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Streetfilms

By Clarence Eckerson

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National Bike Summit 2014: United Spokes

Usually I limit conference wrap-up videos to right around four minutes in length. But there were so many great (and funny!) moments at this year’s National Bike Summit, it was important to pack in all of the coverage we could grab.

So sit back and enjoy many of the faces and fun that made this year’s #NBS14 a big hit.

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The Rise of Open Streets

Streetfilms has been documenting the open streets movement for over seven years, beginning with our landmark film in 2007 on Bogota’s Ciclovia, currently the most viewed Streetfilm of all time.

The next year, Mike Lydon of The Street Plans Collaborative decided to get an open streets event going in Miami, which led to his research for The Open Streets Project, a joint project with the Alliance for Biking & Walking.

Miami wasn’t alone. In 2008, there were new open streets events in more than a dozen cities, including San Francisco, Portland and New York. All told, open streets events have increased tenfold since 2006.

“The Rise of Open Streets” examines the open streets movement from myriad perspectives — how it began, how events are run, how they shape people’s perceptions of their streets, and how creating car-free space, even temporarily, benefits people’s lives. And it looks not only at big cities like Los Angeles, but smaller ones like Fargo, Berkeley, and Lexington.

We’ve interviewed some of the most important people in the movement, including former NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and former Chicago DOT Commissioner Gabe Klein, as well as former Bogota Parks Commissioner Gil Penalosa and Enrique Jacoby, from the Pan American Health Organization.

We were proud to partner with The Street Plans Collaborative and the Alliance for Biking & Walking to produce this film, which we hope will encourage even more open streets events throughout the world. Funding for “The Rise of Open Streets” was graciously provided by the Fund for the Environment & Urban Life.

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The Metamorphosis of NYC Streets

There’s nothing more dramatic than looking back five or ten years at Streetfilms footage to see how much the streets of New York City have changed. In this wonderful montage, check out the incredible changes at Times Square, Herald Square, the Brooklyn waterfront, and many other places that outgoing NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and her staff have intrepidly transformed.

We have similarly high hopes for Mayor Bill de Blasio as he takes office, and look forward to what he and new NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg accomplish. Even though so much has changed, the vast majority of our streets still need to be rethought and redesigned. We need more space for efficient modes, slower speed limits, and traffic calming for our most vulnerable citizens. I hope this short gets them excited to top the transportation record of the Bloomberg administration.

Please note: This is but a short sample of the before-and-after footage at our disposal. Seriously, we could have put together a one hour version!

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Bicycle Anecdotes From Amsterdam

Here we present our final — and most informative — Streetfilm from Amsterdam. It provides a nice cross-section of commentary on life in the City of Bikes. If you’d like to skip directly to a certain section, use this table of contents:

0:17 Rejecting the Automobile
2:15 A bike system that works for everyone
4:05 There’s a science to what looks like “bicycle chaos”
5:55 Coming to The Netherlands from the United States
7:33 Dutch Bicycle Culture

Make sure you check out our other Streetfilms from Amsterdam: No, Amsterdam is Not “Swamped” By BikesAmsterdam Draws Bike Boxes to Organize Bike Parking, and Some Things You Might See While In Amsterdam.

I still find it amazing that a five-year-old in Amsterdam can ride straighter and with more confidence than the average U.S. adult!

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More From The Netherlands: Bike From Assen to Groningen

If you haven’t seen the latest Streetfilm, Groningen: The World’s Cycling City, you should check it out. Like, now! It has broken every single Streetfilms viewing record — nearly 40,000 plays in just the first week.

One of the folks featured in that video is David Hembrow, who has been reporting on cycling in the Netherlands for many years via his blog, A View from the Cycle Path, which you will want to devour. He also leads group bike tours of many cities in the Netherlands.

I was very fortunate to spend some time with him, and we got along famously. Above is a video with highlights from our 20 mile bike journey from Assen to Groningen. It’s only a small taste of what you’ll experience in the Netherlands, but I think it will leave you craving more.

David recently put up a blog post to accompany the Groningen Streetfilm, which is full of references to a wealth of information about the city. Good stuff!

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Groningen: The World’s Cycling City

It’s no secret that just about anywhere you go in the Netherlands is an incredible place to bicycle. And in Groningen, a northern city with a population of 190,000 and a bike mode share of 50 percent, the cycling is as comfortable as in any city on Earth. The sheer number of people riding at any one time will astound you, as will the absence of automobiles in the city center, where cars seem extinct. It is remarkable just how quiet the city is. People go about their business running errands by bike, going to work by bike, and even holding hands by bike.

