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New York City Department Of Transportation

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New York DOT / Uses Haiku with Graphics / to Tame City Streets

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New York City has fought speeding with "slow zones" and digital images of skeletons. It has turned Times Square into a pedestrian zone. It has installed hundreds of miles of bike lanes and will implement a bike share program next year. And now its campaign to remake city streets has turned to... haiku.

Curbside haiku (image courtesy of NYC DOT)

The New York City Department of Transportation will be posting hundreds of signs around the city as part of a new safety education campaign called "Curbside Haiku." The signs were created by New York/Atlanta artist John Morse and feature twelve designs accompanied by a haiku poem.

The DOT has installed the 8”x8” signs at locations it says are "based on a citywide analysis of crashes near various cultural institutions and schools," including near Brooklyn’s Transit Museum and the Brooklyn Museum; the Bronx  Hub, Bronx Museum/Grand Concourse and Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden; Manhattan’s Studio Museum of Harlem and MoMA/International Center for Photography; Queens’s Jamaica Center for the Arts and the Staten Island Museum. The DOT says the signs are too small to distract drivers and will face the sidewalk so that they catch the attention of pedestrians.

Morse said this was inspired by black-clad New Yorkers crossing the streets after dark. (image courtesy of NYC DOT)

In an emailed statement, DOT Ccmmissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said: "We’re putting poetry into motion with public art to make New York City’s streets even safer. These signs complement our engineering and education efforts to create a steady rhythm for safer streets in all five boroughs.”

(Note: Observant transit riders will note the reference to Poetry in Motion, the city's now-defunct campaign that put poetry placards in subway cars.)

Morse created the images through paper collage and authored the haiku, which he said was a whimsical take on a deadly serious subject.  “It's like a Grimm’s fairy tale. You’re delivering a dark message in a way that’s rather delightful." He said the challenge was to find a new way to deliver an old message. "We have this thought of 'walk/don't walk. Look both ways.' I get that, I understand that," he said. "The goal here is to say 'how can I reach people who have heard that message a million times but need to hear it again?'"

He added that the poetry "underscores the reality here, the harshness of, what is the brutality of traffic. That's a very significant thing."

Morse is no stranger to the marriage of road sign to artwork. In 2010, Morse installed "Roadside Haiku" in Atlanta, a project inspired by ubiquitous signs promising weight loss or easy money.

You can see the haiku, as well as a map of where they are located, here (pdf).

 

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Transportation Nation

Brooklyn Bike Lane Case: Judge Denies Request for Adjournment

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Brooklyn's Prospect Park West bike lane (photo by Kate Hinds)

The bike lane on Brooklyn's Prospect Park West will be back in court this month -- not September.

According to a spokeswoman for the New York City Law Department, the judge hearing the case denied a request by Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes/Seniors for Safety to adjourn for another two months. NBBL's attorney, Jim Walden, had asked for more time to process additional Freedom of Information Law requests.

Walden had no comment on the judge's decision. The next court date in the case is July 20.

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Transportation Nation

NYC Attorney to Judge: Opposition Trying to Make "End Run" Around Law in Brooklyn Bike Lane Case

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Prospect Park West bike lane in Brooklyn (photo by Kate Hinds)

New York City doesn't want a judge to grant a two-month adjournment to the group suing the city to remove a bike lane in Brooklyn.

As Streetsblog reported Thursday, Jim Walden -- the attorney representing Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes/Seniors for Safety --  wrote to Justice Bunyan earlier this week (a pdf of that letter can be found here) asking him to push back the next court date in the case until September.

Walden, who included a copy of a front-page New York Times article in his letter, told the judge that the Times story "highlights precisely the issue we raised at the hearing on June 22: namely, that the city presents new programs and initiatives as 'pilots' or 'trials' in order to avoid compliance with required legal processes and public reviews and to blunt criticism of the projects  -- only to make the projects permanent without any further review."

