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Posts tagged "Street Transformations"

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Street Transformations – Union Square (NYC)

Going thru the archives found some really great "vintage" footage to put together yet another episode in the Street Transformations series, this one looking at the positive transformation of the roads that encircle Union Square.

Rewind to 2005 when I was really starting to dive in to the work that would become Streetfilms. I decided to tape a big Community Board meeting to announce the results of a year long traffic study to see the feasibility of extending Manhattan's Union Square north, specifically making two-way 17th Street, one lane, one-way west and adding ample footage for a sidewalk, an extension of Union Square or both.

The "livable streets crowd" really thought this would be a big win but alas - NYC DOT reported other than installing a barnes dance crossing and some small signal timing changes, that 17th street, 19th street and other nearby streets would suffer unacceptable "levels of service" according to the federal guidelines in the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) handbook. In another word "gridlock"!

Of course back then the MUTCD factored very little for pedestrians & bicyclists and discounted livability in favor of moving traffic along at any cost, a huge complaint of sensible transportation advocates.

But as we all know since then, New York City has had a decent renaissance on its streets. Both NYC DOT Commissioners Janette Sadik-Khan and Polly Trottenberg have progressively chipped away at road space for vehicles and added two-way protected bike lanes on two sides, pedestrian plazas, a unique ped/bike one block only section on Union Square West and, yes, extended the park north as was once hoped for all those years ago.

This look back reveals the danger of relying solely on the MUTCD when evaluating cities and their neighborhood streets. NACTO under Sadik-Khan's leadership started a process to broaden the accepted techniques other cities have employed thinking creatively with pilot including paint, bollards, boulders and protected bike lanes.

In the end, what the real failure of the 2005 decision by NYC DOT is the fact that they projected traffic to grow over the ensuing ten years. No one questioned that. But in fact later as NYC slowly deemphasized Broadway as a through route of travel and removed some parking, it actually became easier to see that predictions of traffic Armageddon were not true. And besides: even if traffic on some streets did go up a bit, wouldn't it be worth it to the tens of thousands of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users to have a much more peaceful journey?

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Street Transformations – Sunnyside Lanes (Skillman & 43rd Avenues)

For the latest in our Street Transformations series (for others see here: Street Transformations) we check out the dramatic before and afters of the Sunnyside protected bike lanes installed by NYC DOT at the end of Summer 2018.

The links complete a missing section that will enable cyclists to go from the center of Queens all the way to Brooklyn Heights without ever really leaving the safety of a protected bike lane!

The NYC DOT really thought innovatively to get the lanes installed, particularly the final blocks of Skillman Avenue to reach the overpass of the Sunnyside rail yards cycle track. Angled parking was moved further away from the sidewalk and concrete parking blocks were installed to keep drivers from going too forward to interfere with the path of bikes.

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Tour the Safer 111th Street With People Who Fought 3 Years to Make It Happen

For people who live west of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the only way to walk or bike there is to cross 111th Street. But until recently, getting across this street was a death-defying risk, especially for parents with young kids.

The old 111th Street had five travel lanes and two parking lanes, forcing people to scramble across a wide street with rampant speeding to get to and from the park. Most people on bikes chose to ride on the sidewalk instead of mixing it up with motor vehicle traffic.

In 2014, a coalition of Corona groups banded together for safer biking and walking access to the park. Working with Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, advocates from Immigrant Movement International, Make the Road New York, and Transportation Alternatives pushed for a redesign that would narrow the pedestrian crossings and install a two-way protected bike lane.

Three years later, Mayor de Blasio finally gave the green light to DOT’s safety overhaul of 111th Street. It was the culmination of relentless advocacy by local residents, including the newly-formed collective Mujeres en Movimiento, who had to overcome opposition from local power brokers like Queens Community Board 4 transportation co-chair James Lisa and Assembly Member Francisco Moya.

With DOT crews wrapping up work on the 111th Street project, local residents went for a celebratory ride last week. Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson was there and put together this video tour of the redesigned street and retrospective of the three-year advocacy campaign to make this project happen. Congratulations to everyone involved on a hard-fought victory for safe walking and biking in the neighborhood.

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Street Transformation: The Chrystie Street Protected Bike Lane

At the end of 2016, NYC DOT completed work on the protected bike lane on Chrystie Street, a key connection between the Manhattan Bridge and the rest of the Manhattan bike network. The story of this bike lane is a case study in how good things happen when city officials are willing to listen to advocates with smart ideas.

The two-way protected lane replaced a striped bike lane implemented in 2008. That design wasn't working -- cars, trucks, and buses constantly obstructed the bike lane, forcing thousands of cyclists each day to weave in and out of traffic.

The concept for a two-way protected bikeway on the east side of the street was floated by volunteer Dave "Paco" Abraham in 2015, winning the support of the local community board and elected officials. Later that year, a group of anonymous activists calling themselves the "NYC Department of Transformation" placed traffic cones to keep the drivers out of the lane to spur action. NYC DOT listened and came up with a sensible plan -- and the Chrystie Street protected bike lane became official policy.

