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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.

Streetsblog USA
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Call for Submissions: The Best Urban Street Transformations of 2014

Minnapolis' Washington Avenue is thriving after the addition of light rail and bike facilities. Photo: Greater Greater Washington

Washington Avenue in Minneapolis is thriving after the addition of light rail and bike lanes. Photo: Michael Hicks

Did your city implement a road diet this year that really knocks your socks off? Is there a street near you with a new light rail line, or a protected bikeway, or fresh red transit lanes and bus bulbs? How about a stoop-to-stoop rebuild that created more space for people to enjoy the sidewalks?

Well, we want to hear about it! As part of the year-end Streetsies competition on Streetsblog USA, we will be naming the “Best Urban Street Transformation” in the nation, with the help of your nominations and votes.

The example at the top of this post is Washington Avenue in Minneapolis, where the Green Line light rail debuted this year. The street includes excellent bike facilities and some car-free areas. The rail line has attracted higher-than-expected ridership, and the street is buzzing with activity.

We’ll be accepting nominations through December 14. Email angie at streetsblog dot org with photos (before and after shots from a similar vantage point are ideal) and a short written description of the street overhaul, why it was implemented, and how it has improved the street. After we review the nominees, a panel of Streetsblog editors will select which ones to include in a reader’s choice poll, and we’ll put it all up for a vote.

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The same block of Washington Avenue in 2009, via Google Street View.

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The 2013 NYC Streetsies, Part 3

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Happy New Year, and welcome to the third and final installment of the 2013 NYC Streetsies, also known as the Streetsblog Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Lifetime Achievement

We take it for granted these days that NYC DOT is primed to make change happen — that every year, the department will roll out a fresh new batch of projects devoting a greater share of our streets to walking, biking, transit, and public space. It wasn’t always that way. Before Janette Sadik-Khan took over in 2007, the defining traits of NYC DOT were stasis and rigidity. Change happened, but the pace was glacial, and modern ideas about designing and managing streets failed to take hold.

DOT was a place where ambitious bike planners quit in frustration. Where grassroots pedestrian safety initiatives languished for a decade. Where mayoral campaign proposals for faster busways gathered dust. Then-DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall deferred to engineers who believed the agency’s prime directive was to move cars. There were no strategic goals to improve the safety, efficiency, and sustainability of the street network. As late as January, 2007, Weinshall resolutely opposed legislation requiring DOT to evaluate its performance according to a new set of metrics that prioritized walking, biking, and transit.

Fast forward to April 2008. Sadik-Khan had led the agency for a year, bringing with her a new team of top deputies and giving fresh directives to the department’s career-long engineers. By that point, her DOT had already implemented the first stretch of on-street protected bike lane in any major American city and begun to experiment with quick, low-cost public space projects like the Pearl Street plaza in DUMBO. That month, in step with the Bloomberg administration’s citywide sustainability blueprint, PlaNYC 2030, the agency put out its first strategic plan, setting specific benchmarks to implement transit-priority corridors, reduce traffic deaths, and increase bicycling. It was, in retrospect, a key benchmark in and of itself. This is what it looked like for a big-city transportation department to commit to values other than moving traffic. There weren’t many other precedents, if any, in the country.

Photo: Brad Aaron

The strategic plan, the protected bike lanes, and the nimbly-built plazas were emblematic of the wave of innovation during Sadik-Khan’s tenure. But “innovation” didn’t necessarily entail invention. The city had been left in a position where it had to play catch-up with global leaders in transportation policy. By trying out proven ideas in New York for the first time, DOT could show that overhauling city streets was not only possible here, but also effective and desirable.

Before long, DOT teamed up with the MTA to implement New York’s first enhanced bus route with off-board fare collection. Then came the first demand-responsive parking prices on neighborhood commercial streets (not the sexiest innovation, but a solid one). The first on-street bike parking, the first “pop-up cafes,” and the first neighborhood-scale 20 mph zones. In the final act, DOT launched the nation’s largest bike-share system.