Walden told the judge that he had submitted new Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to the city's Department of Transportation, as well as Council Member Brad Lander, and that he needed time to receive and review these documents.

(You can read TN's coverage of Walden's previous FOIL request to Lander here.)

The City of New York Law Department attorney Mark Muschenheim responded with his own letter (pdf) to the judge, accusing Walden of making "an end run around the general discovery prohibition in summary proceedings." Muschenheim urged Justice Bunyan to reject the request and hold the next court hearing, as scheduled, on July 20.

According to the city's letter, Walden "mistakenly assert(s) that this article has some bearing on the statute of limitations issue in this proceeding. The article discusses generally the use of pilot projects by various City agencies. Significantly, the article makes no mention of the Prospect Park West Traffic Calming Project (“PPW Project”) that is the subject of the instant dispute." The letter goes on to reiterate the city's position that the PPW bike lane was never considered, or described, as a trial or pilot project --  and that FOIL requests are no basis to delay the next hearing.

No word on when -- or if -- the judge might issue a decision.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Transportation Nation

Proceedings Start in Anti-Brooklyn Bike Lane Lawsuit

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

From the docket taped outside the Brooklyn courtroom (Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes/Seniors for Safety, a group that's brought suit against the city over Brooklyn's Prospect Park West bike lane, had their first appearance in court today.  Among the plaintiffs who showed up for the largely procedural hearing were former Deputy Mayor (nder David Dinkins) Norman Steisel, who's now a private consultant living near the bike lane.

But after huddling for a few minutes before the judge, the only resolution was that both sides are scheduled to meet again in court in a little over a month.

The parties spoke before the judge but out of earshot.  Jim Walden, the attorney for the plaintiffs, explained outside the courtroom that he was asking for a ruling on a motion for expedited discovery -- he wants the city Department of Transportation to provide more information on the bike lane, including safety data and internal emails.  The attorney for the city, Mark Muschenheim,  responded  "we've already provided much of what they wanted through FOIL."

When the case was called, both sides huddled before Justice Bert Bunyan, who questioned them for a few minutes -- and then adjourned the case until June 22.

The New York City Law Department released the following statement:

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Transportation Nation

NYC Transpo Department's New 34th Street Design Wins Business, Local Plaudits

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How a new design would divide up parking, buses and vehicular traffic on parts of 34th Street (Graphic by NYC Dept of Transportation)

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Last night at a public meeting in Midtown Manhattan, the New York City DOT unveiled a new design for 34th street. Major parts of the old plan were scrapped. There will be no wide pedestrian walkway on what was to have been a carless stretch of 34th Street between Herald Square at Sixth Avenue and the Empire State Building at Fifth Avenue, in an area that lacks as DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has mildly put it "quality public space."

Also gone from the plan are bus lanes protected from traffic by concrete barriers. Instead the bus lanes will be marked with terra cotta paint, as on Select Bus Service lanes along First and Second Avenues. And two-way traffic will remain along the corridor, allowing vehicles to move in both directions toward approaches to the Lincoln and Midtown tunnels at either end of 34th Street.

Urban planners, who did not want to speak for attribution, lamented the death of what transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan once called "the the only true bus rapid transit plan" on the boards for New York, with physically segregated plans.  The plan had been modeled on successful bus rapid transit systems in cities like Bogota, Columbia, and Ghanzhou, China.  In those cities, cars cannot wander into the bus lanes, as they frequently do in New York, making buses far more speedy than cars.  The plan for 34th street, planners say, would have provided a true "subway-on-wheels" experience river-to- river in midtown, connecting Bellevue hospital, the Empire State Building, Penn Station, and the Javits Convention Center.

But major businesses had complained the previous plan had too little space for pick-ups and drop-offs. The new plan has 300 loading zones, a seven-fold increase.

“This is good," Dan Biederman of the 34th Street Partnership said of the plan. "The property owners who were most upset before—Macy's, Vornado and the Empire State Building—were all either happy or not quite ready to endorse it but thinking this is a much better plan.”

