Detailed Reports on 135 Safe Routes to School Plans

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The DOT has some traffic plan porn for you today. Starting with P.S. 1 in Manhattan on Catherine Street, where they found a school bus parking on the narrow sidewalk near the school, they have detailed reports including pictures and proposed re-designs of the streets for all 135 schools included in the initial wave of Safe Routes to Schools. Dig in everyone and send us what you think of a school that you know about.

(Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to capture an image from what seem to be extremely secure PDF files – more later)

Update: 8:30pm. On a different computer, I can now extract the images using the old Mac Apple key/Shift/4 move). Here is the PS 1 Manhattan map of existing infrastructure and proposed improvements. Note a number of new sidewalk bump-outs and neck downs (Red areas) and some "no standing" signs in front and on the side of the school.

No doubt much more to come from Streetsblog and it’s readers on all of this.

  • someguy

    1. You can crudely capture images from PDF by zooming do a good level (so the picture looks good) and hitting the PRINT SCRN button on your keyboard (don’t know if this works for Macs). Then go into your favorite image program (PhotoShop is best because if you go to File->New the dimensions are already sized to your screen capture), and just hit Paste and it will paste the screenshot.

    2. These reports are great – they are chock full of neckdowns, median refuges, and even some intersection reconfigurations and street space reclamations here and there. Some props are due to DOT.

  • Steve

    Some impressions:

    1. Several of the reports call for advanced stop bars to prevent cars from encroaching on the crosswalks; these are often ignored by drivers but they do help.

    2. There are also recommendations for conversion of no parking to no standing at curbs adjacent to schools; that will give all the double-parking parents a place to go and make it easier to get past schools.

    3. Unfortunately many of the structural changes are expressly conditioned on a finding that the changes “feasible and would not interfere with traffic operations.” My cynical self reads this to mean that if the changes would slow motor vehicle traffic, they will not be implemented.

    4. In the report for Collegiate, the report acknowledges that pedestrians often can’t make it across Broadway, and determines that the solution is to educate pedestrians to wait at the median for the next light cycle on a routine basis. I suppose that’s safer, but at what cost–and to who’s benefit?

    5. There does not seem to be anything on bikes, although I have not sifted through all the reports. The implicit message is that bicycles are not a safe way for kids to get to school, period.

  • AD

    The bulb-out at the southwest corner of Madison and Catherine should be MUCH larger than it is. Both streets widen considerably and unnecessarily at that point, and the bulb-out should be enlarged to meet the sidewalks on the opposite corners. Whenever you see a diagonal crosswalk like the one in the picture, you know you are looking at 1960s-era planning, with major street widenings in conjunction with adjacent superblocks. (Bad, bad and bad.)

  • crzwdjk

    “The implicit message is that bicycles are not a safe way for kids to get to school, period.”
    I know for a fact that my high school absolutely refused to provide secure bike parking for students, on the rationale that biking to school is dangerous and needs to be discouraged. That didn’t stop me, but having one and a half bikes stolen from right in front of the school was very, very annoying.

  • AD

    How did someone steal a half bike?

  • moocow

    I lived two doors up the street from PS 1 for 7 years, my building is on the map provided. In the instance of PS 1, nothing short of completely bollard-ing off the sidewalk will keep the locals, chinese out-of- towners who are shopping, delivery trucks, and COPS with their private cars from parking on the narrow sidewalks. In my time there, no less than two cars crashed INTO my building, both times by unlicensed drivers, but only one of those times was someone actually pinned to the building. (Driver, unlicensed therefore uninsured- the victim, uninsured as well, had his legs crushed.)

    There is “No Standing” on the north side of Catherine Street, but all day long there are delivery trucks and private cars with city employee passes parked there. Creating a honk fest unparalleled in my experience, all right next to the Flagship Public School of NYC.

  • crzwdjk

    AD: they took one wheel off. And I had a friend who would take his quick-release skewers with him when he parked his bike, so when they stole his bike, they took my skewer. Good thing there was a bike shop a couple blocks away.

