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Worst Things About Drivers in New York City!

A few days ago, amNY cobbled this truly cringeworthy list of "Worst Things About Bicyclists in New York City". The clickbait appears as if it was quickly culled together just moments before publishing deadline. Many of the items are illogical, and as usual (and they know it) serves to amplify the war on cycling.

But take a gander. Some of the things on their list are completely idiotic like: "Those who don't wear helmets", "Citi Bikes and tourists" and "Spandex". Yes, those are actually three of them. There's even one: "They have no fear" featuring a rider riding up an avenue in what looks like about five inches of snow!

I can only give them support for "They ride on the sidewalk", yes we certainly shouldn't. And also "They go too fast in the park", which I would qualify as times when parks are heavily-populated on weekends/holidays/etc in the afternoons. But if cyclists are trying to avoid crowds and ride respectfully, they have a right to get a workout in the park as much as anyone.

I've waited for amNY to do their journalistic due diligence and give us the opposite list regarding drivers. I suspect one isn't coming, so I came up with my own "list".

They Kill People

They Kill People

They Kill People

They Kill People

They Kill People Read more...

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Vintage Transportation Films from the Prelinger Archives

The 1968 "Playstreets" video above just blows my mind - and probably will yours if you love open streets and ciclovias. I had no idea PAL (the Police Athletic League) was closing down streets/blocks in New York City for kids for so long. In fact since 1914, over one hundred years ago!

I found it while looking thru the Prelinger Archives which has made over 6600 vintage mini-documentaries, news reels and random works free to use by the public. There's so much history to peruse. I re-edited the "Playstreets" to under 3 minutes and added a bit of Streetfilms-style music to make it more swift & modern.

But really, some of the archives can be sad and stark. For example, check out this victim blaming 10 minute short produced to air in schools titled "The ABC's of Walking Wisely (1959), an attempt to cleverly "educate" children by using the letters of the alphabet to demonize walking behaviors. Never once in the film does the female narrator talk about the responsibility of drivers, instead choosing to call school kids insulting names while championing, "Don't be a J-Walker, be an A-Walker". I trimmed this down to several cringeworthy moments you'll be aghast by including the narrator saying, "show consideration for the drivers - and be safe yourself." I'll add: there are several moments where it looks like the producers dangerously put the children in potential harm filming around cars. Oh yeah, definitely watch.

There are dozens of transportation films I found in Prelinger sponsored by (who else?) car companies pushing the idea of how wonderful the modern conveniences of the car are.  Some are somewhat harmless like fun family car vacations but others push highway building, parking and the oil industry showing how the propaganda-filled 1950s set in motion some awful transportation policies.

And we are still recovering from the auto's invasion of our cities. "Give Yourself the Green Light" (1954) is a half hour bonanza chock-filled with moments that will make you groan, and likely, get depressed.  I selected about 4 minutes filled with items I found particularly egregious. You'll see: a frustrated Miss America searching in vain for parking, a narrator saying "the best investment a town can make is parking" plus some vintage highway footage on the Gowanus Expressway and BQE Brooklyn Heights where the script unbelievably notes that these are structures which solved transportation problems "without disturbing life below." (Yeah anyone seen Sunset Park under the elevated highway?)

You'll find full-length copies of "Give Yourself the Green Light"on Youtube if your interest is piqued and you want to consume the full film. But I fully encourage you to browse and use the Prelinger Archives. I watched 100s of them this past week. So much fun.

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New #FreshKermit Bike Lanes Continue to Sweep le Twitterverse

Any lover of Kermit the Frog knows he famously rode a bike in "The Muppet Movie", and in fact has piloted a bicycle quite often in his career. But when I started the #freshKermit hashtag with this quick post a few years back, I wasn't thinking of the friendly amphibian riding a velocipede, I just saw those bright green colors in some of our newest NYC bike lanes and, well people remembered.

