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Posts from the "New York City" Category

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After the Addition of Bike Lanes and Plazas, Manhattan Traffic Moves Faster

Car traffic into Manhattan has basically stayed flat since the recession, while transit ridership has started to rebound. Image: DOT

After several blocks in the heart of Times Square were pedestrianized and protected bike lanes were added to five avenues in the middle of Manhattan, motor vehicle traffic is actually moving more smoothly than before, according to the latest release of NYC DOT’s annual Sustainable Streets Index [PDF].

The report, which gathers data from the MTA, the Taxi and Limousine Commission, and DOT’s own counts, also shows that the volume of traffic entering Manhattan has basically stayed flat since 2009. At the same time, transit ridership has started to rebound from the recession and service cuts.

Even with population and employment levels increasing after the recession, car traffic into the Manhattan CBD declined 1.7 percent in 2011. Since 2003, traffic volumes are down 6.5 percent, while transit trips to the area have increased 11.3 percent.

The drop in Manhattan-bound traffic has come primarily from the Hudson River tunnels, which have seen a 3 percent drop since 2008, while volumes on the free East River bridges remained flat and traffic over the free Harlem River bridges inched up 1 percent. (It’s no surprise why: Port Authority tolls encourage people to take transit or carpool, while the city’s free bridges offer no such incentive.)

In Manhattan below 60th Street, predictions that reallocating space to walking, biking, and transit would only worsen traffic have not come to pass. In fact, average traffic speeds have picked up. GPS data from yellow cabs below 60th Street show that average speeds are up 6.7 percent since 2008. The average speed of a taxi trip, which was 8.9 mph in 2011, inched up to 9.3 mph last year. (Note that these average speeds don’t mean, as Matt Flegenheimer put it in the Times, that “drivers in much of Manhattan can rarely flout the law, even if they try.” In addition to aggressive and dangerous behavior like failing to yield to pedestrians, speeding in Manhattan is still very common even if average speeds are well below the limit.)

Manhattan’s business districts aren’t the only places where transit is on the rise as driving volumes fall. According to metrics incorporating car crossings between boroughs other than Manhattan, citywide traffic volumes declined 1.8 percent in 2011 from the previous year, while transit ridership increased 0.4 percent, despite service cuts and fare hikes implemented the year before. The most recent numbers are in line with a long-term trend: Since 2003, NYC transit ridership is up 9.5 percent, while driving counts have fallen 3.9 percent.

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Janette Sadik-Khan’s Profiles in Political Courage From the NYC Bike Boom

In case you haven’t seen it, don’t miss the keynote address from livable streets luminary and New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan at the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Golden Wheel Awards last week.

Following an intro from Ed Reiskin full of high praise, Sadik-Khan quipped that her next act would be “turning water into wine.” Then she explained how Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration took “the raw material of a city and forged it into a truly world-class cycling city.” And that might actually be cooler.

Did you know, by the way, that she was born in San Francisco? You can trace that brilliance back to our city.

Also check out the write-up from the Bay Guardian.

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Why Isn’t SF Painting the Streets Red Like New York Is?

In New York City, it's apparently easy to stumble across new expansions of public space using low-cost, temporary measures. Why not in SF? Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Just after our look at the faltering pace of plaza expansions under San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks program last week, we get another glimpse of New York City’s ongoing efforts to reclaim street space for people and improve safety using low-cost, temporary measures like posts and gravel epoxy.

Apparently, these kind of space re-allocations happen so frequently, our Streetfilms manager Clarence just stumbles across them while making his way around Manhattan.

After hearing a speech from NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Jannette Sadik-Khan at the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Golden Wheel Awards last week, I asked SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin why the city isn’t reclaiming space for pedestrians at the pace New York is. He pointed to the agency’s efforts to reclaim road space for protected bike lanes, and said he’s “not sure that there are that many great candidates” for other public space expansions.

It only takes a quick peek at Streetsblog New York, however, to cast some serious doubt on that claim.

Streetsblog NYC 13 Comments

Colbert Gets in on This Whole Rabinowitz Thing

It’s not quite as brilliant as Al Madrigal’s segment on the Daily Show last week, but Stephen Colbert’s riff on Dorothy Rabinowitz at the end of this clip is totally worth your time this morning.

Streetsblog NYC 17 Comments

“The Daily Show” on Citi Bike: “Doesn’t Anybody Have a Real Objection?”

Forget the ridership numbers: you know you’ve hit the big time when Jon Stewart and company spend a full nine minutes satirizing you at the top of “The Daily Show.”

