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A Tour of Dutch Bicycle Streets and Intersections

The 2017 Velo-city conference in the Netherlands this June was full of excitement, information, and enlightenment. And the pinnacle was seeing Dutch bike infrastructure first-hand, with guides who know it inside and out.

On the final day of Velo-city, I joined a bike tour around the city of Nijmegen and its outskirts, led by three Dutch infrastructure experts. We got their insights into the design of bicycle streets where cars are guests, how intersections prioritize bike travel above motor vehicles, and a grade school where more than 60 percent of students arrive by bicycle.

Without a full crew and weeks of advance planning, it was tough to capture everything that makes this bike infrastructure work so well. So I focused on the important things, and I think this Streetfilm will help viewers see just how seriously the Dutch treat street design and safety for people on bicycles.

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Santiago, Chile: 2017 Sustainable Transport Award Winner

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy gives out the Sustainable Transport Award each year to a city that demonstrates "leadership, vision, and achievement in sustainable transport and urban livability." Over the past year, Santiago made major improvements in pedestrian space, cycling, and transit. Santiago will receive the award at a ceremony in Washington, DC, in January, and will be the site of MOBILIZE 2017, ITDP’s annual Sustainable Transport Summit.  For more information, visit staward.org.

Take a spin through Santiago's streets as former mayor Carolina Tohá describes the stunning transformations.  This fantastic video was shot and produced by Claudio Olivares Medina and the team at Bicivilizate. You can follow Claudio at @bicivilizate.

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This Samsung Galaxy S7 commercial gives me hope for the future!

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Watching the fuel-injected, car commercial leaden NFL on a Sunday afternoon usually doesn't yield too many spots that gets a livable city advocate/filmmaker excited, but the last two weeks there's been an extended ad running in heavy rotation for the Samsung Gallery S7 that makes me swoon.

See it below, the spot "A Perfect Day" features teens rolling around Brooklyn neighborhoods (and a bit of Queens!) on their bikes integrating copious technology into their day. The montage has been garnering some attention because it contains a nice cover of The Pixies "Where is My Mind" by Nada Surf, but I love it because of how it showcases New York City as an increasingly better place for people to bike and have impromptu interactions on our diverse neighborhood streets.

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These young folks are happy. They have transportation freedom. They're part of their neighborhood, their city. They have adventure. And...there's no helicopter parenting going on here. I love this ad. It's the city I want to live in, and thanks to much of what has gone on in the past decade in NYC, this ad shows we are headed there.

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Yeah. I'll admit, this is a commercial shot on closed streets. Biking around New York City isn't quite nirvana yet, but evidence is out there as you see more kids on bikes all the time. But imagine this spot even being conceived in 2005? Yeah, I don't think so. The ad director would have been laughed at.

If this is the future, please dial me in.

Not to be too depressing, but let's end with a quick contrast. What was the very next spot? A Black Friday spot for Dodge. Two families dangerously race their SUV's down a commercial strip. It's titled, of course, "Duel Race".

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Any safety critic can hit the same notes here. The spot might be good for a cheap laugh, but gunning your SUV between two lights? Condoning racing for your scowling kids? Yeah, considering just how many people we've lost on our roads due to reckless driving Dodge should be ashamed. I guess they figure since they're only gunning it between red lights this qualifies as legal driving, but we all know it's not.

Just compare the two spots, which place do you want to live?

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Vancouver’s Breathtaking Network of Safe, Protected Bike Lanes

In 2012, the Vancouver City Council set an ambitious goal to reach a bicycle mode share of 7 percent of all trips by 2020. The city proceeded to hit the mark in 2015, five years ahead of schedule!

When you ride around Vancouver's fantastic network of bike lanes, it's no wonder the city is experiencing a leap in ridership. Most of Vancouver feels safe to ride, and it's fun to see all sorts of people out on bikes.

A key factor in Vancouver's success is that the city constantly goes back to re-engineer, tweak, and improve its bike lanes for greater safety. Hornby Street, which features prominently in this Streetfilm, used to just have painted bike lanes. At the time, women accounted for 28 percent of bike trips on the street, according to Vancouver Transportation Manager Dale Bracewell. After the city installed a landscaped protected bike lane on Hornby, bike trips grew rapidly -- especially bike trips by women, who now account for 39 percent of the street's bike traffic.

