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Report: As Cities Add Bike Lanes, More People Bike and Biking Gets Safer

safety_in_number_charts

Cities adding bike infrastructure are seeing a “safety in numbers” — more people on bikes plus lower risk of severe or fatal injury. Graphs: NACTO

The more people bike on the streets, the safer the streets are for everyone who bikes. This phenomenon, originally identified by researcher Peter Jacobsen, is known as “safety in numbers.” And that’s exactly what American cities are seeing as they add bike infrastructure — more cyclists and safer cycling — according to a new report from the National Association of City Transportation Officials [PDF].

The report is part of NACTO’s research series on implementing equitable bike-share systems. NACTO makes the case that large-scale bike-share systems can improve access to jobs in low-income communities by extending the reach of bus and rail lines, and — citing the safety-in-numbers evidence — that good bike lanes have to be part of the solution. Otherwise dangerous street conditions will continue to discourage people from biking.

NACTO tracked changes in bike commuting, bike lane miles, and cyclist fatalities and severe injuries in seven U.S. cities that have added protected bike lanes and bike-share systems over the past decade or so. In all seven cities, cycling has grown along with the bike network, while the risk of severe injury or death while cycling has declined.

In five of the cities — Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, and Portland — the absolute number of cycling deaths and severe injuries fell between 2007 and 2014, even as cycling rose substantially. In the two other cities — San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — deaths and serious injuries increased somewhat, but not as much as the increase in bicycle commuting.

New York City, for example, has added about 54 miles of bike lanes per year since 2007. Chicago has added about 27 miles per year since 2011. Over that time the risk of severe injury or death while cycling has decreased by about half, NACTO reports.

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Cy Vance Wins Murder Conviction for East Village Sidewalk Killing

Shaun Martin killed Mohammed Akkas Ali and injured three other people when he sped onto an East Village sidewalk in 2013. Image: WNBC

Shaun Martin killed Mohammed Akkas Ali and injured three other people when he sped onto an East Village sidewalk in 2013. Image: WNBC

A driver who killed a man and injured two others on a Manhattan sidewalk was convicted of murder, District Attorney Cy Vance announced today.

Mohammed Akkas Ali. Photo via Daily News

Mohammed Akkas Ali. Photo via Daily News

Shaun Martin, who reportedly had a history of drunk driving, was high on PCP and methamphetamine when he tore through the East Village in a Nissan sedan at speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour on the morning of June 19, 2013, according to a Vance press release.

Martin drove onto the sidewalk at Second Avenue and Fourth Street, hitting a fire hydrant, a pay phone, a muni-meter, and a tree before striking Mohammed Akkas Ali and two other people who were working outside a corner grocery store.

Ali, 62, died from injuries sustained in the crash. His two coworkers were “seriously injured,” according to Vance. A fourth victim, a man on a bike, was injured by crash debris.

Vance charged Martin with second-degree murder and a number of other felonies, including two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, two counts of assault, four counts of aggravated vehicular assault, one count of reckless endangerment, and two counts of driving while ability impaired. Judge Melissa Jackson convicted Martin of all charges this week, following a bench trial, Vance’s office said.

Said Vance in a statement:

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Seattle’s New Park-and-Rides Cost a Fortune But Won’t Move Many People

Seattle area voters will vote this November on a $53 billion transit expansion package. But along with new light rail lines stretching across the region, Seattle will also be getting a publicly owned parking empire.

In total, the plan calls for $661 million in spending on parking at transit stations. At an astounding $80,000 per stall, that will fund 8,300 parking spots.

Zach Shaner at Seattle Transit Blog notes that with 18,000 parking spaces already operated or planned by Sound Transit, the system will have about 26,000 stalls when complete. He set out to visualize all that parking and created this excellent map:

Seattle's $53 billion light rail expansion plan also calls for a new ? of parking. Map: Zach Shaner, Seattle Transit Blog.