The first segment, which leans heavily on the fact that European cities also have bike-share and pseudo-satirizes unfounded fears about the program’s safety, is funny while not exactly pro-bike. But the second segment, embedded above, is a needed laugh for New Yorkers who have endured nonsensical objections about bike-share from NIMBY neighbors and editorial board members alike.

Correspondent Al Madrigal traveled to the West Village to talk to people who object to bike-share in the pricey Manhattan neighborhood. ”Apart from the 159 meetings, they didn’t say a word,” Madrigal said to a man who claimed the stations appeared overnight and without warning. “Even though that’s not true,” Madrigal asked, “why is it?”

Madrigal also went to Bedford-Stuyvesant to hear from a man who complained that the program wasn’t expanded further into Brooklyn. Let’s just say Bed-Stuy’s residents come off looking a lot more reasonable — and also managed to pop a wheelie for the camera.

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Citi Bike Debuts in New York City!

SF editor’s note: With Bay Area Bike-Share set to launch in August, this new Streetfilm documenting New York City’s bike-share launch yesterday gives us a preview of what’s to come. Details about Bay Area Bike-Share will be unveiled at an SFMTA open house this Thursday.

Memorial Day 2013 marked a milestone in NYC transportation history: the debut of the city’s bike-share system, Citi Bike. At 330 stations, 6,000 bikes (of a planned 10,000) were available to more than 13,000 members who signed up for a yearly pass — and many of them couldn’t wait to hit the streets!

The press conference at City Hall was a media frenzy. Hundreds of reporters and cameras were on hand to watch Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan ring in the launch. Streetfilms was there at this historic moment and put together this fun four-minute film.

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SFMTA Delays Ped/Bike Safety Measures on Fell and Oak Yet Again

Nearly two years after Mayor Ed Lee took a ride on Oak Street in a convoy of city officials and bike advocates, San Franciscans are still forced to mix with cars on the motorway. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The partially completed project to add safety measures like protected bike lanes and pedestrian bulb-outs on three blocks Fell and Oak Streets has once again been delayed by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency. Though the project was originally scheduled to be completed by spring or summer, the agency now says components like the protected bike lane on Oak, bicycle traffic signals, slower signal timing, and concrete planters separating the bike lanes from motor traffic may not go in until the end of the year.

Image: SFMTA

The SFMTA had previously said that work on the Oak lane was set to begin in February — after it was originally promised by winter — but only minor changes in striping have been made (the street may appear untouched to the casual observer). The SFMTA continues to cite construction work on the Kelly-Moore paint shop at Oak and Divisadero, which has been occupying the site of Oak’s future bike lane, as a source of delay.

With bicycle riders on Fell left to wait the better part of another year for concrete planters, the SFMTA says it will install soft-hit posts as a temporary measure to help keep drivers out of the bike lane until the Department of Public Works gets the planters designed, funded, and constructed. The SF Examiner has more:

Ed Reiskin, transportation director of the transit agency, said temporary “soft-hit” pylons will soon be added to separate the Fell bike lane from traffic. However, the Oak part of the plan is much more labor-intensive and includes installing signage, removing parking meters and painting new traffic stripes.

Construction at a private business at Oak and Divisadero streets has hampered those efforts, and the Oak project might not be completed until the end of the year, Reiskin said.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said that’s unacceptable.

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Streetsblog NYC 11 Comments

New York City Unveils New Anti-Dooring Video and Decal

SF editor’s note: With dooring being the single most common cause of injury by motor vehicle users to people riding bikes in San Francisco, New York City sets a great example for using positive messaging to improve the safety of bicycling in the city. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency has placed stickers inside taxis, but safety and bicycle promotional campaigns in the media are the next step.

At a press conference at Union Square this morning, DOT and the Taxi and Limousine Commission announced another facet of the LOOK! campaign, a new video and a decal reminding taxi passengers to exit on the curb side and check for cyclists before opening cab doors.

The new decal on taxi doors. Image: DOT

DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson and TLC Commissioner David Yassky were joined at the event by Ken Podziba of Bike New York and Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives.

The video will be shown in rotation on Taxi TV. While the video takes a little while to get to the point and, unlike an older LOOK! PSA, sanitizes the experience of a crash, it’s a good reminder to taxi passengers, who like many often don’t think about cyclists before opening a vehicle door.

Unlike the Ford Crown Victorias that make up most of the current taxi fleet, the Nissan minivan that the TLC has chosen to replace them has sliding doors for backseat passengers.

