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Eyes on the Street: Protection for Cyclists on Bruckner Boulevard

DOT crews were out on Bruckner Boulevard yesterday putting in Jersey barriers to protect a new two-way bike lane. The bikeway will run for half a mile between Hunts Point Avenue and Longwood Avenue, the first phase in what should eventually be a link between the Bronx River Greenway and Randall’s Island. For the time being, it will terminate at Longwood, with sharrows pointing to the less-stressful Southern Boulevard.

The bikeway is part of a package of improvements that will help people safely walk and bike between the neighborhoods around Bruckner Boulevard, which many must cross to access the 2, 5, and 6 trains. It’s one of the most dangerous streets in the Bronx: Between 2009 and 2013 there were almost 600 traffic injuries at the five intersections covered by this project [PDF].

The bikeway on Bruckner Boulevard should extend south and connect to Randall’s Island. Image: NYC DOT

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Senate Committee Passes DRIVE Act Unanimously After Some Tinkering

Given the bipartisan gushing that accompanied the release of the DRIVE Act on Tuesday, it came as no surprise that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the bill unanimously yesterday, with more gushing for good measure.

The insertion of a few little words will make the DRIVE Act a virtual complete streets policy for the entire National Highway System (except interstates). Photo: ##http://www.ca-city.com/complete_streets/fundamentals.html##Crandall Arambula##

The insertion of a few little words into the DRIVE Act may lead to safer designs for walking and biking on major streets. Photo: Crandall Arambula

None of the 30-odd amendments offered for the DRIVE Act passed, but the committee leadership did accept some changes in what’s called a manager’s amendment, a group of amendments agreed to by the chair and ranking member and inserted into the bill. By and large, these small changes improved upon some provisions that were already a step up from the current law, known as MAP-21.

Transportation Alternatives Program: The bill had already improved upon MAP-21’s version of Transportation Alternatives Program by giving all biking and walking money directly to local governments instead of giving half to the state. But in its original form, the DRIVE Act allowed states to take back half that money, making the “improvement” symbolic at best. The manager’s mark struck that part, meaning local communities will have the certainty that they can spend 100 percent of their biking and walking funds without fear of having some taken away.

Complete Streets: Inhofe and Boxer added the word “safety” in a key place: a provision requiring traffic engineers to consider “the access and safety” of non-automobile modes on non-interstate roads. According to Caron Whitaker of the League of American Bicyclists, “These two changes taken together come very close to a Complete Streets policy for the National Highway System.”

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Thursday Jobs Market

Looking to hire a smart, qualified person for a position in transportation planning, engineering, IT, or advocacy? Post a listing on the Streetsblog Jobs Board and reach our national audience of dedicated readers.

Looking for a job? Here are the current listings:

Assistant Director for Street Management, City of Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Department is seeking to hire a highly motivated individual to direct the Street Management Division, which is responsible for both day-to-day street operations and forward looking planning and engineering improvements, in a manner that creates a more multimodal, efficient, and equitable transportation system.

Brooklyn Community Organizer, Transportation Alternatives, NYC
TA is seeking a self-motivated and energetic person to support the Brooklyn Transportation Alternatives Activist Committee and coordinate campaigns that will make Brooklyn’s streets safer and more accessible for people to walk, ride bikes and take public transportation.

Safety Education Outreach Coordinator (Middle), NYC DOT
Serves as a traffic safety outreach program coordinator/educator, conducting Vision Zero traffic safety educational outreach to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries; provides presentations and other outreach to middle and high school students and to other age groups at schools, senior centers, community centers and other locations across the five boroughs, including NYCDOT Safety City facilities.

Safety Education Outreach Coordinator (Elementary), NYC DOT
Serves as a traffic safety outreach program coordinator/educator, conducting Vision Zero traffic safety educational outreach to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries; provides presentations and other outreach to elementary school students and to other age groups at schools, senior centers, community centers and other locations across the five boroughs, including NYCDOT Safety City facilities.

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Silver Fails to Stop Bus Lane Camera Bill in Assembly [Updated]

Update 10:06 p.m.: The story has been updated to reflect the final official vote tally in the Assembly of 79-60. Tonight, the Senate passed its companion bill with an unofficial vote tally of 51 in favor and 8 opposed.

The bill to preserve and expand the use of NYC’s bus lane enforcement cameras squeaked by in a rare contested vote in the Assembly yesterday afternoon. Former speaker Sheldon Silver, who represents Lower Manhattan, sided against the bill, but it mustered only a few votes more than the minimum needed to pass and now goes to the State Senate.

Shelly Silver lets us know what he really thinks about bus lane enforcement. Image: NYSAssemblyMinority/YouTube

The face of the opposition to bus lane enforcement. Image: NYSAssemblyMinority/YouTube

The bill, sponsored by Queens Assembly Member Nily Rozic, would extend camera enforcement of bus lanes in New York City for another five years and expand the program from a maximum of six routes to as many as 16. In the Assembly, 76 votes are needed for a bill to pass, and Rozic’s bill garnered 79 votes to 60 against.

