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Posts from the "New York City" Category

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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.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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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.

Read more…

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What SF Needs to Catch Up to NYC’s Bicycling Success: Political Leadership

New York City's Prospect Park West parking-protected bike path. Photo copyright Dmitry Gudkov

New York City has raised the bar in recent years for rolling out bicycle improvements and reclaiming public space from automobiles. While San Franciscans have come to expect major delays for bike projects as the norm in their city, New York, the only American city more dense than SF, has zoomed ahead by adding roughly 20 miles of protected bike lanes since 2007, with more on the way. After each new NYC bikeway is built, injuries to all users decline and bicycling increases along the corridor.

How can San Francisco emulate New York’s success? In short: San Francisco’s public officials need to exert bold leadership to hasten a painstakingly slow planning process intended not so much to achieve specific goals, but to avoid rocking the boat. That was the general sentiment at a recent forum where local bike advocates popped questions at Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, New York’s leading advocacy organization for bicycling, walking, and transit.

“New York’s success, tenaciousness, vision, and drive have been guiding the way for other American cities,” San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) Executive Director Leah Shahum told an audience at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association last Thursday, where she and White discussed the state of the bicycling movement in the two cities.

“We all know that we talk about Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, and Barcelona as being these wonderful bicycling cities, and many getting better and better, but [with] that European model, you really lose people,” said Shahum. ”To have a great American city guiding the way in being a great bicycling space, and really reclaiming space from the automobile and creating public space for people, frankly, is making our job a lot easier in San Francisco.”

NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has earned a reputation for pursuing groundbreaking projects like the two-way bikeway on Prospect Park West, which produced major benefits and, despite high-profile resistance from a small group of politically-connected NIMBYs, has been largely embraced by the public.

“We’ve been very lucky to have such great leadership that has managed, nevertheless, to involve communities and be very democratic while at the same time acting swiftly and decisively to implement safer streets,” said White. “I think one way to cut through the red tape, and maybe some of the needless process, is to appeal to safety, and say that every day that a street goes without pedestrian or bike infrastructure is putting people in danger.”

“There’s enough data now to show that it’s simply inhumane not to add bike lanes and pedestrian infrastructure when there’s an opportunity,” he added.

One of the main barriers preventing San Francisco from experiencing the same “impressive explosion” of visible change, said Shahum, is that SF transportation officials and politicians like Mayor Ed Lee haven’t been as willing to commit to completing bike projects, and that New York planners don’t have “to go through as much process as we do in San Francisco.”

Read more…

Streetsblog NYC 2 Comments

New NYC Research Confirms: Parking Requirements Make More Car Traffic

Evidence continues to mount that New York City’s mandatory parking minimums encourage people to drive.

Using satellite photos, UPenn professor Rachel Weinberger created an estimate of how much off-street parking existed citywide, which she then used to show the relationship between parking minimums and car commuting.

New research from University of Pennsylvania planning professor Rachel Weinberger, set to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Transport Policy, shows once again that providing guaranteed off-street parking spaces makes New Yorkers more likely to drive to work. By mandating the construction of parking with new development, the city is encouraging more cars to drive on the city’s already clogged roads.

With the Department of City Planning now considering changes to parking minimums in the “inner ring” of neighborhoods close to the Manhattan core, Weinberger’s research is especially timely. DCP has been loath to acknowledge that mandating the construction of parking induces driving. This data bolsters the argument that eliminating parking minimums will help the city reduce traffic and achieve its sustainability goals.

Weinberger’s article (hat tip to Atlantic Cities’ Eric Jaffe) builds on research she conducted with John Kaehny for Transportation Alternatives, particularly the 2008 report “Guaranteed Parking, Guaranteed Driving” [PDF]. That piece was the first to show that off-street parking spaces attached to residences, the kind that parking minimums require, encourage people to drive to work.

Read more…

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Danish Architect Jan Gehl on Good Cities for Bicycling

Bicyclists on their way through the city are part of city life. They can, with ease, switch between being bicyclists and pedestrians. Photos by Jan Gehl.

Editor’s note: This is the final installment in our series this week featuring Danish architect and livable streets luminary Jan Gehl. The pieces are excerpts from his book, “Cities for People” published by Island Press. Donate to Streetsblog SF and you’ll qualify to win a copy of the book, courtesy of Island Press.

Bicyclists represent a different and somewhat rapid form of foot traffic, but in terms of sensory experiences, life and movement, they are part of the rest of city life. Naturally, bicyclists are welcome in support of the goal to promote lively, safe, sustainable and healthy cities. The following is about planning good cities for bicyclists, and is handled relatively narrowly and in direct relation to a discussion on the human dimension in city planning.

