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Winners and Losers From Tuesday’s Primary

The big headline after yesterday’s election was the bite Zephyr Teachout took from the left flank of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s primary win. While the governor dominates the agenda in Albany, there were also important developments for livable streets in down ballot races.

Incumbents Adriano Espaillat and Tony Avella, election winners endorsed by StreetsPAC, say they want Albany to lift restrictions on NYC traffic cameras.

Senate incumbents Adriano Espaillat and Tony Avella, election winners endorsed by StreetsPAC, say they want Albany to lift restrictions on NYC traffic enforcement cameras.

Espaillat survives threat from Jackson. In Upper Manhattan, Adriano Espaillat avoided losing his State Senate seat to Robert Jackson by 1,500 votes. Like Espaillat, Jackson is an uptown heavyweight, having represented residents of Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood on the City Council for three terms. Espaillat has found his voice as an Albany livable streets leader as of late, and a clear difference between the candidates was 125th Street Select Bus Service, which Espaillat endorsed as Jackson sided with its critics. The winners in this race could turn out to be New Yorkers who want safer streets and better transit.

IDC survives challenges. After holding off John Liu, we’ll be watching to see if Tony Avella follows through on the policy pledges that got him a StreetsPAC endorsement. It could be huge, for example, if Avella emerges as a strong supporter of bus rapid transit in Queens. (Also worth noting: Both Avella and Espaillat told StreetsPAC they want to end Albany restrictions on when and where NYC can use automated enforcement.) In the Bronx, fellow IDC member and Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein easily bested former City Council Member G. Oliver Koppell. Klein was key to advancing speed camera enforcement in the last two legislative sessions. He’s up against Republican Aleksander Mici in November.

Jo Anne Simon wins primary for open Assembly seat. Simon has an extensive track record fighting for traffic calming and congestion relief in Downtown Brooklyn. She should be great on livable streets issues, even though Pete Sikora got the StreetsPAC nod. Since Sikora is also on the WFP ticket, Simon will face him again in November, along with Republican John Jasilli.

Comrie ousts Smith. It’s sad when a criminally-indicted legislator losing his seat is exceptional, but that’s the state we’re living in. Voters in Queens abandoned Malcolm Smith in droves, propelling Leroy Comrie to the State Senate. As a City Council member, Comrie spearheaded legislation to require NYPD to report to the council and the public on hit-and-run crashes.

In other action Tuesday:

  • Voters in Crown Heights chose Jesse Hamilton to succeed Eric Adams in the Senate
  • Open Assembly seat winners: Rodneyse Bichotte, Latrice Walker, Guillermo Linares, Latoya Joyner, Charles Barron, Rebecca Seawright (succeeds Micah Kellner), and Erik Dilan
  • Senators and Assembly incumbents who will remain in place: Toby Stavisky, Marge Markey, Martin Malave Dilan, Liz Krueger, Felix Ortiz, Marcos Crespo, Gustavo Rivera, Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Steven Cymbrowitz, James Sanders, and Denny Farrell

With reporting by Stephen Miller 

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Foxx: New U.S. DOT Bike/Ped Initiative “Critical to Future of the Country”

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx just announced to the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference in Pittsburgh that the department is “putting together the most comprehensive, forward-leaning initiative U.S. DOT has ever put forward on bike/ped issues.” He said the initiative “is critical to the future of the country.”

Photo: Wikipedia

The top priority, he said, will be closing gaps in walking and biking networks where “even if people are following the rules, the risk of a crash is too high.” He said dangerous street conditions are especially severe in low-income communities, where pedestrians are killed at twice the rate as in high-income areas, often because they lack sidewalks, lighting, and safe places to cross the street. He noted that when he was mayor of Charlotte, a child was hit by a driver because the road he was walking on with his mother had no sidewalk, and overgrown bushes pushed them into the street.

In its announcement today, U.S. DOT noted that pedestrian and cyclist deaths have been rising faster than overall traffic fatalities since 2009.

As Foxx often mentions when discussing street safety issues, he himself has been the victim of a crash. He was hit by a right-turning driver while jogging one morning during his first term as mayor.

As part of the initiative, U.S. DOT just wrapped up bike/ped assessments in Boston, Fort Worth, and Lansing, Michigan. They’ll be leading similar assessments in every state in the country.

Without going into detail, Foxx also said the department plans “to re-examine our policies and practices that without intending to do so have occasionally resulted in road designs that shut out people on foot and on bicycle.” Certainly, there is a wide variety of federal transportation policies and practices that warrant examination on that front.