Compared to New York City, which has made significant strides in the past eight years to carve out street space for protected bike lanes, Vancouver is clearly going the extra mile. In three days of riding, I didn't see one car parked in a protected bike lane. When you ride downtown, conflicts with drivers are rare.

In New York, we need to take additional steps to shore up protected bike lanes and keep cars out. In many cases, we already have the real estate, w just need bolder designs and with more physical protection.

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48 Hours in Copenhagen Yields Four Streetfilms!

Although the main goal of this latest overseas trip was to visit Oslo, Norway to interview leaders about the city's plans to go car-free in the city center by 2019, I knew I'd have the opportunity to visit somewhere else (very quickly) to shoot a few Streetfilms. Nearby Denmark was the obvious choice where I only spent a little over two days and it yielded a crop of Streetfilms substance (along with a short side trip to Malmo to also see the bike world there.)

Two of the films are already published on the blog, but two others new to you aren't.  The first was a short bit (above) where I got to talk to James Thoem, a Project Manager with Copenhagenize Design Company, about the key safety measures installed at what some claim to be the world busiest cycle intersection with over 42,000 users per day. The things he talks about would certainly nearly illuminate "right hook" crashes in the United States, but of course something tells me the incredible volume of cyclists also is a factor in driver's ability to sit patiently. I did a popular montage on that on my last trip here.

The fun montage above is just something I crammed together on my journey between Copenhagen to Oslo. I realized as I was out shooting footage that I was collecting an insane amount of children and dogs riding along in cargo bikes and such. It could be because I was missing my little boy (who recently took his first bike ride ever) and envied all the families. I surveyed fans on Twitter and asked if they would like to see such a montage. They enthusiastically said yes, so I obliged.

Here's just something I saw while out with James. A construction crew digging and transporting dirt.  Everything proceeding with very little fanfare. It looked all very professional and yet kinda scary. I took one ride underneath, which although the crew used due care, also seemed very borderline dangerous. Yet, nice to see life and work proceed without alarm. What do you think?

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There's me above checking out the newly opened "Kissing Bridge", which was delayed for many years. I'm not gonna say too much here about the final video since it has its own blog entry, but Marie Kastrup from the City of Copenhagen, showed me some wonderful hospitality gave me a whirlwind tour of the newest car-free bridges in Copenhagen. This is the result.

But the video itself should prove very valuable to cities across the globe as conversation starter. Here in NYC while we are debating whether or not we could possibly widen the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian and bike path say 3 to 5 years down the road (if at all), We need to look at what bridges could we build in NYC that would greatly enhance transportation for cyclists. The Move NY/Gridlock Sam plan does float the possibilities of some car-free crossings, but one has to wonder if it would be seriously ever studied. If we were in Copenhagen, there would likely already be plans for multiple bridges going in.

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Touring Copenhagen’s Car-Free Bridges

Copenhagen is great. One of the things that makes it so is that the city is continually trying to find ways to make biking and walking better for its citizens. And one way they are doing that now is by erecting many bridges (especially over their harbor) that are car-free, which helps take the stress off of current routes that have become congested with bicycling.
Marie Kastrup, the Bicycle Program Manager for the City of Copenhagen, was very kind to take me on a tour of just some of the bike & ped bridges Copenhagen has constructed in the past ten years. And the amazing thing is: there are even more on the way, four in the next few years are planned!

Every major city should be looking at their waterfronts and making it easier to cross bodies of water. While we debate, possibly widening the Brooklyn bike/ped path sometime years into the future, I would love to see some new car-free crossings over the East River in NYC being seriously discussed. If you are a cyclist and want to go between boroughs, sometimes it is very, very tough since there are not many places to cross.

