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The Uselessness of Gridlock Alert Days

We sent our reporter extraordinaire Zardoz out on NYC's streets for a few hours to check out just how NYC's issuing of a Gridlock Alert Week of traffic armageddon is going.

As always, not good. Utter uselessness. A sock puppet could have predicted this.

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Spend Saturdays in October at “Little Prince Plaza”

A new temporary (Saturdays in October) plaza in SoHo is called "LIttle Prince Plaza"

This stat just says it all:

Cars
Last known vehicular count: 4,639 a day (2019)

Little Prince Plaza 2pm - 5pm
Bike: 398 people cycling
Ped: 8,916 people walking

 

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Clarence in Streetfilms 2000-2021 (Montage)

So following my 1,000th Streetfilm I put together a quick montage sample of all the Streetfilms/bikeTV to prepare for some media. I will be joining John Simmerman for his 100th podcast interview and it just seemed the time to let people see what I have been doing over the years.

Just so you know this is only a sample montage. I am sure I have missed some of my best appearances, but this at least gives a look into my work - sometimes skinnier, sometimes younger - but fun to check out my metamorphosis and the places I have been!

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PSA “Secret Mission” with Janette Sadik-Khan

Here is one we really should have released a long time ago!

A few years ago "Streetopia" in NYC was conceived as an idea to get people motivated to take back their streets and change our streets for the better. The event was held at the Museum of the City of New York and Janette Sadik-Khan and Seth Solomonow along with Clarence Eckerson Jr. were asked to put together this fun PSA we called "Secret Mission" to show to the hundreds of invited guests that night.

It was a huge, hysterical hit. But we never released it to the public even though we fully intended to! I'm sure JSK's fans will love it. I love it. I watch it a few times per year while looking through archives and since we are about to hit 1,000 Streetfilms I have always considered it one of the fun gems I loved to making. You know when you are out giggling and laughing between takes with your subject you are making something special.

 

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The Uselessness of Gridlock Alert Days

We sent our reporter extraordinaire Zardoz out on NYC's streets for a few hours to check out just how NYC's issuing of a Gridlock Alert Week of traffic armageddon is going.

As always, not good. Utter uselessness. A sock puppet could have predicted this.

 

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Montreal’s Popular Pedestrian Open Streets

No wonder they call it the Great White North.

Last month, I journeyed to Montréal, a city I have visited many times in the last three decades, to see how much progress it has made in reining in the car culture, creating more livable communities, encouraging cycling, making roadways safer and, most important, bringing back freedom to inhabitants long oppressed by car drivers.

The changes are amazing — and they are the subject of two new Streetfilms, my 1,000th and 1,001st of my career. The first one is about open streets. The other is about cycling. Both will make New Yorkers drool … or book tickets.

Of course, Montréal has fewer open streets than New York City does, but the open streets in the Paris of North America are much better. Montréal’s 13 open streets are much longer and operate almost entirely car-free — car-free, meaning no parking, either! — 24 hours a day, all summer long.

“It’s about making the city accessible for everyone,” Montréal’s mayor Valérie Plante told me. “There has to be more room for cyclists and pedestrians, and arts and parklets.”

On Montréal’s open streets, you don’t just see people walking or biking as you see in New York, but also art installations, benches, bioswales, swings (with cupholders!), play areas for kids and bollards to keep out the cars.

Bollards to keep out the cars.

“It just brings so much joy and fun and, of course, safe spaces for our kids,” Plante added.

And local business owners confirm that pedestrianized zones bring in more money for struggling merchants.

A 1.5-mile stretch of Mont Royal Avenue is fully pedestrianized, including some side streets. That’s about the same length as New York’s best open street — 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights — but in New York, the open street is still filled with parked cars and only open between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., limiting what residents can do, how many can do it and how long they can do it for. There’s a movement to make the open street permanent and 24 hours — a position supported by incoming mayor Eric Adams — but opponents in the neighborhood want the open street reduced or even eliminated.

Montréal proves that the real solution should be to double-down on open streets. Barricades keep the cars out — and don’t require a massive volunteer effort. And instead of dismissing older adults’ worries about getting around, the city provides transportation (via pedicabs) for them.

One final note for all us nerds: Make sure you check out the appearance of former Streetsblog contributor Steven Miller in the Montreal open streets vid

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Biking Montreal: Montreal’s Newest Bicycling Infrastructure Dazzles!

