Today’s Headlines

  • It’s Election Day: Know Your Ballot Measures and Transpo Issues (NYT, DNA, NY1)
  • Doomsayers Were Wrong: No Citi Bike Fatalities After Millions of Rides (NYT)
  • Two Men Seriously Injured After UPS Truck Driver Smashes Into Cherry Picker on UWS (Post)
  • Bloomberg’s Taxi Reforms Face Uncertain Future in Next Administration (CapNY)
  • Lhota Fields Calls From People Scared of Bicycles, Says He’ll “Look Into” Trike-Share (Observer)
  • Gibson Dunn’s Randy Mastro Has Ties to de Blasio, Lhota, and Bill Thompson (CapNY)
  • Bike-Share: It’s Really Popular (Post)
  • Why Does London Have Half as Many Traffic Deaths as NYC? (IVM)
  • MTA Releases New Photos of Second Avenue Subway Construction (Post, News)
  • Jersey City’s Mayor Making Good on Promise to Install New Bike Lanes (BIKAS)
  • Brooke Shields Dressed as a Citi Bike for Halloween (Daily Mail via Inhabitat)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Anonymous

    Not sure how the sex offender news is relevant or interesting.

  • Ian Turner

    I lolled at this: “Every time I go to a meeting, it is plastered with people from the bike
    world who are not in the communities where they are supposed to be.” Ghettos for bicyclists!

  • Anonymous

    Me too. Also at “I’ll talk to the Citibank people about [the trikes]”.

  • Jeff

    I think she was referring to activists showing up at community board meetings in districts they do not live in. While she might have a point, it really just shows the absurdity of leaving the design and implementation of a city-wide transportation network in the hands of local community boards. Even if one never sets foot in a certain community district, beyond resting at a red light, but has to commute through it every day, then that person has every right to attend a community board meeting if said community board insists on having a say in a city-wide transportation network. This blurring of neighborhood- and city-wide interests simply breaks the notion of who has a say in community board issues.

  • Bolwerk

    Yeah, it’s one of those obvious things pols don’t touch: why can’t we get rid of these monstrosities once and for all? At their best, they are worthless soapboxes, and at worst they have derailed one logical reform after another. The bulk of people in a typical neighborhood don’t have the time or resources, much less the interest, to dedicate to them, which leaves them under control of the few prigs who care.

    We already elect representatives whose full-time job it is to govern. Let’s let them do their jobs, and fire them when they don’t.

  • JK

    Residency is not a requirement for CB membership. In CB 10 (Harlem) seems like a 1/3rd of members work for a govt dev agency or quasi-gov non-profit and live outside of NYC. These non-residents all drive, and are vocal about parking. Same in other CBs where non-resident store owners are on the CB.

  • Mark Walker

    Part of London’s superior traffic safety record (relative to NYC) is attributed to “a
    total ban on vehicles’ turning through crosswalks when pedestrians have a green
    light.” Please, please, let’s do that here.

  • Amen.

  • Jeff

    As much as I hate to play the “NYC is different” card, the street network in London is, indeed, completely different. They don’t have a street grid, of course, and junctions are much more infrequent. They’re also really big on the whole pedestrian cattle pens, and the percentage of the full signal cycle during which pedestrians can cross one given leg of the junction is very small. Additionally, crossing a split-carriageway as a pedestrian almost always involves waiting two full cycles, as the signal phase for each portion of the split carriageway for pedestrians are completely independent.

    My experience walking around London (I go roughly once a year and spend plenty of time both in Central London and the inner-ring suburbs) is that while you hit a junction much less frequently, when you do, you will end up waiting a lot longer to cross the street than you would in NYC. In other words, designing our (much more frequent) intersections the way they do in London would make walking around the city quite tedious.

  • Jeff

    Consider this junction in Bexleyheath:

    https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Bexleyheath,+United+Kingdom&hl=en&ll=51.457348,0.138989&spn=0.00125,0.002562&sll=40.697488,-73.979681&sspn=0.778802,1.311493&oq=bexleyheath+u&hnear=Bexleyheath,+Greater+London,+United+Kingdom&t=h&z=19

    If I am walking along the southern side of Broadway, in order to “cross” Albion Rd, I must walk south around 100 feet, wait for a signal, cross the first part of the Albion Rd carriageway, walk up north ten feet within the pedestrian “pen” in the median, wait for another signal phase, cross the second part of the carrageway, then walk back up 100 feet to rejoin Broadway. And the whole thing is enforced by pedestrian cattle pens (and no, you can’t just cross over to the north side of Broadway, because the entire area around this roundabout is covered in cattle pens). Also, as you can see, this is indeed a bustling area with shops, houses, bus routes, etc.