Christine Berthet, co-chair of Community Board 6 transportation committee, said the city's attention to public feedback had produced a better design.

“I think this is the one which has the most interaction, where they seem to be listening the most,” she said.

More public meetings about the 34th Street design are scheduled for March 30th and 31st.

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Transportation Nation

Politicians: We Like the Columbus Avenue Bike Lane, We Just Want Tweaks

Sunday, February 06, 2011

NY Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, pharmacy owner Ivan Jourdain, Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore, and NY City Councilwoman Gale Brewer unveil recommendations to improve the bike lanes. (Photo by Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The Columbus Avenue bike lane, which stretches from 96th Street to 77th Street on Manhattan's Upper West Side, has been the source of neighborhood tsuris since is was put in last summer -- despite the fact that the community actively sought its installation.  Now a new report may help pave the way for mitigating what some call the "unintended consequences" of the lane.

It didn't take long after the lane was installed for elected officials and Community Board 7 to begin hearing complaints from businesses about all things parking: trucks were having a hard time making deliveries, customers didn't understand the new signage, no one could find a spot to quickly run in and grab something.  So CB7, with local politicians and residents, formed the Columbus Avenue Working Group (CAWG) to survey local businesses about the lanes. Sixty-five businesses on the east side of Columbus Avenue, adjacent to the lane, were approached and asked to fill out questionnaires; 36 completed it.

The responses weren't pretty: of the businesses surveyed, 72% responded they believe the street redesign had a negative impact on their business, compared to only eight percent who felt the lane was positive.

"Everybody complained about parking and loading zones," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. "Meaning: there had to be real change."

So local politicians brokered what seems to be a compromise: an agreement from the city's DOT to return some parking spaces, tweak some signs, and reprogram meters. In a response to CAWG's recommendations, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan sent a letter to all of the stakeholders, going through their recommendations one by one.

State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said today that "bike lanes have recently gotten some bad publicity in the city." This could be an understatement: in just the last few days, the DOT has been threatened with a lawsuit over the Prospect Park West bike lane, and Janette Sadik-Khan was the subject of yet another tabloid editorial on Sunday, accusing her of being secretive in how -- and where -- bike lanes are installed, a charge she has repeatedly denied.

Standing in front of Ivan Pharmacy on Sunday, Scott Stringer said the lessons learned from the Columbus Avenue bike lane represent a model of collaboration that should be repeated throughout the city. "This study and this working group may finally break new ground in bringing together the Department of Transportation and communities," he said. "It is very clear to all of us, that you cannot design a street -- design a community -- simply by having downtown experts tell us what should be in the street grid. We have learned, in a very painful way, what happens when you impose a bike lane on neighborhoods without doing proper due diligence."

"If they follow this model today around the city," he said, "we are going to be able to mix street design and bike lanes with businesses, pedestrians, and cars. And that's how you change what a city looks like -- through collaboration."

City Council member Gale Brewer was more conciliatory. "The Department of Transportation -- I want to be very clear -- was very responsive, even early on in the game."  And the chair of CB7 also voiced strong support for the lane. "I want to be clear that Community Board 7 voted in favor of the bike lane, just because it's the right thing to do," said Mel Wymore. "This is an opportunity for all of us to make it work for everyone."

But it's clear that even within the pro-bike lane CAWG there are some disagreements. During today's press conference, Scott Stringer complained about the pedestrian islands.  "(They are) I believe, a big error," he said -- only to see his colleagues at the podium start shaking their heads. "No," said Gale Brewer. "We like them."  "Well, this is my opinion," amended Stringer. "I think 28 or so are perhaps too many, we think there should be a discussion.  You see, that's what community consultation is all about."

And so far no one has filed a lawsuit.