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Cycling Copenhagen with Children, Canines & Couples as Cargo

I was stuck in my hotel room after two days of shooting a few videos in Copenhagen and realized I had unconsciously become more fixated on capturing people riding with their children (and pets!) than in previous trips. It could have something to do with the fact that I have a young son now.
Almost a joke, I tweeted to Streetfilms fans asking if I put together a montage of kids & dogs being ferried about in Copenhagen would they watch it? I got over two dozen likes and copious replies in a very short time. So while at the airport waiting for my flight to Oslo and also using the flight time and bus ride to hotel, I put stitched this lovely bike poem together.
I hope you like it. Especially because I almost never use slow-mo. Why? I see people that lean on it all the time as a style. For me, I think it's best to use it sparingly. I've used slow-motion maybe twice in 700 Streetfilms. But this time it felt so right and matched the dreamy soundtrack. Enjoy.

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Biking on Amsterdam Avenue in NYC — Now More Like Biking in Amsterdam!

Getting a protected bike lane on NYC's Amsterdam Avenue was an epic struggle. This year, safe streets finally won.

Amsterdam Avenue is a neighborhood street on the Upper West Side, but it was designed like a highway with several lanes of one-way motor vehicle traffic. Local residents campaigned for nearly ten years to repurpose one of those lanes to make way for a parking-protected bike lane and pedestrian islands. They kept butting up against a few stubborn opponents of the street redesign on Community Board 7 (for viewers outside NYC, community boards are appointed bodies that weigh in on street redesigns, among other neighborhood changes).

Fed up with the dangerous conditions on Amsterdam, residents ramped up the activism. They staged silent protests and neighborhood actions to publicly shame the community board members stalling the redesign. Their efforts were rewarded earlier this year when CB 7 voted in favor of DOT's plan for a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue from 72nd Street to 110th Street. Although not fully built yet -- 14 more blocks above 96th Street are still to come -- the project has changed the feel of the street dramatically.

It was a hard-earned victory, and yesterday people who fought for a safer Amsterdam celebrated with a ride down the new bike lane. Here's a look at the ride -- a sight we should see many times again as advocates organize for more space for safe biking and walking throughout NYC.

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Speed Camera Myths: The Streetfilms Comic Strip!

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If you're like us, you're probably sick of the standard mainstream news media treatment of safety measures for pedestrians, bicyclists and - yes - drivers. Most times the coverage is sensational, often featuring a small group of really loud voices or annoying protesters claiming street safety measures are unnecessary, because, well because.

One topic nationwide that always generates that usual friction is speed cameras. Often going by the same playbook wherever you live, you'll hear common refrains that the tickets are a "cash grab" to "hardworking taxpayers" that are "unfair speed traps" which "infringe on our personal liberties" and "don't save lives." Some of these groups are even referred to as heroes and even destroy (yes, destroy!) hardware meant to keep people safe. You'll rarely find any of these stories take time to interview pro-camera community leaders or talk with someone who lost a loved one to speeding.

So we thought it'd be good to draw up a comic that makes it takes on the myth perpetuated that the poor, poor driver is so unfairly treated. Though our story takes place in New York City, many cities nationwide have some or all of the same limitations placed on their use.

Thus presenting our second Streetfilms Comic (although Treehugger has taken to calling them Street Comics) on Speed Camera Myths. And don't miss our first here on the #sneckdown phenomenon. Click the image below to see it in all it's larger glory.

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Peatónito in NYC: Protecting Pedestrians in the Crosswalk

Peatónito ("little pedestrian") might be the most beloved figure in the world of street safety. How can you not love a superhero who protects pedestrians from cars?! Since donning the cape and luchador mask three years ago, he's become a media sensation in Mexico. This week he's in New York City for Transportation Alternatives' Vision Zero for Cities 2016 conference, and Streetfilms was lucky enough to squeeze in this exclusive whirlwind walking tour of Brooklyn and Queens streets showing him in action.

Jorge Canez, the man behind the mask, has been a pedestrian advocate in Mexico City for quite a while. He's been involved with many tactical urbanism-type of interventions, like painting crosswalks with his own spray can. As Peatónito, he's attained a new level of fame for gently scolding drivers, escorting pedestrians though dicey intersections, and pushing cars (or occasionally walking over the tops of cars) to make motorists more aware of their transgressions.

