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Posts tagged "cars"

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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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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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Coronavirus Has Changed Our Streets And We Need To Heed Those Lessons

I live in NYC's Jackson Heights, 11372. Which is currently among the hardest hit zip-codes in the USA for Coronavirus cases and fatalities.

It has been a tough month for many of our neighbors and friends. I get outside for a socially distanced hour every day so I can get footage to show how drastically our streetscape has been altered by the virus — and to make the case that once this is all over, we should never accept how we allocate public space in favor of car drivers rather than the majority of New Yorkers who get around on narrow sidewalks, unprotected bike routes or on buses that are constantly being delayed by people in their own private vehicles.

Under normal circumstances, the world is upside-down — as a result of a minority of NYC car owners, the rest of us are breathing toxic exhaust, getting stuck in their traffic, being killed by their reckless use of steel cages, being terrified just to cross a street, etc. So let's change that. When you see my before-and-after videos, you can see that no one will want to return to the pre-virus status quo. The first step will be to eliminate all unnecessary car trips. Then we can redesign our streets to prioritize long-suffering bus riders, cyclists and pedestrians, who are fighting over crumbs. So many U.S. cities are leading.

It's time for Mayor de Blasio to allow his best city planners take over from do-nothing bureaucrats and allowing the police (most of whom live in the suburbs) to dictate streets policy.

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The Innovative Way Ghent, Belgium Removed Cars From The City

Witness the transformation of Ghent, Belgium, who instituted the Traffic Circulation Plan in April 2017, which completely changed the way nearly every resident gets around the city and has inspired unheard of mode shifts. It encourages less car use, more bicycling and more transit use by splitting the city into  seven distinct zones: a mostly car-free city center core surrounded by six zones which have been cordoned off with concrete or controlled by cameras. The only way to reach them is to travel to the ring road on the city outskirts, thus making it not impossible to use a car but motivates those shorter trips to be done via human power or mass transit. Bike mode share in 2012 was 22%, now it is 35% and growing!

This swift, creative strategy of turning Ghent in to a place for people is such a phenomenal story it's a mystery as to why it has not gotten more attention worldwide. It is a city of 262,000 residents, so not a large metropolis, but not a small city either. The metamorphosis was achieved thru a sort of tactical urbanism approach by throwing concrete barriers and planters here and there (some backed by enforcement cameras) and altering the gateways into public spaces and safer places to walk and bike. (There are now 40% fewer cars on bicycle priority streets than before the plan!)

Their main inspirations were the cities of Groningen and Utrecht, both in The Netherlands. And as Vice Mayor, Filip Watteeuw explains they did not have the funds or the time to spend 10, 20 or 30 years to catch up to where they were. So they improvised with interesting tactics and treatments and The Traffic Circulation Plan. And as I have said before what happened was stunning: almost never has their been such a rapid metamorphosis occurred in such a short time. And Ghent isn't stopping there.

Ghent was a fabulous city for many reasons. I highly recommend a visit. It is quiet and lovely and nearly everywhere is attainable by multiple modes of transportation. You can even use a car if you like - but just remember it is a little more complicated.

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TLC Gets Drivers on Bikes to Get a Different Perspective

In a first event of its kind, NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission organized a bike ride thru the streets of East Williamsburg for some of its for-hire drivers so they could see what it is like to be a bicyclist on the streets of New York City.

Even though the Citibikes-riding group selected a route with many protected bike lanes and striped lanes, the route was frequently blocked by trucks, cars and delivery vehicles. And during the more industrial parts of the ride cars went by fast. Both bike advocates and drivers had a friendly discussion during and after the ride.

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Yes, there are plenty of cars in Copenhagen!

Today I got pissed and fired out a montage I never even considered doing prior..

Got into one of those Twitter arguments about building safe protected #bikenyc lanes. The person replied, "YOU just want to take away our cars & driving. Like they've done in Copenhagen!"

Oh yeah? There's still PLENTY of driving there. And all is ok. LOOK!

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Los Angeles: The Great American Transit Experiment

Los Angeles is in the midst of building an unprecedented number of rail transit projects. Some are slated for potentially high ridership parts of LA’s urban core. Others are more dubious.

Today, transit use is down. Bus ridership is falling sharply. Rail use is flat despite strong ridership on the Expo Line, the city’s newest rail transit. L.A. is taking steps to reorganize its bus routes, but needs a variety of major street and service policy changes to make buses more attractive.

Also missing in L.A. are efforts make the city more walkable and more dense that correspond in scale to the massive rail building program. The city and region also still heavily cater to cars when decisions about transportation priorities need to be made.

“What we as a region have not yet done is have the sort of political fights that really make a transit system effective. Which are not fights over money but fights over space,” says UCLA professor Mike Manville.

