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The 2015 NYC Streetsies, Part 3

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There’s just a few hours left in 2015 and you know what that means — this is your last chance to contribute to Streetsblog’s year-end pledge drive. We count on reader donations to keep us going, and your gift will enter you to win a versatile Tern Link D8 folding bike. Please support our work if you can!

Have a great New Year, Streetsblog readers, and enjoy the third and final installment of this year’s Streetsies. We’ll see you back here on Monday.

Activists of the Year

New York wouldn’t make progress on safer streets without the thousands of people who give their time and energy to the cause — organizing, speaking up, demanding change. Streetsblog’s Activists of the Year have been at it a long time, and you can trace some of the most important developments in 2015 to their efforts.

Lizi Rahman and Lisa Sladkus. Photo: Paul Martinka

The indefatigable Lizi Rahman and Lisa Sladkus. Photo: Paul Martinka

Lizi Rahman lost her son Asif in February, 2008, when a truck driver struck and killed him while he was biking on Queens Boulevard. “We have to get a bike lane on Queens Boulevard,” she said shortly after the crash. “It might not bring my son back, but I will know that my son gave his life for a good cause. For him I’ll do this, and it will help save other bikers in the future.” Lizi has continued to work for change, most recently with Families for Safe Streets, and to be the most prominent public voice for transforming Queens Boulevard in particular. She never took “no” for an answer and the city’s redesign of 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard in 2015 is a testament to her perseverance. Lives will be saved.

Lisa Sladkus has been tenaciously advocating for safe streets on the Upper West Side since before I started reporting for Streetsblog. It can be grinding, frustrating work, especially when certain members of the local community board seem intent on foiling even the simplest changes, like adding bike racks. She never wavered, and the streets of the Upper West Side are better for it. This year, DOT finally put forward a redesign for Amsterdam Avenue that promises to calm traffic by narrowing the motorway and adding a protected bike lane. Lisa and many other dedicated neighborhood residents deserve a ton of credit for their persistence and effectiveness.

Thank you Lizi and Lisa for making streets safer for all of us.

Read more…

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The 2015 NYC Streetsies, Part 2

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The Streetsies just won’t quit. Yesterday’s awards were about projects. Today we’re focusing on people and politics. Stay tuned for the final batch tomorrow, and don’t forget you’re running out of time to make a year-end donation to Streetsblog, which enters you to win a new Tern Link D8 folding bike.

Elected Officials of the Year

Here’s who stood out in a very deep field of contenders for this Streetsie in 2015.

Honorable mentions go to a trio of City Council members: Brad Lander, who swooped in and saved a Kensington street safety plan from community board purgatory; Donovan Richards, for carrying the banner for Woodhaven Boulevard bus rapid transit; and Antonio Reynoso, who got the city talking about why it doesn’t make sense for people on bikes to follow the same set of rules as people driving cars.

Our second runner-up is Public Advocate Tish James, who used her office as a platform to advance several smart streets-related campaigns. James was right there with Richards standing up for Woodhaven BRT. She also introduced a bill to revise city traffic rules that rob people of the right-of-way while crossing streets, and she publicly called on DOT to make bike infrastructure standard in street redesigns.

First runner-up is City Council Member Mark Levine. Extending the 125th bus lanes to West Harlem was a key issue for Levine when he ran for office in 2013. He kept up the pressure this year and the city delivered, speeding up transit trips for thousands of passengers every day. Levine helped advance another major improvement with his vocal support for a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue.

Streetsblog’s Elected Officials of the Year are two Queens council members — Julissa Ferreras and Jimmy Van Bramer.

Julissa Ferreras and Jimmy Van Bramer

Julissa Ferreras and Jimmy Van Bramer

This was the year protected bike lanes reached the interior of Queens, with DOT putting a protected lane on 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard and proposing another for 111th Street in Corona (which, with any justice, the agency will build out quickly in 2016). Van Bramer and Ferreras created a receptive political climate for these projects, asking DOT to redesign streets, hosting workshops, and gamely going up against the not-in-my-backyard contingent. With 2.3 million residents and a nasty collection of car-centric arterial streets in need of major changes, Queens could use more leadership like that.

