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Posts from the Street Safety Category

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DOT Safety Plan for Corona’s 111th Street Faces Uphill Battle at Queens CB 4

This road diet and protected bike lane is too much for Queens CB 4 to handle. Image: DOT [PDF]

This road diet and protected bike lane, which will improve connections between Corona residents and Flushing Meadows Corona Park, doesn’t have enough car lanes for some Queens CB 4 members. Image: DOT [PDF]

A dangerous street that Corona residents have to cross to get to Flushing Meadows Corona Park is in line for a serious traffic-calming plan, complete with a two-way protected bike lane [PDF], but local community board members are balking at the proposal.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the largest park in Queens, is ringed by highways that cut off access from the neighborhoods around it. The one exception is 111th Street on the west side of the park. But instead of functioning as a welcoming entrance to the park, 111th Street is designed like a surface highway, with three southbound car lanes divided from two northbound lanes by a planted median. Residents have to walk up to 1,300 feet, or five blocks, before finding a marked crosswalk, and 84 percent of cyclists ride on the sidewalk, according to DOT.

Last year, Make the Road New York, Immigrant Movement International, the Queens Museum, and Transportation Alternatives organized for better walking and biking access to the park. Council Member Julissa Ferreras signed on, asking DOT last fall to install bike lanes throughout her district, including on 111th Street [PDF].

The DOT proposal delivers: It would calm the street by narrowing it to one lane of car traffic in each direction. The edge of the street along the park would receive a two-way parking-protected bikeway with pedestrian islands. Moving lanes would be replaced by parking along the median on the southbound side. At intersections, median extensions would shorten crossing distances for pedestrians, which currently stretch up to 94 feet.

This seems to be too much for some key members of Queens Community Board 4.

DOT presented its plan to three members of CB 4 at a special meeting of its transportation committee last Tuesday. “It was definitely a heated, emotional meeting,” said Amy Richards, who coordinates the Partnership for a Healthier Queens program at Make the Road New York. The board members were very “change-averse,” Richards said. “The meeting was tricky.”

“It’s a tough call,” CB 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol said of the plan. “We told them to go back to the drawing board and change a couple of the small issues we were questioning.” DOT says it used the feedback to draft minor changes the original plan, which Cassagnol received this morning.

Board members last week were actually looking for major changes to the DOT plan. The big complaint from transportation committee members was “not enough traffic lanes, basically,” Cassagnol said. “That seems to be the main thing.”

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Last Chance to Tell DOT How to Make Linden Boulevard Safer

DOT is accepting ideas to fix Linden Boulevard online until Tuesday. Map: DOT

Linden Boulevard is a dangerous relic of a street, a surface-level highway that rivals Queens Boulevard for sheer awfulness. If you have ideas about what needs to change on Linden Boulevard, DOT wants to hear about it.

In February, DOT hosted two public workshops for its Linden Boulevard redesign project, which covers 3.8 miles between Kings Highway, in East Flatbush, and South Conduit Avenue, near the Queens border.

Like Queens Boulevard, Linden Boulevard has center-running through lanes and service roads. People often don’t have enough time to cross the street, and the speed limit is still set at 35 mph. Since 2009, seven people have been killed in crashes along the project area, according to DOT [PDF].

The online survey and interactive map for the project will be accepting feedback for a few more days before closing down on Tuesday, April 7. The clock is ticking.

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Powerful Driver Training Video Adopted by TLC, MTA, and NYC DOT

A new video from the Taxi and Limousine Commission and Families For Safe Streets is now required viewing for drivers in training programs at TLC, DOT, and the MTA.

In the 15-minute video, “Drive Like Your Family Lives Here,” people talk about losing loved ones to traffic violence. The video features interviews with family members of Allison Liao, Renee Thompson, Carl Nacht, Josbel Rivera, and Asif Rahman. It was produced by Karlyn Michelson and Stephen Mallon in conjunction with the TLC, DOT, Families For Safe Streets, and Transportation Alternatives.

Like the DOT “Your Choices Matter” campaign, the video emphasizes the responsibility of motorists to drive safely. It was officially released Monday evening at an event held at the Crosby Street Hotel in Manhattan. On hand were TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, and City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Helen Rosenthal.

The video is currently in use by the TLC, DOT, and the MTA, officials said. Trottenberg said she would contact the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to see if those agencies would employ it as well.

The video came about after Families For Safe Streets member Amy Cohen, mother of Sammy Cohen Eckstein, talked with Joshi at a Vision Zero event in early 2014. There are other, shorter videos now on Taxi TV, including one with the Cohen Eckstein family.

This is powerful Vision Zero messaging, and a natural complement to recent TLC reforms. While educating prospective drivers about the consequences of unsafe driving, the TLC should also require a New York City road test to obtain a TLC license.

