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Posts from the Health & Safety Category

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Families for Safe Streets: Let’s End Traffic Violence

This one-day mini film takes a look at NYC's newly formed transportation advocacy group, Families for Safe Streets, and the press conference they held for their first public gathering on the steps of NYC's City Hall steps.

There was plenty of emotional testimony given by the families of loved ones who have perished due to traffic violence on the streets of New York City. In fact, many of the people are likely familiar to Streetfilms viewers since they've been in past videos reaching back seven or eight years.  Thus, we dug in to the archives to emphasize just how long some of these families have been asking for safer streets.

As you may be aware, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced the beginning steps for his ambitious Vision Zero Plan.  While most of the members of Families for Safe Streets support the mayor, they would like to see many of his initiatives instituted immediately with timetables set for certain goals.

 

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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Makes Historic “Vision Zero” Announcement

In 2013, NYC recorded a record-low 333 homicides, yet at least 286 people lost their lives to traffic violence. In a press conference on January 15, Mayor Bill de Blasio said it's "shocking to see how much those two numbers correspond."

In announcing his first steps to implement Vision Zero, the goal of eliminating traffic deaths, he said, "The first obligation of government is to protect the health and safety of our people, and this is an area we simply have to do better. We think there is an epidemic here, there has been an epidemic of traffic fatalties and it can't go on. And the time to start change is now."

The mayor made the announcement near the site where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed by an unlicensed truck driver in a crosswalk last month while walking to school. The site is not far from where three other Queens youth have tragically had their lives taken from them. The mayor met with the families of many people who've lost loved ones to traffic violence.

Here we've assembled some highlights of the event, which also included NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and incoming NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

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In Portland, Every Day Is Walk and Bike to School Day

In many areas of the country the statistics are bleak -- only a small fraction of children bike or walk to school. But Portland, Oregon has bucked the trend: The number of kids using their feet to get to school is up 25 percent since 2006!

Portland makes it happen through a unique blend of infrastructure, planning, and outreach. They have a growing network of low-traffic neighborhood greenways. By 2015, 80 percent of all Portland residents will be within a half mile of one. Communities also frequently schedule "bike trains" and "walking school buses" to encourage kids and their families to bike or walk to school. One of the more incredible parts of these programs: Fifth grade student volunteers trained by the Portland police help younger students cross the street to get to school in the morning. That's right, NYC, no crossing guards on corner after corner.

Last month, Streetfilms got to bike to school along with the family of new Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat. We also got to walk with Kristen and Dan Kaufman (of PDXK-TV) and their kids. Although the United States has a long way to go to make walking and biking to school the norm again, get motivated -- because if Portland can do it, your city can too.

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Three Children Too Many March: NYC Residents Fight Back for Safer Streets

A new group, Three Children Too Many, held a march for traffic justice for recent victims of senseless crashes in or near Jackson Heights. The rally was well attended and about 200 people joined up at three different points during the 30 block walk.

The rally was met along the route by numerous elected officials and some of the parents and friends of those killed by cars - all of them preventable tragedies. Particularly moving were Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao who spoke about their three year old daughter Allison's death in a brave, emotional speech which can be seen here in its entirety.

We need immediate action. We can no longer wait for any other children to suffer the same fate. We have a new mayor that must put plans in motion to change our streets. A promising new council who must draft new legislation to dramatically lower speeds and raise the penalties for drivers. And we must lean on our state government to allow NYC to have more speed cameras, more red light cameras and more autonomy in making our city a liveable, safe place for children to walk the streets.

 

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Strong Towns’ Chuck Marohn: Why Suburban Growth Is a Ponzi Scheme

Chuck Marohn cofounded the non-profit Strong Towns in 2009. Since then he has steadily built an audience for his message about the financial folly of car-centric planning and growth. The suburban development pattern that has prevailed since the end of World War II has resulted in what Marohn calls "the growth Ponzi scheme" -- a system that isn't viable in the long run because it cannot bring in enough revenue to cover its costs.

Last year, interest in the Strong Towns message surged and Marohn, in high demand, traveled to towns and cities all over the country delivering "curbside chats" about the need to build places differently. In this Streetfilm we provide an overview of his thinking about street design, land use, and transportation funding. For more Chuck Marohn, visit the Strong Towns blog and check out their podcast.

One of my favorite pieces of commentary from Chuck is this video walk-through of a "diverging diamond" interchange in Springfield, Missouri. As usual he pulls no punches, and he delivers the critique with a biting sense of humor.

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The Indianapolis Cultural Trail: The Next-Gen in U.S. Protected Bike Lanes

In May, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, a bike & pedestrian path connecting some of Indy's most popular cultural institutions, had its long-awaited public coming out with a ribbon cutting and celebration. It's one of the biggest bicycling infrastructure achievements in North America, and yet it's still practically a secret.

