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By Clarence Eckerson

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Varick Street Gets a Granite Bike Path

As any bicyclist can tell you, a bumpy ride on cobblestones is no fun. In NYC, the DOT has implemented its first granite bikeway on one block of Varick Street to make it easier for cyclists and to keep them off the sidewalks.

You will almost never see me on a sidewalk in NYC for any reason, but I confess, I have used the sidewalk for this one block in the past. The smooth granite is a great idea.

I got to speak with Nick Carey, a project manager with NYC DOT’s bicycle program, about how the project came to be and how the department might use the same idea for future bike routes.

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The Philadelphia Bike Story

Of U.S. cities with more than a million residents, the one where people bike the most is Philadelphia. In 2012, the U.S. Census estimated Philadelphia’s bicycle commute rate at 2.3 percent [PDF], higher than Chicago (1.6 percent) and New York (1.0 percent).

It’s just about always been that way. That comes as a surprise to many people, since Philadelphia doesn’t have a lot of bike infrastructure. But there are other street design and urban design factors at work, many due to the fact that Philadelphia is an old city.

For one, the city has a lot of narrow streets. That makes it tougher to add bike lanes, but it also means motorists tend to travel at speeds that don’t intimidate people on bikes. On average, people also live closer to their jobs than in most other places, making bike commuting a better option. Stop signs are more prevalent than signals, and where there are traffic lights, the sequencing is short, so people on bikes don’t have to wait long at intersections. In the end, most people bike because it is the fastest, most convenient option.

Thanks to Alex Doty, executive director of the Bike Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, and all the other bicyclists I got to speak with. They’ll tell you plenty more reasons why biking is good there, and how it could be better.

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Freeways Without Futures: I-345 in Dallas

In this Streetfilm, Patrick Kennedy, founder of A New Dallas, talks about the movement to replace Interstate 345 in downtown Dallas with connected streets and walkable development. Shot at the “Freeways Without Futures” session at the Congress for New Urbanism’s recent conference in Dallas, the piece provides views of I-345 from heights most people never get to see.

Kennedy was joined by Peter Park, who was instrumental in the removal of the Park East freeway in Milwaukee, and Ian Lockwood of the Toole Design Group. Their take on urban highways like I-345 was too powerful and logical to not share with the rest of the universe.

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Right of Way Memorializes Victims of Traffic Violence

On Saturday, Right of Way posted silhouettes along a Kent Avenue construction fence representing all 264 people known to have lost their lives to traffic violence in NYC in 2014. Each image was identical, save for victims’ names and crash dates. Smaller silhouettes were posted to represent children killed by drivers.

It was a very emotional scene as members of Families For Safe Streets came by to assist and passersby took in the power of the visual.

At one point during the installation, a truck driver hit the mural wall, and after about 15 minutes trying to make a turn, proceeded to drive up the Kent Avenue protected bike lane, one of the busiest bike routes in the city.

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Ride With Clarence on the Tour de Staten Island


Close to 2,000 people turned out Sunday for Transportation Alternatives’ 2015 Tour de Staten Island. For the event’s fifth year, riders were treated to areas of the new Fresh Kills Park that aren’t yet open to the public. Other highlights included oceanside riding and views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, where the Harbor Ring Committee continues to advocate for bike and pedestrian access.

Naturally, Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson was there.

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Gabe Klein on How DC Built a Smarter Parking System

Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson is working on a piece about parking policy and was recently in Washington to discuss some of that city’s innovations with former District DOT chief Gabe Klein. The full Streetfilm is still a work-in-progress, but Clarence put together these clips where Klein explains the city’s pay-by-phone parking meter tech, which goes great with dynamic pricing, and its system for selling curb space for one-time uses like moving trucks, which cut down on fraud and looks like a smart way to prevent double-parking. Enjoy.

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NYC Replaces a Parking Crater With Parking-Free Housing and Retail

One of Manhattan’s few remaining parking craters is going to be filled in with housing and retail — all without any car storage, despite the city government’s belief that the site called for up to 500 parking spots. Call it “Parking Sanity.”

The project, called Essex Crossing, is on the Lower East Side. It replaces surface lots formerly known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, or SPURA, which were cleared decades ago and formed a parking crater engulfing multiple city blocks. The development will add 1,000 apartments (including 500 subsidized units), park space, a grocery store, a public market, and other retail.

Earlier this year, the developers decided to drop parking from the project entirely, even though the city pushed for up to 500 parking spaces — above and beyond the parking maximums that would normally be allowed under the zoning code.

The city, which initiated the project before selecting the developer, saw off-street parking as an elixir to help the project go down smoothly with the neighborhood. But it was not economical to build that much parking, and the developer eventually chose to eliminate parking entirely because site limitations would have placed the garage in a problematic location.

Streetsblog and Streetfilms recently sat down with Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents the area. Chin has advocated for the city to replace parking garages with affordable housing in her district, and she thinks things will be just fine without parking in the new development. As she says, people have plenty of other options for getting around.

Construction on the first phase of the development is set to begin this summer.

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Exploring the Streets of Stockholm

In 2014, I got the chance to visit Stockholm near the end of an incredibly hot summer. It’s a charming and walkable place with a downtown buzzing with people. There’s an easygoing rhythm to the city. After dark the pedestrian streets fill with both residents and tourists out for a walk, even after most stores and restaurants close.

I met up with a great mix of advocates, residents, and transportation experts to discuss what’s going on in Stockholm. Sweden is well-known as the birthplace of Vision Zero, the country’s goal to eliminate road deaths and serious injuries by 2020. Several American cities have now made it their explicit goal to reduce traffic deaths to zero in the next 10 years..

There’s much more worth taking away from Stockholm, which in the last decade has implemented congestion pricing, expanded its bike network, and adopted a plan called “The Walkable City” to create streets that work better for public life.

In tandem with the release of this film, I have great news to share: Since some Streetfilms, including this one, can get a bit long, we’ve decided to break them up into bite-size pieces, for those times when you want to show a great idea but may not be able to hold people’s attention for 12 minutes. These shorter segments will be available on Vimeo. Below are the four slices of Stockholm video you can mix and match to reach the masses.

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America’s Love Affair With Great City Streets

People crave interaction with other people. Given the choice, we’ll gravitate to places where we can socialize or just be in the presence of our fellow humans.

It’s not in our nature to spend hours each day isolated inside a car, but for much of the 20th century we shaped our streets and cities to make driving inescapable. In a few short decades we all but designed walking out of our lives. The good news is that by now, many cities have recognized that mistake and are working to fix it. We’re falling in love with our streets again.

In this Streetfilm, four American mayors talk about why they’re working to make their cities more walkable, bikeable, and sociable, and you’ll hear from advocates and experts who are leading the movement to reclaim streets for people.

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Hey #bikenyc: Where Would You Put New York’s Next Protected Bike Lanes?

At the September press conference where Bicycling Magazine named New York City the best American city for biking, NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg committed to adding five miles of protected bike lanes per year “all over the city, not just in the core of Manhattan.”

Since then, anytime I’ve been at bike events or out on the streets shooting video, I’ve been interviewing riders about where they would like to see new protected bike lanes. As with most things bike, when you talk to the people riding the streets every day you get incredibly smart recommendations.

So I present this montage of New Yorkers who bike, sounding off on where they want the city to install protected bike lanes. I think they all made great suggestions.