Once DOT hit its stride under Sadik-Khan, it became fairly common for the press (and even more common for anonymous blog commenters) to invoke Robert Moses when describing her tactics. But the comparison always seemed incongruous. Not only was DOT merely reshaping the public right of way (in many cases with nothing more than paint and planters!) as opposed to seizing people’s homes and property, but the public process that had been institutionalized in reaction to the excesses of Moses formed the backdrop for every single DOT project. “Robert Moses,” more often than not, was just code for “there’s less free parking than there used to be.”

What the opponents of DOT’s street redesigns never understood — or, perhaps more accurately, never admitted — was that their own neighbors, not city officials, were the most committed supporters of change. For years, DOT had been infamous for telling street safety activists “No.” That wasn’t the case at Sadik-Khan’s department, where New Yorkers who wanted safer streets could get a hearing. Neighborhood groups like the Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety, the Grand Army Plaza Coalition, and Brownsville’s bike lane activists saw many of their ideas turn into major improvements for walking and biking. Change didn’t always come promptly to everyone who asked for it, but under Sadik-Khan, DOT became an agency that often said “Yes” to residents who wanted more livable streets.

Did those changes please all New Yorkers? Hardly, but as the poll numbers on bike lanes and plazas began to pile up, it was clear that most of us liked them just fine.

There is one respect in which Sadik-Khan’s legacy does resemble Moses’s: She is an exporter of ideas. Through her leadership of the National Association of City Transportation Officials, NYC DOT’s pioneering street designs turned into templates for other cities. Nowhere is this influence more apparent than in the rapid adoption of protected bike lanes. A few years ago, this type of street design was basically non-existent in America. Today, dozens of U.S. cities have built bike lanes with physical protection from motor vehicle traffic.

Generally speaking, Sadik-Khan’s work with NACTO is the antidote to the suburban and rural bias that pervades American street design standards. The nation’s urban streets tend to be designed like highways because that’s what the dominant engineering guides call for. NYC DOT and other pioneering transportation departments have created proof on the ground that city streets should be built to a different standard. Thanks to NACTO’s design guides, cities around the country are starting to realize that they have “permission” to tailor streets for the urban context.

Yesterday was Sadik-Khan’s last day as NYC transportation commissioner. As much as she’ll be remembered for Citi Bike, the Midtown plazas, and other physical changes to the city, an equally important part of her legacy is how we think about streets. Expectations are higher now than they were six years ago. Transportation policy occupies a more prominent position in our local press and public discourse. After all the changes that have unfolded on her watch, there’s a greater understanding that so much of what we want out of our city — to feel safe, healthy, happy, and part of a community — is bound up in our streets. This will be invaluable as New Yorkers continue to fight for a city that’s safe from traffic violence.

Janette Sadik-Khan would be the first to say that NYC DOT’s accomplishments in the past six years have been a team effort. It’s not possible for me to personally acknowledge everyone at the department who’s contributed to these tremendous successes, but I hope this Streetsie conveys gratitude to them as well.

Read more…

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The 2013 NYC Streetsies, Part 2

streetsie_2013

Before we get to the Streetsies, an important announcement: Neighborhood street safety advocates and victims’ families will be gathering at tomorrow’s inauguration to mark the beginning of Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic deaths. If you’d like to volunteer or participate, organizers are asking people to arrive at City Hall at 10:45 a.m. tomorrow. More information is available on Facebook.

Also, time is running out to make a tax-deductible contribution to Streetsblog’s year-end pledge drive. This is the last day your gift will be matched by an anonymous donor, the last day you can enter to win a PUBLIC C7 or V7 bicycle, and the last day you can get in on the drawing for a new Nutcase helmet. If you haven’t given yet, help us hit the ground running in 2014!

Enjoy Part 2 of the NYC Streetsies, have a great New Year, and stay tuned for Part 3 tomorrow.

Activist of the Year

NYC’s roster of local livable streets activists is growing deeper every year, and I wish I could hand out this Streetsie to dozens of people. But I’m also thrilled to highlight the work of one person, Bettie Kollock-Wallace, who set in motion the process that led to Brownsville’s first bike lanes.

Photo: Syd London

Photo: Syd London

It started a few years ago, with Kollock-Wallace leading seniors on group rides from Brownsville to Prospect Park. Getting to the park was hard, especially for inexperienced older cyclists. Kollock-Wallace, who is now 75, viewed the problem as a public health and safety issue. “My philosophy is the more active you are the younger you get,” she told Streetsblog. She saw the need for a bike lane on Mother Gaston Boulevard to link up with the existing bike network, and as vice president of Brooklyn Community Board 16, she was in a position to do something about it.