Even after the adoption of Cooper’s Law, named after the 9-year-old boy killed by a yellow cab driver in 2014, a driver can retain his TLC license after causing injury or death if no charges are filed against him. As a result, many drivers who hurt and killed people are still driving cabs.

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Queens Boulevard Safety Plan Has First Encounter With a Community Board

Queens Community Board 2 transportation committee chair Joseph Conley, left, looks at DOT's plan for Queens Boulevard in Woodside. Photo: Stephen Miller

Queens Community Board 2 transportation committee chair Joseph Conley, left, looks at DOT’s plan for Queens Boulevard in Woodside. Photo: Stephen Miller

Skepticism from the Community Board 2 transportation committee toward DOT’s proposed changes for Queens Boulevard wore off over the course of a meeting last night, as board members learned more about the project for 1.3 miles of safety improvements [PDF]. DOT will return to the committee again after tweaking the plan, which appears to be on track to receive CB 2’s backing by June, in time to put changes on the ground this summer.

The meeting got off to an inauspicious start. “The headline that’s gone out is that the community has spoken,” said committee chair Joseph Conley. The more than 100 people at a January workshop DOT hosted about Queens Boulevard, he added, shouldn’t overrule his nine-person committee. “We wanted to make sure that it came to the community board.”

But as DOT presented the proposal and answered questions last night, the heat subsided. “Queens Boulevard doesn’t lend itself to what’s happening for people that live here and work here,” Conley said later. “It’s more of a transportation corridor than anything else.”

The Queens Boulevard redesign will proceed in two phases — first with temporary materials and later with concrete. Image: NYC DOT

The most high-profile component of the project is protected bike lanes running along the Queens Boulevard service roads. A member of the public urged DOT to install more substantial protection than plastic posts, but Conley had a different view. “There’s just some roads where bicycle lanes don’t belong,” he said. “Maybe Queens Boulevard is one of those places where bicycle lanes don’t belong.”

DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo replied that the jumbled street grid in Woodside doesn’t offer alternative bike routes. “Cyclists are choosing Queens Boulevard whether or not we put a bike lane,” he said, “so what we’re trying to do is make that activity as safe and comfortable as possible.”

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More Details From DOT’s Plan to Add Protected Bike Lanes to Queens Blvd

Here’s a closer look at DOT’s plan to add protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety measures to 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard. DOT will be presenting these slides tonight to the Queens Community Board 2 transportation committee [PDF].

The top image shows the proposed layout on blocks where drivers can exit the central roadway to access the service lanes. The right-turn bays with tight angles, stop signs, marked crosswalks, and bike chevrons will replace this “slip lane” design that lets drivers enter the service road at speed:

qb_current

On some blocks, the slip lanes will be filled in entirely to create uninterrupted walkways and bikeways:

qb_55th-56th

At 60th Street, the proposal calls for filling in gaps between medians to create public spaces:

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Boulevard of Life, Phase 1: DOT Will Add Protected Bike Lanes to Queens Blvd

The Queens Boulevard service roads will have buffer space converted to protected bike lanes under a proposal unveiled today. Image: DOT

On a western section of Queens Boulevard, DOT will convert buffer space on service roads to protected bike lanes and pedestrian space this summer. Later, that design will be cast in concrete. Image: DOT

A key section of Queens Boulevard will get protected bike lanes this summer, DOT announced today. The improvements are the first phase of a broader $100 million overhaul that will encompass seven miles of the notoriously dangerous street.

Queens Boulevard is one of the only continuous east-west connections in the borough, making it a natural biking route, but it is designed for high-speed traffic. Dozens of people are seriously injured or killed each year at its complex intersections.

The initial DOT project calls for bikeways to be striped on the boulevard’s service roads between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street by August. The bike lanes will later be cast in concrete as part of a total street reconstruction. Designs for future sections of Queens Boulevard, stretching seven miles east to Union Turnpike, will be unveiled after a series of public workshops.

DOT launched its Queens Boulevard planning process in January with a well-attended workshop in Woodside. Earlier this month, Families For Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives rallied outside Queens Borough Hall to call on DOT to swiftly implement changes.

Advocates have been campaigning for a protected bike lane on Queens Boulevard for many years.

Lizi Rahman lost her son Asif, 22, when he was hit and killed by a truck driver in 2008 while riding his bicycle on Queens Boulevard at 55th Road. “We have to get a bike lane on Queens Boulevard. It might not bring my son back, but I would know that my son died for a good cause,” she said at a demonstration later that year. “I will do this for him and it will help save the other bikers in the future.”

Today, Rahman said she is “ecstatic” to hear about the bike lane plan. “I have been driving on Queens Boulevard for a long time and never really noticed, but after his death I noticed that there wasn’t a bike lane,” she said. “It’s a little bit emotional… I’d really like the bike lane to be named after Asif.”