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PS 41 Parents and Staff Build Momentum for Protected Bike Lane on 7th Ave

What began as a push to extend a neighborhood slow zone has grown into a complete streets request for Seventh Avenue. Image: PS 41 Parents

What began as a push to extend a neighborhood slow zone has grown into a complete streets request for Seventh Avenue. Image: PS 41 Parents [PDF]

Manhattan community boards have already asked DOT to study protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands for Amsterdam, Fifth, and Sixth Avenues. Now a coalition of public school parents, teachers, and administrators is making headway in a campaign to redesign Seventh Avenue with a complete streets focus that protects pedestrians and cyclists.

Last Thursday, CB 2′s transportation committee unanimously passed a resolution asking DOT to study the avenue below 14th Street. CB 4′s transportation committee, covering Chelsea, is likely to take up the request next month.

The push for complete streets on Seventh Avenue began with concerns about intersections on Seventh Avenue South, which runs through the West Village from 11th Street until it becomes Varick Street at the intersection of Clarkson and Carmine. Built along with the IRT subway, the avenue opened in 1919, slashing across the West Village’s diagonal street grid and creating multi-leg intersections that continue to pose a threat to pedestrians.

It’s these intersections that worry a group led by PS 41 principal Kelly Shannon and Heather Campbell, chair of the school’s Parents’ Action Committee. The group had asked DOT to extend the West Village neighborhood slow zone eastward to cover schools between Seventh and Sixth Avenues. After the city rejected that request in July, the parents came back to CB 2′s transportation committee last week, focused on improving safety at multi-leg intersections along Seventh Avenue South.

They presented a complete streets redesign featuring a protected bike lane, pedestrian islands, and a northward extension of the median made out of flexible posts that currently divides traffic on Varick Street approaching the Holland Tunnel [PDF]. The group has also received a letter of support from State Senator Brad Hoylman.

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Two Visions for a Closed DC Freeway, But Only One Shows Any Vision

Image: Greater Greater Washington

Image: Greater Greater Washington

David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington reports that city traffic engineers and city planners have very different ideas on what to do with a closed freeway segment in southeast DC.

The District Department of Transportation came up with a range of proposals for the Southeast Freeway between the 11th Street Bridge and the Barney Circle neighborhood. But all of them, writes Alpert, “primarily focused around moving cars fast, and … would be, at best, unpleasant to cross on foot.”

Unhappy with the DDOT offerings, residents and a city council member enlisted the Office of Planning to give it a shot.

“OP’s options still look at four-lane boulevards and even four-lane parkways, but much with much more appealing designs like a big park next to and partly on top of the road,” says Alpert. Other renderings from the planning department show the street grid extending into the freeway, with townhouses, larger buildings, and a mix of the two.

But regardless of configuration, says Alpert, the city hasn’t put forth a proposal to reduce the number of lanes designated for driving: ”[E]ven OP’s study assumed that there need to be four lanes of traffic, as that’s what DDOT insists on.” Alpert continues:

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Today’s Headlines

  • Teachout Snags More Than a Third of the Vote, Bruising Cuomo (NYT)
  • Corrupt Incumbent Watch: Smith Falls, Sampson Survives (NYT)
  • Espaillat Tops Jackson, Barely (Spectator); Felix Ortiz, Jo Anne Simon Win (Brooklyn Paper 1, 2)
  • DOT Snags $25 Million TIGER Grant for Bike and Ped Projects (WNYC, Gothamist)
  • De Blasio Isn’t So Sure About Bratton’s Request for 1,000 More Officers (Post)
  • David H. Koch Plaza Opens in Front of the Met on Fifth Avenue (Crain’s)
  • Before and After Photos Show SL Green’s $210 Million Grand Central Upgrades (2nd Ave Sagas)
  • PATH Fare to Increase 25 Cents to $2.75 on October 1, Up From $1.75 in 2011 (Jersey Journal)
  • Former PlaNYC Chief Tapped to Lead Prospect Park Alliance (NYT)
  • Justin Davidson: De Blasio Should Look to Neighborhoods Like Jamaica in Housing Plan (NY Mag)
  • Guess What? Owning a Private Off-Street Parking Spot at Your Soho Apartment Is a Luxury (NYT)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Four Mayors on Why They’re Building Out Their Cities’ Bike Networks

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Mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, AC Wharton of Memphis, Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh, and Jennifer Selin of Morgantown, WV, kicked off the Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference today.

A growing number of mayors want to make big strides on bike policy, and they need smart advocates to help them do it.

Mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh, Jennifer Selin of Morgantown, and A.C. Wharton of Memphis addressed the opening session at the 2014 Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference, now underway in Pittsburgh. The mayors highlighted their own cities’ efforts to create safer conditions for biking and walking, and shared their thoughts about how their cities have overcome key obstacles and how advocates can make an impact.

In all four cities, mayors called investment in walking and cycling infrastructure a smart long-term policy with numerous community benefits. “It’s healthy, it’s good for the economy and our citizens,” said Philadelphia’s Nutter. They each cited constructive partnerships with advocates, and intensive listening to community concerns, as keys to advancement. Selin of Morgantown said, “I enjoy bicycling, but I can’t put it forth as my own agenda. It has to come from the community.”

Each mayor also highlighted how their bike networks will bridge social divides within their cities, and they pointed out that city mayors, unlike legislators, are obliged to make things work: “We’re the government of last resort,” said Memphis’s Wharton. “We can’t pass our responsibilities down to anyone else.”

Martha Roskowski from PeopleForBikes led off by introducing Isabella, a fictional 12-year-old girl. She urged planners and advocates in the audience to design bikeways that people like Isabella would enjoy — and highlighted how protected bike lanes have multiplied across the country. Yet in city after city, advocates alone can’t build new bike networks. “The single determinant” that best ensures success, Roskowski said, “is a really great mayor.”

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Cyclists and Pedestrians Now Make Up a Huge Share of Flushing Ave Traffic

Flushing Avenue before and after the installation of buffered bike lanes. Photos: NYC DOT

Flushing Avenue before and after the installation of buffered bike lanes. Photos: NYC DOT

Biking has skyrocketed on Flushing Avenue by the Brooklyn Navy Yard since the installation of bike infrastructure in 2010, according to new counts released by the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. The route is slated for more biking and walking upgrades as the city builds out the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway.

Cyclists and pedestrians comprised 25 percent of traffic on Flushing Avenue at Waverly Street on June 20, a Friday, and 41 percent of total traffic on August 16, a Saturday.

Bike traffic has risen with the addition of cycling infrastructure on Flushing Avenue and Williamsburg Street West, where preliminary segments of the greenway have been installed. Before any bike lanes existed on Flushing, DOT counted “more than 300″ cyclists on a summer weekday. A combination of buffered and protected lanes were installed in 2010, and this June, Right of Way counted nearly 3,000 cyclists in 14 hours of closed circuit TV footage of Flushing and Waverly.

From the BGI press release:

On June 22, 2014, 2,966 bikes passed this stretch between 7:00 am and 9:00 pm. During the same period 1,030 pedestrians and runners passed and 12,046 vehicles passed.

In the August weekend count, Right of Way tallied more than 4,000 cyclists and a combined bike/ped mode share of 41 percent.

Next up is a major capital project, in the works for several years, which will bring a mile-long two-way bikeway to Flushing Avenue that will connect the Manhattan Bridge approach, DUMBO, and Farragut Houses to Williamsburg Street West, Kent Avenue, and Williamsburg/Greenpoint. The project will also narrow pedestrian crossing distances by around 20 percent.

“Each time new improvements like this occur and new connections are made we see a jump in greenway user volumes,” said BGI co-founder Milton Puryear in the release. “We anticipate another big jump when the Flushing Avenue capital project is completed.”

The Department of Design and Construction website says work on the project will start this fall, but Puryear told Streetsblog he’s expecting construction to begin in 2015.

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If Police Don’t Take Traffic Violence Seriously, Vision Zero Will Fail

Eight months in, Mayor de Blasio and his administration should be proud of how much has been achieved under the Vision Zero program. As an attorney and advocate for crash victims, my expectations were exceeded by the early progress in almost every area of this multi-agency initiative. There have even been noticeable changes at the police department — the one agency that historically has been most resistant to stepping up on street safety. But as shown by the Dulcie Canton scandal NYPD’s response has been inconsistent. [Disclosure: The author is on the board of StreetsPAC, which endorsed Bill de Blasio for mayor, and his law firm represents Dulcie Canton.]

Dulcie’s case illustrates the gaping holes that remain in NYPD’s approach to Vision Zero. She was struck with tremendous force in a horrific hit-and-run crash on August 7 and suffered serious injuries, somehow managing to escape with her life (in large part because she was wearing a helmet). Surveillance video shows a sedan driver speeding behind her fully-illuminated bicycle, striking her, and driving off without so much as hesitating.