As you'll see, the Cultural Trail runs eight fantastic miles through the heart of downtown and features beautiful stone work, green landscaping and even bioswales to absorb stormwater runoff. There is great signage and trail design with an eye for maximum safety. In many places, parking and/or a car travel lane was converted to trail space. But most importantly, the trail features ample room for both cyclists and pedestrians (most of the time in separate environments) to get around downtown, whether they're commuting, exercising, running errands, or just going for an afternoon jaunt. It's fun and very safe and people of all ages using it.

Across the U.S. cities such as NYC, Chicago, and Washington are doing tremendous work installing miles of protected bike lanes with inexpensive materials. Although the Cultural Trail cost quite a bit, it's nice to know that to find extensive downtown bike infrastructure made with beautiful, permanent materials, we don't have to look to Europe. We can go check out Indianapolis.

Note: Please don't miss our related Streetfilm on Indy's bike-friendly GOP Mayor Greg Ballard and a 2 minute short looking more in-depth at the bioswales and storm water management system along the Cultural Trail.

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Streetfacts #4: Children Have Lost the Freedom to Roam

Think of this Streetfacts chapter as a PSA about how, in just a few generations, we have tightly restricted American kids' freedom to roam, play, and become self-sufficient.

The percentage of children walking and bicycling to school has plummeted from almost 50 percent in 1969 to about 13 percent today. Although distance from school is often cited as the main barrier to walking and bicycling, many families still drive when schools are close to home. According to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, driving accounts for about half of school trips between 1/4- and 1/2-mile long — which in most cases shouldn't take kids much more than 10 minutes to walk.

There are plenty of factors at work here: Lack of sidewalks and safe walking and biking routes. The fallacy of "stranger danger." School districts banning walking and biking outright. But all of these problems lead back to the original and biggest blunder: We continue to design our cities and towns for cars instead of for children, families, and human beings.

Look for more Streetfilms on this issue in the next year.

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“The Case for a Car-Free Central Park” (A 2004 Flashback)

Though it's sad we still allow cars to drive through NYC's Central & Prospect Parks, there've been numerous victories over the years as advocates have nibbled away hours cars have been allowed in our parks.

Flashback to 2004:  there had been little to get excited about in nearly ten years on the car-free Central Park movement. Looking for a way to gain momentum and take advantage of a 100,000 signature campaign in progress, Transportation Alternatives (T.A.) hired me to produce a mini film called, "The Case for a Car-Free Central Park", which featured interviews with many prominent New Yorkers like Columbia Professor Ken Jackson and author Robert Brandes Gratz amongst dozens of everyday parkgoers testifying about how they felt about the issue of cars in the Park.

The film was the centerpiece of a T.A.rally attended by nearly 700 people.  The crowd reaction was dramatic and enthusiastic.  Just a few weeks after the rally, the city took substantial action.  From T.A.s website which features a great chronology of Car-Free Central Park:

2004:  Speed limit on the loop drive reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph. West 90th and East 102nd Street entrances and exits closed to cars. West 77th and East 90th entrances closed to cars. West 72nd street slip-ramp closed to cars. People reclaim overnight and early mornings in the park. Cars get to enter 7 am to 10 am and 3 pm to 7 pm. HOV 2+ rule on West drive during morning rush hours.

Although I had been promoting bicycle issues on my cable access show bikeTV since 1999, in many ways this was the first major activism victory in NYC transportation where film played a large role.  And a reminder: YouTube didn't get started until 2005, that makes it all the more impressive.

Thus, it's an absolute honor that "The Case for a Car-Free Central Park" was selected as a featured element at the Museum of the City of New York's upcoming exhibition "Activist New York".  Beginning May 4th, the program examines social activism from the 17th Century right up to the present. We're glad the curators realized the significance of this video in New York's history.

Make sure you go check out what surely should be an excellent exhibit.  And for now if you want to watch the entire 20 minute film, you can right here, for the first time ever available on Streetfilms!

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Self-Reliance Grows in the Utrecht Traffic Garden

In the Dutch city of Utrecht, kids start learning about traffic safety long before they prepare for a driver's license. And not just "look both ways before you cross the street."

The school curriculum includes regular field trips to the local "traffic garden." The City of Utrecht has used this facility, a streetscape in miniature, to teach kids the rules of the road since the 1950s. Students take turns as cyclists, pedestrians and car drivers, learning how to take other types of street users into consideration. The hands-on experience navigating the traffic garden gives kids the skills and confidence to get around the city under their own power as soon as their early teens.

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My NYC Biking Story: Marcus Woollen

Marcus Woollen is a prime example of what bicycling can do for your mind, body and spirit. Fifteen months ago, after being declared obese by his doctors, he decided he needed to get healthy and find a way to fit exercise into his busy schedule.

So he tried bike commuting from Jackson Heights, Queens to Hell's Kitchen and loved it. As of May, he's lost an incredible 50 pounds (already five more than when he filmed with us!) and has  inspired many friends to start biking too.