The Senate version is sponsored by Brooklyn Republican Martin Golden. Without action from the Senate, the enforcement program will expire on September 20.

Silver, whose district is served by the camera-enforced M15 bus, urged members to vote against the bill. “I think this clearly is a revenue enhancer for the City of New York and nothing else,” he said on the floor of the Assembly. “It is a trap for motorists.”

Silver led the Assembly when it first rejected bus lane cameras in 2008 and when it finally approved a limited program for New York City in 2010. Yesterday, he objected to the expansion of the program under Rozic’s bill, which would allow the city to use the cameras on 10 additional bus routes of its choosing.

With any NYC bus lane eligible for camera enforcement, bus riders on some of the busiest routes in the city could get faster trips. The Fifth Avenue bus lane, for instance, carries 90 buses per hour during the morning rush and transports 78,000 people each day, according to stats Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg cited on the Brian Lehrer Show this morning.

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Atlanta’s Big Turnaround in Walkable Development

Graph via ATL Urbanist

Graph via ATL Urbanist

A new report that quantifies development in walkable urban places (“WalkUPs”) has good news for Atlanta.

Darin at ATL Urbanist reports:

A full 50 percent of new properties developed in the Atlanta region from 2009-2014 happened in walkable urban places, which is not only a higher amount than what’s happening in the other regions as charted here, it also shows a much bigger jump between that time period versus what was happening in 1992-2000, when the Atlanta region was really lagging behind and producing a lot of new construction in sprawling patterns

The studies are showing a shift away from car-centric development patterns that dominated development in US metros during the latter half of the 20th century.

According to the report, 73 percent of WalkUP development from 2009 to 2013 occurred in areas served by MARTA.

“[T]here’s also a trend happening in the absorption of empty office space in Atlanta’s walkable intown areas that are near transit,” writes Darin. “Just this week we have news that Coke is moving another 500 employees from suburbs to existing offices in Downtown Atlanta — this comes on top of another recent shift that saw Coke relocating 2,000 workers to the downtown locations.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Streets.mn notes the discrepancy between riders and seats on Minneapolis Metro, and Washington Area Bicyclist Association says a pending DC Council bill would help cyclists recover damages after a crash.

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Today’s Headlines

  • The Right of Way Law “Has Been Effective and Saved Lives” (NYT)
  • De Blasio Defends Right of Way Law as S.I. Pols Line Up for Bus, Taxi Exemption (Advance)
  • Prendergast “Confident” Albany Will Fund MTA (Capital, News) But Projects Still Threatened (Post, WNBC)
  • Driver Charged for Drunk Driving After Killing David Craig, 57, on Park Bench (WCBS, News)
  • Martin Celmer, 27, Dies After Driver Struck Him on Metropolitan Ave in W’Burg; No Charges (Bklyn Paper)
  • Second Hit-and-Run Driver Who Ran Over Melwood Hughes, 93, Turns Herself In (DNA, News, WNBC)
  • Corrections Employee Arrested for Drunk Driving After Smashing Two Parked Cars (News)
  • Senate Confirms Prendergast to First Full Term as MTA Chairman and CEO (NYT)
  • Uber and the Post Blast Mayor, Council for Proposing Slowdown in For-Hire Licenses (News, Crain’s)
  • 207th Street Is Inwood’s Most Dangerous; Schools Push for One-Way Streets in N’Hood (DNA 12)
  • Newark’s First Protected Bike Lanes — Previously Given Up to Parking — Have Returned (NJBWC)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Families for Safe Streets Making Progress in the Assembly

A bill to prevent police from detaining bus and taxi drivers who strike pedestrians and cyclists was hastily passed by the State Senate yesterday, but its chances are looking slimmer in the Assembly. Families for Safe Streets says it has won an ally in Assembly Transportation Committee Chair David Gantt.

A dozen members of Families for Safe Streets traveled to Albany this morning to ask Assembly members not to pass the bill.

“We don’t want this to happen to anybody else. We do this because nobody needs to go through what we’ve gone through,” said Debbie Marks Kahn, whose son Seth was killed in the crosswalk, with the right of way, by a turning MTA bus driver in 2009.

“They want to be exempt,” she said of TWU Local 100, which has pushed to weaken NYC’s new Right of Way Law. “That’s the only way they would have it, and the bus drivers are victims, not the people who are injured or killed.”

Kahn and other members of Families for Safe Streets met with Gantt earlier today, waiting outside his office while TWU made its case. “We overheard him say, ‘No, I will not jeopardize my constituents,'” Kahn said. “We thought we heard him say that but we couldn’t be sure.”

Gantt told Families for Safe Streets he would not support the TWU’s bill. “He said, ‘I am against this bill,” Kahn said. “‘I cannot in my conscience vote for this bill. I will not support it if it’s the last thing I do.’”

