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Posts tagged "Children"

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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.


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.


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.


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.

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In the U.S. Walking & Biking to School is Becoming Extinct, Get Inspired by some Streetfilms to Change That

Last year, we debuted a crisply-edited Streetfilm "Children Have Lost the Freedom to Roam" as a chapter in our STREETFACTS series. We were surprised the 4-part educational series didn't do better. However, the last week saw renewed interest as people started forwarding it around Facebook, nearly 100 shares! Perhaps the general public is beginning to crave change?

Things sure have changed in most parts of the country since I was a kid. I'm now 47. I walked over 2 miles each way to school - in rain and snow (and I was also a morning paperboy for the Times-Hearld Record in Goshen, NY!) In many parts of our country, the built-environment has made it nearly impossible for kids to walk and bike. And as we all know in some places it is illegal or forbidden by the school district.

That's really depressing, sure. But at Streetfilms we've been lucky to be around cities trying to do it right here in America. Our recent hit from Lakewood, Ohio a Cleveland school district that has never provided buses for its students, just soared to nearly 60,000 plays! In Lakewood you can sense the atmosphere is much different than a typical school morning. The kids and parents seem happy, The energy level is infectious.

Last year we got to visit Portland, Oregon where thanks to much traffic calming and slow streets of the Neighborhood Greenways, children are walking and biking in growing numbers. It's encouraging. It's a very fun film. Especially the Bike Trains!

There are many videos to get inspired by via Streetfilms. In Brooklyn, PS 67 students painted the pavement to make streets near their school safer. In Davis, California the bike mode share is high, and most of the school districts there don't have buses either.

But in the U.S. we have so much further to go. See above, for this short video from the Dutch city of Utrecht, where children learn about transportation at an early age. And if you watch our 2010 Streetfilm from Copenhagen, you'll see plenty of young children riding bikes, and hear about how the learn how at a very early age to navigate the streets.


Then there is this clip last year from an Amsterdam trip that shows what we are looking to attain is humanly possible. Yes this kid is four years old! I couldn't ride that well as a teenager!

But don't get depressed too much by this stellar work beyond done overseas. There are many communities and advocacy groups out there pushing to make our streets better. Use these videos as your inspiration and don't wait any longer. And also, our Zozo series can help spread the word!

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Lakewood, Ohio: The Suburb Where Everyone Can Walk to School

The inner Cleveland suburb of Lakewood (population 51,000) calls itself a "walking school district." Lakewood has never had school buses in its history, and kids grow up walking and biking to school.

Mornings and afternoons are a beehive of activity on streets near schools, as kids and parents walk to and from classrooms. You can feel the energy. The freedom of being able to walk and socialize with friends is incalculable.

According to city planner Bryce Sylvester, Lakewood strives to design neighborhoods so that all children are within walking distance of their school. These decisions have paid off financially, saving the city about a million dollars annually, according to Lakewood City School District spokesperson Christine Gordillo.

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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Makes Historic “Vision Zero” Announcement

In 2013, NYC recorded a record-low 333 homicides, yet at least 286 people lost their lives to traffic violence. In a press conference on January 15, Mayor Bill de Blasio said it's "shocking to see how much those two numbers correspond."

In announcing his first steps to implement Vision Zero, the goal of eliminating traffic deaths, he said, "The first obligation of government is to protect the health and safety of our people, and this is an area we simply have to do better. We think there is an epidemic here, there has been an epidemic of traffic fatalties and it can't go on. And the time to start change is now."

The mayor made the announcement near the site where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed by an unlicensed truck driver in a crosswalk last month while walking to school. The site is not far from where three other Queens youth have tragically had their lives taken from them. The mayor met with the families of many people who've lost loved ones to traffic violence.

Here we've assembled some highlights of the event, which also included NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and incoming NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

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How Many More Children Need to Die on NYC Streets Before We Hold Drivers Accountable?

The answer to that question should be zero. But in NYC and many other cities we allow drivers to do whatever they like with very few consequences. And as we have seen far too many times in just the past few weeks, if a driver mounts a sidewalk and runs over and maims or kills, there's a chance they wont even be issued a summons.

