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Posts from the "Traffic Calming" Category

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Families of NYC Traffic Violence Victims Band Together for Safer Streets

On Sunday, New Yorkers who’ve lost loved ones to traffic violence gathered on the steps of City Hall in Lower Manhattan to launch Families for Safe Streets, a new initiative advocating for street designs and traffic enforcement that will save lives. In this moving Streetfilm, members of Families for Safe Streets talk about their goals and why they’re speaking out.

The speakers included Amy Cohen and Gary Eckstein, whose son Sammy was killed on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn; Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao, whose daughter Allison was killed in a Queens crosswalk; Judith Kottick, whose daughter Ella Kottick Bandes was killed while crossing the street in Brooklyn; Mary Beth Kelly, whose husband Dr. Carl Henry Nacht was killed while riding his bicycle on the west side of Manhattan; Greg Thompson, whose sister Renee was killed by a turning truck driver on the Upper East Side; Dana Lerner, whose son Cooper Stock was killed by a taxi driver who failed to yield to Cooper and his father while they were in a crosswalk; and Dave Sheppard, whose fiancée Sonya Powell was killed crossing the street by an unlicensed, hit-and-run driver in the Bronx.

Their message on Sunday was about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic deaths in New York. Families for Safe Streets supports the multi-pronged action plan de Blasio unveiled last week, while calling on City Hall to make firmer commitments with concrete benchmarks for reducing traffic violence.

The formation of a survivors group dedicated to reducing dangerous driving of all kinds is also a new development in New York, and perhaps a national precedent. While organizations like MADD have specifically countered drunk driving, the United States has not had an equivalent to the UK’s Road Peace, a traffic violence survivors group formed in 1992 that has become a national voice for overall street safety. Perhaps not coincidentally, since 1990, traffic deaths in Great Britain have dropped by two-thirds, while traffic deaths in the U.S. have fallen by only a quarter.

By turning their grief into activism, Families for Safe Streets is doing something new and powerful. And they are extending an outstretched hand to other victims’ families in New York. “There are thousands of other survivors,” Amy Cohen said at Sunday’s event. “We invite them to join us.”

Stephen Miller contributed reporting to this post.

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Can Snow Inspire Better Streets? It Already Has.

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In Philadelphia, a snowy neckdown at Baltimore and 48th Street in 2011 inspired permanent upgrades to the pedestrian environment at the intersection. Photo courtesy of Prema Bupta

Sneckdowns are having a big moment. In case you’ve missed the viral blog posts and major press coverage, sneckowns (a contraction of “snowy neckdowns” popularized by Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson Jr. and Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek) are leftover snow piles on city streets that show space that could easily be reclaimed for pedestrians.

As a visual tool, sneckdowns can be powerful. At least one city has already used snow formations as the inspiration for better streets.

After a winter storm in Philadelphia in 2011, snow piles became the basis for a major pedestrian upgrade at Baltimore and 48th Street in the University City District, according to Prema Gupta, the district’s director of planning.

Gupta said her organization, inspired by New York City’s example, was already looking around for potential spaces for pedestrian plazas when a staffer produced the above photo. ”That very quickly made the case that there’s right-sizing to do here,” she said. At the time, no one had heard the word “sneckdown.”

“For us it was just a really compelling way of showing there was way too much street and not nearly enough place for people,” she said.

Based on the snow patterns, the city produced a plan to expand pedestrian space at the intersection:

The plans

The final design was implemented this summer:

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NYC DOT Shares Its Five Principles for Designing Safer Streets

Photos: NYC DOT

At Madison Avenue and 135th Street, a mix of additional pedestrian space and crossing time, turn restrictions, clearer markings, and tighter corners led to an 18 percent redcution in injuries. Photos: NYC DOT

Earlier this month, NYC DOT put out a major new report, Making Safer Streets [PDF], that collects before-and-after data from dozens of street redesigns and distills five key principles to reduce traffic injuries. The excitement of election week overshadowed the release, but this is an important document that livable streets supporters will want to bookmark. It’s an accessible guide to how DOT approaches the task of re-engineering streets for greater safety.

Under Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, DOT has elevated safety as a departmental priority, and it often follows up a redesign by reporting on the change in traffic injuries after six months or a year. After six years of implementing these projects, the department now has an especially compelling data set – multiple years of before-and-after safety records from dozens of redesigns. Reviewing these projects and what has worked best, the report authors distilled DOT’s approach to safety improvements into a design philosophy.

Deputy Commissioner for Traffic and Planning Bruce Schaller, the lead author, says Making Safer Streets is “the most comprehensive data-driven report on safety we’ve put together.” What makes it especially notable for New Yorkers and residents of other major cities, he said, is its focus on urban streets. “When we look at safety and the elements of design that make safe streets, [other studies] are still not a clear guide to what we should expect to work in NYC.”

