motorist who kills a person, NYPD withheld the driver’s name, identifying him only as a 25-year-old man. The department said the investigation was ongoing as of this afternoon.

Schenkman was a driver for former public advocate Betsy Gotbaum, the Daily News reported, as well as a long-time cyclist and member of Transportation Alternatives. “Every morning he got on his bike and rode 15 or 20 miles,” Peter Schenkman, the victim’s son, told the News.

“Michael, who was passionate about bicycling, was a beloved Transportation Alternatives member who joined us on many of our bike tours and supported our work to make New York City streets safer for all road users,” said TA Executive Director Paul White in a statement released today. “We are dedicating our upcoming NYC Century Bike Tour on September 10th to his memory.”

In addition, TA has scheduled a “Ride for Mayoral Action” on September 15. In his statement, White noted that a large share of cyclist fatalities this year happened on streets that the city knows are dangerous:

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Carlos Menchaca Wants to Make Fourth Avenue Protected Bike Lane a Reality

With DOT preparing a major capital project for Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue next year, it’s now or never for a protected bike lane on this important route linking Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Park Slope, and Downtown Brooklyn. Fortunately, local Council Member Carlos Menchaca has been on the case for months, talking with local residents, community groups, and DOT about how the Fourth Avenue project can make the street safe for biking.

Carlos Menchaca

Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

I spoke to Menchaca today about this effort. He said that DOT has been cool to the idea but hasn’t closed the door on a Fourth Avenue protected lane, which he said is “the next natural step” for safety along the corridor. Here’s our interview, lightly edited for length and clarity.

Tell us about the efforts to put a protected bike lane on Fourth Avenue.

This community has been thinking about Fourth Avenue and the enhancements for such a long time now. Community Board 7 came out in favor of the enhancements that you see now, on the Fourth Avenue corridor from Atlantic over to Bay Ridge.

March 30 marked, for me, the moment where we really got together. Both [my] staff and some community members had been talking about it. We sat down and said, “What do we want to see here?” We had been briefed by DOT in the last year, 2014 and 2015, and there was some clarity that the enhancements that are there are working. But at the end of March, we said we really wanted to push the bike lane forward. We met with Keith Bray and the DOT staff in early April, and there were some initial positive responses to the concept. Then, in June, we got a cold response, and so where we are right now is [trying] to better understand [DOT’s] analysis, and compare it to a lot of the community’s analysis.

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Six City Council Members Endorse de Blasio Trash Hauling Reforms

“Density

Density of existing private trash hauling routes, at left, and a proposed zoned system. Image: DSNY

A group of City Council members has endorsed Mayor de Blasio’s plan to reform the way commercial waste is collected.

Antonio Reynoso, chair of the council’s sanitation and solid waste management committee, issued a statement praising the mayor’s proposal to cut the number of miles traveled by private carting fleets. Also signing on to the plan are council members Brad Lander, Donovan Richards, Steve Levin, Margaret Chin, and Carlos Menchaca.

Currently, the private haulers who handle all commercial waste in the city contract with individual businesses. The system leads to a lot of overlapping truck routes, polluting the air and making streets less safe. The de Blasio administration wants to reduce inefficiency by having carters bid to handle all the commercial waste within defined geographic zones.

A report issued by DSNY and the Business Integrity Commission estimated that a zone-based system could reduce truck traffic by up to 15 million miles a year. The effect would be greatest in areas near waste transfer stations in the South Bronx, northern Brooklyn, and eastern Queens, the report found.

“I want to thank the Administration, particularly the Department of Sanitation, for taking on this complicated issue,” said Reynoso. “Since I’ve been overseeing the private carting industry as Chair of the Council’s Committee on Sanitation, I’ve referred to it as the ‘wild, wild west’ because it is inefficient and unregulated. A collection zone system will give us the opportunity to promote sustainability, improve worker safety, get dangerous trucks off the streets, and in general improve what is now a very problematic industry.”

Private trash haulers kill more pedestrians per mile driven than any other type of vehicle in NYC, according to “Killed by Automobile,” a landmark 1999 analysis of crash data produced by Charles Komanoff [PDF]. Drivers of private trash trucks killed at least six people in NYC between 2010 and 2015, according to crash information compiled by Streetsblog.

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Stark Divisions Between Dems and GOP on Climate Impacts of Transportation

How polarized are the two political parties on key questions about transportation policy and climate change? As you can imagine, the answer is “very.”