THIS IS THE 1,000TH STREETFILM OF ALL-TIME!

I was preparing to plan a visit Montreal (and also Paris!) just as Covid-19 halted plans last year. But one benefit of that delay is that my visit last month allowed me to see some of the newest Montreal protected bike lanes in full effect.

And it is impressive. The REV (the Réseau Express Vélo) is the newest one of those which is designed to be the spine of the new network. It and a batch of newer lanes mark a departure from Montreal's bike building of the past: now one-way lanes on either side of the street are the emphasis going forward with 2-way dual lanes on one side of the street, some of which are too narrow, are now used less often.

Most extraordinary is the width some of the new bike infrastructure. You will see the REV for which about half of its length and it is sooooo wide I was laughing. Sometimes cyclists are dwarfed by the lane, which is a good thing. At one point I saw a family ride by three-abreast and someone STILL could pass! Check it out. Really!

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Greater Boston’s Bus Transformation

Greater Boston’s bus system is undergoing a long overdue transformation. From redesigning the network to pursuing electrification to completely re-imagined streets primed for better bus service, the experience for thousands of daily riders in the region is looking better than it has in decades. The evolution of bus lanes and BRT elements is visible throughout the region in municipalities like Somerville, Everett, Chelsea and Boston where street are transforming to support public health and an integrated transit system as a pandemic recovery strategy as well as to combat climate change, traffic congestion and to build a better, more equitable region.

Massachusetts is emerging as a national transit champion by giving street space to the bus and looking to build BRT, even as there is more work ahead to connect gaps in the network. Leadership from elected officials, community members and other regional collaborators has turbo-charged all the bus improvement projects, showcasing what can be done in only a few years and inspiring a future that prioritizes buses and the people who rely on them.

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STREETFILMS SITE IS DOWN!

Please see our other pages....

VIMEO for the latest features:  https://vimeo.com/showcase/8806427

YOUTUBE to see all of our Streetfilms: https://www.youtube.com/user/StreetfilmsCommunity/videos

FACEBOOK to check out our interactive page with comments: https://www.facebook.com/groups/22019704884

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Why Does Montreal Have So Many Beautiful Curb Extensions?

When I visited Montreal last week, I knew I was gonna produce Streetfilms on bicycling and the hugely wonderful pedestrianized streets program.

However, I always have been fascinated the ample and omnipresent curb extensions, neckdowns, gateways (whatever you want to call them) just about everywhere, especially in the neighborhoods. Thankfully, in the middle of filming I asked the CEO of Velo Quebec JR Rheault and he knew the answer how Montreal got so many (and continues to build them!)

Curb extensions/bulb outs/gateways/neckdowns
are vital for a number of reasons:

- They slow down cars
- Allow for better visibility of peds/bikes
- Space to make streets green/water management
- They are really pretty

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George Hahn: How to Ride Your Bike Like a Gentleman (or a Lady)

Actor. Writer. Minor social media legend. Gentleman cyclist.

This week, Streetfilms tagged along with actor George Hahn for a very special episode: “How to Ride Like a Gentleman.”

In this film, we explore the city with Hahn and learn these valuable tips:

“Don’t ride like a dick.” Don’t roll through crosswalks or frighten pedestrians. There’s no reason for that. “It’s just rude,” he says.
Don’t ride your bicycle on the sidewalk.
Don’t ride against traffic. “It’s dangerous…and rude to everyone,” Hahn says.
Don’t buy special clothes. (Hahn has ridden in a tuxedo, but you knew that.)

Of course, Hahn is courteous to make a point: there is a larger danger on our streets. Watching an SUV driver rudely inch into a crosswalk, Hahn observes the most important rule of the road: “Your destination is no more important than anyone else’s,” he says.

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What do you like about 34th Ave open street?

It was once again time to ask people how much they enjoy the 34th Ave open street in Jackson Heights, so I went out for about an hour yesterday to ask folks to tell me. It wasn't hard to find people to talk since it is one of the most popular things ever in the neighborhood. I only asked that one simple question. Nothing more. But I couldn't believe how many times people used "community" in their answer, I think nearly everyone. (But I had to edit some out due to length constraints.) I think you'd likely find the same answers in just about every open street across NYC. Also: in unsurprising news, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the open streets legislation passed by the NYC Council keeping the open streets program running.

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More NYC Teens are Biking to School

Biking is cheap. Biking is fast. Biking promotes independence and exploration. Biking is great exercise. And, biking sure is FUN! What better way for New York City's teens to navigate the city and get themselves to school?

