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This Week: Help Tame the Boulevard of Death

The long-anticipated redesign of Queens Boulevard kicks off on Wednesday with a public forum about how to tame the section that runs through Woodside. This is your chance to tell DOT how you want to change the “Boulevard of Death.”

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

  • Tuesday: DOT tis asking people to weigh in on the South Williamsburg transportation study, covering pedestrian safety, congestion management, parking management, and other topics. 6 p.m.
  • Also Tuesday: DOT will present pedestrian safety improvements for several locations in DUMBO to the Brooklyn Community Board 2 transportation committee. 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday: Straus Media and the New York Society for Ethical Culture host a panel discussion on Manhattan traffic safety featuring Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, Council Member Helen Rosenthal, and Dana Lerner of Families For Safe Streets. 6 p.m.
  • Also Wednesday: The Brooklyn Community Board 7 Vision Zero task force, covering Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace, will be hosting a meeting. 6:30 p.m.
  • More Wednesday: A series of DOT workshops to envision the future of Queens Boulevard gets underway with a look at the area between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street. 7 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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Designs From Dutch Burbs Should Unite Vehicular Cyclists and Bike Lane Fans

Photos from Dutch suburban areas and countryside by Marven Norman.

This is the second in a two-post series about Dutch suburbs.

It’s understandable why vehicular cycling techniques thrive in suburban America. In the absence of good bike infrastructure, taking the middle of the travel lane really is the safest way to ride — uncomfortable though that is for many of us.

But if American suburbs are ever going to be made truly better for biking, today’s suburban bicycle drivers will need to find common ground with me and my fellow fans of Dutch infrastructure.

Here’s what that might look like.

1) Infrastructure opponents should take the time to offer meaningful suggestions beyond “no”

Sharrows in Indianapolis. Photo: Michael Andersen/PeopleForBikes

I’ve seen it myself numerous times: The bicycle drivers only demand “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” signs and sharrows while shunning anything else exclusively for bikes. Meanwhile, the planners and engineers are hearing from the rest of society that they want “more bike lanes.” But without any valuable input about design features, they resort to their manuals… and the result is bad infrastructure.

It’s long past time for the more experienced riders to adopt an approach of pragmatism.

Read more…

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Rodriguez Revives Push for Truck Guards After First Cyclist Death of 2015

Hoyt Jacobs was killed by a truck driver making a right turn from Vernon Boulevard onto 41st Avenue. Image: Google Maps

Hoyt Jacobs was killed by a truck driver making a right turn from Vernon Boulevard onto 41st Ave. Image: Google Maps

A private garbage truck operator killed a cyclist, and a driver killed a pedestrian in separate incidents in Queens over the holiday weekend. NYPD and District Attorney Richard Brown filed no charges in either case.

On Saturday evening the driver of a private trash hauler struck cyclist Hoyt Jacobs at Vernon Boulevard and 41st Avenue in Long Island City, according to reports. It’s difficult to parse how the crash occurred, but the Daily News reported that Jacobs was riding on 41st Avenue, and AMNY said the driver was turning right onto 41st Avenue from Vernon Boulevard. From AMNY:

Jacobs was struck by the truck’s driver-side rear wheels, an NYPD spokesman said. The driver stayed on scene and was not arrested or issued a summons, according to the NYPD.

Witnesses told the Daily News the “light from the man’s bicycle helmet could be seen shining from beneath the sheet that covered him,” which seems to indicate that Jacobs should have been visible to the driver. Photos from the scene show Jacobs’ body in the eastbound lane of 41st Avenue, with the truck sitting in the same lane several yards away, facing east. But again, the lack of basic information, especially regarding Jacobs’ direction of travel, makes it impossible to know what happened at this time.

The two-way bike lane on the west side of Vernon Boulevard is interrupted alongside Queensbridge Park, a stretch that includes the intersection where Jacobs was killed. That segment has sharrows and parking lanes on each side of the street. It’s not clear if the lack of a continuous bike lane on Vernon contributed to the crash, but if NYPD determines what happened to Jacobs, the city could gain a better understanding of how to make the intersection safer.

