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Posts from the "Ian Dutton" Category

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Manhattan CB 2 Votes Unanimously for Hudson Street Bike Lane Upgrade

Double parking and worn out markings plague the Hudson Street bike lane.

The full board of Manhattan Community Board 2 voted unanimously last Thursday night to endorse a community-generated plan to convert the buffered bike lane on Hudson Street to a parking-protected lane.

The new protected lane would extend the protected Eighth Avenue bike lane down to Canal Street and the Ninth Avenue bike lane to Bleecker Street.

The Hudson Street bike lane is one of the oldest buffered bike lanes in the city, and its faded stripes are often blocked by double-parked vehicles. The lane is wide enough that it could be upgraded to a protected bikeway without removing a travel lane. Parking would only need to be eliminated to install pedestrian refuge islands, popular among local residents, and mixing zones at intersections.

The resolution asks DOT to return to the community board with a plan to upgrade the lane.

“This is a common-sense conversion — it’s low-hanging fruit for DOT,” said Ian Dutton, one of two community board members who developed the proposal. “Because the buffered lane is already there, though it’s worn-away to the point of being almost invisible, there will be hardly any consequences for drivers — only shorter crossings for pedestrians, a greener and narrower-appearing street to calm traffic, and a far safer and comfortable cycling experience, maximizing the west-side bicycle corridors on Eighth and Ninth Avenues.”

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Gerson Bill Mandating Review of Transpo Projects Is Now Law

gerson_1.jpgIn one of his final acts as a City Council member, Alan Gerson won passage for a bill that may slow down major street projects.

New York City's 2009 legislative session didn't end without a parting gift from outgoing Lower Manhattan rep Alan Gerson. A new law that passed City Council unanimously before the end of the term mandates that any significant changes to the streetscape be subject to comment by both the local council representative and the community board. Though the comments are not binding, the law seems primed to slow down the process of re-designing streets at a time when projects to enhance bus service and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists are top priorities in New York City, and hundreds of New Yorkers are still dying every year on city streets. Mayor Bloomberg signed the bill into law on December 28.

The law tacks on up to 65 days of back-and-forth between the city, council members and community boards on major street projects, after which DOT is not obligated to make any changes. Ian Dutton, the vice chair of Manhattan Community Board 2's Traffic and Transportation Committee and a resident of Gerson's district, noted the seeming superfluity of the law: "When we really needed it was over the last 50 years when they were pushing highway projects on us that we didn't want. Now we have a DOT that is really responsive to the neighborhoods for the first time." Dutton did add that "it may help going forward if there's an administration that wants to rip up all these bike lanes and pedestrian plazas."

The law is a variation on an idea that Gerson had floated for over a year. An earlier version of the legislation would have required local input into almost any new transportation project, big or small. 

The bill that passed City Council is somewhat more limited. It covers "major realignments of the roadway," particularly the addition or removal of a lane of traffic or parking on more than four blocks or "1,000 consecutive feet of street." That would certainly apply to one of Gerson's chief targets, the Grand Street bike lane, and probably the Chatham Square reconfiguration as well. Any true bus rapid transit project would fall under the scope of the law.

Even on projects where the law applies, however, it might have little effect.

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Drivers Respect Grand Street Parking-Protected Cycle Track

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Though modest by comparison, here's another first for this historic day. Manhattan Community Board 2's Ian Dutton sent over photos of the new Grand Street cycle track, the city's initial attempt at a parking-protected design.

Says Ian:

With a one-block exception, from Varick St. to Centre St. seems to be open for business, only lacking the bicycle symbols on the lane itself. The section through Little Italy and Chinatown is nearly complete, with a few minor surface details remaining.

My experience on two circuits today was that it worked beautifully. Cars were parked as expected and the "mixing zones" accommodating turning vehicles across the bike lane were handled unusually respectfully from drivers, who were probably not sure how to treat them. Not bad for the first (or maybe second) day.

There were a few pedestrians who stepped off the curb to cross the street and waited in the bike lane, but that is no different than any other bike lane. I'm very hopeful that we're off to a good start.

Photo pool contributor Jacob-uptown had similar things to say after cruising the new Grand: "Cars have learned where to park ... This is a huge precedent for creating these cheap yet highly effective bike lanes."

More pics after the jump. Note the overhead signage.