What followed were a series of neighborhood ride-alongs with city agencies and community groups, then a public planning process that mapped out a network of future bike routes in Brownsville and East New York. Earlier this year, with Kollock-Wallace now serving as chair of CB 16, the board voted for a neighborhood grid of bike routes, a mixture of painted lanes and sharrows. Another phase is in the works, and with continued leadership from Kollock-Wallace, the first wave of bike infrastructure in Brownsville will lead to more progress in the future.

Elected Official of the Year

Honorable mentions go to Brad Lander and Steve Levin for refusing to let the Fourth Avenue safety plan stall out. To Tish James for standing with victims’ loved ones to demand better traffic enforcement. To Jimmy Van Bramer for consistently drawing attention to dangerous walking conditions in his district. And to Jeff Klein for carrying the banner for automated speed enforcement in the State Senate.

The runner-up — and early favorite to win this award in 2014 — is Assembly Member Joe Lentol, the political muscle behind what’s shaping up as the most exciting livable streets project in the pipeline: the conversion of a motor vehicle lane on the Pulaski Bridge to a two-way protected bike lane.

Streetsblog’s Elected Official of 2013 is Council Member Danny Dromm, who represents Jackson Heights. This award has been building up for a few years now, and it’s really an acknowledgement of everything Dromm has supported and advocated for during his first term. Without his persistence, 78th Street next to Travers Park never would have become a part-time car-free space, let alone the permanent play street it is today. It was Dromm’s leadership and the ingenuity of his staff that saved “Diversity Plaza” — a centerpiece of the Jackson Heights neighborhood transportation plan — when it received withering coverage in the press.

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This year, Diversity Plaza came into its own, its centrality to the neighborhood encapsulated by the al fresco Community Board 3 meeting held there this spring. Dromm took a victory lap of sorts in the fall, showing NY1’s Errol Louis the new pedestrian spaces in his district. And he’s setting his sights high in his next term, telling StreetsPAC that he “plans to focus on transforming Northern Boulevard, Roosevelt Avenue and Broadway into complete streets.”

Most Important Development in NYC Livable Streets Advocacy

The formation of StreetsPAC changed the politics of transportation reform in New York City. With the launch of an organization that can make endorsements and mobilize campaign volunteers, candidates had more reason than ever to go on the record supporting policies that improve walking, biking, and transit. StreetsPAC couldn’t match the money flowing from NYC’s big political spenders, but it had a great asset in the energy and dedication of its volunteers. After 13 of the 18 City Council candidates it backed won primary elections in September — including challenger Carlos Menchaca in the 38th District — the livable streets movement had officially arrived as a force in local politics.

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Realest Bill de Blasio Quote

Which mayor is taking office tomorrow: the guy who said the jury’s still out on the Midtown plazas, or the one with an ambitious transportation platform that pledges to adopt a “Vision Zero” approach and eliminate traffic deaths? We still don’t know how Bill de Blasio will govern when it comes to streets and transportation issues.

What’s beyond a doubt is that de Blasio cultivated the image of an outer borough car commuter throughout the campaign. “I’m a motorist,” he said in response to a televised debate question about the Broadway plazas. And it’s true: De Blasio started most weekdays driving his son from Park Slope to Brooklyn Tech. Personal mode choice is not destiny, but it does mean that major transportation decisions will be filtered through the lens of someone who said he was “often frustrated” by projects that hugely improved the pedestrian experience on Midtown’s crowded sidewalks.

Only Nixon could go to China, and maybe only a self-identified motorist can overhaul NYC’s dangerous outer borough traffic sewers, where pedestrian death rates remain appalling. We’ll see. The early test will be de Blasio’s choice for transportation commissioner. There’s a very, very short list of people who have both the appetite for change that “Vision Zero” will require and the savviness to move major projects through NYC’s local political landscape. We’ll know de Blasio’s commissioner is a good pick if he or she can retain NYC DOT’s talented team of planners and implementers — they want to work for an administration that’s committed to progressive transportation policy.