If you like this video, check out the previous entry in our street transformations series: the Queensborough Bridge bike path.

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Street Transformations – Queensboro Bridge North Plaza Bike Lane (2000-2016 Timeline)

I edited together this montage on a whim to show a timeline on the progress on the Queensboro Bridge bike/ped path from 2000 to 2016 - just to see how much interest out there is in biking New York City history.
If this proves popular, there are dozens of spaces in New York City that have seen similar changes. I could put together many similar inspirational shorts since I've been documenting NYC streets since the late 1990s. So please let me know if you enjoy this.
The entire 20+ year fight from advocates from Transportation Alternatives and other groups to get dedicated space on the Queensboro bridge is the stuff of legend, but it require far more than the 2 minutes I have devoted here.

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The Rise of Open Streets

Streetfilms has been documenting the open streets movement for over seven years, beginning with our landmark film in 2007 on Bogota's Ciclovia, currently the most viewed Streetfilm of all time.

The next year, Mike Lydon of The Street Plans Collaborative decided to get an open streets event going in Miami, which led to his research for The Open Streets Project, a joint project with the Alliance for Biking & Walking.

Miami wasn't alone. In 2008, there were new open streets events in more than a dozen cities, including San Francisco, Portland and New York. All told, open streets events have increased tenfold since 2006.

"The Rise of Open Streets" examines the open streets movement from myriad perspectives -- how it began, how events are run, how they shape people's perceptions of their streets, and how creating car-free space, even temporarily, benefits people's lives. And it looks not only at big cities like Los Angeles, but smaller ones like Fargo, Berkeley, and Lexington.

We've interviewed some of the most important people in the movement, including former NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and former Chicago DOT Commissioner Gabe Klein, as well as former Bogota Parks Commissioner Gil Penalosa and Enrique Jacoby, from the Pan American Health Organization.

We were proud to partner with The Street Plans Collaborative and the Alliance for Biking & Walking to produce this film, which we hope will encourage even more open streets events throughout the world. Funding for "The Rise of Open Streets" was graciously provided by the Fund for the Environment & Urban Life.

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The Metamorphosis of NYC Streets

There's nothing more dramatic than looking back five or ten years at Streetfilms footage to see how much the streets of New York City have changed. In this wonderful montage, check out the incredible changes at Times Square, Herald Square, the Brooklyn waterfront, and many other places that outgoing NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and her staff have intrepidly transformed.

We have similarly high hopes for Mayor Bill de Blasio as he takes office, and look forward to what he and new NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg accomplish. Even though so much has changed, the vast majority of our streets still need to be rethought and redesigned. We need more space for efficient modes, slower speed limits, and traffic calming for our most vulnerable citizens. I hope this short gets them excited to top the transportation record of the Bloomberg administration.

Please note: This is but a short sample of the before-and-after footage at our disposal. Seriously, we could have put together a one hour version!

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A Montreal Intersection Morphs Into a Wonderful Neighborhood Space

On a Bixi bike excursion to get some ice cream in Montreal, my wife and I stumbled upon the intersection of Fairmount Avenue and Rue Clark, recently upgraded with colorful new street furniture, traffic calming treatments, and a two-way protected bike lane. The space is teeming with street life. When you arrive at this lovely place your first instinct is to stop, sit down, and enjoy.

This intersection is a prime example of how a neighborhood street should cater to people. All local streets should strive to make pedestrians feel welcome, slow traffic speeds with physical infrastructure, and provide art and greenery wherever possible.

Since we were only there for a short time and could dig up only scant information online, I don’t have much backstory to share about how this space was created. If anyone can provide more info in the comments, please fill us in.

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Queens’ Corona Plaza: A Community Place Rises

Something special is happening in Corona, Queens.

Last week, Streetfilms visited Corona Plaza -- the city's newest car-free space, next to the 103rd Street stop on the 7 train -- and found it already packed with families, children, and shoppers.

This plaza has been in the works for many years, and the local community has taken ownership of it immediately. Volunteers help in locking up the tables and chairs at night and assist in cleaning the space themselves.

The area previously had no public seating whatsoever, which is astonishing considering the dozens of restaurants nearby. Now it is a magnet for people, especially kids, who give the place a vibe that feels different than most other pedestrian plazas. To watch parents sit calmly while their kids play would have been unheard of before the street was reclaimed from traffic and parking.

Andy Wiley-Schwartz, an assistant commissioner at the NYC Department of Transportation, tells us about the future of this space and the thinking behind its current incarnation:

We're planning long term for what we call a capital reconstruction -- where we would build this plaza out completely with concrete and pavers and fixed seating with permanent plantings in the ground and really make it into a beautiful, permanent plaza.  But for the moment we can capture this space by putting things on the surface.  So we paved over the asphalt with epoxy gravel - loose gravel that is glued to the ground to make it look like a public space. We moved in planters to green and beautify the space. We have moveable seating that people can move in or out of the sun and also the umbrellas. And blocking off the space with granite blocks so that cars cannot drive in it. That way we can create this space for a few years while we are planning and constructing the capital portion.

