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Posts from the "Street Safety" Category

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Tonight: Big Changes Proposed for Intersection Where Ella Bandes Was Killed

Curb extensions, new crosswalks and turn bans could be coming to this deadly intersection on the Brooklyn-Queens border. Image: DOT

Curb extensions, new crosswalks and turn bans could be coming to this deadly intersection on the Brooklyn-Queens border. Image: DOT

Last year, 23-year-old Ella Bandes was killed by a turning MTA bus driver at a complex intersection on the Queens-Brooklyn border. On the anniversary of her death in January, her parents called on DOT to implement more aggressive street safety measures. Tonight, DOT is scheduled to present a plan to Queens Community Board 5′s transportation committee, including new crosswalks, curb extensions and turn bans [PDF].

DOT already installed brighter street lighting beneath the elevated train in January and added pedestrian countdown clocks. “I thought they were just going to improve the lighting and do as little as possible,” said Judy Kottick, Ella’s mother. “But they’re adding a crosswalk, they’re shortening crossing distances.”

The plan would add painted curb extensions at most of the intersection’s corners. It also calls for a new crosswalk across Myrtle Avenue in the middle of the intersection, to match a route many pedestrians already follow. An existing crosswalk across Myrtle Avenue on the intersection’s east side would be widened significantly, and all crosswalks will receive new high-visibility zebra markings under the plan.

The multi-leg intersection, at the transfer point between an elevated train and a subway, is also a hub for bus routes in both boroughs. A 2007 DOT Ridgewood transportation study [PDF] found that the corner where Ella was killed had the neighborhood’s highest pedestrian volumes.

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McGuinness Boulevard Is NYC’s Third 25 MPH Arterial Slow Zone

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at today's arterial slow zone announcement on McGuinness Boulevard. Photo: Jon Orcutt/Twitter

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at today’s arterial slow zone announcement on McGuinness Boulevard. Photo: Jon Orcutt/Twitter

Ask a Greenpoint resident to name the neighborhood’s most dangerous street, and they’ll likely point to McGuinness Boulevard, an infamous speedway that splits the neighborhood in half. Today, it became the city’s third “arterial slow zone” to receive a 25 mph speed limit, retimed traffic signals to discourage speeding, and focused enforcement.

The arterial slow zone will be installed by the end of next month along 1.1 miles of McGuinness between Freeman and Bayard Streets. Seven pedestrians and one cyclist died on this stretch of road between 1995 and 2007, according to CrashStat. DOT says that from 2008 to 2013, four other people were killed on McGuinness — three pedestrians and one cyclist, but no motorists — including Neil ChamberlainNicole Detweiler and Solange Raulston. Arterial streets like McGuinness comprise only 15 percent of New York’s roadways but account for 60 percent of its pedestrian fatalities, according to DOT.

A survey two years ago by Transportation Alternatives, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, Community Board 1, and area residents found that two-thirds of McGuinness drivers were speeding above 30 mph, with 36 percent traveling above 35 mph. Truck drivers were clocked going as fast as 47 mph.

The 94th Precinct, which covers McGuinness, has issued nearly double the number of speeding tickets in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year. The precinct, which ticketed people for jaywalking on McGuinness last month in the wake of a pedestrian death, has issued slightly more than two speeding tickets daily so far this year. McGuinness is not among the locations where speed cams are known to have been used under the limited automated speed enforcement program allowed by Albany. In January, Council Member Steve Levin asked DOT to install cameras on McGuinness near PS 34.

Neighborhood residents and elected officials have been working for years to slow down drivers and save lives on McGuinness, yielding incremental changes.

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After CB 4 Committee Signs on, DOT Will Study Safer Fifth and Sixth Avenues

Sixth Avenue at 14th Street, which is part of an area DOT will be studying for pedestrian and bicycle upgrades. Photo: Google Maps

Sixth Avenue at 14th Street, part of an area DOT will be studying for a street redesign. Photo: Google Maps

After a unanimous vote of support from Community Board 5, a request for DOT to study protected bike lanes and pedestrian improvements on Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Manhattan got another boost from the CB 4 transportation committee last Wednesday. After the committee’s unanimous 6-0 vote, a DOT representative said the agency intends to begin studying the potential redesign of the avenues this fall.