Come along for a fun short as Peatónito hits the intimidating streets near Brooklyn's Barclays Center, the constantly blocked bike lanes on Jay Street by MetroTech, and crosswalks in Jackson Heights, Queens, helping children walk to school.

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Cambridge: Britain’s Cycling Capital

In the city of Cambridge, just about an hour's train ride north of London, you'll find lots of people bicycling. In fact, the official bike mode share is 22 percent, but advocates believe it's even higher and could comprise up to 50 percent of all trips in the city center.

More than protected bike lanes, the key to Cambridge's success has been the management of motor vehicle traffic. For one, the city center is now ringed by a cordon of moveable bollards that only recede for buses, taxis, and some service vehicles. Private cars are not allowed downtown but people on bikes are free to enter at any time -- which makes the bicycle the most convenient mode of transportation.

In residential neighborhoods, Cambridge has also tamed cars using a strategy called "filtered permeability" -- placing physical barriers at some intersection that divert motorized traffic while allowing other modes to filter through. This prevents motorists from using residential areas as short cuts and encourages cycling. Similar techniques are employed in famous cycling cities like Groningen, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam, and even here in the U.S. in places like Portland and Berkeley.

Cambridge is a growing city, and if new residents choose to drive cars, its streets could become overwhelmed by traffic. So the effort to create better streets for biking and walking continues. Recently, the city has adopted a 20 mph speed limit for most of its roadways, and a new push is on to install much more robust protected bike lanes in targeted areas where cycling feels less safe.

For bonus footage of Cambridge streets, check my post from earlier this week.

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London’s First Open Streets Is a Success!

Five years ago, David Love experienced Summer Streets in NYC and was so captured by the warmth and excitement he decided to bring open streets to London.

The starter event was held in the borough of Southwark, on Great Suffolk Street, and featured music, dancing, food, art and, most important, activities for children and families to enjoy.

Open Streets London hopes to have frequent and bigger ciclovias in the future, and to continue to enlighten Londoners to the value of re-thinking their streets as places for more than automobiles.

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Mary Beth Kelly on NYC’s 25 mph Speed Limit (Families for Safe Streets)

In this 90 second PSA, Mary Beth Kelly, one of the founding members of Families for Safe Streets, shares her opinions on how she would like to see driving practices change when NYC institutes its historic, citywide 25 mph speed limit on Friday, November 7th.

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A #bikeNYC Weekend Wrap-up!

#bikeNYC is always alive during October. It's a beautiful time to be out riding. It seems of late I've gone on a Streetfilms Shorties tear, which are essentially videos that only take a few hours of shooting & editing for me to publish. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about them and don't anticipate many thousands of plays, but smaller groups of watchers (especially in NYC) will appreciate.

First off, on Saturday got to go on a fun Queens "Zombie Ride" ride with Kidical Mass NYC! About 30 people turned out for their second official ride and they hope to continue the expanding with more rides. Check it out.

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Sometimes #Sneckdown Dreams Come True!

Ah yes, that's the now-famous "Snowy Neckdown Redux: Winter Traffic Calming" Streetfilm above. As you may recall, I shot the video in my Queens neighborhood of Jackson Heights a few years ago to demonstrate how we could extend our curbs further into the streets to slow drivers and shorten pedestrian crossing distances. Then the idea completely blew up this winter with the #sneckdown hashtag causing a media sensation.

Now, as you can see in this series of photos, I can report some unexpected progress.

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In the last week, curb extensions have sprung up at many of the intersections I documented in the video (and photos). It looks like neckdowns will be installed at 81st, 82nd, 83rd, and 84th streets on 35th Avenue, a stretch that has seen its share of car violence, and maybe more are coming.

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Slowing traffic in this residential area is especially important. There are many schools nearby, and lots of senior citizens crossing 35th Avenue. And this type of traffic calming is perfectly aligned with the new 25 mph default speed limit set to take effect in NYC this fall.

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People in many other cities did their own photo documentation of sneckdowns this winter. It'll be interesting in the coming months and years to see if sneckdown mania helped lead other local DOTs to take action. Let me know via @Streetfilms on Twitter using the #sneckdown hashtag or tell us about it here in the comments.