As you know, in this space I am always trying to find ways to inspire and change our streets for the better, which means giving you tools or film ideas to use in your community. Of late I've been doing some documentation using my GoPro and have been pleasantly surprised at how incredibly educational the footage can be.
Here in NYC, there has been an intrepid battle fought by many groups and Queens leaders to improve 111th Street, a dangerous speedway to cross for pedestrians and cyclists. In April, NYC DOT, working from results of a Vision Zero workshop spearheaded by Make the Road and Transportation Alternatives, presented to Queens Community Board 4 a smart proposal to put 111th Street on a road diet, add a two-way bike lane, and make the pedestrian crossings safer for the copious numbers of families, children and seniors going to Flushing-Corona Park & The Hall of Science.
But some members of CB4 are pushing back, including NYS Assembly Member Francisco Moya, who “has expressed that he will do everything to block this project,” according to Julissa Ferreras, the council member who endorses the NYC DOT plan and has allocated $2.7 million in capital funding to make it happen. (The above graphic is the proposed new road alignment from NYC DOT.)
So last weekend I decided to go out, strap a GoPro to my head and provide some running commentary in an attempt to show people just how dangerous it is to cross 111th! I'm in that area frequently, and as an adult it is very scary. And now while sitting back and editing the footage I can't believe how much I was jerking my head around to constantly monitor the traffic. In fact, I've ridden with the GoPro on my head while bicycling all over the city and I have never seen footage quite like that (which admittedly might make some a little queasy.)
I'm hoping as the community gears up to further debate this plan, this footage will come in handy. The most amazing thing is that I only recorded about 15 minutes before my battery died, now I've been thinking about what the footage would be like on a more busy, perilous day. Based upon how the next CB4 meeting goes. I'm pondering making a full film on the dangers of 111th Street if the plan continues to be blocked. CB4 Residents deserve better.
Wherever you are, documentation is the irrefutable key to getting real change on your streets. Go out and make it happen!
The exciting news about the big expansion of car-free zones in Central Park and Prospect Park is a milestone in a very long campaign. The movement for car-free parks goes back nearly 50 years -- much farther than the videos I've posted here. But it wasn't that long ago that car-free hours in these parks were the exception, rather than the rule. These clips capture the spirit of the last 18 years of activism, which has yielded tremendous progress.
The above video is a small segment I taped of one of the first "traffic calming rides" that Transportation Alternatives used to do in Central Park back in 1997!
There was a lot of action going on in Prospect Park as well. I was the chair of the Brooklyn Transportation Alternatives committee for two years and my immediate successor was Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek, who brought new energy and came up with the brilliant idea to do some car-free theater. Transportation Alternatives' director Paul Steely White (who then worked for ITDP) can be seen among the advocates -- and if you keep watching you'll see a rookie City Council member named Bill de Blasio endorse a car-free park trial.
I get weekly asks to "please come visit my town/city/country" to make a Streetfilm on a new best practice or a struggle on an issue a group is having. If I had a staff of anyone other than myself, I knew I'd be able to keep them quite busy. Sadly, I do not.
This is why I am always encouraging people to make their own advocacy films. When I explain to them how much cheaper it will be, how they will not have to educate an outside production company to get up to speed, and how it is really not that hard to make something very watchable (here are plenty of great tips to get started) and sometimes they do!
Every so often I compile some of the things I have been watching. Here are some from the past month. The above is from Nick Kocharhook whom I met while in London at their first Open Streets event. We chatted over email about finding someone to make a film about the concerns over London's new plan for cycle routes called Quietways, but in the end I had success in having him give it a shot, and it came out quite good!
The next film is actually from students from the University of Connecticut. I was an invited guest speaker & feedback specialist to Norman Garrick and Carol Atkinson-Palombro in a class they were teaching on Transportation Sustainability. One of the biggest parts of the student's grade was to make a film on a transportation topic. I really loved their films, particularly the one above on the new BRT called CTfastrack because they did a really good job and embraced the concept of Streetfilms. There were a half dozen total, including this one too.
I've been waiting for this day for a really long time. Some people I met today have been waiting 45 years!
The High Bridge which connects Washington Heights to the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx is now waiting for YOU to traverse it. I didn't bring my video gear, choosing to just soak up the event, since it had lots of press there already. But I did take some photos.
And if you want a POV of what it feels like riding over it, here is a short snippet of iPhone magic.
I think it has been tastefully re-done. I am glad the designers went for simplicity. Only a few batches of benches. Nice brickwork. Even on days where this might get a little tight with people you'll be able to bike it, it will never be like the High Line.
Yes, there is now additional fencing. I am sure we would all rather not have it there. But it isn't distracting to me. And if it came to either having it, or keeping the High Bridge closed another 45 years, well....
It was nice to get to be one of the first cyclists on it since 1970. And look for me on the "network news" since the minute I showed up on my 52 pound Dutch bike, I got a lot of attention!
And in case you haven't seen, nearly six years ago I got to go on a rare walking tour of the Bridge during the Walk21 conference. Watch it below and compare and contrast. History: I like to see cities continuing to get better. This new commuting/exercise/leisure option for those living in The Bronx and Upper Manhattan is long overdue.
I'm sure there are plenty of you livable streets champions that have documented this phenomenon. I've seen it often. And yesterday was just another fine example of it.
I was lucky enough to be invited to walk with Mayor de Blasio's entourage yesterday in the Queens Pride March in my neighborhood of Jackson Heights, which is always a festive & colorful event. But once the parade was over, even though the streets were still closed down to vehicles for roughly an hour afterwards, I noticed about 98% of people chose to walk on sidewalks instead of the roadway, even the edges.