  • Steve

    I took a more in-depth look at bicycling issues in these reports. In sum, the reports approach the issue in an inconsistent and unscientific manner. Bicycling to school apparently was inquired into at some schools, and not others, without any explanation as to why; in one report, the significance of a traffic collision involving a bicycling student was essentially ignored; the existence of bicycle lanes generally were noted and in one report bicycle lanes were recommend as a traffic calming measure, but only to the extent pedestrians would benefit from the claiming; and two schools reported some student bicycling, but inconsistencies in report methodology make it impossible to assess the significance. Here are the details:

    1. There is no mention of bicycling to school in any of the Manhattan school reports. However, one of the school reports, for M.S. 54 on West 108th, has a picture of kid bicycling to school with a bike rack in the foreground (see fig. 4, p.14). The reports do state where bicycle lanes installed near schools are located (at least in the case of lanes installed at the time of the engineer’s visit to the school, which in some cases were quite a while ago).

    2. School officials were asked about bicycling almost all of the time in Staten Island in Queens, and only sometimes in Brooklyn (I didn’t make it through the Bronx).

    3. In Staten island, just about every school explicitly reported the rate at which students bicycled to school, and in all of them, the figure was 0%. In most cases, this information was “as reported by school administrators” of by “school representatives.” There was no indication that parents were actually surveyed. At one Staten Island school, I.S. 51, “a seventh-grade boy was struck on the northwest corner of the intersection [of Forest Avenue and Willow Road East] while riding a bicycle to school in the winter of 2004” (p.21). However, because the reports as a rule analyze only PEDESTRIAN injuries near schools, not bicycling injuries, the crash map in the I.S. 51 report, purportedly covering accidents from 1998-2000 does not reflect this bicycling accident. Instead, the crash map reports NO accidents involving school-age children at the intersection where the seventh-grader on the bike was hit. (Ex. 6, p.17).

    4. In the Queens reports, there is no discussion of children bicycling to school, but the report for Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary School recommends: “consider proposed bicycle lanes in each direction, on Parsons Boulevard. The bicycle lanes will reduce the effective width of the roadway and is [sic] expected to help reduce the effects of speeds [of motor vehicles].” (p.26) Interesting–bicyclists as “human shields” for the pedestrians. But I agree with the point that bike lanes slow traffic speeds.

    5. Two schools in Brooklyn indicated some level of bicycling to school: Yeshivat Ateret Torah (“50%” “Walk/Bicycle” “according to school officials,” p.6); and Yeshiva Torah Terminah (“5%” “Bicycle” according to school officials,” p.10). I wonder whether why only these two schools (expect for any in the Bronx I did not review) out of the 135 reported bicycle use. At least in the case of the Manhattan and some Brooklyn schools, it appears that the report authors may not have asked school representatives about student bicycling. Even so, is there a heightened rate of bicycle use in the orthodox Jewish community or at least among kids in that community)? Were the administrators of these two schools were more in touch with the methods of transportation used by their students? Was there something distinctive in the way the report authors surveyed bicycle use at these schools as compared to the others?

    I have reached the conclusion that bicycling to schools is a key strategy and measure for a “bike-friendly” New York City. Parents who do bicycle with their kids will insist that there be sufficient bicycle lanes, that they remain unobstructed, and that the roads are otherwise keeps safe for bicycling. Kids generally love bicycling so they will make their parents do it regularly. Once the parent starts the day on a bicycle, they are likely to remain on it throughout the day. Outside of New York City, there are many successful efforts to foster bicycling to school though the “National Center for Safe Routes to Schools”, discussed here: http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/ and promoted in a somewhat “Hollywood slick” streaming video on the topic geared to suburban and rural audiences here: http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/saferoutes/video.php.

    The DOT has certainly done nothing to promote safe bicycling in its series of 135 safety reports, and those reports fail to meet a minimum level of reliable and appropriate methodology when it comes to their treatment of bicycling issues.

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