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Joan McDonald: New York State DOT’s Top Safety Priority Is Fixing Bridges

Pedestrians and cyclists account for a higher share of traffic deaths in New York than in any other state, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, making up 29 percent of all traffic fatalities.

NYS DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald. Photo: CT.gov

NYS DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald. Photo: CT.gov

Every year, TSTC releases a report on the most dangerous roads for walking in the New York City metro region, and suggests steps the New York State Department of Transportation could take to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists state-wide. Among other recommendations, this year TSTC called on NYS DOT to establish a dedicated fund for pedestrian and bike projects, and to devote $20 million a year toward them, on top of funds already allocated in the state budget and DOT capital program.

But when City & State asked Commissioner Joan McDonald what her agency hopes to get done in 2015, making it safer to walk and bike didn’t come up.

The state’s top priority is always safety and our most important initiatives reflect that. The largest project in NYSDOT history — the $555 million replacement of the Kosciuszko Bridge — got underway last fall and is entering its first full construction season. The new bridge will relieve a well-known bottleneck along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, ease congestion, improve air quality and reduce accidents. This project is scheduled to be completed in 2018. Other substantial investments include Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s commitment to spend $1.2 billion on the NY Works program, which re-paved more than 2,100 miles of roads and rehabilitated or replaced 121 bridges. Also under construction is the $148 million rehabilitation of the Patroon Island Bridge in Albany. Also in this budget, Governor Cuomo proposed committing $750 million over five years to accelerate the rehabilitation, reconstruction or replacement of more than 100 bridges statewide that serve critical freight, agriculture and commerce corridors.

No doubt many bridges are in bad shape, but collapsing bridges aren’t responsible for the death toll on New York streets.

We asked Tri-State about McDonald’s remarks, and Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool had another recommendation for DOT: converting the Sheridan Expressway into a surface street.

One important initiative we would like to see NYS DOT advance is an environmental study to advance key recommendations for the Sheridan-Hunts Point land use study. The project, much like the rehab of the Kosciuszko Bridge, will ease congestion, improve air quality, reduce accidents, and improve pedestrian safety in the Bronx where asthma and pedestrian fatality rates are high, for a fraction of the cost of the Bridge. We hope to see this project prioritized in NYS DOT’s upcoming capital program, which we’ve all been anticipating for quite some time.

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NYC Now Tracking Crashes Involving City Government Fleet, Except NYPD

Drivers of city government vehicles crashed at least 5,605 times last year, including 378 collisions that resulted in injury and seven fatalities, according to a new city database. Of the injury crashes, 41 harmed pedestrians and 11 hurt cyclists. The database collects information on crashes involving vehicles from all city agencies — except NYPD, which has yet to share its data.

Photo: ddartley/Flickr

Every city agency, including the fire department, sends data on crashes involving its fleet to a central database, but NYPD is not sharing its information yet. Photo: ddartley/Flickr

“It’s the first time that we’ve had a citywide program of tracking all the collisions that involve the city’s fleet,” said Keith Kerman, deputy commissioner for fleet management at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. “It’s one of our major commitments as part of Vision Zero for the city fleet.”

The database is called CRASH and contains information going back to October 2013. CRASH is populated with data from the standard DMV crash report form, such as the date, time, and location of a crash, as well as the vehicles, pedestrians, or cyclists involved and whether the crash resulted in injuries. It also includes causal factors and traffic conditions at the time of the crash.

NYPD has not responded to questions about why it is not yet reporting data to the CRASH database. The police have “additional reporting and management needs,” Kerman said, including marking whether a crash occurred during enforcement activity and whether emergency lights and sirens were on at the time of the crash.

Tracking whether lights and sirens are turned on at the time of a crash in a citywide database could be important in cases where a pedestrian or cyclist is injured by an NYPD driver. After 24-year-old Ryo Oyamada was killed by an officer driving a cruiser in 2013, the department said the vehicle’s emergency lights were engaged. That claim was later contradicted by witnesses, video footage, and testimony from the officer himself.

FDNY, which like the police department also regularly engages its lights and sirens, is already participating in the CRASH database. Kerman says he is working with NYPD to bring its data into the system.

Kerman said Department of Sanitation vehicles are involved in the highest number of crashes in the database, followed by the fire department. This aligns with pedestrian personal injury claims tracked by Comptroller Scott Stringer, who found NYPD is far and away the top agency for crash claims, followed by DSNY and FDNY.