    This junction is a pretty good example of the pedestrian madness in London. Yes, you always get your own signal phase, but boy is there a lot of waiting and walking out of your way involved.

  • So no one died on a Citibike or killed anyone else. Meanwhile there have been dozens of people seriously maimed or killed by cars on sidewalks all over the 5 boroughs, but the media is largely silent. I don’t even know how those folks call themselves journalists.

    I’d love to see a chart comparing that.

  • Jonathan R

    I went to a CB meeting last night and found it pointless, but I blame DOT. They discussed safety fixes for two different intersections that had been three years or more in the making. How is it acceptable to delay safety improvements for known problems for three years? Why should I speak up and state my quibbles when any reservations, if accepted by DOT, would only delay these necessary improvements?

    Another issue is that for people who don’t get the community board agenda mailing, it seems like nothing is happening to address these known safety issues. Maybe they move out of town because they are afraid of crossing the street.

  • Joe R.

    NYers would just be jumping the fences and crossing wherever they want.

  • Joe R.

    I really think NYC should depend a lot less on signalization. Most of the pedestrians who have been killed were crossing with the light. Evidently what we’re doing just isn’t working. Cut the limit to 20 mph on residential streets in the outer boroughs and all of Manhattan. Remove parking near intersections to increase lines of sight. Remove ALL traffic controls at intersections to force users to negotiate with each other. Finally, enact congestion pricing to radically reduce motor vehicle volumes so there are natural gaps in traffic when pedestrians can safely cross. I’m thoroughly convinced there’s no safe, efficient way to accommodate large numbers of both pedestrians and motor vehicles in the same area other than total grade separation. Every scheme we’ve come up with isn’t totally safe, plus it negatively impacts efficiency of one or both groups. Since NYC is a pedestrian city, pedestrians should be favored over motor vehicles most of the time.

  • Bolwerk

    Fences are a terrible idea. New York already pens the 90% of people on the sidewalks into a fraction of the space. That’s what we need to fix.

  • Joe R.

    Totally agree about the fences. You do know that at one time the sidewalks on Manhattan avenues were wider? We narrowed them to accommodate more motor vehicles during the Robert Moses era.

  • Anonymous

    Giuliani put pens on 8th Ave near the bus station, FAIL, and near Rockefeller Center on 6th Ave and Fifth, FAIL.

    Guess Bloomberg feared it might hurt Rudy’s feelings to rip out these failures. De Blasio should add it to his Day One to-do list.

  • Bolwerk

    Penning people in seems to fit Rudy Giuliani’s attitude toward New Yorkers in general. I don’t much like de Blasio’s politics, but seeing authoritarian Giuliani/Bloomberg sycophants cry tears of impotent rage is still pretty satisfying.

  • Clarke

    Great in theory, but I only feel comfortable crossing in front of cars stopped at a red light. At a stop sign, unless there is opposing auto traffic, it is hard to ensure they stop and stay stopped.

  • Andrew

    Exactly. The pedestrians killed while crossing with the light are generally killed by drivers who also have the light, but are failing to yield while turning across the crosswalk.

    In other words, drivers understand quite well that red means stop; some don’t realize that there are also other situations that also mean stop.

  • Joe R.

    Most pedestrians killed crossing with the light aren’t killed by turning vehicles. By definition, a turning vehicle generally isn’t going over about 20 mph. The survival rate for 20 mph crashes is roughly 90%. Rather, pedestrians are killed when motorists run red lights at speed.

  • Joe R.

    You need to do everything in my list, not just take out traffic controls, in order for it to work. That especially includes reducing traffic volumes so there are natural gaps in traffic for pedestrians to cross. I don’t trust autos to stop, period. Rather, I prefer to wait for a gap in traffic before crossing. Note that I tend to cross on don’t walk signals so I don’t have to deal with turning vehicles.