“That stuck with me,” Kahn said. “He’s the head of the transportation committee.”

Streetsblog has put in a call with Gantt’s office for a statement about his position on the bill.

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Cy Vance to Albany: TWU Bill Would Hinder Cases Against Drunk Drivers

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance sent a letter to state lawmakers warning that a bill to prevent police from detaining bus and taxi drivers at crash scenes would undermine law enforcement’s ability to collect evidence of impaired driving.

The bill, which sailed through the State Senate yesterday with no public notice and without a public hearing, would bar police from detaining many professional drivers — including bus drivers, taxi drivers, and limo drivers — following a crash. Instead, a driver suspected of breaking the law would receive a desk appearance ticket.

The bill passed the Senate at the behest of the Transport Workers Union, which doesn’t think bus drivers who kill and injure people should be subject to charges under the NYC Right of Way Law.

On Tuesday, Vance sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. It read:

Although the amended bill attempts to exclude drivers who may be driving under the influence of alcohol, police officers often conduct field sobriety tests even when there is no immediate suspicion of impairment, and must often wait a significant period of time for the arrival of equipment to conduct those tests. By prohibiting the detention of omnibus drivers at the scene of collisions, the bill prevents law enforcement from gathering evidence vital to bringing criminal charges in appropriate cases.

“In a city full of pedestrians and cyclists, we should be working on ways to make the city safer for New Yorkers, and certainly not promoting changes that would hold some drivers to a lower standard than others,” Vance wrote. “For these reasons, I urge our lawmakers to vote against this bill.”

NYPD and Mayor de Blasio’s office oppose the bill, along with Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The bill is now in the Assembly, where it’s the last day of the 2015 legislative session. Families of people killed by New York City drivers are in Albany today trying to convince Assembly members to stop the bill. You can support them by contacting your representative right now.

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Anatomy of a Dangerous Intersection

Image via Where the Sidewalk Starts

Image via Where the Sidewalk Starts

Streets designed to facilitate fast driving are not suitable for safe walking.

Unfortunately, transportation engineers often don’t design for safety unless a catastrophic event triggers public outcry. Katie Matchett at Where the Sidewalk Starts says the city of San Diego is planning changes at one intersection in an area where motorists routinely hit and injure people, but only after a driver killed an infant.

“We say it so often that it’s cliche,” writes Matchett, “but it shouldn’t take the death of child to fix intersections that are so obviously dangerous.”

Notice that the northbound right “turn” isn’t really a turn at all, more of a channelized “veer” that aims high-speed traffic straight at a crosswalk. Moreover, the crosswalk is set back just enough from the intersection to make pedestrians less visible to drivers. This is a space designed for cars, and cars alone. Is it any surprise that people are hurt and killed here?

The most frustrating part is that there really isn’t much purpose to this stretch of roadway, other than moving cars as quickly as possible at the expense of walkability and pedestrian safety — a point neighbors have picked up on. They’ve asked the City to close down the road and make the entire space into a park. Let’s hope the City listens, before someone else is killed at this crossing.

Even now it’s not clear that San Diego officials are serious about fixing the crossing. A local TV station reports: “City officials say they are putting up another traffic signal and re-stripe the crosswalk, but neighbors do not think it will be enough.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington on the power of positive transportation messaging, the League of American Bicyclists says small towns want better infrastructure too, and Enrique Peñalosa tells TheCityFix that the constant fear of dying in traffic is not a normal way to live.

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The Fight to Preserve NYC’s Right of Way Law Moves to Assembly

The promise of the Right of Way Law enacted by New York City last year is that it will lead to detailed investigations of crashes that injure pedestrians and cyclists. By classifying the act of driving into a person with the right of way as a misdemeanor, the law provided an impetus for precinct officers to take these incidents seriously, find out what happened, and issue charges if warranted. The MO would no longer be to dismiss the crash as an “accident” and clear the scene as soon as possible to keep traffic moving.

A bill passed by the State Senate yesterday would seriously undermine the law. Police would not be able to detain a large class of professional drivers — including bus drivers, taxi drivers, and limo drivers — at the scene. Instead these drivers would receive a desk appearance ticket. As written and voted on by the Senate, without so much as a public hearing, the bill would apply statewide, and not only to charges under the NYC Right of Way Law, but to any charges for dangerous driving outside the scope of the state Vehicle and Traffic Law, such as reckless endangerment or assault.

Street safety advocates including Transportation Alternatives, Families for Safe Streets, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving oppose the bill on the grounds that it would create different standards of treatment for certain drivers under the law, needlessly complicating and therefore deterring investigations of traffic crashes.

Members of Families for Safe Streets will be in Albany today, urging the Assembly to stop the bill. You can tell your Assembly representative where you stand on the issue using this online form, and you can stand with street safety advocates at a press conference at 2 p.m. at 250 Broadway. A strong showing today could prevent this bill from becoming law.