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Copenhagen’s Car-Free Streets & Slow-Speed Zones

In Copenhagen, you never have to travel very far to see a beautiful public space or car-free street packed with people soaking up the day.  In fact, since the early 1960s, 18 parking lots in the downtown area have been converted into public spaces for playing, meeting, and generally just doing things that human beings enjoy doing. If you're hungry, there are over 7,500 cafe seats in the city.

But as you walk and bike the city, you also quickly become aware of something else: Most Copenhagen's city streets have a speed limit of 30 to 40 km/h (19 to 25 mph).  Even more impressive, there are blocks in some neighborhoods with limits as low as 15 km/h (9 mph) where cars must yield to residents.  Still other areas are "shared spaces" where cars, bikes and pedestrians mix freely with no stress, usually thanks to traffic calming measures (speed bumps are popular), textured road surfaces and common sense.

We charmed you last month with our look at bicycling in Copenhagen, now sit back and watch livable streets experts Jan Gehl and Gil Penalosa share their observations about pedestrian life. You'll also hear Ida Auken, a member of Denmark's Parliament, and Niels Tørsløv, traffic director for the City of Copenhagen, talk about their enthusiasm for street reclamation and its effect on their city.

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People, Parklets, and Pavement to Parks (plus Mojo Bicycle Café)

In San Francisco, the Pavement to Parks program has launched an initiative that may someday alter the way many dense U.S. cities decide to treat the streets of their commercial strips.

Taking the PARK(ing) Day concept to a more permanent, logical level, the Parklets Program has begun experimenting with trial spaces allowing businesses to convert parking spaces into outdoor public spaces and cafes.  The first was installed in March outside the Mojo Bicycle Café on Divisdero Street where two parking spaces were reallocated to people-space; now cafe tables & chairs, benches, bike parking, and plants sit over a raised platform over the asphalt.  If all goes well thru the evaluation period, the idea is to eventually turn the process into a regular permitting process that business groups and communities can apply for.  It looks good: owners of Mojo say business is up 30% and they have had to hire more staff.

The Pavement to Parks program has already transformed a number of community spaces in the Castro, Showplace Triangle and Guerrero Park. We briefly look at those at well in this video.

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In Appreciation of the NEW Times Square

Mayor Bloomberg is expected to announce his verdict on Times Square's new pedestrian spaces very soon. Will the changes be permanent? This morning Bloomberg told radio host John Gambling that we'll find out sometime next week. In the meantime, it seems like the media has decided to fixate on rumorsthat Midtown traffic speeds may not have increased across the board, without paying much attention to the tremendous difference this project has made for hundreds of thousands of pedestrians every day.

It's been eight months since this part of Broadway went car-free, and maybe it's hard to recall just how bad Times Square used to be for everyone walking around. To really appreciate what we have today, you've got to take a trip back in time to see the crowded, dangerous mess that used to fester at the crossroads of the world. Naturally, the moment calls for a Streetfilms retrospective.

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Carmaggeddon Averted as Broadway Comes to Life

When New York City opened up new pedestrian zones in the heart of Midtown this summer, naysayers predicted a traffic nightmare. Nearly two months later, we're still waiting for the much-feared Carmaggedon.

In this video, Streetfilms funder Mark Gorton takes us on a tour of Broadway's car-free squares and boulevard-style blocks, where conditions have improved dramatically for pedestrians, cyclists, and, yes, delivery truck drivers. As Mark says, the counterintuitive truth is that taking away space for cars can improve traffic while making the city safer and more enjoyable for everyone on foot. There are sound theories that help explain why this happens -- concepts like traffic shrinkage and Braess's paradox which are getting more and more attention thanks to projects like this one. While traffic statistics are still being collected by NYCDOT, there's already a convincing argument that Midtown streets are functioning better than before: To understand it, just take a walk down Broadway.

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The Transformation of NYC’s Madison Square

We figured we'd hit at least one spectacularly warm day during the doldrums of winter, and yesterday was it. So Streetfilms ventured out to Madison Square to remind the denizens of Gotham just how sassy some of these new public spaces are - and how much support they have.

We already touched on Madison Square in our in-depth interview with Janette Sadik-Khan last fall, but we always felt that it deserved a much closer examination based upon all the footage we couldn't use in that Streetfilm. In fact, I feel like even at this length, this short doesn't really do it justice. It also hit me while editing that I've started to forget what an ugly nightmare that nexus of Broadway & 23rd used to look like. Chances are you have to, so here is a reminder of the great work NYC DOT has done there. Take a gander, then go out in your community or city and spread the word that well designed public spaces work.

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Street Transformations: Grand Army Plaza

As one gentleman said to me while admiring the new greenery and traffic islands in Grand Army Plaza, "Wow, sometimes government does work!" It's easy to quickly forget how things were, but we here at Streetfilms aim to not let that happen. Check out these extraordinary before/afters; especially the new separated bike lane which safely shepherds riders from Prospect Park.

How'd we get here? Check out: Grand Army Traffic Survey, Reclaiming Grand Army, Minding the GAP.