The story of how they got there is a mix of great transportation policy, location and chance. You’ll learn quite a bit of history in the film, but essentially Groningen decided in the 1970s to enact policies to make it easier to walk and bike, and discourage the use of cars in the city center. By pedestrianizing some streets, building cycle tracks everywhere, and creating a unique transportation circulation pattern that prohibits vehicles from cutting through the city, Groningen actually made the bicycle — in most cases — the fastest and most preferred choice of transportation.

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Pulaski Bridge: Six Lanes for Cars, One Cramped Path for Peds and Bikes

The Pulaski Bridge is a vital link between Queens and Brooklyn. Since it was built 60 years ago, pedestrians and cyclists have been relegated to a narrow path. The shared path was good enough for some time, but when Greenpoint and Long Island City started growing rapidly a few years ago, that ceased to be the case. With more people walking and bicycling between boroughs, the path has become cramped, uncomfortable, and now — at times — even dangerous.

Currently, NYC DOT is studying the possibility of putting a two-way bike path on the south-bound side of the roadway, which would open up the current path for people walking. It presents a few tricky design obstacles, but a plan to make it happen is reportedly nearing completion and will soon be presented to the local community boards.

Rush hour is when you see the worst crowding. On a recent commute home, I took 15 minutes of footage for this Streetfilms Shortie. As you can see, the path is full of people going both directions — runners, bicyclists, walkers, subway commuters and even quite a few rollerbladers. This isn’t the worst of it — I’ve seen the path much more congested.

While observing the ped/bike interaction (and in most cases it is extremely gentle and cordial — in all my years I’ve never seen more than a few words exchanged between users), make sure to also take note: there is no traffic congestion on the roadway. I’d say the numbers of cars that pass over the Pulaski barely justify two lanes in each direction. Three lanes is overkill. Repurposing one car lane for bicycling will not hinder car traffic and should even help calm drivers as they transition to McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint, which has a terrible safety record.

Just in case the community boards need a reminder of why this project should move forward, I thought it was prudent to grab this footage.

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A Look at Pittsburgh’s Bike Parking and Presumptive New Mayor


The future looks bright for Pittsburgh for 2014. As they prepare to host the Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference next September, last week Project for Public Spaces held a one-day summit in advance of next year’s big event.

One thing Pittsburgh is doing is creating some innovative and fun bike parking facilities. As you’ll see from the video, we present three types, including a converted space in a parking garage decorated in a “Space Invaders” theme, an extremely unique and secure bike parking facility that repurposes shipping containers, and bike parking corrals outside some very busy restaurants.

Pittsburgh City Council Member Bill Peduto delivered a great speech to help kickoff last week’s conference. He won the Democratic primary for mayor and is the overwhelming favorite to win the post in less than two months. He has a very impressive grasp of transportation issues and has been a huge fan of Streetfilms for years. Understanding just how important livability is to a city, he can hit the ground running on transportation. I think the next four years in Pittsburgh could be groundbreaking.

I caught a few minutes of Peduto’s remarks, in the video after the jump. And check out short films of two Pittsburgh bike and pedestrian bridges here.

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Montreal’s Car-free Rue St. Catherine and Bustling Bike Rush Hour

While spending a week in Montreal, my wife and I stayed right along the Rue Sainte Catherine, which we discovered is closed to motor vehicles from May 15 through September 6 in two main sections. The first, a mile-long stretch that’s been car-free in the summer since 2008, has a lot of restaurants and is filled with pedestrians all night long. The second, a more recent addition, is a smaller section to the west which features plenty of programming and music near the Place des Arts.

I put together a montage that will give you a small taste of the experience. It’s hard to convey the peace and quiet you feel, but I tried.

I last visited Montreal in 2001 to ride the annual Tour de L’ile, and the bicycling is as good as I remember it. We got Bixi bikes one day and documented a little of the biking life. The p.m. rush hour in Montreal is pretty thick with cyclists in the protected bike lanes. And, as in world’s other great bike cities, you’ll see many children and seniors riding. Good indicator species.

Mikael Colville Andersen at Copenhagenize seems to think Montreal doesn’t get its bicycle props. I’d have to agree, at least during the beautiful summer months.

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Amsterdam Draws Bike Boxes to Organize Bike Parking

Amsterdam cycling advocate Marjolein de Lange regales us with this tale about how in 2006 cyclists came up with a very simple solution — draw bike box outlines directly on the pavement! — to better organize the bike parking outside a popular supermarket. It’s so simple and shows how sometimes engineers might over-think a problem.

Marjolein tells us these are now common in many shopping areas in Amsterdam and other cities. Although I will add that this only works well in cities where nearly all bikes have kickstands.