Read more…

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Georgia Poised to Snub Transit in Huge Road Funding Increase

Georgia seems poised to double-down on its dysfunctional transportation policies. Photo: Wikimedia

Georgia seems poised to double-down on its dysfunctional transportation policies. Photo: Wikimedia

In the competition to be the worst state for transit, Georgia is one of the clear standouts. The state contributes nothing — yep, zilch! — to Atlanta’s transit system, even as the region grapples with an increasingly crippling traffic and car dependence problem.

State leaders are now pushing for a gas tax increase that would raise about a billion dollars per year for transportation. Unfortunately, the state’s constitution prevents even a cent of that revenue from being used for transit, and Governor Nathan Deal has shown no inclination to overhaul that policy.

The whole situation encapsulates why, when it comes to transportation, Georgia keeps digging itself deeper into a hole, writes Ken Edelstein at Renew ATL:

Whether Georgia even needs all that much money for roads and bridges is an open question. Reporters and politicians are taking to the bank the Joint Committee’s claim that the state Department of Transportation need to double its budget just to upkeep our current infrastructure.

The problem is that the report’s “verified” estimate of $1 billion to $1.5 billion a year just in increased road and bridge maintenance spending was provided to the Joint Committee by a contractor with a big self-interest in more transportation spending. And the committee’s rather thin report doesn’t offer any documentation for the claim. As so often happens in the political media, however, an unsubstantiated claim by an interested party quickly morphs into the neat number that journalists must latch onto. The result: breathless headlines and credulous editorials accepting an increase in the billion-dollars-plus range as absolutely dire.

Meanwhile, Deal himself noted that the state has found the money to add more than $1 billion worth of Interstate lanes in metro Atlanta during his final term. Go figure.

Read more…

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Justice for Mathieu Lefevre

street_justice2

Change is afoot at the New York Department of Motor Vehicles. Following a meeting with advocates for crash victims, the DMV scheduled safety hearings to determine whether three drivers who caused fatal crashes would lose their licenses. The first of the three – concerning the death of three year-old Allison Liao — saw several welcome improvements in the safety hearing process, including in-person testimony from investigating police officers, presentation of video evidence, and an unusual degree of press access.

A second safety hearing, scheduled for January 27, will address the death of artist Mathieu Lefevre, killed in 2011 while cycling home in East Williamsburg. Lefevre’s parents’ demands for transparency and justice from NYPD crash investigators led to increased oversight of NYPD and jump-started the local Vision Zero movement. A DMV order suspending the driver’s license was mysteriously reversed, and the tickets issued to the driver were dismissed by a DMV judge – just as in the Liao case.

Unless NYPD investigators attend the hearing and present the evidence of wrongdoing by the driver, Leonardo Degianni (summarized below), he will receive no penalty or sanction at all — not even a traffic ticket. The Lefevre hearing presents an important test of whether NYPD and DMV are committed to ensuring meaningful consequences for sober reckless drivers who kill.

Degianni’s Involvement in the Crash

Mathieu Lefevre was struck by the driver of a 28-ton crane truck, who left the scene. Based on surveillance video recovered from a nearby warehouse and blood evidence found on the front bumper of the truck, NYPD investigators identified the truck as one driven by Leonardo Degianni. But Degianni has refused to watch the video, and his statements suggest he plans to escape responsibility for the crash by claiming that police misidentified the truck.