Here are some words of advice Marcus has for all of us:

  • "New York City is almost ideal for biking - it's pretty flat, and traffic isn't very fast - more like organized chaos."
  • "By commuting, I have so much more energy during the day, and I sleep much better than before."
  • "Most of the year, I commute in my work clothes. In the summer, I'll wear something cooler, and keep a few sets of clothes in a closet at my office - and have them dry cleaned over the weekend so I can pick them up on Monday morning as I get to work."
  • "Riding in the winter is easy - as long as the streets are plowed, I'll go. My biggest mistake at first was wearing too much and overheating - biking keeps you much warmer than waiting on a cold subway platform!"
  • "Queens is a great place to ride a bike - with the exception of a few major through streets, there are a lot of quiet neighborhood streets to ride on. The neighborhoods out here are wonderful and incredibly diverse."

Streetfilms would like to thank the Law Offices of Adam D. White for sponsoring this chapter in our My NYC Biking Story.

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Cycling Copenhagen, Through North American Eyes

While Streetfilms was in Copenhagen for the Velo-City 2010 conference, of course we wanted to showcase its biking greatness.  But we were also looking to take a different perspective then all the myriad other videos out there.  Since there were an abundance of advocates, planners, and city transportation officials attending from the U.S. and Canada, we thought it'd be awesome to get their reactions to the city's built environment and compare to bicycling conditions in their own cities.

If you've never seen footage of the Copenhagen people riding bikes during rush hour - get ready - it's quite a site, as nearly 38% of all transportation trips in Copenhagen are done by bike.  With plenty of safe, bicycle infrastructure (including hundreds of miles of physically separated cycletracks) its no wonder that you see all kinds of people on bikes everywhere.  55% of all riders are female, and you see kids as young as 3 or 4 riding with packs of adults.

Much thanks to the nearly two dozen folks who talked to us for this piece.  You'll hear astute reflections from folks like Jeff Mapes (author of "Pedaling Revolution"), Martha Roskowski (Program Manager, GO Boulder), Andy Clarke (President, League of American Bicyclists), Andy Thornley (Program Director, San Francisco Bike Coalition) and Tim Blumenthal (President, Bikes Belong) and Yvonne Bambrick (Executive Director, Toronto's Cyclists Union) just to name drop a few of the megastars.

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Tom Vanderbilt Talks “Traffic”

Whether you're a transportation geek or just curious about why people do the things they do behind the wheel, Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic is one of the most fascinating books you can open up.

Tom, who also writes the excellent blog How We Drive, was kind enough to drop by the Streetfilms office for a conversation about his vast research into the world of car and driver. Here's our ten-minute highlight reel of his talk with OpenPlans founder and Streetsblog publisher Mark Gorton. The interview covers subjects from the Invisible Gorilla to intense DriveCam footage of automobile crashes to the dangers of noise-canceling technology touted by car manufacturers. Whether you drive every day or not at all, you'll be enlightened about what happens inside people's heads once they're inside an automobile.

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“Stop the Pollution, Pick a Solution”

Ever heard an anti-idling rap? Or seen the "Funky Pollution Dance?" Tune in to this video to see what Livable Streets Education students are up to at MS 51 in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

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Manhattan DA Candidates Debate Traffic Justice (selects)

Every year, vehicular violence claims the lives about 300 New Yorkers and injures thousands more. But even in cases where victims die, drivers are often allowed to get right back behind the wheel as long as they are sober, licensed, and remain at the scene.

A large part of the responsibility for deterring deadly driving lies with New York’s District Attorneys. With the campaign to succeed Robert Morgenthau as Manhattan’s top prosecutor heating up, the next DA will have the opportunity to keep streets safer by holding reckless drivers more accountable.

Last month, Transportation Alternatives and the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law organized a forum on traffic justice for the three DA candidates: Richard Aborn, Cyrus Vance, and Leslie Crocker Snyder (who could not attend and sent a top staffer, Richard Socarides, in her stead). Streetfilms used footage of the debate to compile this selection of highlights. Watch and find out how each candidate pledges to deter dangerous driving if elected. As TA’s Peter Goldwasser said after the Q&A, “Once one of you is in office, we’ll remind you of the things you said today.”

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Idle-Free NYC

Did you know that 25% of all New York City School children are affected by asthma?  May 5th was World Asthma Day and Idle-Free NYC Day, and supporters gathered at City Hall to celebrate new legislation, Intro 631-A, that reduces the time a motor vehicle can idle in a school zone from three minutes to one.  The law also says that the Environmental Control Board and the Department of Finance have to file annual reports on the number of idling violations issued and the total value of penalties assessed.  A new bill, proposed by Senator Daniel Squadron, calls for a city-wide one minute idling law.  For resources, tools, and information about how you can take action against idling, visit Asthma Free School Zones and Idle-Free NYC.  Also visit Livable Streets Education for cirriculum integration ideas and information.