De Blasio’s ‘Green Wave’ Finally Addresses the Problem…

Artists's rendition of enforcement vs. design waging a battle around the mayor.
Artists's rendition of enforcement vs. design waging a battle around the mayor.

The plan released by Mayor de Blasio to stem the blood tide on city streets this year is an expansive one that includes more miles of protected bike lanes, better-designed intersections, amped up police enforcement on rogue truckers and bike lane blockers and more education for inept drivers.

Safe-street and bike advocates, who started begging for the mayor to do something long before the 17th cyclist was killed this year, say the long-overdue — and not truly visionary — plan will nonetheless make a clear difference.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces "Green Wave" bicycle plan to address cycling fatalities, with citywide protected bike lane network and increased enforcement, at PS 170 in Brooklyn on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor de Blasio announces the “Green Wave” bicycle plan. Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

“We think it’s a very strong plan. It’s not perfect, but it has some critical elements,” said Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Marco Conner. “The Department of Transportation knows that it takes a bold set of infrastructure and policy changes to make our streets safe for all New Yorkers, so we’re pleased to see Mayor de Blasio doubling down on his mandate to save lives and empowering the DOT to bring sweeping changes to our streets.”

Hizzoner announced the $58-million plan, dubbed the “Green Wave,” on Thursday at a school in Bay Ridge — near where his DOT will soon install the neighborhood’s first protected bike lane.

The plan comes just a few weeks after more than 1,000 people staged a “die-in” in Washington Square Park to demand that drivers citywide “Stop killing us!” — and more than two months after many of those same bikers and advocates packed the steps of City Hall to declare a state of emergency for the mayor’s signature Vision Zero initiative.

Flanked by bike advocacy groups Transportation Alternatives, Families for Safe Streets, Bike New York, de Blasio unveiled the highlights of his plan, which include mostly expanded versions of his existing initiatives:

30 miles of protected bike lanes each year

The city is committing to build 30 miles of protected bike lanes across the five boroughs each year, which would be about 10 miles more than last year, though only five miles more than the mayor’s record year in 2017. Thirty miles would represent a 50-percent increase from last year, but it is still far short of the 50 miles of protected bike lane sought by Council Speaker Corey Johnson and the 100 miles of protected bike lane sought by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who was on hand to support the mayor on Thursday (albeit to also put in a plug for his far more rapid expansion of the bike lane network).

One of the first new protected bike lanes slated to be installed will be along Seventh Avenue in Bay Ridge — a neighborhood that lacks any on-street protected lanes. The city also committed to restoring a protected bike route on Dyckman Street in Upper Manhattan — almost a year after DOT hastily ripped it up because of a backlash from local pols.

By the end of 2021, DOT expects to install more than 80 new miles of protected bike lanes. And by 2030, it plans to connect major gaps in order to create a citywide bike-lane network.

DOT plans to build 75 miles of this bike infrastructure in 10 communities it identifies as Bike Priority Districts, such as Maspeth, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Borough Park — neighborhoods that comprise a disproportionately high rate of cyclist fatalities. DOT also will boost its staff and add 80 more people focused on building out the bike network.

Truck enforcement

Truck drivers have killed the last four cyclists who were mowed down this year, including Aurilla Lawrence, Robyn Hightman, Devra Freelander, and Alex Cordero.

Historically, trucks have been involved in about 30 percent of cyclist fatalities, but this year that number shot up to more than 40 percent, according to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

The NYPD will launch a crackdown against dangerous truck drivers and target 100 of the most dangerous intersections in the city, slapping drivers with tickets if they put cyclists in danger.

“All of them will receive additional NYPD enforcement with a special focus on trucks. I want everyone that drives a truck in this city to know the NYPD will be watching and they will take action if any trucker does the wrong thing and endangers a bicyclist,” de Blasio said.

Trottenberg added that DOT will work closely with the trucking industry in order to ensure that drivers get training to boost their awareness of cyclist and pedestrians.