Read more…

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The 2013 NYC Streetsies, Part 1

streetsie_2013

The Streetsie votes are in and it’s time to hand out virtual hardware. But first, a friendly reminder that Streetsblog needs your support.

Reader donations are what Streetsblog runs on. Contribute to our year-end pledge drive and you’ll help produce reporting and commentary that makes a difference, so that when this time rolls around next year, we’ll be doling out a new batch of Streetsies to projects as deserving as this year’s winners. All contributions to Streetsblog NYC before the new year will be matched by an anonymous donor, up to $10,000, and if you give $50 or more, you’ll be entered to win a new PUBLIC C7 or V7 bicycle. We’ve also got a new Nutcase helmet to give away to one lucky donor. So don’t put off that contribution any longer — it’s time to give.

And now, the first round of the 2013 NYC Streetsies…

Best Victory

For five years we’ve been asking readers to choose the most important achievement in livable streets, and nothing has run away with the vote quite like Citi Bike. The launch of the nation’s largest bike-share system was a huge success and a fitting capstone to NYC DOT’s run of innovation under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

The numbers are compelling. With daily trips peaking above 42,000, New Yorkers are getting about as much as we can out of a network with 300 or so stations and around 5,700 bikes. Subscriptions have been on sale for a little more than eight months, and already there are nearly 100,000 annual members. That’s a lot of people using public bikes to go across town, connect to the subway, ride to work, or run errands – all on a system delivered at minimal public expense.

Photo: Dmitry Gudkov

While its utility alone would be enough to nab this Streetsie, the bike-share launch has special significance for reasons that are tougher to quantify.

To start with, the astonishing growth in ridership (after a few weeks, the system was already getting as much or more use than London’s after a few years) showed the huge latent demand for cycling in New York. Just by making it more convenient, Citi Bike enticed tens of thousands of people to get around town on a bicycle.

And thanks to bike-share, the boundary between “cyclists” and “not-cyclists” looks a lot blurrier today. To bicycle in New York City, you no longer have to own a bike and keep it in working condition. Anyone with a credit card can ride a public bike if they think it’s going to be worth their while, just like they can take the subway or hail a cab.

If you rode Citi Bikes during the heady first two weeks, you probably experienced one of those moments when a total stranger peppered you with questions at a kiosk, a cabbie rolled down his window and gave you a thumbs up, or someone on the sidewalk shouted “How does it ride?” as you rolled past with a big smile on your face. Sure, some of the chattiness was due to the sheer newness of the bikes and the stations, but it also reflected a change in public perception. Bicycling for transportation had become something we can all do.

Read more…

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Cast Your Vote for the 2013 NYC Streetsies — and Give to Streetsblog!

streetsie_2013

Welcome to the reader’s choice portion of the 2013 NYC Streetsies. Before you vote, take a moment to consider everything that’s changed this year. Look at all the pedestrian, bike, and bus improvements we have to sift through to anoint the best. Six years ago, before the Janette Sadik-Khan DOT had time to really get rolling, we didn’t have nearly so much (or such high-quality stuff) to choose from.

Will next year and the year after yield so many worthy nominees for the Streetsies? There are still plenty of traffic-plagued streets in need of a total overhaul, but making it happen won’t be easy. Streetsblog will be doing everything we can to press the new administration to improve pedestrian safety, add protected bikeways, and redesign car-centric streets to prioritize transit. If you haven’t given to our year-end pledge drive yet, please make a tax-deductible contribution today.

Your gift will go twice as far thanks to a generous anonymous donor: Every contribution to Streetsblog NYC before the end of the year will be matched up to $10,000. And readers who donate $50 or more will enter our drawing for a new PUBLIC C7 or V7 bicycle — we’ll pick two winners in January. Please give and support journalism that makes a difference for livable streets.

The NYC Streetsie polls are open until midnight on December 28, and to maximize your voting pleasure, you can head over to the Capitol Hill Streetsies. Our year-end publishing schedule will resume on Friday. Have a great holiday everyone.