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More Scenes from Park(ing) Day 2008 New York City

I biked from Park Slope to Chelsea this morning and managed to visit eight Park(ing) spots along the way. Here's what I found...

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Four strangers engaged in an intense Scrabble game at the busy corner of Atlantic Ave. and Court St. in Downtown Brooklyn, my first stop.

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The Park(ing) spot on Montague St. in Brooklyn Heights was jam packed with teenagers from St. Anne's on their lunch break. These two played Connect Four.

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Separated Bike Path Isn’t Gay Enough for CB4

Manhattan Community Board 4's transportation committee unanimously approved DOT's plan to install a physically-separated bike path on Eighth Avenue in Lower Manhattan. The committee enthusiastically recommended the plan to the full board on Wednesday. The board then voted to ignore their own committee and block the plan. Apparently, some members feel that complete streets and safe bike infrastructure are somehow incompatible with the neighborhood's gay-friendly environment. Chelsea Now has the play-by-play:

Board member Allen Roskoff was more specific. “I refer to Eighth Ave. between 14th and 23rd Streets as ‘Gay Boulevard,’ he said. “Large numbers of gay people go there… It’s where we feel at home. … The atmosphere there—the restaurants, the activity, the people walking— it’s a home to many of us that no other avenue is. I don’t think these changes are for the positive in any way, shape or form.”

Which reminds me... Have you looked in to joining your local Community Board lately? This kind of thing is going to keep happening until either the Community Board system is overhauled or we get more Ian Dutton's, Christine Berthet's and Teresa Toro's serving on local boards.

The DOT's plan for a pilot project on Eighth Avenue, which can be downloaded here, mirrors the complete street redesign of Ninth Avenue one block to the west. The Eighth Avenue bike lane also runs through part of CB2, which unanimously approved the project last month.

It's also worth noting that outcry against the bike lane at CB4 was not at all universal and that Community Boards only have advisory power. DOT can go ahead with the project with or without the board's support. Again, from Chelsea Now:

Board member David Hanzel observed that “walking down Ninth Ave., I think it’s an improved experience.” He said there’s less traffic, fewer cars making sharp turns, and it’s “more of a leisurely stroll now.”

Hanzel was seconded by longtime member Bob Trentlyon, who observed that the discussion was the “most retro conversation I’ve heard at a board meeting in a long time. … There must be two Ninth Aves., because the Ninth Ave. I see, the traffic is moving very smoothly along… There are no businesses that have gone out of business since this has happened; there are more people starting to use the bike lanes.”

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Peak Rate Parking Proposal Sails Through Preliminary Meeting

meter.jpgIan Dutton, vice-chair of Manhattan CB2's transportation committee, tells Streetsblog the idea of piloting a variable-rate parking program in Greenwich Village met with approval at last week's DOT-sponsored strategy session. The program, which DOT is calling "Peak Rate Parking," would increase meter prices during peak hours, boosting turnover and reducing traffic caused by cars cruising for spots.

"All attendees agree that the pilot is worth going ahead with," Dutton said in an email. "We worked through the area that we're going to recommend for the pilot and discussed issues like the meters' effective hours and time limits."

DOT had distributed flyers throughout the neighborhood explaining that the pilot program was contingent on a positive verdict at the meeting. Few people attended despite the outreach, which Dutton interpreted as a sign that opposition to the idea is not strong. "My feeling is that this indicates that residents are not particularly concerned about 'protecting' unreasonably low meter rates and that businesses don't fear changes to the way things are done," he said.

A resolution on the peak parking proposal will be finalized at a CB2 transportation committee meeting on July 8, and will go to the full board on July 24 for a final vote. If implemented, the pilot program is expected to begin in September.

Photo: misplacedparadox/Flickr

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DOT Asks Public for Ideas on Shoupian Parking Program

meters.jpgMore livable streets news out of Manhattan's Community Board 2. This Thursday, at the request of DOT, CB2 will hold a public strategy session to consider how variable-rate parking might work in the district. If participants determine that such a program would benefit the neighborhood, said CB2's Ian Dutton, DOT has pledged to implement a six-month pilot program starting in September.

Variable-rate parking, advocated most famously by UCLA professor Donald Shoup and given a boost last week by Transportation Alternatives, applies a market-based mechanism to meter prices, charging more during peak hours. The policy promises to cut congestion by reducing the distance drivers travel cruising for spots, which according to T.A.'s recent study [PDF] adds up to millions of miles throughout the city each year.