The NYPD detectives who investigated the crash can readily prove that the truck was Degianni’s. Although the video is not of the best quality, the detectives who collected it can establish that it contains date and time metadata consistent with the crash. Moreover, investigators can testify that they found blood on the driver’s side of the front bumper of the truck just hours after the crash. Without this testimony, the judge at the hearing will have to make an identification based on pictures and the video:

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Today’s Headlines

  • Driver Kills Woman, 69, Crossing Bell Boulevard in Bayside (News, WPIX)
  • NYPD Officers Continue to Reverse Enforcement Slowdown; Moving Violations Bounce Back (NYT, Post)
  • After Years of Delay, DMV to Hold Safety Hearing for Truck Driver Who Killed Mathieu Lefevre (Post)
  • To Community Board’s Dismay, SPURA Developer Drops Parking From Transit-Rich Site (Lo-Down)
  • Uber Trips Don’t Include Taxi Surcharge That Helps Support Bus and Subway Service (News)
  • A Closer Look at DOT’s Proposal for Bike Lanes on Clove Road (Advance)
  • Errol Louis: Cuomo Should Use $5 Billion Windfall to Fund Long-Promised Infrastructure Bank (News)
  • Assembly Member Michael Miller Wants to Ban Overnight Parking for Cars Registered Out of State (Post)
  • Delayed Rollout of MetroCard Replacement Will Have Big Cost for MTA (2nd Ave Sagas)
  • NY Mag Looks at Car2Go in NYC, Finds It’s Not Clear If Service Creates Traffic or Reduces Congestion
  • Is Trottenberg’s “Culture Eats Policy for Breakfast” Mantra Just an Excuse? (Brooklyn Spoke)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Today’s Headlines

  • Private Trash Hauler Kills Cyclist Hoyt Jacobs in Long Island City (AMNY, NYT, Post)
  • Are de Blasio and Trottenberg Doing Enough to Prevent Cyclist Deaths? (Gothamist)
  • DMV Finally Schedules Safety Hearing Two Years After Police Struck and Killed Ryo Oyamada (Gothamist)
  • Advocates Press City to Dust Off Plans for Southern Queens Greenway (DNA)
  • Mapping Ocean Parkway’s Terrible Record of Traffic Violence (DNA)
  • Beefing Up NYC Freight Rail Will Run Into Political Resistance in Queens (QChron)
  • After NYPD “Re-engineering,” Staten Island Has No Dedicated Collision Investigation Team (Advance)
  • Motorists Get Signs They Wanted, Telling Them to Adhere to Safe Speeds on Surface Streets (QChron)
  • NYC’s 140 Speed Cams Have Nothing on the Vast Surveillance System Monitoring Straphangers (Post)
  • Damned Bike Lanes (NYT)

Streetsblog will be offline in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and resume publication tomorrow.

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City Planning Department Suggests Safer Streets, Better Buses for Red Hook

The Department of City Planning is recommending making Hamilton Avenue beneath the Gowanus Expressway more pedestrian friendly. Image: DCP

The Department of City Planning recommends making Hamilton Avenue beneath the Gowanus Expressway more pedestrian friendly. Image: DCP

Cut off from the rest of the borough by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and lacking direct subway access, Red Hook can feel like an isolated part of Brooklyn. A study from the Department of City Planning, released last November, calls for expanded pedestrian space, new bus service to Manhattan, and bicycle and pedestrian safety fixes throughout the neighborhood.

A common complaint from Red Hook residents is that there aren’t enough transit connections to the area. Mostly beyond the reach of the F and G trains, the neighborhood is served only by the B57 and B61 buses. Nevertheless, most people depend on transit: Three-quarters of households in the neighborhood are car-free, compared to 55 percent citywide, and 61 percent of residents commute by train or bus.

Transit improvements have been difficult to secure. DOT studied and rejected a streetcar to Red Hook in 2011. While ferries have proven politically popular, especially warm-weather shuttles to IKEA operated by New York Waterway, DCP pointed to the 2011 Comprehensive Citywide Ferry Study, currently being updated, which found expanded ferry service to require too much subsidy to be feasible.

DCP is more receptive to the idea of a direct bus connection to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. The agency says the extension of the M22, which runs between Battery Park City and Corlears Hook, just south of the Williamsburg Bridge, is a “viable option” that requires more study from the MTA. An alternative could be a peak-period shuttle, though DCP does not prefer this limited option.