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer (CA), ranking member of the Committee on the Environment and Public Works. Photo: Wikipedia

California Senator Barbara Boxer. Photo: Wikipedia

The senior Democrat and Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — California’s Barbara Boxer and Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe, respectively — each wrote an opinion this week for the Eno Center for Transportation about a proposed federal rule to require state DOTs to measure their impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

Boxer is the ranking Democratic member of the committee. Her column applauds the move to measure the climate impacts of state and regional transportation policy:

Establishment of a performance measure for carbon pollution is critically needed now. Since 1970, carbon emissions produced by the transportation sector have more than doubled, increasing at a faster rate than any other end-use sector. By requiring transportation agencies to track carbon emissions, we can evaluate whether transportation investments are effective in meeting the goal of protecting the environment.

Senator Jim Inhofe (OK) is chair of the Committee on the Environment and Public Works. Photo: Gage Skidmore

Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe. Photo: Gage Skidmore

Meanwhile, Committee Chair Inhofe challenged the legitimacy of the rule:

The goal of the laws I co-authored is to improve the safety and advance the modernization of our roads and bridges. FHWA’s proposed GHG regulation would divert the limited time and resources of States and local governments away from this goal to pursue instead the administration’s unlawful and overzealous climate agenda.

Yes, the “overzealous agenda” of transparently documenting how much carbon pollution is caused by billions of dollars of spending on transportation.

FHWA regulators will be wading through these and many other comments in the coming months as they produce a rule that may or may not require states and regional planning agencies to finally measure their impact on the climate.

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DOT Caves on Marine Park Bike Lane, Will Remove Protection

After resident complaints, DOT will switch the parking lane and bike lane on East 38th Street in Marine Park. Image: DOT

DOT will reverse this design and expose cyclists to moving traffic on East 38th Street in Marine Park. Image: DOT

A new protected bike lane segment on East 38th Street in Marine Park won’t be protected much longer. Even though the new layout provides a similar width for parking and driving as other residential streets in the area, DOT has caved to pressure from local residents who want to go back to having a short stretch of wide-open asphalt.

The two-way protected bike lane between Avenue U and Avenue V was approved by Brooklyn Community Board 18 earlier this year as part of a package of improvements to connect the neighborhood to the Jamaica Bay Greenway [PDF].

Image: DOT

Map: DOT

Local Council Member Alan Maisel pushed DOT to remove the parking protection. He said that because of the redesign, “people can’t get into their driveways,” sideview mirrors have been knocked off, and delivery trucks on the street are blocking traffic.

But the bike lane is next to a park and doesn’t affect access to driveways. The only difference for motorists is that the travel lane is now 12 feet wide, which is still on the wider side of standard city street dimensions.

A DOT spokesperson told the Brooklyn Daily that the parking protection will be removed by the end of the month, leaving cyclists exposed and the bike lane vulnerable to double-parking and other obstructions.

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Garodnick Proposes Three-Strikes Suspension Policy for TLC Drivers

Council Member Dan Garodnick introduced legislation today establishing a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy affecting for-hire drivers who have had license suspensions. The bill would prohibit drivers from receiving a license from the Taxi and Limousine Commission if they have received three suspensions in the past 10 years on either their DMV-issued or TLC-issued licenses for traffic-related infractions.

Council Member Dan Garodnick wants a three-strikes policy for TLC drivers who have received license suspensions. Photo: Jeffrey Zeldman/Flickr

Council Member Dan Garodnick wants a three-strikes policy for TLC drivers who have received license suspensions. Photo: Jeffrey Zeldman/Flickr

TLC is “in the process of reviewing the bill,” according to an agency spokesperson, who pointed to existing penalties for TLC and DMV violation points.

Those rules, enacted in 2014 after the mayor signed a package of Vision Zero bills, look at points on a driver’s license within a 15-month window. The rules mandate one-month suspensions for drivers who have received between six and nine points for traffic violations, and license revocation for drivers with 10 or more points within a 15-month period.

Garodnick’s bill (Intro 1243) goes after drivers who rack up multiple suspensions and keep returning to the road, but never receive enough points at one time to have their license revoked.

“There are hundreds of thousands of trips in TLC-licensed vehicles each day, and our bill promotes safer streets by getting repeat violators of traffic laws out from behind the wheel of taxis,” Garodnick told Streetsblog.

There is no estimate available of how many drivers would be affected by Garodnick’s three-strikes proposal, but driver representatives are not happy about it. New York Taxi Workers Alliance spokesperson Bhairavi Desai told the Daily News that the bill is “baseless scapegoating” of drivers. “What this does is deprive drivers of the ability to show rehabilitation,” she said.

Garodnick countered that the legislation would serve to ensure that repeat dangerous drivers are not putting New Yorkers in danger. “Suspensions are serious and are not issued easily or lightly. If someone has not just one, or two, but three suspensions, that is more than enough reason for us to doubt their ability to be a safe driver,” he said.