  • Robert Wright

    I agree (as author of the blog under discussion) that motorists run red lights a lot more than most people realize. Many are just going so fast they don’t notice. (This happens in London too). Maybe I’m wrong about the dangers of turning vehicles but I certainly experience plenty of close calls with turning vehicles when crossing New York City streets and they feel dangerous to me (used to the UK system).

    But I certainly agree with the point about signalization. It was a real shock to me when I first started cycling in New York quite how many traffic lights there were: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2012/07/grids-lights-and-why-new-yorks-traffic.html

  • Robert Wright

    Jeff,

    It’s certainly true that London is very different in street layout from New York and that changes what’s feasible in the two cities. It was a huge shock to me when I moved to New York to find out how many intersections there were and how it affected traffic flows. I blogged about it here: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2012/07/grids-lights-and-why-new-yorks-traffic.html

    One effect of the two cities’ differences, incidentally, is that the returns from jumping a red light on a bike in New York are much higher. In London, if someone jumped a red light, I’d generally catch up with him/her and overtake with a superior air. That’s impossible in NYC most of the time.

    On the point about fences, they’re terrible – and there’s a big move to take out the two-phase junctions and fences. It’s getting going – but there’s still a long way to go.

    New York is also clearly much denser in Manhattan and brownstone Brooklyn than inner London is. That changes some aspects of the transport scene, although I’m still more struck by the similarities than the differences. The City of London is strikingly similar in layout and density to New York’s financial district, I tend to think. Midtown is denser than London’s West End – but there are still a lot of similarities.

    My main point, however, is this. Is there something about New York – a city, like London, of 8m people and a big commuter population every day – that means it’s OK for it to kill twice as many people every year on its roads? That’s a big disparity – particularly given that London is getting so many things wrong.

  • Robert Wright

    Londoners jump the fences and cross wherever they want. That’s partly why the fences are being scrapped.

  • Robert Wright

    My suspicion was that the NYPD saw he was a registered sex offender and thought that made him fare game for criminal prosecution. I think subconsciously they see other drivers – even those who’ve done comparably awful things – and think them respectable and not fully culpable.

  • Robert Wright

    I thought when I was writing that phrase that it would actually be the hardest of all the distinctive points about London that I mentioned to replicate in New York. Automated traffic enforcement and a congestion charge are both, I’d say, inevitable in New York, as is better enforcement of traffic laws. Phasing traffic lights as they’re phased in London – with all motor traffic stopped for pedestrians to cross – would bring Manhattan to a halt, given the number of intersections.

  • Andrew

    That’s certainly not my impression from reading Streetsblog (or from crossing the street myself).

    Nor is it the impression I get from this report, which shows FAILURE TO YIELD RIGHT-OF-WAY as the third-highest contributing factor in injury and fatal collisions, exceeded only by DRIVER INATTENTION/DISTRACTION and FOLLOWING TOO CLOSELY. TRAFFIC CONTROL DISREGARDED is much lower.

    In any case, by your proposal, drivers would be expected to yield to pedestrians even when going straight – and that simply won’t happen, and they’ll drive as fast as they like while doing so. Do you seriously expect a pedestrian to “negotiate” with a driver who is pointing a car at 20+ mph toward him?

    Currently, at uncontrolled intersections, drivers are required to yield to pedestrians. When was the last time you saw either a driver or a pedestrian at an uncontrolled intersection act that way?

  • Joe R.

    Under my proposal, traffic wouldn’t be so heavy that it would be necessary for drivers to yield for pedestrians in order to cross the street. Rather, you wait for a gap in traffic, and then cross. Chances are good 90% of the time you wouldn’t be waiting at all. Yes, a motor vehicle will need to yield in the event you’re in the crosswalk when it’s coming down the street, but most drivers don’t intentionally hit something they can’t see. Failure to yield when turning is often because the driver is so focused on traffic signals and other vehicles that he literally doesn’t see the person crossing the street. This is especially true when turning left.

    You could always have a few signals in places where traffic remains heavy but having them every 250′ on many streets as we do now is utterly ridiculous. The fact is one signal every 20 blocks or so will create enough breaks in traffic to allow safe, unsignalized crossing on the other 19 blocks, even with today’s traffic levels.

  • Joe R.