“We don’t have any information that we can share with the community board right now, because we are looking at the corridor,” said DOT’s Colleen Chattergoon. “We hope to do some data collection in the late fall.”

While most of Fifth and Sixth Avenues are within the boundaries of Community Board 5, which had already supported the request, advocates are looking for backing from community boards 2 and 4, along the southern sections of the avenues. “You have a constituency who supports making Fifth and Sixth Avenues into public spaces that are safe, efficient, pleasant, and basically serve people better,” said Transportation Alternatives volunteer Albert Ahronheim, before presenting a petition signed by more than 10,400 people and letters of support from 118 businesses along the avenues.

The request now heads to CB 4′s full board on May 7. Advocates hope to secure support from CB 2 soon, as well.

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Grand Concourse Will Be the Next Arterial With 25 MPH Limit

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Assembly Member Mark Gjonaj unveil the city's second "arterial slow zone" this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Assembly Member Mark Gjonaj unveil the city’s second “arterial slow zone” this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Local elected officials and advocates joined NYC DOT and NYPD this morning to unveil the city’s second “arterial slow zone” on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, where speed limits will be dropped to 25 mph and traffic signals will be retimed to discourage speeding.

The lower speed limit will apply to 5.2 miles of the Grand Concourse from East 140th Street in Mott Haven to Moshulu Parkway in Bedford Park. Along this stretch of the Grand Concourse, there were 12 fatalities between 2008 and 2012, including seven pedestrians, according to DOT. Speeding is the leading cause of traffic fatalities in New York City.

“This is not the Daytona 500,” said Assembly Member José Rivera at this morning’s event. “We should consider placing speed cameras all along the Grand Concourse.”

That’s unlikely to happen immediately. State law limits speed cameras to streets with school entrances within a quarter-mile, prevents them from operating overnight and on weekends, and caps the number at 20 cameras. (DOT has five cameras running and hopes to bring the remainder online this spring.)

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East 106th Street Road Diet and Bike Lanes Head to Manhattan CB 11

DOT is proposing a road diet for East 106th Street. CB 11's transportation committee could vote on it as soon as next month. Image: DOT

DOT is proposing a road diet for East 106th Street. CB 11′s transportation committee could vote on it as soon as next month. Image: DOT

Running between Fifth Avenue and FDR Drive, 106th Street in East Harlem should provide a key bike connection between Central Park and Randall’s Island. NYC DOT is proposing a road diet and painted bike lanes [PDF] to improve safety on the street, and Community Board 11′s transportation committee could vote on the plan soon.

At 60 feet wide, 106th Street currently has two car lanes in each direction, even though one lane each way could handle the existing traffic. The connection to the Randall’s Island bike-pedestrian bridge at 103rd Street is also tricky to navigate. This is especially important since 106th Street is the most direct connection between Central Park and Randall’s Island, due to the prevalence of large super-blocks in East Harlem.

The present design contributes to the disproportionate share of traffic violence on East 106th Street. There were two  pedestrian fatalities in separate crashes in 2005, and a cyclist was killed at the intersection with Park Avenue in 2000, according to CrashStat. It ranks in the top third of Manhattan’s most dangerous streets, according to NYC DOT.

DOT is proposing a classic four-to-three lane road diet, converting the existing four car lanes to two car lanes, bike lanes, and a center median with left-turn lanes. At Second and Third Avenues, median islands would make intersections safer for pedestrians by turning one 60-foot crossing to two 25-foot segments.

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Atlantic Ave First of 25 “Arterial Slow Zones” to Get 25 MPH Limit This Year

As drivers zoomed by on Atlantic Avenue this morning, local elected officials and advocates joined NYC DOT and NYPD to unveil the first of the city’s “arterial slow zones,” major streets where the speed limit will be dropped to 25 mph from the current citywide limit of 30 mph. Traffic signals will also be retimed to a 25 mph progression, to help keep motorists’ speeds in check.