In flyers distributed for the meeting, DOT calls the proposal "Peak Rate Parking" and says a pilot program would test the following:

  • If turnover at meters increase during peak periods
  • If double-parking decreases
  • If drivers “circle” less to find a space
  • If buses can pull to the curb more frequently

According to Dutton, DOT is currently undertaking a study of parking demand in the neighborhood to give meeting participants a sense of what different meter rates will accomplish. Public input will strongly influence how DOT proceeds. "They want to let the neighborhood come up with ideas," said Dutton.

People who live or work in the vicinity of Community District 2 can play a role in shaping this critical policy reform this Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center -- 3 Clarkson Street, 3rd Floor.

Photo: the wicked witch of the east/Flickr

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Manhattan CB2 Unanimously Approves Eighth Avenue Cycle Track


The cycle track will replace the current buffered bike lane on Eighth Avenue.

In a pair of votes last week, DOT's plan for a protected bike path on Eighth Avenue got the thumbs up from Community Board 2. On Tuesday, the transportation committee approved a resolution expressing support for the cycle track, and on Thursday, the full board did the same. Both votes were unanimous.

The path will run from Bank Street to 23rd Street and is also set to be reviewed by Community Board 4.

Ian Dutton, vice-chair of the CB2 transportation committee, gives credit to DOT's public outreach effort. "They printed up brochures for [the plan], and went door to door," he said. "Instead of there being more uproar, at our meeting absolutely no one was there to express concerns." The twelve attendees who spoke about the cycle track all supported it, he added.

In the resolution, CB2 requested bell bollards for pedestrian refuges and leading pedestrian intervals at some intersections. DOT has shown more openness to such suggestions than in years past, said Dutton. "It's remarkable how much they're seeking our input instead of just dictating terms. They're asking the neighborhood what they think."

According to Dutton, DOT plans to complete the cycle track by November.

Photo: NYCDOT

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“Don’t Block the Box” Bill Clears Albany

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With 2800 agents able to enforce rules against blocking the box, drivers may soon take these signs seriously.

A bill intended to step up enforcement against drivers who block the box made it through the state legislature last Thursday. While the measure is not expected to play a major role in traffic reduction, it should improve conditions for pedestrians and residents on some of New York's most congested streets, as long as agents follow through on strict enforcement.

The bill reclassifies blocking the box from a moving violation to a parking violation, a switch that enables all 2800 of the city's traffic agents to issue citations for the offense. Previously, only cops and a small number of agents had that ability. The bill also bumps up the penalty from $50 to $115.

In a 2006 study conducted by Borough President Scott Stringer's office [PDF], more than 3,000 blocking the box violations were observed at 10 locations in Manhattan during a single nine-hour period, but no driver received a ticket.

At the worst locations -- near the entrances to the Lincoln and Holland tunnels -- box-blocking vehicles clog the crosswalk constantly during peak hours. "That is a huge part of complaints on Varick Street and Broome Street, where pedestrians can't get across the intersection," said Ian Dutton of the Community Board 2 transportation committee, which passed a resolution in favor of the bill last Tuesday. "This is a beginning step to make the enforcement more comprehensive."

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Petrosino Square to Expand Into Lafayette Street

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Alan Gerson extolls the value of using underutilized traffic lanes for park space, with Friends of Petrosino Square founder Georgette Fleischer, Parks Borough Commissioner Bill Castro and CB 2 Chair Brad Hoylman 

Manhattan Community Board 2 member Ian Dutton reports that this morning city officials held a groundbreaking for the renovation of Petrosino Square. As part of the project, the square, which lies on Lafayette Street between Kenmare and Spring, will be expanded, as one of Lafayette's two southbound travel lanes will be turned into park space. Writes Dutton:

Interestingly, the loudest round of applause from the crowd of local residents, many elderly Italian citizens, appeared to come during [Council Member] Alan Gerson's remarks regarding freeing up useless road space on Lafayette St. for community use. "Today is an historic day as we transfer a lane of pavement to more space for an expanded park -- space for the people who appreciate the neighborhood and space for public art."

Though long-time Little Italy residents might not appreciate the impact of crowd- and traffic-attracting street festivals, the value of proper use of public space hasn't been completely lost on this audience.

Photo: Ian Dutton