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The New Yorker Versus Vision Zero

Cross-posted from Brooklyn Spoke.

The default speed limit in New York City is set to drop to 25 miles per hour on November 7th, and because this is New York some people are not happy about it. Nick Paumgarten of the New Yorker, for example.

A week after Halloween, a new speed limit of twenty-five miles per hour will go into effect on every surface road in the five boroughs of New York City, except where stated otherwise. The idea is to make the streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, a particular aim of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Actually, the idea is to make the streets safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers! (Please leave out that last part if you want to play up the “war on motorists” angle.)

Fourteen children were killed by drivers last year. You won’t find a citizen who didn’t wish that this number were zero.

Of course not. But what you will find are a lot of people who don’t want to do anything that could make that wish come true.

Smooth open road is so rare, at least in the denser parts of the city, that a lead foot can hardly resist the urge to hit the gas. In a city of lost time — there’s never enough, never enough — any chance to regain some is sweet.

You’re stuck in gridlock on your way to an appointment or event. Pot holes and winter-scarred roads make it nearly impossible to drive at a comfortable pace. Suddenly, a freshly paved, traffic-free stretch of pavement opens up before you. So, lead foot that you are, you hit the gas. I mean, who can resist, right? Then you hit a child in the crosswalk and that child dies a horrific and violent death, visiting immeasurable grief upon a shocked family and traumatizing dozens of witnesses, all because you had Mets tickets or an 8:05 curtain or something. If there is a philosophical opposite to Vision Zero, it can be found in the sentence, “In a city of lost time — there’s never enough, never enough — any chance to regain some is sweet.”

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Today’s Headlines

  • More Coverage of Mayor Signing 25 MPH Bill (WNYCDNANewsPostObserverCapNY, WCBS)
  • What Do the New Yorker and Marcia Kramer Have in Common? Sources for Street Safety Stories
  • MTA Hires Its First Chief Safety Officer Away From NTSB (News, Post, LoHud, WSJ, Railway Age)
  • Taxi Driver Injures 75-Year-Old Man at 116th and Frederick Douglass (Spectator)
  • After Progress in Albany, Port Reform Advances in Trenton; Up Next: Christie and Cuomo (CapNY)
  • Lowery Plaza Opens Beneath the 7 Train on Queens Boulevard at 40th Street (DNA)
  • Fulton Transit Hub Will (Finally!) Open November 10 (2nd Ave Sagas, DNA, News, NY1, AMNY)
  • The R Train — Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It (Bklyn Paper)
  • Parks Department Charges MTA $520,000 for Removing 16 Trees By Tri-Borough Ramps (Post)
  • Goldfeder Joins Tudor Village Residents to Push DOT for Speed Humps (Forum)
  • Queens CB 1 Rejects Routine Request After Restaurant Owner Fails to Kiss Chair’s Ring (Astoria Post)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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De Blasio Signs 25 MPH Legislation, Promises More NYPD Bike Enforcement

It’s official. This morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio, surrounded by administration appointees, elected officials from the City Council and state legislature, and families of traffic violence victims, signed legislation that lowers New York City’s default speed limit to 25 mph. The law takes effect November 7.

Before the bill signing, de Blasio crossed Delancey Street near where a driver killed 12-year-old Dashane Santana in 2012. DOT modified the street’s design later that year in response to her death. Today, de Blasio called for more. “We have to do a lot of work to fix conditions like this across the city,” he said. “It can be done, but it begins with reducing speeding.”

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg noted that 50 years ago this month, the state legislature raised the default speed limit from 25 to 30 mph. “With this history in mind, it is so nice to be here today having a chance to right this historical wrong,” she said, “and lower the speed limit back to 25 miles per hour.”

Council Member David Greenfield proposed lower speed limit legislation in the City Council in 2013. “This is literally the linchpin of Vision Zero,” he said. “When you drive slower, you can stop faster.”

Under the new law, DOT will be able to sign streets on a case-by-case basis for speed limits other than 25 mph. Trottenberg has said that DOT will set higher speed limits for some major streets, but has not clarified which ones will be exempt from the new 25 mph limit. Earlier this year, DOT refused to lower the speed limit on Queens Boulevard as part of its “arterial Slow Zone” program.