Around the world there are numerous cities where bicycles and bicycle traffic would be unrealistic. It is too cold and icy for bicycles in some areas, too hot in others. In some places the topography is too mountainous and steep for bicycles. Bicycle traffic is simply not a realistic option in those situations. Then there are surprises like San Francisco, where you might think bicycling would be impractical due to all the hills. However, the city has a strong and dedicated bicycle culture. Bicycling is also popular in many of the coldest and warmest cities, because, all things considered, even they have a great number of good bicycling days throughout the year.

The fact remains that a considerable number of cities worldwide have a structure, terrain and climate well suited for bicycle traffic. Over the years, many of these cities have thrown their lot in with traffic policies that prioritized car traffic and made bicycle traffic dangerous or completely impossible. In some places extensive car traffic has kept bicycle traffic from even getting started.

In many cities, bicycle traffic continues to be not much more than political sweet talk, and bicycle infrastructure typically consists of unconnected stretches of paths here and there rather than the object of a genuine, wholehearted and useful approach. The invitation to bicycle is far from convincing. Typically in these cities only one or two percent of daily trips to the city are by bicycle, and bicycle traffic is dominated by young, athletic men on racing bikes. There is a yawning gap from that situation to a dedicated bicycle city like Copenhagen, where 37 percent of traffic to and from work or school is by bicycle. Here bicycle traffic is more sedate, bicycles are more comfortable, the majority of cyclists are women, and bicycle traffic includes all age groups from school children to senior citizens.

Read more…

Streetsblog NYC 23 Comments

New York City Gets Its First “Pop-up Café,” Similar to SF’s Parklets

PopUpCafeJSK.jpgNicole Russo of the Downtown Alliance, David Byrne, and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan enjoy coffee and mango lassis at Pearl Street's new pop-up café. Photo: Noah Kazis
The narrow streets of Lower Manhattan date back centuries and pose a set of challenges nearly unique in New York City. With the city's first "pop-up café," DOT is testing out a solution to one of those challenges: the lack of public space caused by cramped sidewalks.

The wooden platform of the café takes the place of a few parking spaces along Pearl Street, sitting on top of the roadbed. With 14 tables -- the same red model now familiar from Times Square -- and 50 chairs, the space will be able to absorb some of the neighborhood's lunchtime rush. Sidewalk cafés are generally not allowed in the neighborhood because the sidewalks are too narrow.

The name "pop-up café" is perhaps a bit misleading. No food is being sold in the space -- it's just public seating. This first café is sponsored by two neighboring restaurants, Fika, a coffeeshop, and Bombay's, serving Indian food, but they don't offer table service and anyone who likes may sit down. 

The "pop-up" bit, though, is apt. Ro Sheffe, the Community Board 1 Financial District Chairman, said DOT approached the board with the idea on July 7. "Thirty-five days later and there it is," he said. "I wish we'd got you involved in the World Trade Center."  Read more...

Streetsblog NYC 21 Comments

John Leguizamo’s Green Limo

This is too fun not to post. John Leguizamo, who's been biking in New York since before the actual Summer of Sam, takes a CNN crew on a ride through Midtown and shares some pointers on NYC cycling. (Sorry about the BASF commercial you'll have to sit through before it gets started.) Leguizamo's big pitch to potential cyclists comes about two-thirds of the way through. While I think he might be overemphasizing the danger and thrills, it's hard to argue after you see the police nearly door him.

Streetsblog NYC 3 Comments

Smart Parking Policy Makes a Difference, Even in Livable Streets Utopias

The evidence keeps mounting that smart
parking policy
is an essential tool in the fight to curb traffic. A
new study of two German neighborhoods indicates that managing the
supply of parking can make streets more livable, even in places that
already have great infrastructure for transit, walking, and biking.
Eliminating mandatory parking minimums, the data shows, plays an
essential role in reducing driving. 

Vauban.jpgIn Vauban, a German
neighborhood built for walking and biking, the lack of parking
requirements has helped reduce driving. Image: adeupa de Brest
via Flickr
.

The new research comes from Freiburg, the city at the center of
Germany’s environmental movement and the national leader in energy
efficiency, water conservation, and green industry. Freiburg has built
160 km of separated bike routes, banned cars from the city center, and
attained an automobile mode-share about half the national average. So
when the city started booming in the 1990s, planners made sure to
channel its growth as sustainably as possible. The result was two
"eco-suburbs" — the neighborhoods of Rieselfeld and Vauban,
which are the subject of a study published this
month
by Andrea Broaddus, a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley’s urban
planning department.

Both Rieselfeld and Vauban consist entirely of walkable, mixed-use
development. Each benefit from rail and bus transit, significant
investments in bike paths and bike parking, 30 kph speed limits, and a
road network that limits space for cars. Although Rieselfeld and Vauban
are small, with about 10,000 and 5,000 residents, respectively, they
have absorbed a generation’s worth of growth in Freiburg, according to
Broaddus.

There’s just one big difference between the two neighborhoods:
parking.

Read more…