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Posts from the "Upper West Side Streets Renaissance" Category

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Eyes on the Street: Protected Bike Lane Discovered on Columbus Ave

columbus_ave_felix.jpgFelix Morales tries out the freshly painted lane on his scooter. Photo: Ken Coughlin

After a lot of great advocacy from the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance and a down-to-the-wire vote at Community Board 7 this spring, DOT crews are laying down the first on-street protected bikeway above 34th 59th Street, on Columbus Avenue between 96th and 77th. Streetsblog contributor Ken Coughlin sent in these pictures of the painting and striping in progress last Friday.

columbus_ave_one.jpgLooking south from 96th Street. Photo: Ken Coughlin
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CB 7 Committee Backslides With Split Vote on Protected UWS Bike Lane

columbus_ave.jpgDOT's proposal for Columbus Avenue would create room for a separated bike lane by narrowing, not removing, car lanes. Image: NYCDOT [PDF]
Looks like some Manhattan community board types still want to see their local streets keep that highway-in-the-city feel.

After receiving a request from Manhattan CB 7 in the fall to prepare plans for protected bike lanes on Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, NYCDOT showed the board's transportation committee a proposal last night for a bikeway segment on Columbus from 96th Street to 77th Street [PDF]. The plan is to add a protected bike path on the east side of Columbus, combining design elements from protected lanes that have substantially reduced injuries on other Manhattan streets. DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione told the audience that the Columbus Avenue project will serve as a one-year trial, after which DOT can compare before-and-after data on usage and traffic injuries. Bike lane expansions could follow.

Despite the full board's previous request and all the accumulated evidence documenting the safety gains from similar projects, when it came time to discuss the proposal, the committee split 5 to 5 on a resolution of support.

Local activists have collected hundreds of signatures in favor of protected bike lanes on the Upper West Side, and eight elected officials and the Columbus Avenue BID have signaled their support, so the committee vote is almost certainly not the final word on the project. Even the committee co-chairs who voted against the plan, Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert, said they expected the proposal to come before the full board (whose stance will also be advisory). On Streetsblog we always like to plumb the depths of what goes on at these quasi-representative bodies, so here goes.

First off, the public comment period was a testament to the awareness-building and organizing work of the folks at the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance, who've been advocating for safer and more livable streets for years. The standing room-only crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of the project. When the inevitable complaints and anti-cyclist comments surfaced, the next speaker would follow with a jolt of common sense. "There are lawbreakers on all sides," said Michael Rosenthal, who's been bike commuting for 45 years. "Anything that can be done to reduce fatalities and injuries is terrific."

The outpouring of support for the project didn't sway the committee co-chairs, however. "This is not the right place for a bike lane," said Zweig, claiming that narrower traffic lanes would somehow further slow down congested rush hour traffic. "I'm sure the drivers who use Columbus were not surveyed." As Zweig had announced a few minutes earlier, he is one of those drivers. But even for motorists like him, it's hard to see what maintaining the status quo accomplishes, except keeping New Yorkers who want to ride in safety from getting on their bikes.

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Streetfilms: A New Vision for the Upper West Side

Residents of all ages, electeds and planner-about-town Jan Gehl gathered at PS 87 last Thursday to mark the launch of "Blueprint for the Upper West Side: A Roadmap for Truly Livable Streets." A year-long community-based project of the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance campaign, the Blueprint [PDF], as its name implies, offers a detailed vision of street designs intended to improve safety, access and mobility for the car-free majority. Streetfilms' Robin Urban Smith was there and filed this report.

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Tonight: See the Blueprint for a New Upper West Side

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Streets designed for safe, accessible, and equitable use. That is the vision of the "Blueprint for the Upper West Side: A Roadmap for Truly Livable Streets," to be unveiled tonight by the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance Campaign. The product of one year of community-driven planning, in consultation with urbanist legends Jan Gehl and Donald Shoup, the 51-page Blueprint [PDF] is an expansive neighborhood-wide plan that would employ many livable streets concepts already in use by NYC DOT. 

Proposals include:

  • Separated bike lanes and bike boxes on Broadway, Amsterdam and Columbus
  • Bollard-protected pedestrian bulb-outs
  • Leading Pedestrian Intervals
  • Curb extensions to slow auto traffic and allow for garbage pick-up
  • Bus bulbs with bike parking 
  • Chicanes with reverse-angle parking on cross streets

The Blueprint was composed from input gathered via neighborhood surveys and citizen workshops in a community where drivers account for 10 percent of commutes but absorb 228 times more street space per capita, and where over 5,000 pedestrians and cyclists were injured or killed between 1995 and 2005.

Gehl will be on hand for tonight's reveal, as he was at the project's inception last November. The event is free and open to the public.

Where: P.S. 87, 160 W. 78th St. between Amsterdam and Columbus

When: 6:30 p.m.

RSVP here

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Jan Gehl: Gridlocked Streets Are “Not a Law of Nature”

It could have been just another gathering of urban idealists, agreeing with each other about how great it would be to have more public space for people, and less for cars.

Except last night's NYC Streets Renaissance event, "A New Vision for the Upper West Side," featured renowned Danish planner Jan Gehl -- who, as has been mentioned a time or two on Streetsblog, has been hired by the city to help bring to life the long-held wishes of New Yorkers who want their streets to be welcoming communal destinations, or, at least, something more than loud, dirty, traffic-choked motoring facilities.