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Curb Jumper’s License Revoked Six Months for Killing Mallory Weisbrod

Dimas Debrito, the curb-jumping driver who killed 24-year-old Mallory Weisbrod and injured two others last August, pled guilty on Thursday to two misdemeanors for reckless endangerment and failure to exercise due care leading to serious physical injury. He will also agree to a six-month license suspension. In another case, a driver will receive six months jail time after pleading to a fatal February hit-and-run in Richmond Hill, Queens.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance

Debrito, 64, was driving southbound on Second Avenue at more than twice the 25 mph speed limit when he veered his silver Mercedes through the intersection with 49th Street and over the southwest curb at 4:24 p.m. on August 10, 2015. He struck Weisbrod, pinning her body against a light pole, according to court documents provided by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. Weisbrod succumbed to her injuries five days later.

After an investigation by NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad, including video evidence, Vance brought charges against Debrito in October, according to court documents. In addition to the two charges included in the plea bargain, Vance had also been charging Debrito with a third misdemeanor, for reckless driving. A Vance spokesperson declined to comment when asked why this third charge was not included in the final plea deal.

At his sentencing on September 23, Debrito will also receive 30 days of community service, mandatory enrollment in an “aggressive driving program,” and a $1,000 fine, according to Vance’s office.

Weisbrod was one of fourteen pedestrians killed by curb-jumping drivers in 2015, according to data compiled by Streetsblog. Since her death, NYC DOT has moved forward a plan to extend the Second Avenue protected bike lane,  including the intersection where Weisbrod was killed. Protected bike lanes lead to a 22 percent reduction in pedestrian injuries in the three years after they are installed, according to DOT.

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Q&A: Trottenberg Previews Tomorrow’s “Shared Streets” Debut

For five hours tomorrow, limited vehicular traffic will transform 60 blocks of Lower Manhattan into "shared streets" for people on foot and bikes. Image: DOT

For five hours tomorrow, limited vehicular traffic will transform 60 blocks of Lower Manhattan into “shared streets” for people on foot and bikes. Image: DOT

Summer Streets takes a big step forward this weekend with “Shared Streets: Lower Manhattan.” From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow, DOT will open up a 60-block radius in the Financial District to pedestrians and cyclists, limiting motor vehicle access to residents, deliveries, and emergency vehicles [PDF].

The event evokes the concept of “shared space” — where pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists navigate streets based on the movements of other users, as opposed to curbs, signage, and traffic lights. Shared Streets will feature activities for cyclists of all ages, as well as historic walking tours and games for kids.

The full list of offerings is available on the DOT website. Tomorrow also brings the second installment of Summer Streets 2016, when Lafayette Street and Park Avenue will be car-free between the Brooklyn Bridge and 72nd Street from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Speaking to Streetsblog this morning, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the Financial District’s narrow streets already function a lot like shared space, and are primed for tomorrow’s “experiment.” Check out our Q&A with Commissioner Trottenberg, lightly edited for length, after the jump.

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Is Cuomo Ready to Rid Downtown Syracuse of I-81?

Governor Cuomo seems eager to teardown Syracuse's crumbling I-81. Photo: Onondaga Citizens League

Governor Cuomo seems ready to tear down Syracuse’s crumbling I-81. Photo: Onondaga Citizens League

Speaking in Syracuse yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared to indicate support for the removal of 3.75 miles of Interstate 81, the aging elevated highway that cuts through the heart of downtown.

“That could be a transformative project that really jump-starts the entire region,” Cuomo said, according to the Post-Standard. “I-81 did a lot of damage — a classic planning blunder. Let’s build a road and bisect an entire community. That’s an idea, yeah, let me write it down.”

With the elevated portion of I-81 fast approaching the end of its useful life and in need of near-constant repairs, state officials have narrowed its future to two options: tear it down and replace it with a surface-level boulevard, or rebuild it — which would most likely require widening the highway. A third option, an underground tunnel, is viewed as costly and infeasible.

The state DOT is in the midst of cost and environmental analyses of the remaining options, and is expected to issue a draft environmental impact statement by the end of the year. Cuomo did not explicitly say he supported a surface-level boulevard, but with the tunnel all but ruled out, if he wants to get rid of the highway it’s the only option left.

Cuomo also indicated a readiness to get things moving. “We procrastinate,” he said. “We wait for everyone to agree. You know when that day is going to come? Never. Never. If you wait for the perfect, you’re never going to get there. You will do nothing. And that’s just what we’ve done on I-81. We’ve done nothing. Find the best solution with the most agreement and move forward.”

Cuomo has been on somewhat of a highway removal kick of late. Earlier this year, the state budget included $97 million to transform the Bronx’s Moses-era Sheridan Expressway into a surface boulevard. And in April, the governor has lent his support to the proposed teardown of Buffalo’s Kensington Expressway.

The governor’s office has not responded to a Streetsblog inquiry asking whether his comments mean the state will go forward with the I-81 teardown.