DOT noted that seven cyclists have been killed in dooring crashes in the past five years. Now if only NYPD and the press corps understood that dooring is illegal behavior, and not an unavoidable “freak accident.”

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San Francisco’s State of Cycling: Is It Falling Behind?

An increasing number of women are riding bikes in San Francisco, but bike advocates say the city still has a long way to go to make the streets inviting for less intrepid riders. Photos: Aaron Bialick

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency released its four-year State of Cycling Report [PDF] this week. While the findings in the report may not be new to those keeping an eye on the growth of bicycling in San Francisco — which has jumped 71 percent from 2006 to 2011 — bike advocates say it highlights the city’s faltering plans to roll out bike infrastructure in comparison to other cities.

San Francisco’s bicycling rate, at 3.5 percent of work trips, ties for second among major American cities with Seattle, lagging only behind Portland’s at 6 percent. The city was also recently ranked the second-most “bikeable” city in the country by Walk Score, tying with Portland behind Minneapolis in first. And, no doubt, it has seen an unprecedented roll-out of bike improvements since the bike injunction was lifted two years ago.

But the success of San Francisco’s low-cost investments in improvements is all the more reason for the city to catch up to cities like Chicago and New York, which are setting the bar for rolling out protected bike lanes, said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition.

“The state of bicycling in San Francisco is indeed strong,” Shahum said in a statement, “but it can and should be much stronger by connecting our city more quickly with great bikeways and welcoming more people to biking with a robust bike-share program and great bike parking options. Making San Francisco a more bike-friendly place will help our city be even more successful in reaching our goals of growing jobs locally and improving our overall accessibility, sustainability and public health.”

The SFMTA is working on a strategy to reach the city’s goal of increasing bicycling to 20 percent of all trips by the year 2020, but its release seems to have been delayed for months. That goal, set by the Board of Supervisors in October 2010, has been criticized as lofty — as the SF Bay Guardian pointed out, it would require a 571 percent increase in ridership over the next seven years.

The expectations set in the SFMTA’s five-year Strategic Plan [PDF], approved in January, were more tempered, however. The agency’s goal is to increase all non-private automobile trips to 50 percent by 2018. Currently, that number is at 38 percent. While that “mode shift” would also come from walking, transit, car-share, and taxi use, “We think half of that can come from bicycle growth,” said Tim Papandreou, Deputy Director of Transportation Planning for the SFMTA’s Sustainable Streets Division.

“We’re at [3.5 percent trips by bike] now, we could get to 8.5, 9.5 percent, which would make us the biggest bicycling mode share in North America,” he told Streetsblog. Still, that target would only meet the city’s “20 percent by 2020″ goal by roughly half.

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Learning From Other Cities, Planners Shop Early Visions for Market Street

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Image: Better Market Street

Planners presented early concepts for a new Market Street to the public yesterday, moving the discussion forward on revitalizing San Francisco’s grand boulevard with features like car-free zones, raised bike lanes, faster transit, and more inviting public spaces.

The ideas and visualizations, which are available on the Better Market Street website, were presented by planners as starting points to explore. Many of the concepts are hallmarks of the world’s greatest streets, and planners in the multi-agency effort are aiming to adapt them to Market using a swath of survey data about how the street is used.

The increasingly popular idea of removing private autos from lower Market could come in various forms, ranging from additional forced turns for cars in both directions, to a car-free zone near the Powell Street cable car turnaround, to a full ban on cars as far west as Octavia Boulevard.

Staff fielding public feedback said the proposals have met mostly with support, with concerns focused largely on how to best implement car prohibitions in ways that are enforceable and don’t shift traffic congestion problems to other streets.

Similar experiments have proven successful on New York City’s Broadway and Copenhagen’s Nørrebrogade, said Jeff Risom, a planner on the project with the Copenhagen-based Gehl Architects. Like Market’s forced turns at eastbound Sixth and Tenth Streets, officials in those two cities used pilot projects to find the best fit for car restrictions.

In the summer of 2009, the NYC Department of Transportation (with the help of Gehl Architects) removed cars from a section of Broadway in Times Square, turning it into a pedestrian plaza. As a result, Times Square became more of a public destination, increasing pedestrian usage and simplifying the flow of vehicle traffic in Midtown Manhattan. NYC now plans to construct a permanent redesign for the plaza.

A key similarity between Market and Broadway is that they both cut diagonally through a dense street grid.

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