After introductions by Transportation Alternatives' Paul Steely White, The Open Planning Project's Mark Gorton and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Gehl joked that he was not yet at liberty to discuss his analysis of New York City streets, specific recommendations or much of anything else. Despite the warning, he teased the capacity crowd at the Jewish Community Center with vignettes of what the city could look like in the near and not-too-distant future. Ten years from now, Gehl said, New York could compete with Copenhagen, where nearly 40 percent of commuters travel by bike, for the crown of world's bike-friendliest city.

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Whereas pedestrians now spend up to 25 percent of their walking time waiting on signal changes, Gehl sees a city where a presently accepted nod to auto supremacy like the button-activated walk light ("an application to cross the street," as he calls it) becomes an outmoded relic. Gehl's New York is one of flourishing street trees, attractive and functional street furniture, dedicated bus lanes, local outdoor art, complementary lighting, relaxed pedestrians and so many cyclists that the city will need to widen bike lanes to make room.

Specifically, Gehl looks to have big plans in the works for Broadway between Columbus Circle and the Battery. He also spent a bit of time discussing Fordham Road in the Bronx and Main Street in Flushing, noting that pedestrian volumes on these beleaguered outer borough thoroughfares are comparable to Times Square and some of the world's busiest urban promenades.

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Gehl said his team was excited by New York City's wide streets and avenues, as they provide the space to easily accommodate wider sidewalks and new kinds of bus and bike lanes. The key, he said, is supply and demand; while cars will fill whatever space you give them, on-street or off, reducing auto capacity by even a small percentage would make a big difference to other users.

According to Gehl, the top priority for any city looking to humanize its infrastructure is to change the way citizens view the purpose and function of the city itself.

"New York has become very much a 'How to get from A to B' city," Gehl said. "It is not a law of nature that you have this much traffic."

Photos: Jonathan Barkey 

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StreetFilms: Upper West Side Streets Renaissance With Jan Gehl


A standing room-only crowd turned out for last night's Upper West Side Streets Renaissance event with Danish urban designer Jan Gehl and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. All in all, it was an inspiring night and we'll have a more detailed write-up later today. Though Gehl wasn't allowed to get too specific about the work he is doing for the city, reading between the lines of his presentation, it was apparent that he is set to present some pretty groundbreaking ideas to Mayor Bloomberg. Word has it, Gehl is having lunch with the Mayor today. Hopefully the Mayor will be inspired too. 

Clarence Eckerson has already produced a three-minute StreetFilms wrap up which, frankly, is also inspiring being as how I know for a fact that he didn't get home last night until around midnight and he had quite a few beers in him.

Additionally, the staff at Transportation Alternatives and Open Planning Project deserve a lot of praise. They did a great job preparing materials and organizing the event.

Speaking of which, have you had a chance to play with the new NYC Streets web site? It's still in beta and there are lots of cool features yet to be installed. But pretty soon you'll be able to use this web site to launch your own Livable Streets project. You'll find a variety of tools, resources and other people to help you make changes in your own community and neighborhood.

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Upper West Side Renaissance on WNYC

This morning's Brian Lehrer interview with Open Planning Project Director Mark Gorton, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and, ummm... 30 Rock's Alec Baldwin, is now online. If you missed it, listen here:

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Envisioning an Upper West Side Streets Renaissance

If you're thinking about coming to tonight's Upper West Side workshop with Jan Gehl but you are having trouble picturing what a "Streets Renaissance" might look like, the video above was made for you. It consists of a series of photo simulations produced by New York City Streets Renaissance Creative Director Carly Clark.

Whipped into a StreetFilm by Clarence Eckerson and set to some bumpin' electronic dance music, the photo sims seek to answer questions like: What if Amsterdam Avenue were a "complete street" rather than a 5-lane highway, or a stretch of Broadway were turned over to pedestrians, or a neighborhood street were designed to accommodate community life rather than traffic throughput and automobile storage? Watch out. By the end of this one minute video you might be dancing.

You can find three more short Upper West Side StreetFilms and a bit more of Carly's photo sim work here:

  • Redesigning Amsterdam Avenue for People Rather Than Speeding Traffic (1:03)
  • The Perverse Allocation of Streets Space on the Upper West Side (1:24)
  • Is SUV Storage the Best Use of Upper West Side Street Space? (1:02)
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Tune in to Brian Lehrer at 10:40am, WNYC, 93.9 FM

Open Planning Project Executive Director Mark Gorton and Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan will be talking about this evening's Upper West Side Streets Renaissance workshop with Jan Gehl on the Brian Lehrer Show, 93.9 FM, at 10:40am.

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“A Perverse Allocation of Public Space on the Upper West Side”


As we lead up to next Tuesday's big Upper West Side Streets Renaissance workshop with Jan Gehl (have you submitted your RSVP yet?) here is another StreetFilm delving in to the kinds of issues we hope to be talking about.

In this segment, Upper West Siders Mark Gorton and Lisa Sladkus briefly examine just how much of our city's valuable and limited public space has been dedicated to the storage and movement of motor vehicles and how diminished pedestrian spaces impact our sense of community.

Summing it up in terms that even the simplest hedge fund manager would understand, Gorton says, "We have a perverse allocation of public space on the Upper West Side and it needs to be changed."

It doesn't have to be this way, folks. Come out on Tuesday and work with your neighbors to envision and shape a new direction for New York City's streets and public spaces:

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007
The Jewish Community Center
334 Amsterdam Avenue at West 76th Street
5:30–7:00 Opening Reception
7:00–8:30 Presentation and Workshop