Read more…

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The 2015 NYC Streetsies, Part 1

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Welcome to the first installment of the 2015 NYC Streetsies. The votes are in, and today we’re looking back at how streets changed for walking, biking, and transit this year. Tomorrow will be all about the people who left a mark on the city’s streets.

The Best Thing That Happened This Year

Cutting the ribbon on the first Citi Bike station in Queens. Photo: Stephen Miller

Bike-share debuted two years ago and put a charge into New York City cycling. Bicycling in the center of the city surged overnight. New protected bike lane segments on Midtown avenues accompanied the debut of the service. But despite the high demand, the future of Citi Bike was cloudy. With its bike supplier going bankrupt, would Citi Bike ever expand and reach more neighborhoods? With customers getting fed up with unpredictable service, could it even stay in business?

New ownership came on in 2014 promising to fix a broken system, and in 2015 they implemented a top-to-bottom bike-share overhaul. New software, new hardware, new bikes (designed by Ben Serotta!). It worked. You can trust the app. You barely have to worry about dead docks. Your bike is almost certainly not going to slip unpredictably into a lower gear.

Improved reliability was a prerequisite for expanding bike-share, and this summer the service area grew for the first time since launch. DOT and Motivate added more than a hundred stations in western Queens, northern Brooklyn, and Manhattan — with more coming in 2016 and 2017. Ridership is rising again.

Read more…

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Cast Your Vote for the 2015 NYC Streetsies — And Give to Streetsblog

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It’s time for our year-in-review, the Streetsie Awards, and there are more things to vote on than ever. Before I get to that, please take a moment to consider what Streetsblog is worth to you.

Streetsblog matters because policy makers and elected officials know our audience demands results. You want safer, more livable streets, and Streetsblog’s reporting holds public officials accountable for delivering them.

Reader support is essential to producing Streetsblog. In 2016, your contribution will help us…

  • make the case for street redesigns that prioritize transit, biking, and walking — putting people first, not cars
  • watchdog city agencies and keep the de Blasio administration to its Vision Zero promises
  • press the City Council to change parking requirements that clog streets with traffic and drive up the cost of housing

…and respond to lots of opportunities, threats, and other situations that don’t fit neatly into bullet points.

Everyone who contributes will be entered to win this sweet folding bike from Tern, a Link D8:

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Okay, now it’s Streetsie time. The polls are open until Sunday at midnight. Next week, we’ll hand out virtual hardware, then we’ll resume our usual publishing schedule after the new year. If you want to vote on more Streetsies, Streetsblog USA has not one but two posts to slake your thirst for polls.

Please give if you can, and have a great holiday, Streetsblog readers.

 

The Best Thing That Happened This Year

Total Voters: 251

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Best Walking Project

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Best Bicycling Project

Total Voters: 204

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Best Bus Project

Total Voters: 183

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Best Public Space Project

Total Voters: 145

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DOT's Biggest Missed Opportunity to Add Good Bike Infrastructure

Total Voters: 191

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NIMBY of the Year

Total Voters: 181

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Best Department of Transformation Intervention

Total Voters: 148

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Favorite Streetfilm

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Streetsblog USA
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Vote for the Best Urban Street Transformation of 2015

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It’s almost time to say goodbye to 2015, which means we’re about to hand out Streetsies to recognize achievements for walking, biking, and transit in American cities this year.

Earlier this month we asked readers for nominations for the Best Urban Street Transformation of the year, and here are the standouts from your submissions. It’s a great batch and all of these cities deserve recognition for claiming space from cars and devoting it to people. But only one can win! Your votes will determine who gets the honor.