Best Livable Streets Victory

Total Voters: 382

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Best Pedestrian Safety Project

Total Voters: 275

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Best Bike Lane Project

Total Voters: 295

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Best Bus Project

Total Voters: 260

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Best Plaza Project

Total Voters: 190

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Realest Bill de Blasio Quote of the Year

Total Voters: 282

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NIMBY of the Year

Total Voters: 231

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Best Dorothy Rabinowitz Catchphrase

  • “The bike lobby is an all-powerful enterprise.” (62%, 196 Votes)
  • "Begrimed" (21%, 67 Votes)
  • “Do not ask me to enter the mind of the totalitarians running this government.” (17%, 54 Votes)

Total Voters: 317

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The 2012 NYC Streetsies, Part 3

Welcome to the third and final installment of the 2012 NYC Streetsies. If you’re just joining us, read parts one and two first.

Note: The Streetsblog and Streetfilms year-end pledge drive ends at midnight, which means time is running out to enter to win a Specialized hybrid bike courtesy of Bicycle Habitat. Everyone who gives $50 or more by the end of the day will be in the running. On top of that, we’ve got some great bike-themed posters to give away to a couple of lucky donors who contribute today. Please give if you haven’t yet and help Streetsblog and Streetfilms deliver high-impact reporting in 2013.

With this post, we’re calling it a wrap for 2012. Have a great New Year, Streetsblog readers!

Elected Official of the Year

In one of the more encouraging trends for livable streets in NYC, it seems like the competition for this Streetsie gets a little more crowded each year. In the City Council, Brad Lander continued to be a strong voice for safer streets and better transit; Gale Brewer concluded 2012 with a definitive statement backing the extension of the Columbus Avenue bike lane; Tish James helped usher in some traffic-calming treatments on one-way streets in her district; and Julissa Ferreras welcomed the arrival of Corona’s new public plaza and a 20 mph zone. In the state legislature, State Senator Dan Squadron earned a commendation for leading the campaign for a safer Delancey Street.

The second runner-up is Assembly Member Joseph Lentol, who responded to the bike-ped crunch on the Pulaski Bridge with the sensible suggestion that a safe, protected lane for cyclists should be carved out of the roadway. It looks like the idea could have some legs. First runner-up is Council Member Daniel Dromm. Facing a barrage of withering coverage of the 37th Road plaza in Jackson Heights, Dromm stayed steady and brokered an agreement in which the merchants who’d been shredding the plaza in the press turned around and agreed to take ownership of it.

The winner and Streetsblog’s Elected Official of 2012 is Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. This was the year that the East Harlem representative’s persistent advocacy for safer streets in her district finally paid off, when the first protected bike lane above 96th Street was installed on Second Avenue. From speaking on the City Hall steps in 2010 to facing down the misinformation campaign against the project in 2011, Mark-Viverito was at the center of the effort to bring complete streets to East Harlem. This wasn’t the first time she’d taken a stand for livable streets, either. Mark-Viverito was the council’s clearest voice for congestion pricing in 2008, and she’s a big proponent of Bus Rapid Transit. If every City Council member was so willing to embrace change, progress would come to NYC streets a lot faster.

Worst Elected Official

There were a lot of contenders for this one too, but in the end it was clear who deserved the honor: City Council Member Inez Dickens. The appalling vehicular violence on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard — 11 deaths since 2006 — demanded action. But Dickens was nowhere to be found when DOT proposed a traffic-calming redesign for 35 blocks of the avenue. While neighborhood institutions like the Harlem Children’s Zone and the Abyssinian Development Corporation endorsed the changes, the local community board (with its many Dickens appointees) stonewalled. Dickens continued to say nothing and let the proposal wither on the vine.

DOT eventually went ahead with a scaled-back version, leaving many blocks untouched until next year at the earliest. With those safety upgrades still on the table and major bus enhancements potentially in the works for 125th Street, Harlem’s streets could start functioning much better for everybody pretty soon, but the neighborhood’s change-averse political leadership isn’t helping.

Activist of the Year

With so many New Yorkers in the trenches fighting for livable streets, picking one honoree for this award is never easy. So this year we’re picking two. The Bronx Helpers and Make Lafayette Safer share the 2012 Streetsie for Activist of the Year.

The Bronx Helpers rally for pedestrian safety. Photo: Transportation Alternatives

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