25 mph white-and-blue speed limit signs will join retimed lights on Atlantic Avenue and 24 other major streets. Photo: DHFixAtlantic/Twitter

25 mph white-and-blue speed limit signs will join retimed lights on Atlantic Avenue and 24 other major streets. Photo: DHFixAtlantic/Twitter

The arterial slow zone program, mentioned briefly in the city’s Vision Zero action plan in February, will focus on some of the city’s most dangerous streets. Arterials like Atlantic make up only 15 percent of New York’s roadways but account for 60 percent of the city’s pedestrian fatalities, according to DOT.

“New Yorkers are asking what we can do to fix these streets, so today we’re taking immediate action,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

“When we look at the family members who have lost loved ones, the pain never dissipates, and it never stops hurting,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. ”We can have a smooth traffic flow of vehicles without having a reckless and senseless traffic flow of blood.”

Streets chosen for this new program will receive new 25 mph speed limit signs, design fixes from DOT, and focused enforcement by NYPD, though the extent of the design and enforcement changes remained unclear at today’s press conference.

First up: 7.6 miles of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and Queens, from Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights to 76th Street in Woodhaven. (The project does not include the easternmost section of Atlantic as it approaches Jamaica.) From 2008 to 2012, there were 25 traffic fatalities along this section of Atlantic, including 10 pedestrian deaths. DOT said the new speed limit would go into effect by the end of April. By the end of the year, 25 major arterial streets will have lower speed limits and retimed traffic lights, the agency said.

Trottenberg said that these 25 “arterial slow zones” will count toward the 50 “intersections and corridors” the Vision Zero action plan promised would receive “safety engineering improvements” from DOT each year. ”We’re starting with the slow zones but we’re also going to be doing some redesigning, too,” she said.

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Top Cuomo Aide: Albany Will Pass Speed Cam Expansion Bill By End of April

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top aide said this morning that the governor is committed to signing a bill to expand the number of New York City school zone speed cameras before the end of April. The firm stance comes after a plan to expand the number of speed cams in NYC stalled during budget negotiations.

WNYC’s Brian Lehrer asked why speed cameras were cut out of the recent state budget deal, and Cuomo secretary Larry Schwartz responded:

There was a dispute between the Senate and the Assembly regarding speed cameras in Nassau County. So because we needed to get the budget printed, we’ve all agreed that in the month of April, both houses will pass a speed camera bill for New York City, Nassau and Suffolk county. And quite frankly, if there’s anybody else that wants to be included, we’re happy to include them. And we’ll get a bill passed before the end of April and the governor will sign it because he supports speed cameras.

The Assembly is in session Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday next week, followed by the Senate on April 23 and 24, before both chambers convene for the final three days of the month. Commitment to a timeframe is a very positive indication from the governor, who said on Tuesday only that a speed cam bill would pass “shortly.”

While the news today is good, it could be better. The proposals up for debate in Albany keep NYC’s speed cams shackled to a narrow set of streets and turned off most of the time.

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Pedestrian Islands Coming to Deadly Northern Boulevard Intersection

The striped median on Northern Boulevard at 61st Street, right, is set to receive concrete pedestrian islands, like those on Hillside Avenue, right. Image: DOT

The striped median on Northern Boulevard at 61st Street, right, is set to receive concrete pedestrian islands, like those on Hillside Avenue, right. Image: DOT

The intersection of Northern Boulevard and 61st Street in Woodside, where an unlicensed truck driver making a left turn through a crosswalk killed 8-year-old Noshat Nahian on his way to school last December, is set for some pedestrian safety fixes after months of work by elected officials and street safety advocates.

Members of Make Queens Safer said they hoped it was the first of many design changes DOT would make to Northern Boulevard, which ranks as one of the most dangerous streets for pedestrians in Queens.

The plan for the 61st Street intersection, first reported by the Daily News, includes the addition of concrete pedestrian islands and the elimination of left turns from westbound Northern Boulevard to southbound 61st Street. It will also adjust signals to increase crossing time for pedestrians and feature new school zone crosswalk markings and signage. DOT has already restricted some on-street parking to “daylight” the intersection’s northeast corner and improve visibility for pedestrians and drivers. Construction is set to begin this month and wrap up within weeks.