Here are the nominees:

Chicago: Washington Street

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Photo via Google Street View

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Photo: John Greenfield

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Send in Your Nominations for the Best Urban Street Transformation of 2015

Center-running, level boarding sbX bus service helped E Street in San Bernardino capture “Best Urban Street Transformation” honors last year. Photo courtesy of Matt Korner

Did your city turn a dangerous, high-speed street into a safe place to walk and bike this year? Got a new transitway or protected bike lane in your hometown that’s changing how people get around? Streetsblog wants to know about it.

The search is on for the best American street redesign of the year. Send in your nominations and Streetsblog will put the best ones up for a vote to our readers.

Last year, E Street in San Bernardino, featuring the center-running sbX bus rapid transit service, took the prize, beating some spectacular competition in Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Boston and Seattle.

Send your submissions to angie [at] streetsblog [dot] org or post them in the comments. Please include a short description of the project and what it accomplished, as well as good before-and-after photos. Strong supporting materials will put your nominee in the best position to reach the final vote. Entries are due by December 17.

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The 2014 NYC Streetsies, Part 3

We’re putting a bow on 2014 with this, the third and final Streetsies post. (Just joining us? Have a look at parts one and two). If you haven’t given to our year-end pledge drive yet and want to support media that makes an impact on your streets, don’t forget to donate before the ball drops.

Lifetime Achievement

After seven momentous years, Jon Orcutt and Bruce Schaller moved on from NYC DOT this spring.

When former transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan hired these pillars of the New York transportation reform scene in 2007, it sent a clear signal: Change was coming to DOT. Between the two of them, Orcutt and Schaller led the development and/or implementation of several major initiatives to make safer, more multi-modal streets — including but certainly not limited to Citi Bike, Select Bus Service, and the Vision Zero Action Plan.

Without their contributions, DOT would not be the modern transportation agency we know today, where goals like safety, sustainability, and street life figure prominently. Their impact on the agency and the city will be felt for a long time.

Best News for the Future of American Bicycling

The restructuring of Citi Bike saved bike-share in New York City from limping along indefinitely with seriously flawed technology and a management team that was out of its depth. With new management and fresh capital, Citi Bike should become more reliable, efficient, and expansive in 2015 — if former MTA boss Jay Walder and his team deliver. And a healthy, growing Citi Bike means biking for transportation will become accessible and appealing to more New Yorkers.

The impact will be felt outside New York too. All the bike-share systems run by Citi Bike’s parent, Alta Bicycle Share (that includes Boston, Chicago, DC, and San Francisco), will benefit from the hardware and software upgrades that should be coming soon. After a year of stagnation, American bike-share is poised to grow again.

The de Blasio administration and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in particular deserve credit for seeing this deal through.

Read more…

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The 2014 NYC Streetsies, Part 2

Enjoy the meaty middle installment of Streetsblog NYC’s annual-awards-slash-year-in-review. Here’s where to catch up on the first part if you missed it yesterday, and here’s where you can enter to win a fantastic PUBLIC R16 road bike by making a tax-deductible year-end gift to support our work.

Elected Official of the Year

Bill de Blasio at a Vision Zero announcement in January with relatives of Noshat Nahian, the 8-year-old boy who was killed by a truck driver on Northern Boulevard. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

Streetsblog bestowed this distinction to Richard Brodsky in 2008 for wrecking congestion pricing’s chances in Albany, and to Melissa Mark-Viverito in 2012 for fighting through the bikelash to bring high-quality protected bike lanes to her East Harlem district. It’s all about who put a stamp on the past 12 months, and 2014 was the year Bill de Blasio set the agenda for NYC streets and transportation policy. There’s a big asterisk next to this Streetsie though: The mayor coasted to it on the momentum of his incredibly strong start.