The report’s recommendations aren’t limited to transit. Bicycling and street safety feature prominently, as well.

Read more…

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New Year, Same Old Community Board 10

Despite its successes, Select Bus Service on 125th Street still faces an uphill battle at Community Board 10.

Despite serving an area of the city where the vast majority of people don’t own cars, Manhattan Community Board 10 has delayed, watered down, or otherwise worked to foil several major projects to improve transit and street safety in the past few years. After obstructing 125th Street Select Bus Service and refusing to support traffic calming proposals for Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, last year CB 10 finally voted for a road diet on Morningside Avenue (after months of cajoling by neighborhood residents). Was it the beginning of a new era for this notoriously change-averse community board?

Judging from a CB 10 transportation committee Tuesday night, the board is only taking baby steps at best. The committee heard a presentation on the dramatic improvements for bus riders on 125th Street, a message that was all but drowned out by shouts from opponents who never warmed to the project. Later in the meeting, CB 10′s rancor was on full display as it continued to stall a plaza and farmers market that has been awaiting support for years.

Barbara Askins, president of the 125th Street Business Improvement District (and not a member of the community board), remains unconvinced that better bus service is good for the neighborhood, even though SBS has not affected car speeds and the plan added 200 parking spaces along 124th and 126th Streets, as well as nine morning loading zones on 125th Street. “People are avoiding 125th Street,” she said. “That’s why you’re moving faster, because people don’t come to 125th Street anymore. How that’s affecting business, we don’t know, but we’re looking into that. We want to find a way to make it work.”

Council Member Mark Levine, who represents West Harlem, came to the meeting to voice his support for SBS and extending the bus lanes to his district. “The bottom line is that this is an overwhelmingly mass transit community… We’re bus riders, we’re subway riders, we’re walkers,” he said. “I’ve been inundated with questions from people saying CM Levine, why can’t we have a faster ride on all of 125th Street?”

While many people in the room were pleased that buses are moving faster, a regular cast of characters showed up to cast aspersions on Select Bus Service. Julius Tajiddin, who has agitated against street safety overhauls in the neighborhood, noted that there are no fare machines for riders going from the penultimate SBS stop at 116th Street to the end of the route at 106th Street. MTA staff said this is standard procedure, since it isn’t worth spending thousands of dollars on fare machines at the end of SBS routes when few riders make those end-of-line trips, but Tajiddin said it was discriminatory to have fare machines along lower-income sections of the route but not in wealthier neighborhoods.

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Seattle Car-Share Is Growing, But Is It Cutting Traffic?

After launching a pilot program three years ago enabling the company car2go to use on-street parking spots for its car-share fleet, Seattle is pursuing an expansion that would allow new companies to enter the market and dramatically increase the availability of point-to-point car-share vehicles.

Photo via The Urbanist

Scott Bonjukian at The Urbanist has the details about the expansion legislation and some interesting stats from the pilot program:

Up from 350 vehicles beginning in 2012, the company has reached the 500 vehicle cap under a pilot program monitored by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). The service has proved immensely popular, and reportedly has 59,000 members in Seattle – the largest of car2go’s 30 home cities — representing nearly one-tenth of the city’s population. The company has requested authority to expand. The proposed legislation (PDF) will increase the permit cap six-fold and allow up to four carshare operators in the city.

According to a staff report (PDF), the vehicles currently occupy only 0.7% of the city’s paid parking space. On average, each vehicle is used six times per day and parked only 68 minutes between trips. Personal vehicles are unused 95 percent of the time.

Committee chair Tom Rasmussen noted that car2go estimates up to 4% (2,360) of Seattle members have ditched a personal vehicle since joining, which removes the option of driving everywhere for every activity and results in congestion reduction. Increasing membership of carshare services will only improve this outcome. SDOT Director Scott Kubly said car sharing is “…a key component to creating choices for people to get around the city, and allowing people to live a car-free or car-light lifestyle.”

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