    Your blog post hits the nail on the head. NYC’s streets as designed virtually invite lawless behavior. Motorists speed to make lights, pedestrians and cyclists run red lights when they can because waiting at all of them often adds significantly to trip time. No matter how good a system is in theory, if it depends heavily upon absolute compliance, even when this is counter to other objectives, then it’s doomed to failure. NYC has exactly such a system. If you have too many enforced delays and detours (i.e. one way streets), you tend to get a lot of law-breaking.

  • Joe R.

    If I had to guess why London has half the traffic fatalities of NYC, I would offer up three reasons:

    1) The much lower frequency of junctions and traffic lights results in far fewer unintended stops. Constant, random stopping for either traffic controls or obstacles is the number one thing which fuels road rage, which in turn results in the highly aggressive but ultimately pointless jockeying around for position you see in NYC. Random stopping makes trip times less predictable, which in turn fuels driver anger.

    2) Many roads, especially arterials, are quite comfortable to drive at 40 to 50 mph, even 60 mph. These kinds of speeds are deadly around pedestrians. Most of the London streets look quite narrow, resulting in naturally lower speeds.

    3) American vehicles are much larger and heavier than their London counterparts. They’re less nimble, less able to avoid collisions, and more damaging when the collisions happen.

  • Robert Wright

    Thank you for your kind words, Joe.

  • Andrew

    Drivers making turns can see pedestrians quite well. If they don’t feel like waiting, they just shove the pedestrians out of the way. If they were also pedestrians, it would be merely rude, but in fact they are threatening those pedestrians with lethal weapons. They know quite well there is next to no enforcement.

  • Joe R.

    I don’t know about that. There’s a lot of blind corners thanks to the city allowing parking right up to the crosswalk. For example, two blocks from me a school bus always parks right at the corner. I literally can’t see anything when crossing unless I’m in the traffic lane, and a vehicle turning right wouldn’t be able to see me until it’s too late. My late father hit two pedestrians while turning in two separate instances. He said he didn’t see them. Granted, he wasn’t the most observant person going, but it’s not always a given a motorist easily sees pedestrians. I prefer not to have to depend upon a system where others need to do something in order to avoid killing me. I look both ways, and cross when it’s clear, regardless of the color of the light.

    I personally feel NYC should ban left turns. Those are the most dangerous to pedestrians because the driver’s attention is focused on opposing traffic and the traffic signal while turning, not on the crosswalk they’re turning into. I also feel it should severely restrict right turns, perhaps ban them entirely in Manhattan except at major cross streets. That would have the secondary effect of making minor cross streets off limits to motor vehicles. Once you do that, you can get rid of traffic signals other than at intersections with major cross streets.

    I personally use the subways to cross streets whenever one is available. To me it’s the best way. No waiting, no chance of getting killed. Maybe I’m alone here, but I wish the city would install pedestrian underpasses at busy intersections so people at least have the option of not crossing on the surface. An underpass is much better in that you only have to go down about 7 feet, as opposed to going up 15+ feet. They also have no negative visual impact.

  • Andrew

    When you next get a chance, take a walk around one of the pedestrian-heavy parts of the city.

  • Joe R.

    I’m totally aware that motor vehicles, especially taxis, bully their way through crossing pedestrians while turning. My own personal remedy to this is to either bang hard on their car, or break off one of their mirrors. I figure since they apparently don’t use their mirrors anyway based on the way they drive, they don’t need them. The NYPD is totally lax enforcing the yield to pedestrians while turning law but that doesn’t mean pedestrians can’t give drivers some “incentives” to at least not literally run people out of the crosswalk. I’m more than happy to let a vehicle turn first if we both happen to arrive at the crosswalk more or less the same time. I figure by the time the vehicle stops for me, and I wait for it to stop, it could already have completed its turn. I’m not gaining anything, but the driver is losing. On the flip side, if I’m already well into the crosswalk, I shouldn’t have to run for cover because a turning vehicle can’t be bothered to wait.

    Believe me, I know how stressful crossing streets is thanks to motorists who don’t know the meaning of give and take. That’s why I use subways to cross streets whenever possible. I’m just not seeing that signalization makes things better. Arguably, a lot of signals, with the resulting random stops and unpredictable trip times, increase road rage, making drivers less likely to yield to pedestrians when they should.