Two weeks after taking office, de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton stood by the families of traffic violence victims and made a big public commitment to “protect all New Yorkers” from reckless driving and dangerous streets. The release of the administration’s Vision Zero Action Plan the following month propelled an impressive set of street safety bills through Albany and the City Council. These laws, including the city’s new 25 mph default speed limit, are a credit to de Blasio’s leadership.

“We have to act right now to protect lives,” de Blasio said at the February press conference for the action plan. That urgency needs to be sustained — we also have to act next year, and many years after that. New laws are worthless if they aren’t enforced, and plans to re-orient city agencies around traffic safety don’t mean much if the commitment flags after a few months. The mayor hasn’t abandoned Vision Zero by any means, but neither has City Hall followed through in convincing fashion in the second half of the year.

NYPD appeared to be caught flat-footed after the passage of Intro 19-190 gave police a new legal tool to hold drivers accountable for injuring people with the right-of-way (a situation that has started to improve). DOT has yet to release the borough safety plans that were supposed to emerge from the Vision Zero workshops the agency wrapped up in July. And the TLC hasn’t shown how it will measure the effectiveness of its new driver training policies and in-vehicle safety tech. If City Hall has a system in place to track agencies’ progress and hold them accountable for the performance of Vision Zero programs, it’s not visible to the public. (Ticking boxes doesn’t count.)

To give New York a legacy of exceptionally safe streets, de Blasio has to recapture the bold urgency that animated the Vision Zero breakthroughs of his first few months in office.

Best Disappearing Act

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton hasn’t shown his face at a Vision Zero event in ages. It’s hard to see how NYPD can pull off the shift in priorities and resources necessary to drastically reduce traffic deaths without a leader at the top who’s fully engaged in the effort.

Best Constituent Services

There have never been more sitting members of the City Council who get the value of reallocating street space to walking and biking than there are right now. At the same time, NYC DOT under Polly Trottenberg has so far taken a more timid approach to street redesigns than the agency did under Janette Sadik-Khan. If you’re a council member who wants to bring safer streets to your district, you have to speak up.

The representative who showed how it’s done in 2014 was Julissa Ferreras of Queens. In a September letter to Trottenberg [PDF], Ferreras laid out everything she wants for the streets her Corona constituents use every day — where bike infrastructure should go, where pedestrian safety improvements are needed, and where to implement new 20 mph zones. Expect to see exciting changes in Ferreras’ district soon.

Read more…

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The 2014 NYC Streetsies, Part 1

Happy holidays everyone, and welcome to the first installment of the 2014 NYC Streetsies. The polls are closed, the people have voted, and now it’s time to present the winners.

Before I get to that, please take a moment to support Streetsblog and Streetfilms with a tax-deductible year-end gift. I cannot emphasize the importance of reader contributions enough. Your donation makes a huge difference and will help power us forward in 2015.

On with the show…

Best Livable Streets Victory

With the passage of legislation lowering the default speed limit in New York City from 30 to 25 mph, the law now calls for motorists to drive at a pace more fitting for crowded urban streets. Though it may not seem like much, slowing down a few miles per hour gives motorists more time to react and avoid striking other people, while reducing the severity of crashes that do occur. For New Yorkers going about their business without a protective metal frame around their bodies (and for people in cars, too), this is going to save lives and prevent severe injuries.

The lower speed limit was a central plank in Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan. To skeptics of the proposal, changing signs to read “25” instead of “30” carried little weight on its own. Without enforcement and street designs to go along with the new law, the thinking went, behavior wouldn’t change much. The thing is, the new speed limit is far from a standalone measure — it’s more like an organizing principle to continually refine and improve speed enforcement and street design in New York City.

The number of speed cams authorized by Albany increased by a factor of seven this year, from 20 to 140, giving some teeth to the new speed limit. But the automated enforcement program remains hampered by Albany’s restrictions on where and when the cameras can operate, and it’s still too small for NYC’s 6,000-mile network of surface streets. Think of the 25 mph law as a benchmark that the speed camera program can be measured against. Are the vast majority of motorists on the city’s major streets driving at or below 25 mph? If not, then the city needs to strengthen its automated speed enforcement measures.