After overhauling many streets and intersections over the past six years, the DOT team hopes the report will serve as a reference not only for planners and engineers, but for any city resident who cares about street safety and wants to evaluate how streets are functioning and what would make them better. It’s written in accessible language and comes in at under 30 pages, with a raft of graphics and photos doing much of the communication.

The guiding idea in the report is that greater simplicity, order, and predictability will make streets safer:

Read more…

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Petitioning U.S. DOT to Recognize That City Streets Should Prioritize Walking

The FHWA applies the same design standards to city streets as to suburban arterial roads.

The Federal Highway Administration classifies roads as either “rural” or “urbanized.” But the “urbanized” label is deceptive, because it applies suburban street design standards to any street that isn’t rural. So if you live in, say, downtown St. Louis, the FHWA applies the same standards to your streets as to the streets in Orlando’s most distant suburbs. This contributes to a horrendous mismatch: Many city streets where walking should take precedence are in fact designed for moving massive amounts of traffic.

Now there’s a petition drive underway to change that. John Massengale, Victor Dover, and Richard Hall — a team of planners and architects that are involved with the Congress for New Urbanism — are circulating asking U.S. DOT to develop more city-friendly standards.

The trio recommends establishing separate standards for urban and suburban streets, introducing new priorities that place pedestrians first on city streets. From their letter to U.S. DOT:

The new standards for Urban Areas would be fundamentally different than the current Urbanized standards. Two-way streets, narrow traffic lanes, bicycle sharrows, and a prohibition on slip lanes and turn lanes would be the norm. In large cities, faster urban routes might be limited to broad boulevards and parkways. Small-town residential streets and Main Streets would be similarly transformed, according to their context.

The team calls their proposal a “simple but powerful idea could transform America’s streets and make our neighborhoods, cities and towns more walkable.” As of this afternoon, the petition needs only about 60 signatures to reach the goal of 500 supporters.

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Seatbelts and Tickets Alone Won’t Cure America’s Traffic Death Epidemic

Motor vehicle crashes caused 28 percent of all deaths among people 24 and under in the United States in 2006. In 2009, nearly 34,000 people died on America’s roads, and that was considered a big improvement over previous years. More and more, it seems, Americans are wondering why our country is so far behind on creating safe transportation systems.

Better management = fewer traffic fatalities? Try better road design. Image: ##http://carinsurancetipsblog.com/##Car Insurance Tips##

Better management and enforcement aren't the only ways to reduce traffic deaths. Image: Car Insurance Tips

According to a new report, Achieving Traffic Safety Goals in the United States: Lessons from Other Nations, by the nongovernmental National Research Council:

Nearly every high-income country is reducing annual traffic fatalities and fatality rates faster than is the United States, and several countries where fatality rates per kilometer of travel were substantially higher than in the United States 15 years ago are now below the U.S. rate.

The report authors acknowledge that high-achieving countries attribute their own progress, in part, to road design, but that doesn’t make it into their own set of recommendations, which focus on management reforms, enforcement, and the building of political and public support for those changes.

Barbara McCann, director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, says that’s not enough. With current road design, she said, “the priority is put on speed and volume of travel, and that results in more deaths than if there were a higher priority put on safety in the actual road design.”

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How Many Trips Are ‘Captured’ By More Diverse Urban Land Use?

Current methods of predicting the traffic-calming effects of mixed-use development are "woefully lacking" and risk underestimating the transportation benefits of more compact, diverse land use, according to a new report from the Transportation Research Board (TRB).

thumb.jpgAn example of mixed-use development in San Francisco. (Photo: Arch. Record)
The TRB report is the first to examine mixed-use development on a nationwide level, looking initially at six metro areas and poised to add data from seven more in the coming months.

It focuses on "internal capture," the traffic analyst's term to describe how many auto trips are effectively removed -- that is, "captured" -- from the street network.

"Except for a handful of master-planned projects in Florida, actual numbers on internal capture rates [for mixed-use development] are few and far between," the TRB researchers wrote. "Traffic engineers are thus largely left to their own devices to quantify the trip reductions that might accrue from this often varied and complex development type. Oftentimes, no adjustment is made."

So how many trips are actually removed from congested streets by more diverse land use? Three out of every 10 on average, the TRB researchers found.

Every captured trip serves to decrease the strain on existing roads and reduce the carbon footprint of the community as a whole. Increasing the effectiveness of mixed-use projects isn't as simple as offering a broad mix of housing, however. A number of variables help to determine how much automobile dependence can be mitigated, according to the TRB:

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Solve the Congestion Crisis And Win $50,000

Have you ever idled in traffic or waited for a late bus while thinking: "The city government should put me in charge of fixing this mess"?

Traffic_Photo.jpgGood solutions to this could net you $50,000. (Photo: ITSA)

Well, it's time to make notes on that brilliant traffic-calming idea. The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA) kicked off a $50,000 "Congestion Challenge" today that seeks to pair social networking with innovative transportation policy-making.