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It’s Still Legal to Run Over a Child on a New York City Sidewalk [Updated]

An 8-year-old girl run over on the sidewalk outside her Bronx school Friday was one of at least two New York City pedestrians killed by motorists over the weekend. A woman struck while walking to work in Brooklyn Sunday morning was the second victim. No charges have been filed in either crash. NYPD and the Post blamed the Brooklyn victim for her own death.

Rylee Ramos. Photo via Daily News

A driver fatally struck 8-year-old Rylee Ramos and injured several others, including two more children, on the sidewalk outside a Bronx school. No charges were filed. Photo via Daily News

On Friday afternoon, Sonia Rodriguez backed onto a sidewalk adjacent to PS 307, striking 10 people, according to reports. At least two victims, including third-grader Rylee Ramos, were students who had just been dismissed from school. From the Daily News:

Rylee and her friend, Genesis Rodriguez, were only paces away from the school’s front door along Eames Place in Kingsbridge Heights when a blue Honda Accord hopped the curb and hit them about 2:45 p.m. The 55-year-old woman behind the wheel then tried to drive forward but all that did was “hit more people,” said Eliasser Lopez, 11. “It was something out of this world,” Eliasser said of the horror.

When the driver finally stopped, Rylee was injured beyond saving, though some tried to give her CPR. The car hit the girl so hard it crushed one of her lungs, family members said.

“[Sonia] Rodriguez hit a chain-link fence,” the Daily News reported, “a wrought-iron gate and a parked vehicle before pinning little Rylee to a pole, police said.” 

Ramos was pronounced dead at St. Barnabas Hospital. Genesis Rodriguez was hospitalized, as was a 4-year-old girl and four women.

Video posted by the Daily News, embedded after the jump, shows the car backing onto the sidewalk as Rodriguez appears to accelerate. Friday’s incident was reminiscent of a 2013 crash in which a motorist hit five children on a sidewalk near a school in Maspeth. Several children sustained severe, life-altering injuries as a result of the Queens crash, and one victim died days later from a reported asthma attack. The driver, identified as Francis Aung Lu, was not charged by NYPD or District Attorney Richard Brown.

Rodriguez was questioned and released by police after the Bronx crash, according to the Times. Streetsblog has asked DA Robert Johnson’s office if charges are being considered. Update: A source with Johnson’s office says the crash is under investigation.

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Livable Streets Events

This Week: Lots of Livable Streets Action at Community Boards

This week, there are opportunities to support bike corrals, bike lanes, better bus service, and Safe Routes to Schools at community board meetings in Brooklyn and Queens. Plus: Two City Council committees are set to tackle pedestrian safety issues this week.

Here are the highlights. Check the Streetsblog calendar for the full slate of events:

  • Tuesday: The City Council sanitation committee will consider a bill to require snow plows to be fitted with lights and audible warnings to prevent pedestrian deaths. It will also consider a bill requiring DSNY to issue an annual report concerning the condition of roadways and pedestrian islands after snow storms. 1 p.m.
  • Also Tuesday: Lots of community board action tomorrow night. The Brooklyn CB 1 transportation committee will reconsider three previously-rejected North Brooklyn bike corrals at 6:30 p.m., Brooklyn CB 9 will reconsider a road diet and bike lane for Franklin Avenue at 7 p.m., Riders Alliance will meet with the Brooklyn CB 8 transportation committee to discuss improvements to the B46 bus at 7 p.m., and DOT will present a Safe Routes to School project in Ridgewood to the Queens CB 5 transportation committee at 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday: The City Council transportation committee will consider two bills: one to increase the number of blind-accessible pedestrian signals and another to give free parking at muni meters in the minutes before paid parking requirements end. 1 p.m.
  • Also Wednesday: Join Riders Alliance for cookies and phone-banking to make sure Queens bus riders come out to the upcoming meeting where DOT and MTA are expected to unveil a BRT plan for Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards. 6 p.m.
  • Thursday: Weigh in on a project that could bring “shared space” to Downtown Brooklyn. DOT will present conceptual designs for three blocks of Willoughby and Pearl Streets. 6 p.m.

Keep an eye on the calendar for updated listings. Got an event we should know about? Drop us a line.