If anything, its use on Twitter is becoming more regular, sometimes dozens of contributions per month. I've done a few blog posts on 'em, but love the variety of listings so much, I can't go too long without compiling some for your consumption. Check some of these out!

 

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The Results of our 1st Ever Viewer Survey

Thanks to all those who took the time to fill out our viewer survey we posted in early 2016. We figured it was about time to get to know you. How many videos do you watch per month? What are your favorite transportation topics? Who are your favorite livable streets superheroes?  (Full disclosure, mine is the indefatigable Gil Peñalosa!)

We'll put out much of the information over the next few weeks, but check this out, today we are releasing our very first infographic where we have published some of the key nuggets!!  You guys are really freaking interesting! This info is really valuable moving forward planning for the future. Please take a gander and pass along.

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Comedy as Transportation Advocacy: Fun Streetfilms to Employ

As you can see above, we just had some pretty huge numbers with our Peatónito production, following the masked superhero around New York City filming him protecting pedestrians from bad car drivers in the crosswalks. It just got me thinking: over the years we have used humor quite a bit (though not as much as I always want to) to make our advocacy beliefs stronger, to engage the public and to educate the general population about transportation.

Below is a nice curated list of our best work. Hopefully it will get those of you who may be pondering ways to get the attention of your community that viral comedy/parody done right, can yield results - sometimes better than years of hard work.

As many of you already know, we got so, so lucky to get a chance to work with Kate McKinnon, the funniest current cast member of Saturday Night Live and now segueing into a Hollywood megastar. We did a series of Streetfilms featuring her as Veronica Moss, an auto lobbyist fighting for the rights of car owners in D.C. Here we placed her in the midst of the recently made car-free Times Square to offer her thoughts. One of the favorites on our site.

Working with established groups is a great thing. The Riders Alliance in New York City was conducting campaigns trying to get New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to agree to fully fund the MTA capital plan for subways, buses and commuter rail. We hatched a great idea: get a cardboard cut out of the Governor and have him actually ride the trains and interact with customers. Eventually thanks to the work of probably a dozen groups he agreed to fund it (though update: he still has not actually dedicated the money!)

I used to put myself out there to try to get attention. When New York City installed its first protected bike lane under Janette Sadik-Khan we wanted to highlight it in a great way different than the rest of the press. This was the result.  Believe me, just about every group of advocates have a class clown or humorous spokesperson that you can put on camera to do the same. (Though this is also coming from someone once wore a Sasquatch costume to explain traffic calming.)

A lot of people love our four Streetfilms featuring the hysterical, but critical Hal Ruzal from Bicycle Habitat showing you the dangers of locking your bike improperly. The numbers on these popular videos are always so high, we can't go too long without asking him back to do another one. 2016?

Finally, sometimes you can twist the ridiculousness of what city agencies and polices are and show how absurd they really are. For example, in NYC we have about a dozen or so "Gridlock Alert" days around the holidays. These do mostly nothing. But you can go out and have some fun with them as Mark Gorton, one of our biggest funders and supporters, shows during this hilarious poke that can easily be duplicated in your city.

We have had plenty of fun on Streetfilms. I recommend exploring more to find ways to make shorts that are fun and sometimes ridiculously fun!

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Sneckdown: The Streetfilms Comic Strip!

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This year in NYC we had one giant #Blizzard2016 but little other snow to speak of.  The region as a whole has missed out on the train of traditional nor'easters that dump feet of snow on the D.C.-Baltimore-Philly-NYC-Boston megalopolis.  This year #sneckdown hunting was certainly down.

But we still wanted to get this fantastic comic strip on sneckdowns that my brother Gary put together out in front of the masses (and we'll probably be using it every season anyway!) It's a real unique way to have a little humor and educate the public on traffic calming and Vision Zero. In fact, we are hoping to raise a little bit of funding so we can do this on different transportation terms maybe monthly. So hopefully more to come. Enjoy and click the image below to embiggen.

sneckdown

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Streetfilms as Your Resource on Public Space

As a livable streets filmmaker for the past twenty years, it’s been both my primary responsibility and passion to document cities around the world, and much of that has revolved around public spaces and the what goes on in them.