This generation is politically active and solutions-oriented. The last few weeks, we've been interviewing students - some in Queens, some in Manhattan on the Hudson River Greenway, some biking across Central Park. All of them joyful and appreciative of the time away from screens, feeling the wind in their hair and connecting with nature and those around them.

One notable incentive for these students? Schools that provide indoor, secure bike parking (here's looking at you school administrators!). Our goal is for each and every teen to have the option to safely bike, walk, scoot to school. That means we need a connected, protected, low-stress bike lane network in each and every neighborhood in this city. The city's future depends on it - quite literally.

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Manhattan’s 1st Ave Bike Counts Show Bikes Need More Space

A new vehicle count on First Avenue showed that cars and trucks barely outnumbered bikes, despite drivers getting almost 12 times as much space on the uptown roadway — the second East Side roadway whose mode split reveals the need for wider bike lanes and less room for cars.

In the latest count — which follows a similar eye-opener from Second Avenue last week — a crew from Streetfilms set up at the intersection of First Avenue and 60th Street for a total of 42 minutes. The results? There were 698 cars, trucks, vans and such, and 561 bikes and scooters.

That’s basically 1.2 vehicles for every bike or scooter — even though the bike lane is roughly 1/12 the width of the entire roadway. (And the flow of two-wheelers will only grow as the weather gets warmer and as more people head back to offices for work.)

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Make your own “Bike Counts” Video and Change Your Streets!

A few weeks ago, I published two eye-opening videos I shot on a pair of Manhattan's Avenues with protected bike lanes (one at the 1st Ave & Queensboro Bridge entrance, the other used multiple intersections on 2nd Ave). The purpose was to show how much of a bike boom the city is already experiencing and I counted the number of cars vs bikes. Many people have tweeted, emailed and asked, "How can I do that too?" not only here in New York City but also all over the country.

I thought the exchange below was funny.

Screen Shot 2021-04-15 at 3.39.47 PM

Luckily it's really pretty simple if you have something to record with, a tripod and a few hours of time. The first thing you'll want to do is identify a place thick with bike use and pick a good time to tape. It's not shocking to predict rush hour weekdays are good. It is important to pick a spot where you can capture all you want (if you want cars, buses, pedestrians too, etc. you need to get as much of roadway as you can). Also: if comfort is important to you, think about that. I sat on sidewalks and still recuperating from a torn meniscus and that wasn't exactly delightful.

The best case scenario is to tape your intersection from a few floors up - like from a parking garage, a roof or a public place. But that requires some advance planning and luck. It also would help far more when tallying your end totals.

I chose to record standard speed rather than tape in a time-lapse mode or using an interval, Why?  I wanted to have the full video in case I wanted to use segments in other future Streetfilms and in case anti-bike nimrods accused me of manipulating the numbers. Plus, I wanted to make sure I didn't miss any cars or riders. And since you'll be counting later, it's easier to scrub thru your footage if you want to fast forward thru breaks with nothing much to count.  Plan on doing a few 15 minute counts. At least do 15-20 minutes once for an accurate read.

Once I finished my counting of each mode (I counted at least twice thru for each segment and had to do each in separate passes) then I started editing by speeding up most of the footage. After all, no one wants to watch a 30 minute video. So I sped up some chunks by as much as 10x or more for the final cut. In the 1st Avenue video I also threw in a few facts to keep watchers a little more engaged.

The result? The videos really jumpstarted a debate of how crowded our NYC bike lanes are getting. On 1st Avenue the ratio of cars to bicycles was nearly 1:1 which even shocked me! Check out this StreetsblogNYC article where a half dozen elected officials have endorsed widening them! You can do the same in your city or neighborhood.

There are numerous other examples I have kept in mind from over the years. This above from Copenhagen looking down from a rooftop on one of the busiest bike routes in the city is very cool.

And when Luke Ohlson (then working for Transportation Alternatives) did this time lapse four years ago showing how much use a Citibike dock gets on Broadway, right away it is apparent that spatially bike share serves far more people than a few parking spaces for cars ever would.

In the last two weeks I have gotten nearly a dozen requests from people to tape bikes vs cars (or just bikes) in places all over New York. But I just don't have the time so I really hope to see plenty of others going forth and giving it a shot. Make sure to tag me on Twitter with your videos and I will certainly help promote them with a retweet!

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