Better design

The majority of fatal and serious-injury crashes happen at intersections, where cars and cyclists are forced to mix and compete for space on the road — so the city is vowing to install traffic-calming measures at 50 of the most dangerous intersections in the city that have the highest rates of crashes.

Some of these improved designs will include more bike boxes, which allow cyclists to sit ahead of cars at intersections, and more green paint to act as a visual cue to drivers that cyclists are there.

DOT also commits to creating parking protected bike lanes where possible  — or what Trottenberg described as the “hardening” of bike lanes — so that cars cannot drive into them.  Drivers often stray into, and park on, bike lanes that are unprotected, often with deadly consequences. Last summer, Madison Lyden was forced out of the painted bike lane on Central Park West because of a parked livery car and was hit and killed by a private sanitation truck driver.

“We’re also going to be hardening more of our bike lanes with more bollards and other devices to keep cars out of them,” said Trottenberg.

Green Wave

In Manhattan, the city will pilot a program called the “Green Wave,” which will time green lights so that cyclists can ride through as many as possible without having to stop.

Trottenberg says that she’d like to expand the program to other high-biking corridors, though she did not publicly name any actual streets. It is well documented that on streets such as Bergen Street in Brooklyn, cyclists outnumber cars during the morning rush hour as bikers make their way to the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. The roadway is fairly useless as a through street for drivers, however. Transportation Alternatives and other cycling advocacy groups recently called for just that approach.

“We’re timing lights so cyclists can have a smooth ride with less stopping, less having to stop an intersection — it also has the effect of calming traffic,” Trottenberg said. “We will start that pilot this year and hopefully roll it out to other corridors around the city where we see a lot of cycling.”

Permanent crackdown 

The NYPD’s three-week enforcement blitz on reckless drivers and bike lane blockers is going permanent, de Blasio said, confirming Streetsblog’s earlier scoop.

Cops handed out more than 8,600 summons in the first three weeks of July — more than double the amount they wrote in the same time period last year.

“I am emphasizing this as an open-ended effort. It will continue until we see the results that we need,” he said.

Safety 101 

As part of the new bike-safety plan, the city also will conduct more outreach to motorists on how to drive more safely and to look out for pedestrians and cyclists on the road.

“You will see more public education, and both those things are meant to change the behavior of motorists, which we have to do. There’s still so much work to be done,” the mayor said. “I know we have changed motors behavior in some ways, but we have so much more to do. Education is part of it, but enforcement is another way of educating and you will see plenty of enforcement.”

WILL ALL OF THIS BE ENOUGH? READ OUR ANALYSIS HERE

  • Joe R.

    I have mixed feelings about this:

    1) Yes, it’s good those in charge are finally starting to realize that travel time matters for bikes, not just cars, and also that repeatedly stopping is far more burdensome for self-powered transportation.

    2) The real answer is to systematically remove traffic signals from bike routes. Retiming them makes things a little better, but it’s not a long term answer.

    3) In many cases, particularly in the outer boroughs, it’s often not even possible to time lights for cars, let alone bikes. Therefore, I see a limited scope for this solution.

    4) A green wave invariably ends up being a compromise. If the timed speed is too low, it may make things worse for a sizable percentage of cyclists. If it’s too high, it’ll work for a small subset of cyclists only, although it will still be better for all cyclists than a green wave timed for car speeds.

    5) Green waves should take into account terrain. If we deem, say, a 15 mph green wave to be a reasonable compromise we should increase that speed on downgrades and increase it on upgrades to account for real world cyclist behavior. In theory we could also change the green wave speed depending upon prevailing winds, but the complexity of that would probably be beyond the scope of DOT.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they’re doing this. However, let’s think of this more as a first step, sort of like going into low Earth orbit with Mars being the eventual goal, and not as the sole long-term solution. The best answer as I said is to systematically remove traffic signals from bike routes. That’s what they did in the Netherlands, to the point where it’s possible on some bike superhighways to go 10 or 20 or 30 km without hitting a red light. imagine being able to travel all the way across NYC without hitting a traffic signal or stop sign.

