We’re putting a bow on 2014 with this, the third and final Streetsies post. (Just joining us? Have a look at parts one and two). If you haven’t given to our year-end pledge drive yet and want to support media that makes an impact on your streets, don’t forget to donate before the ball drops.
After seven momentous years, Jon Orcutt and Bruce Schaller moved on from NYC DOT this spring.
When former transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan hired these pillars of the New York transportation reform scene in 2007, it sent a clear signal: Change was coming to DOT. Between the two of them, Orcutt and Schaller led the development and/or implementation of several major initiatives to make safer, more multi-modal streets — including but certainly not limited to Citi Bike, Select Bus Service, and the Vision Zero Action Plan.
Without their contributions, DOT would not be the modern transportation agency we know today, where goals like safety, sustainability, and street life figure prominently. Their impact on the agency and the city will be felt for a long time.
Best News for the Future of American Bicycling
The restructuring of Citi Bike saved bike-share in New York City from limping along indefinitely with seriously flawed technology and a management team that was out of its depth. With new management and fresh capital, Citi Bike should become more reliable, efficient, and expansive in 2015 — if former MTA boss Jay Walder and his team deliver. And a healthy, growing Citi Bike means biking for transportation will become accessible and appealing to more New Yorkers.
The impact will be felt outside New York too. All the bike-share systems run by Citi Bike’s parent, Alta Bicycle Share (that includes Boston, Chicago, DC, and San Francisco), will benefit from the hardware and software upgrades that should be coming soon. After a year of stagnation, American bike-share is poised to grow again.
The de Blasio administration and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in particular deserve credit for seeing this deal through.
Most Unnecessary Detour
In April, a Montreal bankruptcy court awarded the remnants of Bixi, Citi Bike’s major equipment supplier, to Bruno Rodi, a local furniture mogul — rejecting a higher bid from the same group that eventually bought out Alta. If the judge had accepted the high bid, the whole Citi Bike turnaround process would probably be much further along by now.
Best Neighborhood Traffic Calming Campaign
There’s a lot of stellar organizing and volunteer work happening in New York City these days, including the campaigns to fix Jay Street and bring complete streets to Fifth Avenue, Sixth Avenue, and Seventh Avenue.
In 2014, the big breakthrough belonged to the North Star Neighborhood Association and the residents who fought for a road diet on Morningside Avenue in West Harlem. The proposal to trim Morningside from four traffic lanes to three was nearly delayed to death by notoriously change-averse Community Board 10. But advocates’ perseverance paid off in May, nine months after the proposal debuted, when CB 10 chair Henrietta Lyle urged a supportive vote even though the board itself, she said, “may not want this.”
Best Interborough Active Transportation Advocacy
Two years ago, the prospect of building a biking and walking path on the Verrazano Bridge seemed like a political orphan. No one would claim it. Now, thanks to the work of the Harbor Ring Committee, nearly every elected official with a district that touches the Verrazano has adopted the idea. The only big question mark that’s left is Governor Cuomo.
Special commendation goes to Harbor Ring Committee member Steve Faust, a fierce believer in the Verrazano path who died earlier this year at the age of 67.
Bicycling Magazine names New York the best bicycling city in America. Minneapolis and Portland bristle at the suggestion. Amsterdam and Copenhagen yawn.
Okay, NYC may not be a great bicycling city yet, but just look at all these streets that have changed for the better in the last few years. To cap off the Janette Sadik-Khan era at DOT, Clarence put together this before-and-after montage of The Metamorphosis of NYC Streets. It quickly became Streetfilms’ biggest viral hit ever, racking up more than 350,000 views.
Rumor of the Year
A little bird told us that a major safety overhaul is in the works for Queens Boulevard, the scariest street in the city.
The Deferred Maintenance Award
The NYC Parks Department waited until a Hudson River Greenway sinkhole was large enough to swallow several adult humans — 11 months after Streetsblog readers first reported the problem — before patching up the gap with fresh asphalt.
The Marcia Kramer Award for Transportation Journalism
After a DOT report claimed that driving times improved on Manhattan avenues following the implementation of protected bike lanes, ABC 7’s Jim Hoffer “debunked” it by telling viewers about his inability to replicate the relatively speedy DOT results with his own time trials. Among the many problems with the reporting: In several time trials, Streetsblog’s Stephen Miller was unable to come remotely close to Hoffer’s sluggish results. And unlike ABC 7, we have all of Stephen’s trips on YouTube for public inspection:
Obeying the speed limit (or, to be precise, driving less than 10 mph over the speed limit) was so intolerable for Long Island motorists that they threw a huge tantrum and wiped out the nascent speed camera programs in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Honorable mention goes to Eastern Queens “civic leader” Bob Friedrich. In the Times Ledger, Friedrich whined thusly about NYC’s speed cameras, which are only posted near schools: “These unfortunate motorists were ticketed for driving 10 mph over the posted speed limit where these one-armed bandits were waiting for them.” Waaaaah!
Biggest Tease, or the “Wait ’til Next Year!” Award
How much longer will New Yorkers have to wait for a Pulaski Bridge with enough room for everyone who wants to walk or bike between Queens and Brooklyn? Close to another year. Thanks to construction red tape, the most hotly anticipated bike project of 2014 — the Pulaski Bridge protected bikeway — will also be the most hotly anticipated bike project of 2015. Can’t wait.
Have a great New Year Streetsblog readers! We’ll have your headlines fix on Friday morning.