Co-sponsored by IBM and Spencer Trask, a private equity firm specializing in high-tech investments, the contest asks transportation professionals and everyday citizens to submit their proposals for clearing the nation's jam-packed roads, bridges and transitways. Each submission will be judged based on its ability to address five issues: sustainability, safety, behavioral impact, economic competitiveness, and speed & efficiency.

But the most compelling aspect of the challenge is its approach to judging. Instead of subjecting entries to an evaluation panel that might be too tied to outmoded ways of thinking, the ITSA asks aspiring judges and contestants to set up their own Facebook-style profile pages (register for your own right here) and rate entries themselves.

This democratic format appears ripe for urbanites to flood the zone with support for genuinely worthy ideas. If livable streets advocates can organize and support a congestion solution devised from within their own ranks, one can imagine a lot of state and federal DOT officials taking notice.

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T.A. Offers Reward for Park Slope “Post-Automobile Street” Designs

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9th St. and 4th Ave.: "A dangerous crossing that divides surrounding neighborhoods and inhibits street life."

Transportation Alternatives is seeking proposals to reinvent the intersection of 9th Street and 4th Avenue in Park Slope. "Designing the 21st Century Street," a competition open to the general public, will reward the three most promising submissions with up to $6,000 in prize money.

TA lays out some of the obstacles at hand on the competition web site:

Ninth Street is excessively wide and allows motorists to travel at speeds greater than the posted City speed limit of 30 miles per hour. Furthermore, Ninth Street was recently treated with a new bicycle lane that leads people to and from Prospect Park. Though the reasons for placing a bike lane on this street are clear ... the bike lanes have attracted some controversy because of the rampant double-parking that occurs in the neighborhood.

Fourth Avenue has a raised median to separate travel direction for the length of the avenue. At this intersection, the median has been shaved away to create dedicated turning lanes. This is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and is not a safe refuge for pedestrians, particularly the children and elderly, who can not make it across the street in the allotted time.

To be contenders, TA says, "Competitors must re-imagine this intersection as a healthy, safe and sustainable street that serves pedestrians and bicyclists first, while functioning as a transit hub and truck route."

Jury members include city planning and transportation staff, along with "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz and Danish planner Jan Gehl. Entrants must register by July 18 and submit proposals by August 18.

Care to get the ball rolling, Streetsbloggers? 

Photo: Transportation Alternatives

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Plan B: Reallocating Street Space To Buses, Bikes & Peds

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In a piece from the March issue of Outside Magazine that seems especially relevant today, Tim Sohn writes about public space reform in New York City. His article is accompanied by an illustration of what the future of our city could look like: complete streets with dedicated bus and bike lanes, traffic calming gardens, and sidewalks wide enough to accommodate window shoppers without slowing pedestrian traffic -- none of which would depend on Albany for approval.

Recently, a New Yorker (let's call him Tim) was forced off a sidewalk by a double-wide stroller, a large dog, and an elderly pedestrian all traveling abreast. So he shimmied between parked cars, nearly collided with a bike messenger going the wrong way up a one-way street, and walked through the exhaust-choked margin of the avenue while fantasizing about a future in which New York City's clogged streets are reconfigured in favor of pedestrians and cyclists. A pipe dream? Nope, and you can thank advocacy/watchdog group Transportation Alternatives. New York is a walker's city, but its streets, which represent 85 percent of its public space, are monopolized by the fume-spewing, driving minority.

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Pint-Sized Parks Make Safer Streets and Cleaner Rivers

amst_110_after.jpg
The Greenstreet at 110th and Amsterdam helps keep sewage out of city rivers and features a beefed-up, traffic-calming "blockbuster."

It rained yesterday, sending stormwater streaming down New York City streets and through sewer grates. The runoff mixed with wastewater in the system and overloaded treatment facilities, causing raw sewage to spill into the city's waterways.

Sound like an ecological disaster? It can be triggered by as little as one tenth of an inch of rainfall in one hour. Called Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO), this toxic broth also contains chemicals leached from roofs and pavement. 27 billion gallons of CSO pour into city rivers and bays every year. Until recently, there was no concerted effort to prevent it.

One of the more unsung PlaNYC initiatives aims to drastically reduce CSO, in part by managing streets more wisely. Certain traffic calming measures, it turns out, can not only make streets more ped-friendly, but also help make the city's rivers clean enough to swim in. To accomplish this, PlaNYC calls for retooling the Parks Department's Greenstreets program, and we are starting to see the results.

At their best, Greenstreets -- the pint-sized green spaces that Parks began planting in 1996 -- have served as modest traffic-calming measures, displacing asphalt with patches of greenery that send cues to slow down. The new breed goes a few steps further: They combine advanced stormwater capture techniques with more overt traffic-calming devices, like neckdowns and bulb-outs.

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