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Crash Victim Lawsuit: App Use by Uber Drivers Is Negligent and Illegal

Erin Sauchelli, who was seriously injured by an Uber driver while walking in Manhattan, has filed a lawsuit claiming the app Uber drivers use to respond to hails causes driver distraction in violation of New York State law. The driver, Aliou Diallo, killed Sauchelli’s boyfriend, Wesley Manning, in the collision, but he remains in good standing with the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission reinstated the license of the Uber driver who killed Wesley Mensing and injured Erin Sauchelli. Photo via New York Post

The Taxi and Limousine Commission reinstated the license of the Uber driver who killed Wesley Mensing and injured Erin Sauchelli. Photo via New York Post

Sauchelli and Mensing were crossing E. 62nd Street at Lexington Avenue last January 3 when Diallo drove into them with a Mercedes SUV. Mensing, 27, died at the scene. Sauchelli, 30, was hospitalized.

“The driver had accepted a trip and was en route to pick up his customers at the time of the accident and he did not have any passengers in the car,” Uber told Streetsblog after the crash.

Diallo was summonsed for driving without a license. The citation was dismissed two days later. Diallo was not charged criminally by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance for killing Mensing and injuring Sauchelli. The Taxi and Limousine Commission said Diallo’s license to drive a cab was suspended after the crash, but TLC records indicate it is currently valid. Diallo was also reinstated by Uber.

A suit filed by Sauchelli claims she was “a lawful pedestrian in the crosswalk” when she was struck, and that the crash was caused by negligence on the part of Diallo, vehicle owner Tea Bromberg, Malcolm Limo Express, Uber base Schmecken, and Uber, all of whom are named as defendants.

The suit says Diallo was speeding and disregarded a traffic signal. It claims Diallo broke state law that prohibits using an electronic device while driving, and that Uber “knew or should have known that the use of the Uber App by Uber Drivers, including but not limited to” Diallo was a violation of state code intended “to protect individuals from injury and death due to driver distraction and driver inattentiveness.”

“Mr. Diallo was driving an Uber car, en route to pick up a passenger at the time of this accident,” said Robert A. Sgarlato, Sauchelli’s attorney, in a statement emailed to Streetsblog. “We believe that this particular stage in the ‘Uber Car process’ leads to a toxic combination of Uber Drivers that are both hurried to pick up passengers, and distracted by the influx of information coming from the Uber application.”

Uber declined comment on the lawsuit.

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TA: De Blasio Must Undo Construction Budget Cuts to Fix Dangerous Streets

The Grand  Concourse at 149th Street. Transportation Alternatives recommends major redesigns and significant investments in this arterial street and others.

What the Grand Concourse could look like with dedicated bus lanes and protected bike lanes. Click to enlarge. Rendering: The Street Plans Collaborative and Carly Clark for Transportation Alternatives

Arterial streets — the city’s big, busy, highway-like roadways — cover just 15 percent of the New York City street network but account for nearly 60 percent of all pedestrian fatalities. The city will have to overhaul these streets to achieve Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero goals. And to make those changes, the city must reverse cuts to its roadway reconstruction budget, according to a new report from Transportation Alternatives [PDF].

Arterial roads comprise 15 percent of NYC's streets but are the site of nearly 60 percent of the city's pedestrian deaths. Map: TA

Arterial roads comprise 15 percent of NYC’s streets but are the site of nearly 60 percent of the city’s pedestrian deaths. Map: TA [PDF]

Earlier this month, DOT announced that it will be committing $250 million to multi-year overhauls of Queens Boulevard, Fourth Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, and the Grand Concourse. TA urges the city to make that announcement a downpayment, not the final number. The report estimates that as many as 50 lives could be saved and 1,200 serious pedestrian injuries could be avoided each year if DOT redesigns all major arterial streets for safety.

At the city’s current rate of investment, however, it will take more than 100 years to fix the city’s arterial streets, TA says. The group estimates that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s preliminary budget drops funding for road reconstruction from an average of 47 lane-miles each year to 35 lane-miles each year. TA is asking the city to double its commitment, to $2.4 billion over 10 years. This would also ensure that streets do not fall into disrepair for decades before there is funding to rebuild them again.

In addition to more funding, TA recommends setting specific benchmarks and accelerating the timetable for implementation, with groundbreaking on the first arterial reconstructions by 2017 and a fast-tracked delivery plan. (Transportation Commissioner Trottenberg made promises to that effect earlier this month.)

Smaller projects that add curb extensions and road diets to targeted locations can have a big impact even without a complete road reconstruction. DOT has promised to complete 50 of these projects a year. TA is asking for an additional $50 million annually from the city budget to cover more ground in a shorter amount of time.

The report also recommends greater clarity from DOT about where it is looking to install safety improvements, and what changes will be pursued. That way, the public can ensure the agency’s plans align with the locations DOT identified in pedestrian safety action plans for each borough. Those plans identified 443 miles of dangerous corridors in need of safety overhauls.

Why is it important to fix the city’s arterial streets? In addition to making the city safer and less stressful for everybody, the implications are especially significant for New York’s most vulnerable residents. Studies show that low-income communities, seniors, and children are disproportionately affected by traffic violence.

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