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Posts from the Eyes on the Street Category

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Eyes on the Street: A Buffer for (Some of) the Sixth Avenue Bike Lane

Buffers are nice, but fall far short of a complete street with a protected bike lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

Buffers are a nice interim improvement, but a lot more needs to change on Sixth Avenue. Photo: Stephen Miller

Parts of the notoriously skinny Sixth Avenue bike lane are about to get slightly less cramped. DOT is narrowing the car lanes on the newly-repaved avenue to make room for buffers on the bike lane from Christopher Street to W. 14th Street.

While the buffers are a welcome upgrade, they’re no long-term fix for one of the city’s most intimidating — and busiest — biking streets. Sixth Avenue is overrun by motor vehicle traffic and double-parking. Without a protected bike lane, it remains incredibly hostile for people on bikes.

Protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands for Sixth and Fifth Avenues have overwhelming support from council members and community boards representing the area. DOT, which promised to begin studying complete street upgrades for both avenues more than a year ago, told Streetsblog this week that it is “currently studying the feasibility of implementing a variety of safety improvements.”

Hat tip to Dave “Paco” Abraham

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Eyes on the Street: State DOT Squeezes Van Cortlandt Park Greenway

Car drivers get two spacious lanes on the left. Golf carts get a full lane on the right. In between, cyclists and pedestrians get squeezed into a four-foot-wide path thanks to the state DOT. Photo: Urban Residue

Car drivers get two spacious lanes on the left. Golf carts get a full lane on the right. In between, cyclists and pedestrians get squeezed into a four-foot-wide path thanks to the state DOT. Photo: Urban Residue

The walls are closing in on people who walk or bike on the Van Cortlandt Park greenway in the Bronx. A state Department of Transportation highway construction project has narrowed the shared bicycle and pedestrian path to just four feet, while leaving adjacent car lanes and a golf cart path almost entirely untouched.

The cause of the greenway pinch point is the $27.8 million reconstruction of the Major Deegan Expressway bridge above Mosholu Parkway, which began in May 2014 and isn’t expected to be complete until spring 2017, according to state DOT [PDF].

The golf cart path adjacent to the greenway was narrowed slightly, but remains wide enough to accommodate larger maintenance vehicles, state DOT says. The greenway path, however, narrows immediately after southbound cyclists descend a curved incline. The space that used to be for biking is now a staging area for construction vehicles.

“Temporarily reducing the widths and alignments of both the golf path and pedestrian walkway is necessary to safely reconstruct the south bridge abutment,” said state DOT spokesperson Diane Park. “Throughout the three-year project, access to the pedestrian walkway will be maintained.”

There's about as much space dedicated to storing Jersey barriers as there is to the safe passage of cyclists and pedestrians. Photo: Urban Residue/Twitter

There’s about as much space dedicated to storing Jersey barriers as there is to people walking and biking. Photo: Urban Residue/Twitter

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Eyes on the Street: Upper Manhattan’s First Protected Bike Lane in Progress

First markings for the new protected bike lane on Fort George Hill. Photo: Jonathan Rabinowitz

First markings for the new protected bike lane on Fort George Hill. Photo: Jonathan Rabinowitz

Reader Jonathan Rabinowitz sent this photo of Upper Manhattan’s first protected bike lane, now under construction on Fort George Hill, a one-way street that connects Dyckman Street in Inwood with Fairview Avenue to the south, along the western border of Harlem River Park.

This project will give cyclists a north-south route between Inwood and Washington Heights by allotting 11 feet of the 60-foot-wide street to a bi-directional bike lane and three-foot painted buffer between the lane and angled car parking. The plan was announced in the spring of 2014, and work was originally scheduled to be completed last summer.

With a protected bi-directional lane, southbound cyclists traveling uphill won’t have to worry about motorists passing them from behind, and the easy downhill is now a legal option for northbound biking.

Bike Upper Manhattan lobbied Community Board 12 to support the Fort George Hill lane, along with a number of less ambitious projects proposed by DOT for Washington Heights and Inwood last year.