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Sources: Alta Buyout a Done Deal; Citi Bike Fleet to Double

The REQX Alta purchase bodes well for bike-share in NYC and beyond. Photo: Brad Aaron

The REQX purchase of Alta bodes well for bike-share in NYC and beyond. Photo: Brad Aaron

The buyout of Alta Bicycle Share rumored since July is finally a done deal. REQX Ventures, an affiliate of the Related Companies and its Equinox unit, and Alta Bicycle Share, the company that operates Citi Bike, have agreed to terms on the purchase, according to published accounts and sources familiar with the negotiations.

The injection of capital from REQX is expected to help resolve lingering problems with Citi Bike’s supply chain, software system, and operations, which until now have prevented any expansion of the bike-share network.

The sale was reported Friday by Capital New York’s Dana Rubinstein, and Streetsblog has confirmation from two people with knowledge of the deal.

Rubinstein reported that REQX plans to double the size of the Citi Bike fleet to 12,000 bikes. In July, the expansion was rumored to reach up to 145th Street in Manhattan and into western Queens and another ring of Brooklyn neighborhoods adjacent to the current service area. Annual membership prices are expected to increase about 50 percent.

New management and an infusion of funds from REQX bodes well for all Alta bike-share programs over the next year after a stagnant 2014. Alta’s supply chain troubles have hampered system expansions in Chicago, DC, Boston, and San Francisco, among other cities.

The city is expected to make an official announcement soon. However, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg refused to discuss the Alta deal at a press conference earlier today about NYC’s new 25 mph speed limit.

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Is the U.S. Ready for Seniors Who Want to Stop Driving?

A recent New York Times article urged baby boomers preparing for retirement to consider their future transportation needs. The average American woman is living 10 years beyond the point when she is physically able to drive, and the average man is living seven years longer, the Times reported.

Why is it so hard to create senior housing in walkable locations? Photo: Brett VA via Flickr

It’s time to plan for seniors who want walkable housing. Photo: Brett VA via Flickr

But as important and practical as it is for older Americans to seek housing in walkable, transit friendly locations, it’s not always easy. The article featured a couple in San Diego who were considering a cross-country move to find the right mix of amenities.

Dave Alden has been digging into walkable senior housing at Network blog Vibrant Bay Area. Today he offers an example of one development that fell through. The 200-unit project, planned for “an attractive parcel of land, near a viable and active downtown,” was to include a walkable boulevard, with development costs shared by the local government.

I thought the proposal was exceptional. The city appeared to agree and offered to help facilitate the project. First, they agreed to help secure the land rights for the boulevard, some of which were still privately held. Second, in exchange for a concession by the developer on a related land-use issue, they agreed to an expedited entitlement process as permitted under state law.

And then, it all came unwound. After a year of delay, and long after the developer’s concession had been banked, the city withdrew their promise of expedited entitlement.

After an unexpected staff shakeup, the city ceased assisting with land acquisition for the boulevard. Relieved of the city’s jawboning, one property owner promptly increased his asking price by a factor of fifty. The land was never acquired.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Sources: REQX Buys Alta; Citi Bike to Double in Size (CapNY)
  • No Charges: Driver Hits 10 Outside Kingsbridge School, Kills Rylee Ramos, 8 (News 1, 2; NYTABC)
  • Driver Kills Pedestrian Florence Bello in Flatlands; NYPD Blames the Dead (Post, CBSNews 12, News)
  • Driver Critically Injures Bensonhurst Pedestrian, Arrested for Failure to Yield (News 12, @NYPDHighway)
  • Two Years After Sandy, NYT and WNYC Gauge City and MTA Resiliency Progress
  • Kabak: Can the MTA Improve Its Record on Delivering Capital Projects? (SAS)
  • Claiming Gender Discrimination, Crossing Guard Suit to Seek Pay Parity With Mostly Male TEAs (Post)
  • 110th Precinct Issuing More Tickets for Dangerous Driving Violations (DNA)
  • Avella: City Needs to Stop Construction Businesses From Junking Up College Point Sidewalks (TL)
  • Out of Town: Cards OF Oscar Taveras Killed in Crash (ABC); Oprah’s Driver Runs Over Fan’s Foot (Post)
  • Coming Soon to a Bike Lane Near You: the Amazon Fresh Truck (Crain’s)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Quorum or No, Astoria’s CB 1 Votes Against Three Livable Streets Projects

Astoria’s Community Board 1 rejected three livable streets projects Tuesday night, despite questions about whether the board even had enough members in attendance to take votes on the proposals.