Although, as is often the case, the surveillance video did not capture the car’s license plate, and the driver sped off before witnesses could get a look at him, Bushwick residents at the crash scene came together in a remarkable way to help identify the driver. The owner of the building by the crash site went to extraordinary lengths to preserve footage from his surveillance cameras. People on the block recovered a piece of the car that fell off when it struck Dulcie, bearing serial numbers that link it to the vehicle. The skateboarder with Dulcie that night worked with neighbors to identify the car, parked just a block or so from the crash scene. This prompt action from neighborhood residents — the lengths people went to in order to help a crash victim and find a perpetrator — shows just how much the principles of Vision Zero matter to New Yorkers.

All that was left for me to do as Dulcie’s lawyer was to bring this evidence to the police and let them do their job — or so I thought. But that’s where the process broke down. Because Dulcie thankfully hadn’t been killed or critically injured, the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad did not respond. Instead, a detective at the 83rd Precinct was assigned to investigate the case as a hit-and-run. With all optimism, I met with the detective on the fourth day after Dulcie’s crash and gave him all the evidence, and told him we were waiting to inform the insurer of the car of our claim because we didn’t want the company to alert the owner of the car to the investigation.

Over the following month, I followed up with the detective several times by phone and in writing. He explained to me that he was busy with a heavy caseload and needed more time before he could question the owner. After three weeks, the Bushwick neighbors who had been so helpful and had continued to monitor the car advised that the owner had fixed the damage from the crash. Now that critical evidence was being lost and concealed, we had to act, and so the car’s insurer was alerted.

Naturally, I heard back from the insurer that the owner of the car denied any knowledge of the incident. But recent press attention to this case has caught the attention of some law enforcement officials, and following a meeting yesterday it appears that Dulcie’s crash may finally be investigated as it should have been. Many thanks to folks who made phone calls and used social media to help us move this case higher on NYPD’s to-do list!

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It’s OK to Build Transit-Oriented Development Before Transit

Which should come first: transit or transit-oriented development?

Mountain View, California's Shoreline Boulevard is seen as a potential mixed-use transit corridor. Image: City of Mountain View via Streetsblog SF

Mountain View, California’s Shoreline Boulevard is seen as a potential mixed-use transit corridor. Image: City of Mountain View via Streetsblog SF

Streetsblog San Francisco reported Monday that residents of Mountain View, California, are trying to figure out how to accommodate thousands of tech employees without overwhelming local transportation infrastructure. One-fourth of all workers in Mountain View travel to and from an office district that houses Google, LinkedIn, and other companies, yet in 2012 the city council prohibited mixed-used development there.

It’s an election year in Mountain View, and some council candidates say it’s a bad idea to put dense housing in an area where public services, including transit, don’t exist.

They’ve got it wrong, says Jarrett Walker at Human Transit.

[T]here’s not enough transit there because there aren’t enough people there, yet. Transit is easy to add in response to seriously transit-oriented development, but as long as you have a development pattern that is too low-density or single-use for transit, you’ve locked in lousy transit service as an outcome.

So whenever someone gives you this line as a reason to oppose a transit-friendly development, ask: “Well, what would it cost to provide good transit, and who should pay for that?”

Often, as in Mountain View, extremely frequent transit into the nearby transit hub can achieve plenty, and is not that expensive, because of the very short distances involved.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Better Institutions reports on the housing boom in downtown Los Angeles. A View From the Cycle Path says making driving more expensive isn’t the only way to get people out of their cars. And Greater Greater Washington has a nice piece on a pedestrian desire path that, once blocked, got an upgrade from a strip mall developer.

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Today’s Headlines

  • It’s Primary Day! Check Out Your Voter Guide and Find Your Polling Place
  • De Blasio, Honoring Safe Cabbies, Says Traffic Deaths Down 8 Percent This Year (CapNY, NY1)
  • Gothamist Interviews Dulcie Canton About NYPD’s Refusal to Investigate Hit-and-Run
  • SL Green Unveils $210 Million in Grand Central Upgrades as Part of New Tower (CapNY, Crain’s)
  • Greg Mocker Looks at Vision Zero Map, Tries to Cross Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills (WPIX)
  • Man Arrested for Running Over Cop’s Foot as He Fled SI Traffic Stop (Advance)
  • After Rejecting Council’s Offer, Bratton Now Says He Wants 1,000 More Cops (Observer, News)
  • The Saga of the Closed Pedestrian Bridge to Brooklyn Bridge Park Continues (Gothamist, News)
  • Queens CB 2 Unanimously Backs Pedestrian Safety Fixes in Long Island City (Gazette)
  • NYC May Be the Tops for Biking in the US, But Suffolk County Is the Worst (MTR)
  • Celebrities: They Tweet at Citi Bike, Just Like Us! (NY Mag)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA