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Posts from the "Eyes on the Street" Category

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The New York City Parking Rule That Makes Intersections More Dangerous

Parking at the edge of a crosswalk hinders visibility but is condoned under city traffic rules. Photos: Brad Aaron

Parking at the edge of a crosswalk hinders visibility but is condoned under city traffic rules. Photos: Brad Aaron

We’ve reported before how certain New York City parking rules are designed to cram a little more free car storage onto the street at the expense of pedestrian safety. In 2009, DOT removed parking restrictions on unmarked crosswalks at T intersections, and the city allows drivers with disability permits to block curb ramps that were intended to help pedestrians with disabilities cross the street.

Here’s another example of how the city prioritizes parking over life and limb. This photo shows Seaman Avenue in Inwood where it intersects with Isham Street at the entrance to Inwood Hill Park. For at least five days this SUV was parked right at the edge of this crosswalk, blocking sight lines for pedestrians as well as drivers turning right from Seaman onto Isham.

Parking right up against the crosswalk is dangerous enough that some states and cities, including New Jersey and Portland, forbid it. Drivers hurt and kill thousands of people in New York City crosswalks every year, and most victims are crossing with the signal. Poor visibility at intersections contributes to the problem, but NYC law makes it perfectly legal to obstruct sight lines with parked cars.

A parking rule fix would daylight intersections citywide, making motorists and pedestrians more visible to each other.

A parking rule fix would daylight intersections citywide, making motorists and pedestrians more visible to each other.

NACTO guidelines suggest 20 to 25 feet of clearance around crosswalks. New York City law, however, only prohibits parking within a crosswalk itself (unmarked crosswalks at T intersections excepted, of course). By allowing motorists to park where their vehicles reduce visibility at intersections, this city traffic rule is in direct conflict with the city’s Vision Zero goals.

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Eyes on the Street: Un-Plowed Bikeway on Parks Department Turf

Photo: Commenter BBNet3000

Pike Street has a bikeway and a pedestrian path, but you wouldn’t know that based on the Parks Department’s snow removal practices. Photo: Commenter BBnet3000

Most of NYC’s bridge paths and protected bikeways seem to have been cleared well in the aftermath of this week’s snowstorm, judging by the lack of snowed-in bike lane photos in the Streetsblog inbox.

It’s a different story on Parks Department turf. This stretch, flagged by commenter BBnet3000 yesterday morning, is the center median bikeway on Pike Street leading to the East River waterfront. (It remained unplowed late this morning.)

The Pike Street bike and pedestrian paths have been ignored by the Parks Department. Photo: Stephen Miller

The Pike Street bike and pedestrian path this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Landscaped malls run down the middle of Pike and Allen Streets on the Lower East Side. While the street is under the purview of the Department of Transportation, the malls themselves fall under Parks.

DOT redesigned the street in 2009 to add protected bike lanes and more pedestrian space. Since then, a few blocks have been upgraded from paint to permanent materials. On those blocks, the bikeway is now controlled by the Parks Department. So when it snows, that means a patchwork of agencies are responsible for keeping the bike lane passable on a single street.

North of Division Street, Allen Street’s bikeways are mostly cleared, whether the section is maintained by Parks or DOT. On Pike Street south of Division, the bike lanes managed by Parks are snowed-in. Pedestrian walkways along the entirety of the mall, also maintained by Parks, are completely covered in snow.

The Parks Department, responsible for 29,000 acres of land, says it has 900 staff working on snow removal. It operates 44 plow trucks assigned to a Sanitation Department detail and has 200 additional vehicles on snow removal, including smaller plows and salt spreaders.

“Our first priority is to clear park perimeters to ensure safe access for pedestrians,” said Parks Department spokesperson Sam Biederman. He added that crosswalks, bus stops, hydrants, and catch basins along park perimeters in high traffic locations — such as transit hubs and civic centers, or near schools, recreation centers, and senior centers — top the department’s priority list for snow removal. “Interior paths of all types are a lower priority during snow storms,” Biederman said. “We will be clearing snow from interior play spaces and interior walkways throughout the week.”

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Eyes on the Street: New 215th Step-Street, With Bike Ramp, Taking Shape

Photos: Brad Aaron

Looking up the northern section of the 215th Step-Street from Broadway, with bike ramp on the left. Photos: Brad Aaron

It’s been a year since we checked up on the 215th Step-Street in Inwood, where the northern section of the long, steep stairway looks to be nearly finished — complete with bike ramp.

These stairs serve as a car-free street between Broadway and the 1 train and residential blocks that make up the northwest corner of the neighborhood. “The ancient passageway was built in an era when the automobile was still a relatively new contraption and getting up or down a hill required nothing more than a decent pair of shoes,” writes Cole Thompson at My Inwood. Check Thompson’s site for photos of the step-street dating from 100 years ago, when Broadway was paved with cobblestones and there’s not a car in sight.