Queens CB 1 would rather have one parking space for cars than eight spots for bikes. Image: DOT [PDF]

Queens CB 1 would rather have one parking space for cars than eight spots for bikes. Image: DOT [PDF]

The three projects — a short bus lane on Astoria Boulevard, concrete barriers to protect cyclists on Vernon Boulevard, and a bike corral in front of a restaurant — fell victim to what appears to be leadership biased against projects that improve conditions for bus riders and cyclists.

“It was just a big disappointment for us. I just don’t understand this mentality that cars and their owners are the only rightful users of street space,” said Jean Cawley, whose husband, Dominic Stiller, was seeking the board’s support for a bike corral to take the place of a car parking spot in front of his restaurant, Dutch Kills Centraal [PDF]. “They seem to me to vote down anything having to do with bicycle safety and infrastructure.”

“I was shocked at the negativity that many on the board displayed toward bikes,” said Macartney Morris, an Astoria resident who attended the meeting. “It seemed crazy that people would get upset about one parking spot.”

When Cawley spoke in favor of the bike corral on Tuesday night, CB 1 chair Vinicio Donato asked her questions about cyclists riding against traffic and running red lights. One board member compared Donato’s line of questioning to asking a liquor license applicant about alcoholism. “I don’t know why that had anything to do with me and the bike corral,” Cawley said. ”They’re supposed to have some decorum but they don’t. I think it’s an abuse of process and an abuse of power.”

There were petitions both in support of the corral and against it, but Cawley and other meeting attendees said the board threw out supportive signatures from people who did not live within CB 1, including those from residents of nearby neighborhoods like Woodside or Jackson Heights.

Read more…

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WaPo Transpo Forum: America’s Mayors Aren’t Waiting for Washington

Atlanta’s BeltLine of bike and pedestrian trails is raising property values in every place it touches. Denver’s new rail line will create a much-needed link between Union Station downtown and the airport, 23 miles away. Miami is building 500 miles of bike paths and trails. Los Angeles is breaking new ground with everything from rail expansion to traffic light synchronization. And Salt Lake City’s mayor bikes to work and, by increasing investment in bike infrastructure, is encouraging a lot of others to join him.

At this week’s Washington Post forum on transportation, five mayors from this diverse set of cities spoke of the challenges and opportunities they face as they try to improve transportation options without much help or guidance from the federal government.

Speaking of the feds:

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta is tired of Congress not doing its job. “Cities don’t get to kick the can,” he said. And even if the feds aren’t ready to make big investments, private and foreign investors are reportedly itching to get a crack at U.S. infrastructure, but there’s been no good process for doing so. Reed wants the federal government to play a convening role, bringing mayors together with private investors they can pitch projects to.

And either way, he said, if the federal government is providing less funding to cities for transportation, “we think they need to have a little less say” — except when it comes to safety. But Denver Mayor Michael Hancock says there’s an upside to the gridlock in Washington: “Cities are being more creative.” And Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says the Obama administration has been a great partner — pointing especially to the TIGER program and the HUD/DOT/EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

New projects:

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is excited about intelligent transportation technology, like the traffic signal synchronization his predecessor, Antonio Villaraigosa, pioneered. And LA’s Expo line — which he dubbed the Beach-to-Bars line — opens soon, turning a two-hour slog through traffic into a 45-minute pleasure cruise. He says it’ll open up access to the Philharmonic and sports venues that, these days, are often avoided because the trip is too hellish.

But Garcetti is already on to the next thing. To him, that thing is autonomous cars. He thinks LA will be a natural home for those. In fact, he openly acknowledges that his push to build BRT lanes is all in the interest of turning them into autonomous vehicle lanes a few years down the road. That’s right — despite the visionary strategic plan LA just released, Garcetti wants to turn road space over from efficient modes to less efficient ones.