By lowering the threshold of acceptable driving speed on city streets, the 25 mph law also strengthens the rationale for redesigning New York’s treacherous arterials for greater safety. Achieving a “design speed” of 25 mph or less on all surface streets would mean major overhauls of deadly stroads like Northern Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue. In their current configuration, these wide streets send plenty of signals to disregard the 25 mph limit. The new law is an imperative to change their design.

It’s extremely rare to enact a policy that affects nearly every street in the city. Even rarer to move that policy through Albany on the first try. Bills of much smaller scope often fall short in the state capitol for years before gaining traction. (Remember how long it took to pass legislation enabling bus lane enforcement cameras in New York?) The 25 mph speed limit became law in just one session, thanks to the de Blasio administration making it a priority, and to our next honorees…

Activists of the Year

Greg Thompson, Joy Clarke, Aaron Charlop Powers, Mary Beth Kelly, and Ellen Foote of Families For Safe Streets with DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg (center) and director of strategic initiatives Juan Martinez (center-left) in Albany this spring. Photo: Families For Safe Streets

In a matter of months, Families For Safe Streets became a powerful force for policies that protect people from traffic violence. Every member of the group has lost a loved one to reckless driving and dangerous streets, and they’ve made it their mission to spare other people from the grief they’ve experienced. Since forming in February, they have changed the political landscape for street safety legislation to a remarkable degree.

When they went to Albany, Families For Safe Streets won over lawmakers who needed to be persuaded to support a lower speed limit. In the City Council, their message helped pass significant new legislation to hold drivers accountable for injuring pedestrians and cyclists with the right-of-way, and to keep dangerous cab drivers from getting back behind the wheel. By speaking to elected officials and reporters about their personal loss and the moral obligation to prevent traffic violence, they’re making New York City streets safer for all of us.

Read more…

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Cast Your Vote for the 2014 Streetsies — Then Give to Streetsblog

With the end of the year approaching, it’s time to take stock. How did New York City make progress toward safer, more livable streets in 2014? Where did NYC DOT really nail a great street redesign? Who’s still lagging behind on Vision Zero? Who was the most clownish oaf on Twitter?

You decide how to apportion reverence and scorn in the people’s choice categories of our annual Streetsie Awards. The polls in NYC are open until midnight on Saturday, December 27. (For more people’s choice action, head over to the Streetsblog USA Streetsies.)

2014 was a year of transition, with a new mayor, new people leading key city departments, and new rubrics to frame City Hall’s streets and transportation agenda. We saw both tremendous legislative accomplishments and frustratingly uneven implementation of Vision Zero policy. With about 250 people losing their lives to traffic violence so far this year, New York will have to do better in 2015.

Creating a city of safe streets with effective transit is a long-term, politically challenging project, and there’s always the risk that elected officials will shrink from the task. Streetsblog is here to hold their feet to the fire. We need your support to keep City Hall, NYPD, and DOT accountable to their Vision Zero goals, and to bang the drum for street safety to be a high priority in Albany, district attorneys’ offices, and community boards. Your donations enable us to do that.

Make a tax-deductible contribution to Streetsblog before the end of the year and you’ll also be eligible to win this beautiful PUBLIC R16 bike:

Okay, now enjoy the voting. We’ll run the results next week and will resume our normal publishing schedule on January 2.

 

Best Livable Streets Victory

Total Voters: 261

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Best Bike Lane Project

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Best Sign That Things Can Actually Change at NYPD

Total Voters: 226

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You Give "Vision Zero" a Bad Name

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The Andrew Cuomo Muscle Car Award

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Social Media Faux Pas of the Year

Total Voters: 240

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Most Outstanding NYC Sneckdown

Total Voters: 98

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Don’t forget to give! Have a great holiday and we’ll see you back here soon.