You can read the Columbus Avenue Working Group's report below, as well as see NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan's response to the group's recommendations:

COLUMBUS AVENUE STREET REDESIGN_ Recommendations for Mitigating Unintended Impacts-1
Columbus Response From Janette Sadik-Khan

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Transportation Nation

Mixed Signals for NYC Pedestrians

Monday, December 20, 2010

(New York-- John Keefe, Jim O'Grady, and Brian Zumhagen, WNYC; Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation)

New Yorkers are famous for crossing streets whenever they feel like it, taking a blasé attitude toward crosswalk signals. But the signs tend to capture the attention of pedestrians when the "walk" and "don't walk" icons are lit up at the same time, which is the case at intersections all over the city.

At the corner of Spring and Greene Streets in SoHo, the orange "don't walk" hand is illuminated. But so is the "walking man" icon. Latonya Turner and her husband Otis are visiting from Arkansas. What would they have done if they'd been left to their own devices?

"We probably would have stood here and thought, 'Okay, what do we do?'" "I guess you have a choice then, you can either walk or not walk," Otis said.

"I guess you can just take your chances," Latonya added, laughing.

Listen to WNYC's story on the pedestrian crossing signals:

See WNYC's mixed signals map here.

And upload your photo to the map here!

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Transportation Nation

NYC Council Hosts "Heated Discussion" on Bikes

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Bicyclists outside the City Council hearing rooms at 250 Broadway (by Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) New York City Council’s Transportation Committee held a meeting today on the impact of bicycles and bike lanes in the city. Committee chair James Vacca told the packed room that when it came to bikes, he knew passions were high. “Believe it or not,” he said, “few issues today prompt more heated discussion than bike policy in New York City.”

And it showed: there was a long wait in line to clear security, and the City Council hearing room’s overflow room had to be used. More than 70 speakers signed up to voice their opinions about bikes and bike lanes, but the hot seat belonged to City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who was grilled by council members for almost two hours. (Click the audio player to hear her statement, as well as the extensive—nearly two hour—question and answer session, below. The transcript -- all 296 pages -- can be found here.)

Sadik-Khan said that her department's goal is to create an interconnected bike lane network citywide.  “Half of the trips in New York City are under two miles, we think cycling has a strong role to play in the transportation network,” she said. In other words, if you build it, they will ride. “The addition of 200 miles of new bike lanes between 2006 and 2009 coincided with four straight years of double-digit percentage increases in our commuter cycling counts,” she said, adding that the increase in cycling, and the concurrent pedestrian improvements made to streets, made 2009 “the lowest overall traffic fatality rate in New York City’s history.”

But some council members felt that their districts had been left out of the planning process, and Brooklyn’s Lewis Fidler said that the DOT needed to do a better job of getting public input.  “You gotta go back to communities and ask them again,” he said emphatically.

"That's what we do! That's what we do, that’s what we do, council member!” the commissioner interjected. “I'm asking that it be institutionalized,” said Fidler.  Sadik-Khan said during her statement that her agency “remain(s) committed to problem-solving for and with the people of the City on a nearly 24/7 basis.”

She also said that the lanes have proven to be a good investment, because bicycle commuting in New York City has increased by 109 percent since 2006. It's a bargain according to her figures: the federal government bears 80 percent of the total cost, leaving New York City to pay just 20 percent of the bill for bike lanes.

But the topic of enforcement—of bicyclists who run afoul of the rules of the road, of buses and cars who block lanes—came up continually, with many council members wondering how best to ensure that cyclists obey the rules of the road.

Sadik-Khan said that the DOT is planning a major media campaign in the spring that will feature celebrities “bluntly tell(ing) cyclists to stop riding like jerks.” There will also be a bike ambassador program to help people obey the rules of the road.

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Transportation Nation

Brooklyn Bridge Under Wraps

Thursday, September 23, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) WNYC went out on the Brooklyn Bridge last week to check on the progress of that structure's $508 million, four-year rehabilitation. The galvanized steel containment shields are going up, the off-white canvas is being hung, and the pedestrian/bike walkway has narrowed about a foot and a half.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

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