The bulk of my work has been done via the website Streetfilms, a non-profit resource promoting “transportation best practices” through short films, where I’ve been the Director for over ten years. In that time, I’ve produced, shot or edited over 700 shorts on the topics of transportation, walking, biking, public plazas, street interventions and open streets public events - where our roads become open to people and activity. All of our videos are free for the public to use in screenings, for communities to show to elected leaders and for journalists & advocates to embed in written stories on related transportation topics. We are nearing the 11 million views mark since 2006, and are consistently cited as an inspiration by experts and leaders across the transportation world.

As mentioned previously, a healthy percentage of Streetfilms’ work has been devoted to advocating for more public space by showing great projects, their birth and their evolution. As is the case, many stories involve a myriad of city agencies, small non-profits and the community, but sometimes involve big business, developers and citywide advocacy groups as well. What happens at the intersection of these players can be benign or contentious and what public uses are permitted or negotiated is crucial to if a space feels free, open and safe.  The best public spaces are ones that foster a happy environment for people to sit, mingle, date and relax.

In 2010, I produced the wonderful Streetfilm Copenhagen’s Car-Free Streets & Open Spaces. Happinees and energy abounds throughout it. And it contains one of my favorite filmed moments: at the 1:40 mark watch as Gil Penalosa, Executive Director of 8-80 Cities, is speaking about car-free environments when spontaneously a school celebration breaks out behind him. In Stockholm: The Walkable City, people roam the car-free streets and plazas of the old city without a care in the world, some even swim while basking on simple wood platforms along the water.

Austin, Texas, the city closes its famous music nexus 6th Street Car-free Nights a few times per week to let music lovers roam freely. And while visiting Buenos Aires people took over the streets surrounding the famous Obelisco monument following a 2014 World Cup Semifinal Victory. Wherever you go, it’s obvious that letting people have space is a democratic right that we needs to do even more of.

One place I absolutely adore for public space is Montreal. Every summer for a few months, large sections of the city are given back to the people. One which is a huge success is Montreal’s Car-free Rue St. Catherine an over mile long, 24-hour corridor which bustles with people, food, art and nightlife.

But there’s plenty in Montreal for families as well. Every year in April they bring out Montreal’s 21 Swings (21 Balançoires), where people of all ages ride swings and thus participate in musical masterpieces with strangers. And even in just the sidewalk realm, Montreal can soar as here in A Montreal Neighborhood Intersection Morphs into a Wonderful Public Space” where ample sidewalks, traffic calming and colorful benches draw people to eat, chat, and relax.

When it comes to creating public plazas in the United States, New York City has prospered. Under the leadership of N.Y.C. D.O.T. Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan (2007 to 2013) the Bloomberg Mayoral Administration enacted more projects to better accommodate the majority of users on streets by questioning the amount we’ve cater to private vehicles. Dozens of plaza and streets projects followed. Read more...

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Houston: Buses, Bayous, Beltways and Abounding Optimism for Better Mobility

Last week found me in Houston. And for a few hours (see above) I got to go explore their expansive bayou greenway system - which by 2020 will be the largest network of trails and parks in the nation. That may shock you about Houston, it's great trivia to pull out in a room with transportation friends.

But the primary reason I was there was to look at the ambitous realignment of Houston METRO's bus system, a complex multi-year project to make buses run more efficiently, faster, with more frequency and routes that make more sense for the city. It's already reaping great rewards and sweeping the nation with ample positive press so we thought it would make a great Streetfilm. Thus, thanks to our funding partners TransitCenter in a few weeks we'll be posting a film to tell the story.

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This photo is me with Janis "Bus Lady" Scott who is just one of the great folks I got to spend time with on the streets of Houston riding transit.  I think Janis just might be Jane Jacobs reincarnated.  She was so charming I might post a bonus Streetfilm segment just on her after finishing our primary feature on MetroBus.

