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Posts from the "Eyes on the Street" Category

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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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Eyes on the Street: New 30 MPH Speed Limit Signs on Riverside Drive

Riverside Drive is a neighborhood street where drivers routinely injure pedestrians and cyclists. Why is the city allowing motorists to drive faster there?

Riverside Drive is a neighborhood street where drivers routinely injure pedestrians and cyclists. Why is the city allowing motorists to drive faster there?

According to DOT, as of November 7 the maximum legal speed on 90 percent of city streets is 25 miles per hour or lower. Regarding the criteria for exceptions to the new 25 mph default speed limit, a DOT FAQ sheet reads as follows:

Some larger streets, such as limited access highways or major arterial streets, have posted speed limits of 30 MPH and above; these will remain in place while DOT evaluates these locations.

One street that now has a 30 mph posted speed limit is Riverside Drive, which is lined with residences and parks for most of its length, from the Upper West Side to Washington Heights. The above photo was taken this week at Riverside and W. 114th Street, in Morningside Heights. This was no DOT oversight. The sign, along with other 30 mph signs posted on Riverside, were installed this week.

According to crash data mapped on Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat, just about every Riverside intersection saw at least one motorist collision with a pedestrian or cyclist between 1995 and 2009. In 2005 a driver killed a cyclist at Riverside and W. 115th Street, less than a block from where this photo was taken.

As the DOT FAQ says, “Data shows that driving at or below 25 MPH improves drivers’ ability to avoid crashes. Pedestrians struck by vehicles traveling at 25 MPH are half as likely to die as those struck at 30 MPH.” With a 30 mph speed limit, Riverside Drive is not as safe as it could be.

“Riverside is a major commuting and recreational cycling route, and is plagued by speeding,” wrote the reader who sent us the photo. “Who decided that this cycling thoroughfare and neighborhood street should have a higher speed limit than most of the rest of the city?”

DOT is closed for Veterans Day. We emailed to ask what the rationale was for 30 miles per hour on Riverside, and will update here if we get a response.

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Eyes on the Street: Greenway Link That Burns Up Kips Bay Condo Owners

The 37th Street connector to the East Side Greenway is in, and condo residents are not happy. Photo: Stephen Miller

The 37th Street connector is in, providing a two-way bike link between First Avenue and the East Side Greenway. Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT has striped and painted an important greenway connection on one block of East 37th Street, which received the support of Manhattan Community Board 6 last month. DOT began installing the bike lane this week, and the agency says the full project will be complete by the end of next week.

This short but crucial greenway connection is the object of a lawsuit filed by the board of the Horizon condominiums. Streetsblog has obtained a copy of the complaint [PDF], which features this syntactically tortured passage, referring to a CB 6 transportation committee meeting last month: “DOT’s representative was off putting to questions raised by the Horizon. In addition, bike lobbyists were ostracized and attacked being called stupid and selfish and taunting them for ‘not getting what they wanted’… The meeting was extremely divisive for no good reason.”

CB 6 went on to overwhelmingly support the plan after DOT modified it to accommodate concerns raised by the condo owners. But the condo board insists that a bike lane on their side of the street creates risks for “children, elderly and disabled residents.” Children going to school buses and seniors going to get taxis will have to cross the bike lane, placing everyone in danger, the suit alleges. The horror!

The condo owners are asking the court to stop the bike lane installation, which is almost complete. A court date is scheduled for next week.

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Eyes on the Street: Cabbie on the Hudson River Greenway

Photo: Shelly Mossey

Photo: Shelly Mossey

The Hudson River Greenway is supposed to be a place where New Yorkers can walk and bike without fear of being hit by motorists. But this is not the case, as regular greenway users are well aware. Caught on camera today by Shelly Mossey, this cab driver was on the bikeway to the south of the NYPD tow pound.

A few yards away is the site where an NYPD truck driver fatally struck Carl Nacht in 2006, as Nacht rode on the greenway with his wife, Mary Beth Kelly. Six months later, a drunk driver traveling at highway speeds slammed into greenway cyclist Eric Ng a mile south of Chelsea Piers, killing him.

At the time, there was nothing to prevent drivers from turning onto the bikeway after exiting the tow pound. There is now a hard center-line bollard designed to deter drivers from making that turn. It’s difficult to imagine someone maneuvering a car around the bollard without seeing it. It looks like this cab driver was determined to get in there.

Mossey wrote on Facebook that an NYPD officer stationed at the tow pound entrance “did not even notice” the cab. After seeing the photos, Mossey wrote, the officer said she “will file a complaint.”

“I think that section of bikeway needs cameras,” wrote Mossey. “I always see taxis on the bikeway in that section.”

In addition to motorists who illegally drive on the path, cyclists and pedestrians must contend with conflict points where drivers cross the greenway. Last July a NY Waterways bus driver, apparently en route to the 39th Street ferry terminal, seriously injured a cyclist just north of the tow pound.

The Hudson River Park Trust, which gets revenue from commercial enterprises inside the park, intends to add more driveways and greenway conflict points for a new retail and food market with 75 parking spaces at Pier 57 in Chelsea.