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10 Years Later the Pedestrian Crush on NYC’s 34th Street is Still Chaos

Sidewalks around Penn Station are not wide enough to handle the number of people who walk in the area. That was the case in 2009, when Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson and Streetsblog Publisher Mark Gorton surveyed the pedestrian crush at 34th Street and Seventh Avenue, and it’s no less true today.

Last spring DOT announced plans to add sidewalk space on Seventh between 42nd and 34th. Nearly 300 people were injured in crashes on that stretch between 2010 and 2014. One hundred thirty-eight of those victims were pedestrians — 12 of whom sustained severe injuries.

A year later, that project has not materialized. Clarence and Mark recently returned to 34th and Seventh to show how the city is still forcing people to walk in the street, even as motorists steal public space next to the curb.

“We filmed this exact intersection to show the sidewalk overcrowding, to show how we need more space for people,” says Gorton. “And in those 10 years nothing has happened. If anything it’s gotten worse.”

StreetFilms
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Case for Car-Free Central Park (2018 Re-edit)

Back in Summer 2004, I made a great film with Transportation Alternatives, one that kinda helped launch my career into Streetfilms. It was called "The Case for a Car-Free Central Park" and featured footage from dozens of leaders, advocates and park users calling for a Central Park. It was 20 minutes long. See it here in its entirety, it is certainly an important archive.

Since today is the historic announcement by Mayor Bill de Blasio of a - finally - fully car-free Central Park, I thought I'd go back to the film and do a 3 minute recut and let one man get a lot of credit who deserves it: Ken Coughlin the chair, energy and momentum of the Transportation Alternatives Car-Free Central Park movement for over a decade who gathered thousands of signatures and helped make this happen! And allow him, using his own words back then along with a few specially placed current day montages, to prove he was always right - that this would happen one day.

He said in our 2004 film that regarding a car-free park, "I still believe it is right around the corner, and I believe in the city and eventually city officials will do what's right."

14 years later Ken they have. Thank you very much.

StreetFilms
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Unsustainable: Traffic 2018

New York is facing its most serious transportation challenge in decades.

Subway reliability is way down, and the bus system is shedding riders at an alarming rate. And because transit is so unreliable, today New York is accommodating growth in cars, in the form of the tens of thousands of Uber and Lyft vehicles we now find on our streets each day.

It's difficult to even list all the reasons why shifting transportation growth into cars in New York City is a bad thing. Choking the economy with congestion, safety concerns, making slow bus service even worse, poorer air quality - you name it.

For our latest Streetfilm, we spoke with leaders in New York's transportation, labor and business communities to get their take on this alarming trend - a problem "screaming for a solution."

StreetFilms
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Congestion Pricing Was Unpopular in Stockholm — Until People Saw It in Action

It’s natural for politicians to feel squeamish about enacting a big policy change like congestion pricing. People who’ve grown used to free driving privileges defend them loudly, while the potential benefits feel diffuse and uncertain. That may explain why Mayor de Blasio hasn’t warmed to congestion pricing despite its promise to deliver a fairer, safer, greener, and more efficient transportation system.

Stockholm transportation director Jonas Eliasson has some advice for New York officials worried about diving in: Just do it.

Eliasson steered the implementation of congestion pricing in Stockholm in 2006. From that vantage point, he watched a skeptical public quickly embrace the policy as soon as they saw it in action. Eliasson shared lessons from the city’s experience in a talk at TransitCenter last night.

When Stockholm began charging drivers to access the city center, car trips across the cordon dropped 20 percent. Travel times improved immediately, and emissions fell. Contrary to doomsday predictions from Stockholm media and political opponents of congestion pricing, the policy was an overnight success.

Before implementation, public support for congestion pricing had fallen below 40 percent. After a six-month trial period in 2006, more than 52 percent of Stockholm residents voted to make it permanent. By 2011, public support for road pricing stood at nearly 70 percent, and above 50 percent even among people who pay the fees most often.

“The closer you get to implementation, the more the drawbacks stand out,” Eliasson said. “If you survive this valley of political death, and people actually see the benefits, and also realize that, in addition to the benefits, it’s actually not as bad as you thought — it’s not so hard adapting to this — then support starts going up again.”

Pricing worked because the transportation planners who put it together prioritized systemic improvements for traffic and transit over the whims of elected officials and political parties. Getting the details of the pricing system right was too important to leave in the hands of politicians.

“Designing an efficient and effective congestion pricing scheme that actually delivers benefits is not easy,” Eliasson said. Deciding the specifics of where tolls should be placed, the price at which they should be set, and when they should be in effect is “really the job for experts.”

In Sweden, the effectiveness of road pricing helped raise public awareness of the drawbacks of other car subsidies. “It did something to the rationality of transport policy debate,” Eliasson said. “We don’t have debates anymore [about] ‘parking pricing is just philosophically wrong’ — no one says that anymore.”

StreetFilms
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Is this the worst bike lane in NYC?

Original title: "The Cars are Due on Jay Street" (Okay, they're already here.)