Immediately prior to announcing his Vision Zero agenda last January at PS 152, where Nahian was walking to school before he was killed, Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the intersection with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

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New Vision Zero Details Emerge at Astoria Town Hall

Last night, more than 100 people gathered in Astoria for the latest in a series of Vision Zero town halls bringing together residents,  city officials, elected representatives, and advocates to talk about street safety. New information regarding City Hall’s current thinking about the safety of trucks and large vehicle fleets came to light, and officials also hinted at opening more street safety data to the public.

NYPD and DOT will hand out this flyer at high-crash intersections.

NYPD and DOT will soon start handing out this flyer at high-crash intersections.

While the city continues to flesh out policies, Queens residents affected by traffic violence came to last night’s meeting seeking answers and highlighting areas where the NYPD still needs to improve.

“We haven’t heard from the police yet. It would be nice to find out as much information as possible,” said Satie Ragunath, whose father-in-law Kumar was killed in a hit-and-run while crossing Northern Boulevard earlier this month. “We’d like to know, what can you guys do about accidents that have already happened?”

Deputy Inspector Kevin Maloney, commanding officer of the 114th Precinct, told Streetsblog that the Collision Investigation Squad was unable to find surveillance video of the crash and was broadening its search area, using cameras on nearby blocks in an attempt to identify the hit-and-run driver. “I’ll talk with the detective in charge of that investigation and I’ll be sure he speaks to you,” Maloney told Ragunath.

Chris Vanterpool said he and his 3-year-old son were struck by a turning driver two weeks ago while they were in a crosswalk near their Astoria home. Vanterpool said it was difficult to get information from the precinct after the crash. “I had to make 10 phone calls to get the report number,” he said, and when he wanted to get a copy of the crash report, the precinct required a $10 money order. “It costs $15 at the bank to get a $10 money order,” Vanterpool said.

Maloney, who spoke with Vanterpool about the crash after the forum, told Streetsblog that the precinct tries to focus on speeding, cell phone use, and red light summonses. The five officers in its traffic enforcement division, as well as a handful of patrol officers, are trained to use the three LIDAR speed guns available at the precinct.

“When I was a cop, precinct cops didn’t even shoot radar,” Maloney said. “Since then, the department’s evolved, so it’s something that on the precinct level we take seriously.”

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Victims’ Families Optimistic About Change After Meeting Albany Lawmakers


During yesterday’s trip to Albany, members of Families for Safe Streets not only won over a key new backer of legislation to set the city’s default speed limit at 20 mph, they met with more than 30 legislators to ask for lower speed limits and more automated enforcement.

“It was absolutely exhausting, emotionally and physically,” said Mary Beth Kelly, whose husband was killed by a tow truck driver in 2006 while the couple was riding their bikes on the Hudson River Greenway. “It’s very hard for us to keep telling our stories over and over again.” But Kelly said that more than ever, she thinks now is a time when victims’ families will make a difference. “I’ve been doing this seven-and-a-half years,” she said, “and the sense of hopefulness that I have right now is probably greater than it’s ever been.”

In their meetings with lawmakers — including Speaker Sheldon Silver and the staff of Assembly Transportation Committee Chair David Gantt — Families for Safe Streets focused mostly on lowering the city’s default speed limit to 20 mph, but also talked about the importance of expanding automated enforcement.

“The speed camera program is only operational during school hours,” said Transportation Alternatives general counsel Juan Martinez on the bus ride to Albany. “That’s a big problem, because 77 percent of people who are killed in speeding crashes are killed after school hours — in the evening and on weekends.”

The State Senate’s budget proposal includes a nine-fold expansion of the existing school-zone speed camera program, but Assembly Member Joe Lentol said it was unlikely to survive to the final budget. “It was a tremendous lift to get just 20 speed cameras last year,” he said.

Despite the challenge of making progress in Albany, the families remain undeterred.

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