After picking up an endorsement from CB 12, DOT is planning a series of protected bike lanes in Washington Heights that will ultimately make bike travel safer between the Hudson River Greenway and the car-free High Bridge linking Manhattan and the Bronx.

Image: NYC DOT

Image: NYC DOT

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Eyes on the Street: WABC News SUV *PWNS* This Sidewalk Extension

Stay classy, channel 7. Photo: Stephen Miller

Stay classy, channel 7. Photo: Stephen Miller

New York City’s placard class — the elite few who park wherever they want, without consequence — obviously includes police and other public servants. But don’t forget the press.

This afternoon, two press SUVs, including one from WABC-TV, were parked on the sidewalk at the corner of Centre and Leonard in Lower Manhattan. The area, filled with courthouses and government offices, is rife with placard abuse from public employees and the press. The WABC SUV had press plates and, of course, there was no parking ticket on its windshield.

The same location in 2011, before the sidewalk extension was added and the parking lot in the background became part of Collect Pond Park. (Note the WABC van parked in the background.) Photo: Google Maps

The same location in 2011, before the sidewalk extension was added and the parking lot in the background became part of Collect Pond Park. (Note the WABC van parked in the background.) Photo: Google Maps

The corner where WABC parked its SUV used to be a marked crosswalk, with a slice left unpainted to squeeze in another (dubiously legal) parking spot. The corner was next to a surface parking lot.

In 2012, adjacent Collect Pond Park was completely reconstructed and expanded to replace the parking lot with green space. The project included new sidewalks and curb extensions, but even concrete appears to be no match for the “professional courtesy” that extends to all members of the placard class.

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Eyes on the Street: Curb Extensions on Park Avenue in East Harlem

Crews install a concrete neckdown at Park Avenue and 111th Street. Photo: NYC DOT/Facebook

Crews install a concrete neckdown at Park Avenue and 111th Street. Photo: NYC DOT/Facebook

People crossing Park Avenue in East Harlem often have a tough time seeing cars coming down the street. A stone viaduct that carries Metro-North trains overhead reduces visibility for walkers, cyclists and drivers alike. This week, DOT poured concrete for neckdowns at East 111th Street as part of a larger street safety project.

The neckdowns at 111th Street expand the short sidewalk in the median below the train viaduct, allowing pedestrians to safely stand in a visible location before crossing the street.

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Eyes on the Street: NBC’s Blacklist Gives Green Lane Riders the Blues

The Black List blocked off  Photo: Ben Fried

“The Blacklist” took over a block of Lower Manhattan’s only crosstown protected bike lane yesterday. Photo: Ben Fried

People bicycling east on Grand Street hit this bike lane blockage yesterday afternoon, the first spring-like day of the year, thanks to television drama “The Blacklist.” The crew used the green lane as a staging area for its film shoot, compelling cyclists to detour into the car lane and moving traffic.

“Typically we keep bike lanes clear,” said a locations department employee at Woodridge Productions, which managed the one-day shoot. “I know that bike lanes are a touchy thing for the city.” (Messages for the location manager listed at yesterday’s shoot have not been returned.)

Film shoots get permits from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. “Locations departments and Parking PAs should be sensitive to neighborhood needs,” the agency tells production companies on its website. “Do not park production vehicles in bike lanes, bus stops, driveways, at fire hydrants, loading docks or in front of active theater marquees.”

Asked about the permit for “The Blacklist,” the office indicated that it may have given the film crew permission to set up camp in the crosstown bike route. “Generally, film permits prohibit productions from blocking access to pedestrian [zones], green spaces and bike lanes,” the office said in a statement. Yesterday’s shoot, however, was permitted for Grand Street between Mulberry and Broome Streets, using the traffic lane and a curb lane. In this case, the curb lane is the bike lane; the general traffic lane was unobstructed when Streetsblog’s Ben Fried walked by the shoot at about 4 p.m.

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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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