That title is just a fun take on one of my favorite "Twilight Zone" episodes. But the absurdity of cars constantly parking in the Jay Street bike lane is not fun. And it is dangerous.

Today while riding 26 miles collecting footage, amongst my missions was documenting a whole bunch of street conditions that NYC DOT is actively working on improving. One of them is Jay Street in Brooklyn which has seen chronic double-car parking (and worse) forever. The amount of disregard for the bike lane is nearly unmatched anywhere else in New York City. Luckily, NYC DOT is working on a plan to install 5 foot, parking protected lanes on each side of the street, a conduit that sees over 2400 cyclists per weekday!!

I intended to sit on all of my "before" footage to use in future pieces, but I just couldn't believe how bad it was so I just posted this. In fact, I only had to spend ten minutes filming before I was confident I had enough. I had budgeted about an hour, but as you can see (especially the first shot) the immediate yield was very high.

On top of it all, NYPD loves to hand out cycling tickets up and down Jay Street. But how many tickets do they write for these drivers? I'm not sure, but something tells me close to none.

We sure could use a fleet of Peatonitos in action, like here a few months ago attempting to clear the lane of cars. Watch here:vimeo.com/158135821

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The Gaman Spirit: Why Cycling Works in Tokyo

In Tokyo, bicycling accounts for 14 percent of all trips. Yet Tokyo does not have the cycling infrastructure of Amsterdam or even Hamburg. As much as wider bike lanes would help, Tokyo residents will bike regardless. If there's no bike lane, they'll just hop on the sidewalk or wherever they feel safe.

Joe Baur produced this excellent Streetfilm. He writes:

Still, it was easy to see some of the same problems in Tokyo that I've seen in my own cycling in Cleveland and throughout the United States. That is, motorists will take that space back when it pleases them.

For instance, while cycling on a beautiful blue lane into downtown Tokyo, my hosts and I stopped at an intersection to get some shots of cyclists passing by. Across the street a delivery truck had pulled over into the bike lane. Ahead of us, a car in the bike lane forced cyclists to either hop onto the sidewalk or move further into the vehicle lane. Unsurprisingly, drivers did not seem keen to make space for the merging cyclists or to slow down.

The other peculiarity was the fact that the responsibility of designing cycling infrastructure falls to the individual districts within Tokyo. Byron Kidd of Tokyo By Bike equated it with New York City boroughs coming up with their own cycling infrastructure, irrespective of one another. The result is, indeed, confusing -- comically so at times.

However, cycling continues to work beautifully in Tokyo. I was surprised by just how young the kids were cycling around the city. I was told that kids start in the back of their parent's bike, then they move up to a handlebars seat when the second child comes along before hopping onto their own bike when they're too heavy. This all makes sense when you consider that it's very common for Japanese children to be sent off on their own at an age many North Americans would consider too young.

There's at least one thing the rest of the world can take from cycling in Tokyo. That is the "Gaman Spirit." Literally, it means "to endure." But when applied to cycling in Tokyo, it refers to everybody getting along.

Whether you're a cyclist, pedestrian, or driver, it doesn't matter. We all have a job to get done, so as Kidd put it, "get it done."

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If You Want to Buy a Car in Japan…

If you want to buy a car in Japan, first you have to prove that you have somewhere to park it. That's one of the policies Streetfilms encountered while interviewing experts for an upcoming three-part series on parking best practices.

Here's a sneak peek courtesy of Streetfilms correspondent Joe Baur, who grabbed this interview about the costs of car ownership in Japan with Byron Kidd from Tokyo By Bike.

The parking requirement is one of several policies that helps keep cars from overrunning Japanese cities. Factor in yearly taxes, high parking fees, and tolled roads, and Japan does an excellent job of ensuring that car owners pay the full costs of their vehicles -- while the first-rate transit system enables people to get around efficiently.

Stay tuned for the full parking series later this year.

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Gabe Klein Talks About Getting Sh*t Done in “Start-Up City”

Streets can be tough to change. Between institutional inertia, tight budgets, bureaucratic red tape, and the political risks of upsetting the status quo, even relatively simple improvements for walking, biking, or transit can take years to pull off -- if they ever get implemented at all.

But a new generation of transportation officials have shown that it doesn't have to be that way. Cities can actually "get shit done," as former DC and Chicago transportation commissioner Gabe Klein puts it in his new book from Island Press, Start-Up City.

Streetfilms and our producer, Mark Gorton, recently got to sit down (and walk around) with Gabe to talk about the ideas in the book, which ties together his career as a transportation commissioner and his experience in start-ups like Zipcar. Start-Up City is filled with advice about how to get projects done quickly while choosing the best option for the public (and, of course, having fun). You can get a flavor for the book in this extensive interview with Gabe.

Full disclosure: Gabe Klein sits on the board of OpenPlans, the non-profit that produces Streetfilms and Streetsblog. This video is made possible by the Knight Foundation.