So many resources devoted to parking spaces that will serve such a small fraction of potential transit ridership. Map: Zach Shaner/Seattle Transit Blog

Despite all the space and money these parking spaces will consume, Shaner writes, they won’t serve a large share of light rail riders, because “parking fundamentally can’t scale”:

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Today’s Headlines

  • What Can Be Done to Fix New York’s Ailing Bus System? (Politico)
  • Crane Collapse Shuts Tappan Zee, Cuomo Takes Control of Scene (NYT, Journal News, AMNY)
  • NYPD Announces Next “Safe Passage” Ticket Blitz; Bratton: We All Have a Role to Play (AMNY)
  • DOT Will Begin Work on Jay Street Protected Bike Lanes This Month (DNA)
  • Plaza 33 May Not Be Back for Good (MTR)
  • Transit Advocates: Landmarking Park Ave Building Could Impede Grand Central Improvements (News)
  • Richard Brown Will Appeal Judge Gia Morris’s Right of Way Law Ruling (DNA)
  • Ozone Park Speeding Hit-and-Run Killer Arrested, Charged With Manslaughter (Post, News)
  • NYPD Disciplines Cops Whose Drinking Buddy Killed Andrew Esquivel (Post)
  • All You Need to Wreak Havoc With a Motor Vehicle Is Access to the Keys (DNA, Advance)
  • No One Minding the Store in New Jersey (NYT 1, 2)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Wider Sidewalks Coming to Flushing’s Crowded Main Street

Pedestrians crossing Roosevelt Avenue at Main Street, the location of the Flushing-Main Street subway station, at around noon today. Photo: David Meyer

Foot traffic on Roosevelt Avenue at Main Street, the location of the Flushing-Main Street subway station, at around noon today. Photo: David Meyer

Main Street in Flushing gets more foot traffic than anywhere else in New York after Times Square, but its sidewalks are too narrow to handle all those people. So later this month, the city will begin expanding the sidewalks on four blocks of Main Street, Council Member Peter Koo, DOT, and the Department of Design and Construction announced this afternoon.

Set to begin next Monday, the project will also add a one-block bus lane and high-visibility crosswalks, part of a bottom-up reconstruction of Main Street between 37th Avenue and 40th Road.

This section of Main Street is located at the convergence of the 7 train, the Long Island Railroad, 13 MTA bus routes, and many private bus lines. At any given point in the day, the sidewalks are overflowing with commuters and shoppers, 83 percent of whom arrive by foot or transit, according to DOT.

Council Member Peter Koo (center) spoke this afternoon alongside DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Photo: David Meyer

Council Member Peter Koo (center) with DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Photo: David Meyer

Downtown Flushing’s streets are designed primarily to move motor vehicles, however, and people walking on Main Street have to contend with heavy car traffic. In 2015 alone, 28 pedestrians were injured and two were killed along the .9-mile stretch of Main Street between Northern Boulevard and Elder Avenue, according to Vision Zero View.

The $7.8 million reconstruction project will add between two and eight feet of sidewalk space, depending on the location, building on a 2011 project that used paint and flexible bollards to narrow the roadway and expand space for pedestrians. That project led to an 11 percent decline in traffic injuries, according to DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Casting the wider sidewalks in concrete, she said, will “deliver on Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero goals.”

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America’s Sorriest Bus Stop: Silver Spring vs. New Castle

From the pathetic to the desolate, our parade of sorry bus stops continues today with the fourth match of the first round in this 16-bus-stop tournament.

Two Mid-Atlantic competitors, each bad in its own special way, face off today.

Silver Spring, Maryland

awful bus stop

This bus stop comes to us from Dan Reed, who writes:

This one is on a busy state highway in Silver Spring, Maryland, immediately north of Washington, DC.

Metrobus (which serves this stop) should get props for having great service – buses come every few minutes during rush hour, and service runs 22 hours a day, 7 days a week. That is, if you can actually get to this bus stop, and we’ve got the Maryland State Highway Administration to blame for it. There are no sidewalks leading to it. It’s at an intersection, but there’s no crosswalk and no stoplight. And, of course, there’s a steep hill next to it. I’ve lived here my entire life and I’ve only ever seen one person waiting for the bus here. I’m pretty sure they were dropped from a plane or something.

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Eyes on the Street: The Emergent Sixth Avenue Bikeway

Work has started on the Sixth Avenue bikeway. The pic in the above tweet is at Sixth and 18th Street. The photo below, sent to us by a reader, was taken at 16th Street.

Sixth Avenue is one of the most biked streets in the city but until now cyclists have had to make do with a narrow painted bike lane next to heavy motor vehicle traffic. DOT revealed its plan for phase one of the Sixth Avenue bikeway in late 2015, after years of advocacy led by Transportation Alternatives.