I also got to do one of the more amazing things I have ever been allowed: I rode in an empty bus around downtown Houston just to get some driving shots after interviewing Cara (below) an energetic bus driver at Houston Metro who helped out planning some of the new routes. You'll meet her, the "Bus Lady" and many others in our film.

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While I was there, I was a guest speaker at Houston Tomorrow's Streetfilms screening at the Rice University Media Center. Always nice to see our films playing up on a handsome big screen with lots of folks. Furthermore, I was very excited since Jay Blazek Crossley their Executive Director, chose a great slate of Streetfilms mostly pulled from this blog post, which I've been cajoling communities to play. You should, after all they are free to screen.

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It’s an Awesome Array of Austin Streetfilms Assets!

When I visit any city, even like I did in October to attend the NACTO Conference (see below), I attempt to do as much documentation I can in the limited time I have away from any work or speaking commitments I have.  In Austin, I was able to cobble together a really nice look at what is making bicycling there so much more popular (see above!)

Occasionally, even one long shot can be really helpful and inspiring. One night after finishing a 30 mile ride with the Austin Social Ride (you can see scenes in the top Streetfilm) I came upon something I did not know: 6th Street in Austin, the city's nucleus of loud live music, is closed to cars at least two or three nights per week providing a pedestrian paradise. It was glorious, after shooting this video I went back to my hotel room and came back at 1am just to walk around and watch people.

And finally, just in case you didn't get enough of the awesome 3rd Street cycle track in Austin in the above film (or just need some excerpted footage as a tool to show your community or city) here's nothing but montage of cyclists enjoying the safety of the lanes.

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For the COP21 Paris Agreement to Work, Countries Must Watch these Streetfilms

We now have a "historic climate accord" from Paris via the COP21 summit with 195 countries on board. There are many noble goals including stopping climate change warming at no more than 2 degrees Celsius (that's 3.6 F) at which point most scientists have agreed is the point at which the planet will become drastically, catastrophically altered. It's a great achievement after many long decades of trying to get something very concrete in writing.

But there's nothing in the COP21 agreement that penalizes nations for not meeting goals. And that's troubling to many critics. Sure, there's talk about reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, transitioning to more efficient technologies and cutting back on pollution. But government leaderships change often. Global economic catastrophes can leave countries crying poverty. In short, we can have hope, but five or ten years from now will this pact remain solid?

For the world to thrive and rely less on energy, we'll need to make our dense cities function better on our streets. (And most of our suburbs too!) Residents of the United States and other countries will need to alter how they get around, using less of the private car. With that, I say, watch this batch of Streetfilms to learn what's working in cities and what is currently an abomination.

The Streetfilm at the top is from Groningen in The Netherlands, where the city has achieved a spectacular 50% bike mode share! Although we know it's asking too much for U.S. cities to easily and quickly that, we need to re-think the way our roads work and how our cities are structured. We can do much better: cities with 5% to 15% for biking trips is certainly not out of the question with the right infrastructure. Thanks to many decisions since the 1970's, Groningen has done far more than that, much like other great world cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

But it goes beyond bikes & walking. It means a solid commitment to transit and using the most efficient ways to get people around on our streets. You can see how Zurich does that with a clean, efficient, and often-running tram system that even people that are rich choose to use over the private car.

We also need to continue to make cities more attractive for people to live. See here what New York City has done over the last five to ten years with some of its public spaces with this incredible before and after montage!

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Streetfilms Bike Lane Inspirations (and 50 others to use!)

This latest bike montagery fun comes to you from Austin, Texas where they are in the process of completing the 3rd Street protected cycle track, an integral link thru the city connecting a gap in the Lance Armstrong Bikeway which is heavily used by commuters and recreational cyclists.

Although there will be more about this bike lane in an upcoming Streetfilm on Austin, I've taken to posting up quick montages of many innovative and safe bike treatments I see in my travels because so many say it's easier to use a crisp 1 minute video in presentations or to pass around to advocates.