As promised, the Department of Design and Construction is rehabbing the northern and southern sections one at a time, with one remaining open. Locals have waited for the city to fix the stairs since the late 90s, at least, and while it seems doubtful that DDC will meet its spring deadline (the project, which began last January, was supposed to take 17 months), Inwoodites may be using the new northern section before long.

How cool is it that, on a public stairway built before the city ceded the streets to motor vehicles, the reconstructed stairs will feature a bike ramp as a modern amenity.

The stairs in 2008.

The stairs in 2008.

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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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Eyes on the Street: The Fourth Avenue Protected Police Staging Area

Officers relax in the Fourth Avenue bike lane yesterday, which has become the department’s parking lot during nearly two weeks of protests. Photo: Stephen Miller

Nearly two weeks ago, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict an NYPD officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. Since then, protestors have taken to the street on a near-daily basis. To prepare for protests near Union Square, a popular demonstration spot, the NYPD has, for the past two weeks, diagonally parked a large group of vehicles in the Fourth Avenue protected bike lane from 14th Street down as far as 9th Street.

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Thanks to DOT’s redesign of Fourth Avenue earlier this year, police mopeds and vans now have a convenient parking spot during the past two weeks’ protests. Photo: Stephen Miller

With traffic often slowed as Fourth Avenue approaches Union Square, particularly during protests, cyclists heading uptown are forced to mix it up with cars as they pass van after van with officers staying warm inside. It’s a regular problem around precinct houses, magnified to an even larger scale, and another small reminder from the NYPD: It’s their city. You just live in it.

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Eyes on the Street: The Part of Central Park That’s Only for Cars

Instead of making the park car-free, DOT's pedestrian safety improvements marked off space only for cars. Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT’s recent changes to the Central Park Loop, intended to improve pedestrian space, include these markings to designate who belongs where. The safety barrier in the background is removed when cars are allowed in the park. Photo: Stephen Miller

The Central Park loop now has a 20 mph speed limit, new lane markings, and shorter pedestrian crossings during car-free hours. The changes, implemented last week, came in response to two pedestrian fatalities in separate bicycle collisions over the summer. The park’s traffic signals remain unchanged, and the park is still a shortcut for taxis and car commuters during certain hours.

One change in particular should help galvanize the car-free park movement — the text “CARS ONLY” has been added in giant highway-scale type to the lanes where motor vehicles are allowed.

New markings indicate lower speed limits in advance of pedestrian crossings. Photo: Stephen Miller

New markings urge slower speeds ahead of pedestrian crossings. Photo: Stephen Miller

NYPD has installed portable electronic signs telling park users that the loop’s speed limit has now dropped from 25 to 20 mph. Speed limit signage throughout the park has been replaced, as well. And as loop drive users approach crosswalks, new signage and road markings recommend traveling at 10 mph at the approach to crossings. New signage and barriers have been installed at some crosswalks to mark the pedestrian crossing.

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Motorist With Now-Expired NYC Disability Placard Still Blocking Curb Ramp

The DOT disability parking permit on the dashboard expired weeks ago, but this driver continues to park in a no parking zone, blocking the curb ramp. Photo: Brad Aaron

The DOT disability parking permit on the dashboard expired weeks ago, but this driver continues to park in a no parking zone, blocking the curb ramp. Photo: Brad Aaron

And now back to Seaman Avenue. A few weeks ago we noted that motorists who obtain disability permits from the city can basically park wherever they want, even in “no parking” zones with curb ramps for pedestrians with disabilities. An unmarked crosswalk at Seaman and W. 214th Street, in Inwood, is a favorite spot for placard bearers, whether their parking credentials are legitimate or not.

The disability permit in the vehicle I photographed for the earlier post was set to expire at the end of October. Above is a picture of that same car, taken this morning, in the same crosswalk. On the dashboard was the same permit, with the same October 31 expiration date.

Not that a motorist needs a valid placard to block a curb ramp, thanks to NYPD and DOT. A DOT rule change implemented in 2009 allows drivers with or without a city permit to block crosswalks that aren’t demarcated with pavement markings or signage. On one recent morning (again, after the disability permit expired) this car was wedged into the crosswalk tight enough that pedestrians approaching from the other side of Seaman were forced to walk in traffic, in the pre-dawn darkness, to find an opening to the sidewalk.

For what it’s worth, I filed a “blocked sidewalk” complaint with 311 today. As far as I can tell there is no “blocked crosswalk” category on the 311 website, nor is there a mechanism to report disability permit abuse.

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More Arterial Carnage: Driver Seriously Injures Woman on Atlantic [Updated]

A driver hit a woman as she crossed the street at Atlantic Avenue and Washington Avenue today.