  • Vooch

    There are 6,000 miles of streets in NYC.

    at a pace of 30 miles per year creating PBLs – in 20 years, 10% of NYCs streets will have PBLs.

  • qrt145

    Here’s the link to the plan from the DOT website: https://www1.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/bike-safety-plan.pdf

    Is it just me or Streetsblog doesn’t link to primary sources as often as it used to?

  • Dan Choy

    “Blitz” should be in quotes, followed by a “wah-wah” sound effect. I’m not seeing it happen in the 13th Pct, or others.

  • Jacob

    With an actual network map, we now have the tools to say, “hey, why are you building sharrows or an unprotected bike lane on this section of your protected bike lane network?”

  • Jacob

    Good to see diverters being discussed, but there seem to be no standards for quality or utility for “neighborhood networks”.

  • RW

    What about enforcing the laws for bicyclists. Perhaps if they want to stop dying they should start obeying the law.

  • burnabybob

    The bike network looks good on paper, but it will take far too long to implement. We shouldn’t have to wait another 12 years to have a comprehensive bike lane. It also reduces the likelihood of it ever happening, because it will rely on at least one more mayor after DB to stick to his plan. DB should have made completion of a comprehensive network one of the central goals of his second term, rather than frittering away with a piecemeal approach that satisfies nobody.

    As others have pointed out, it also isn’t clear if this plan will reduce driving, which is crucial to reducing auto fatalities. Hopefully the protected bike lanes will remove street parking in the process. Some see loss of parking as a problem. In reality, it’s a feature, and something that has helped wean cities like Denmark and Amsterdam off of car dependency.

  • relevantjeff

    You’re funny. Have you thought of trying out stand up comedy?

  • Knut Torkelson

    DOT’s incremental, piecemeal approach will lead to more death. It’s not enough, and it’s way too slow. Sad that it took so many deaths to get to this point, and sad we have to put up with another 2 years of ineffectual leadership from de Blasio and Trottenberg while cyclists die avoidable deaths.

  • Boeings+Bikes

    Re: green waves.

    As the primary advocate for the Prince/Bleecker lanes when they were created, I pushed for and got an agreement that a green wave should be studied/implemented on Prince St. both for traffic calming and so cyclists wouldn’t have any reason to run red lights (since the lights would be green). Over and over then-Manh BC Margaret Forgione said it was possible (with breaks in the cycle at a couple major cross-streets)… and yet it was never implemented. Never tested, never tried.

    Today I live on Bergen St. in Brooklyn, which you article refers to. It’s overdue that NYC DOT get their toes wet in this program that they’ve been carefully avoiding for 15 years! NOW!

  • Boeings+Bikes

    Streetsblog reporter on the blitz – it was something like 5x the number of tickets they wrote last year, which worked out to something like 3 tickets per day per precinct. “Blitz.”

  • AMH

    This is long overdue. I have long believed that DOT needs to study pedestrian and bicyclist delay with the objective of minimizing both, rather than focusing on moving cars and maybe some safety measures. Everyone loves to criticize cyclists for running red lights, but would they be willing to stop for 30+ seconds every 500 feet?

  • Joe R.

    It’s far worse for cyclists though if you need to stop every 500 feet. For a pedestrian that’s 2 minutes in motion and 30+ seconds stopped. For a cyclist it’s more like 20 to 30 seconds in motion, then 30+ seconds stopped. I would tell any pedestrian who doesn’t understand it to visualize walking about 1/3 of a block, stopping for 30 seconds or more, then repeating this over and over. It’s probably still physically easier for the pedestrian since they’re only accelerating back up to 3 to 5 mph, instead of 15 to 20 mph, but it’s just as annoying. If I wanted to stop every two blocks I would be a bus driver.

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