I did the same a few months ago while in London.

And also in Washington, DC on 1st Street NW.

But really we have over fifty Streetfilms from over the years when it comes to protected bike lanes. If your city or neighborhood is having trouble getting quality lanes, you really should use them. Browse them via this link, and, please embed them in blog posts, download them directly or show your community at a screening or gathering. That's what they're there for!

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How D.C. Cut Traffic Fatalities by 73% in a Decade

We continue to present short videos from our tour around Washington, D.C. with Gabe Klein, the former Transportation Commissioner in our nation's capital.

These are the final two vignettes in our series which focus 1) on the incredible reduction in traffic fatalities in D.C. and 2) the role of fast evolving technologies which has drastically altered transportation in our cities in the last few years - and will so much more in the years to come.

And just in case you missed it, last week Gabe talked about the evolution of how D.C.'s center-running, two-way, protected cycle track came into existence (and who challenged him to put it in!) We re-present that here so we have a nice trio of Streetfilms Shorties for you to ingest!

Gabe Klein's new book, "Start-Up City", is available on Island Press.

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Can We Get Some of These DC Protected Bike Lane Features in NYC?

A few days ago I was in Washington, D.C. for a shoot. After leaving Union Station with my gear I made a beeline to check out the newest improvements to the 1st Street bike lane that runs adjacent to the station. I'd heard it was pretty fab, and upon close inspection, it really is.

The separation on this two-way lane varies between three treatments: 1) a concrete curb, which is substantial and well done and runs about half the length of the lane; 2) A combination of green paint, plastic bollards, and armadillos, which all work extremely well in conjunction; 3) paint and plastic bollards for the long block connecting to the Metro Trail. All of the variations feel comfortable on streets where car lanes are narrow and motorized traffic tends not to exceed the 20 mph range.

I was in town to meet up with former D.C. and Chicago transportation commissioner Gabe Klein, who has a new book debuting this week called "Start-Up City" that you should read. We shot some short vignettes, the first of which is above, where Gabe talks about the genesis of the Pennsylvania Avenue two-way, center-running bike path.

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Ten Years of Streetfilms Greatest Interviews!

Very shortly we will be posting a new, exciting, exclusive interview on Streetfilms! But until then, we thought it would be great to compile some of our most important and informative interviews from over the years.

Most of the interviews you've see on Streetfilms were conducted by Mark Gorton our largest supporter and one of NYC's biggest transportation advocates. He's voracious reader of policy which is why almost all our interviews have been with writers and transportation experts. For example see above, Mark's walk & talk with "Happy City" author Charles Montgomery.  And below he chats with Tom Vanderbilt about his tome "Traffic".

From the start, one of the tactics Streetfilms used often in advocating for better streets in New York City was to chat with world leaders to see the possibilities elsewhere. It led to a very special chat with former Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa, which ultimately led to Streetfilms going to visit there in late 2007 to publish its trio of groundbreaking films on ciclovia, bus rapid transit and the transformation of its streets.

We also used the interviews to enlighten the public to hard to grasp concepts and policies. When Transportation Alternatives brought parking guru Donald Shoup to NYC to explain how pricing parking helps make a city more efficient, we knew we had to find a way to demonstrate "The High Cost of Free Parking" to the masses. So we brought out the toy cars!

And of course we got one of the most in-depth interviews with new NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan when she came into her post and had just started doing some of the magical street transformations she would become known for.

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Gotta love the #freshkermit hashtag! (for Green Bike Lanes)

You know, quite a while back I used the hashtag #freshkermit in a tweeted snapshot on some newly painted green bike lanes in NYC. To me it wasn't meant as much, after all I'd been referring to these as "fresh kermit" lanes for years amongst friends.

Little did I know a small group of twitter followers thought it was clever, and now we are getting dozens of tweets per year using #freshkermit to show off new green lanes all over the globe! I inserted a few of my favs below, but you can find many more on Twitter. Please take a gander and post some of your own!

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