Update: A witness to this crash contacted Streetsblog. His account has been added to the post.

A motorist seriously injured a pedestrian on Atlantic Avenue at Washington Avenue in Brooklyn this morning.

A witness, who didn’t want his name published, told Streetsblog he was crossing Atlantic with several other pedestrians when the crash occurred. “There’s a silver Audi, and he’s waiting. And as we’re in the middle of the street, he just turns, and he starts — he just sped up. Pushed his foot down on the gas. Just barely missed me, and the lady next to me. The lady in front of us, about three or four feet ahead, she got hit. I couldn’t believe it.”

“As he’s approaching I’m thinking he would stop, ’cause he sees several pedestrians in the walkway,” the witness said. “But he just floored it. And there was a number of other people behind us, and a lady with a baby in front of that lady who got hit.”

“There was another guy, and he and I were of the same opinion,” he said. “This guy needed to be carted away in handcuffs, I thought.”

The witness said NYPD took his name and contact information, but only for insurance purposes. He said police on the scene did not ask him what he saw. “I was shocked, because they said they don’t take statements. ‘The insurance company will be contacting you, and they’ll be getting everyone’s side.’”

“She flew onto the windshield and was thrown onto the ground,” said a Streetsblog reader who came upon the scene after the crash and sent us these photos. “She was taken to the hospital on a stretcher.”

The crash occurred around 8:18 a.m., according to FDNY. The victim was taken to Kings County Hospital in serious condition. A Fire Department spokesperson said her injuries were not thought to be life-threatening when she was transported.

Photos of the car show damage to the windshield near the A pillar on the driver’s side. The victim was aided by several passersby.

As is usually the case with incidents that don’t immediately result in death, NYPD had no information on the crash.

“The driver got away with a mere ticket,” said our source. “Witnesses said the driver sped up and should be arrested.”

The victim was transported to the hospital in serious condition.

The victim was transported to the hospital in serious condition.

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Eyes on the Street: When Will Inwood Get Its Scarce Bike Lanes Back?

Seaman Avenue at Isham Street, looking north. New asphalt and markings, but no bike lanes. Photo: Brad Aaron

Seaman Avenue at Isham Street, looking north. New asphalt and markings, but no bike lanes. Photo: Brad Aaron

As Streetsblog readers know, Inwood is the Manhattan neighborhood where DOT periodically and without warning takes away bike infrastructure. So locals were pleased when in 2013 DOT announced a handful of modest bike projects for Inwood and Washington Heights, including Upper Manhattan’s first protected bike lane, and the rehabbing of bike lanes on Seaman Avenue, which parallels Broadway from Riverside Drive to W. 218th Street and leads to and from the Hudson River Greenway.

DOT resurfaced most of Seaman over the summer, but several weeks after center lines and crosswalks were striped and speed humps marked, the street’s bike lanes have not returned. Also, though DOT said Seaman would be repaired end to end, the southernmost blocks, where the road surface was probably in the worst shape and, therefore, the most hazardous for bike riding, were not repaved with the rest of the street.

Last month Streetsblog asked if DOT had considered protected bike lanes for Seaman. That wouldn’t work, DOT said, because the street isn’t wide enough for separated bike lanes and two lanes of parking. We also asked when the remainder of Seaman would be resurfaced, but did not get a response.

On Tuesday Streetsblog emailed DOT to ask if bike lanes on Seaman would be striped before the end of the year. We asked again Wednesday and to this point DOT hasn’t told us. We’ve forwarded our unanswered questions to Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez in the hope that his office can get a reply from DOT.

Rough street surface and barely visible bike lanes on the southern end of Seaman, which DOT has not repaved. Image: Google Maps

Rough street surface and barely visible bike lanes on Seaman at Dyckman Street, where DOT has not yet repaved. Image: Google Maps

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Eyes on the Street: SUVs Planted in 14th Street Pedestrian Plaza

Photos: Brad Aaron

Photos: Brad Aaron and Google Maps

“The Vanishing Game” is a Range Rover ad posing as a book. What a fitting title for this takeover of the pedestrian plaza at 14th Street and Ninth Avenue, a sizable area of which disappeared over the weekend under a couple of luxury SUVs.

True to the ad-as-book fakery, these things were tilted on jacks and parked on a patch of faux grass. What this was supposed to approximate I’m not sure, other than maybe fixing a flat on a putting green.

As we reported when the plaza on the north side of 14th Street was appropriated by a cosmetics company a couple of years back, corporations can apply to use public spaces through the Street Activities Permit Office. This display took up enough of the plaza that I had to cross the street to get a wide shot of it. Have to wonder if anyone with the city paused to consider that street space reclaimed for pedestrians would be sacrificed for SUV parking, if only temporarily.

No, probably not.

Now you see it...

Now you see it…

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