In January DOT announced that phase one would extend between Eighth Street and 33rd Street, six blocks longer than the original plan to begin the redesign at 14th Street. The revised plan also included some concrete pedestrian islands, which were not a feature of the original proposal.

DOT has said it may extend the lane south to Canal Street next year, with a northward expansion to follow at an undetermined date.

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Vox Pulls Back the Curtain on “Scam” to Save Lives With Red Light Cameras

You can usually count on Vox for accurate, research-based explainers of public policy issues. That’s why the new Vox video on red light cameras is so monumentally disappointing.

Researchers have established that red light cameras make streets safer by reducing potentially fatal T-bone collisions, though they do lead to more rear-end crashes, which tend not to be very serious. But motorists upset about receiving fines for dangerous driving mobilize tenaciously against automated enforcement. The use of red light cameras in Colorado, for instance, is consistently under siege in the state legislature. They are currently outlawed in more than a dozen states.

Campaigns against automated enforcement could hardly ask for better propaganda than this Vox video. Here’s a look at what’s so wrong with it.

1. Red light cameras save lives — but who cares?

Once you get past the click-bait title, “Why Red Light Cameras Are a Scam,” the piece starts out well. There are more than 30,000 traffic deaths every year in the USA, we’re told, and “23 percent are intersection related.” Vox also notes that the cameras reduce T-bone collisions and that they “really can and do save lives” — but for some reason this is immediately overshadowed in the video by the increase in less deadly rear-end fender-benders.

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DOT Overrides CB 10, Advances E. Tremont Safety Project After Cyclist Death

DOT will implement a road diet on the stretch of East Tremont Avenue where a motorist killed cyclist Giovanni Nin in June. Last year DOT had dropped the project in response to a hostile reception from Bronx Community Board 10.

How do Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg determine when a street safety project should move forward regardless of the local community board vote?

In early 2015, DOT proposed a number of improvements for East Tremont between Williamsbridge Road and Bruckner Boulevard [PDF]. The plan would reduce through traffic lanes and add a center turn lane, pedestrian islands, and other traffic-calming measures. No bike lanes were included in the project.

Hundreds of people were injured in crashes on this segment of East Tremont between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT. Twenty-one of the injuries were severe or fatal. Fifty-nine of the victims were pedestrians and 10 were cyclists. In 2013, three drivers struck and killed Angel Figueroa, 74, as he tried to cross East Tremont at Puritan Avenue.

CB 10 voted against the plan after the Throggs Neck Merchants Association rallied people to oppose it, according to the Bronx Times. “DOT stated that it would be happy to abide with the CB 10 decision,” the paper reported.

A year after DOT abandoned the East Tremont project, a hit-and-run driver killed Nin, 26, while he was riding his bike about a block away from where Figueroa was hit.

At a memorial event for Nin last month, City Council Member James Vacca blamed CB 10 for derailing the East Tremont improvements. Then on July 11 he wrote to DOT Bronx Borough Commissioner Constance Moran [PDF], telling the agency to follow through on the project:

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Houston FTW: Transit Execs Aim to Fix Sorry Bus Stops

Houston METRO officials recognize that poor walking infrastructure and uncomfortable waiting environments are a big problem for transit riders. Photo: Christopher Andrews

The lousy state of American bus stops is a serious problem. Transit riders say bad waiting environments are one of their top concerns, according to a recent survey and report by TransitCenter [PDF]. That’s why Streetsblog is highlighting some of the sorriest bus stops in the nation this month.

Poor walking conditions and uncomfortable bus stops are not just the transit agency’s responsibility. Local governments and city and state DOTs are also to blame. It takes some coordination to improve bus stops, and not enough public agencies are stepping up to solve the problem.

One exception is Houston METRO, the same agency that became a national model by redesigning its bus network. Ryan Holeywell at The Urban Edge, a blog of Rice University’s Kinder Institute, spoke with METRO’s new board chair, Carrin Patman, and CEO Tom Lambert about how the agency intends to coordinate with the city to make the experience of getting to bus stops and waiting for the bus better for riders:

METRO sees fixing things outside of their vehicles — namely sidewalks and bus stops — as a critical way of boosting ridership. That means coordinating with lots of other players. “In order to have accessible shelters, you need to have the City of Houston fully on board,” Patman said. She says METRO will be more involved in public and private planning efforts and suggested she wants to explore the idea of asking private developers to install bus shelters when they’re making major improvements to their properties.

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