Thankfully people are getting mad. On Tuesday, a march was held in Queens by a group called Three Children Too Many. And the parents of 3 year old Allison Liao spoke in what can only be described as an emotional, brave and intelligent speech that should be seen by every person who gets in a car.  Please watch below and share with everyone you know. Hopefully it can make a difference.

The Parents of Allison Liao Speak at the Three Children Too Many Traffic Safety March from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

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Three Children Too Many March: NYC Residents Fight Back for Safer Streets

A new group, Three Children Too Many, held a march for traffic justice for recent victims of senseless crashes in or near Jackson Heights. The rally was well attended and about 200 people joined up at three different points during the 30 block walk.

The rally was met along the route by numerous elected officials and some of the parents and friends of those killed by cars - all of them preventable tragedies. Particularly moving were Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao who spoke about their three year old daughter Allison's death in a brave, emotional speech which can be seen here in its entirety.

We need immediate action. We can no longer wait for any other children to suffer the same fate. We have a new mayor that must put plans in motion to change our streets. A promising new council who must draft new legislation to dramatically lower speeds and raise the penalties for drivers. And we must lean on our state government to allow NYC to have more speed cameras, more red light cameras and more autonomy in making our city a liveable, safe place for children to walk the streets.


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Groningen: The World’s Cycling City

It's no secret that just about anywhere you go in the Netherlands is an incredible place to bicycle. And in Groningen, a northern city with a population of 190,000 and a bike mode share of 50 percent, the cycling is as comfortable as in any city on Earth. The sheer number of people riding at any one time will astound you, as will the absence of automobiles in the city center, where cars seem extinct. It is remarkable just how quiet the city is. People go about their business running errands by bike, going to work by bike, and even holding hands by bike.

The story of how they got there is a mix of great transportation policy, location and chance. You'll learn quite a bit of history in the film, but essentially Groningen decided in the 1970s to enact policies to make it easier to walk and bike, and discourage the use of cars in the city center. By pedestrianizing some streets, building cycle tracks everywhere, and creating a unique transportation circulation pattern that prohibits vehicles from cutting through the city, Groningen actually made the bicycle -- in most cases -- the fastest and most preferred choice of transportation.

It does feel like bicycle nirvana. When I first got off the train in Groningen, I couldn't stop smiling at what I saw around me. In an email exchange with my friend Jonathan Maus from Bike Portland, he described it as being "like a fairy tale." This jibed with my first thought to him -- that I had "entered the game Candyland, but for bikes!" In fact, for our teaser I originally titled this Streetfilm "Groningen: The Bicycle World of Your Dreams," before I talked myself out of it. Although there is a magical quality about being there, in reality there is nothing dreamy or childlike about it. With political will and planning, what they have done should - and can be done - everywhere.

In our Streetfilm you'll see the 10,000 (!) bicycle parking spaces at the train station, some of the incredible infrastructure that enables cyclists to make their journeys safer and quicker, and you'll hear from many residents we encountered who go by bike just about everywhere they travel. But as one of my interview subjects, Professor Ashworth, wanted me to point out: the three days I was there were bright and sunny, and the hardy people keep up the bicycling through the cold winters. As with many bicycling cities, there area also big problems with cycle theft, and residents are always yearning for more bicycle parking.

I think most of us would trade some of those problems for a city with 50 percent mode share (and up to 60 percent in the city center!!).



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Groningen, The Netherlands: The Bicycling World of Your Dreams

When I first moseyed off the train in Groningen and began the mile walk to my hotel, I remember laughing often as I looked around in little boy amazement. For years I had pictured how the world of Groningen would appear and this was the first time in my life where reality exceeded imagination. It really is bicycling nirvana. It's like the board game Candyland with bikes instead of sweets. Or maybe better yet: Willy Wonka & The Bicycle Factory.

I'm 46 and I've never been to Disneyworld, but I kinda felt like I had wished upon a star.

Okay seriously - schmaltz aside - I can't accurately convey the profound joy and silly happiness I fondly recall when I think of my three days in Groningen . In fact, I've been a little overly-concerned the Streetfilm I've been working on will not visually do the city justice.  Since many of you have inquired how editing has been going, I wanted to give you a small bit of what I was surrounded by. So here's a short montage tease lifted from my current 15 minute rough cut.

As you can surmise from the trailer, 50% of all trips in Groningen are done by bike; and reach as high as 60% within the city itself. The city has 190,000 inhabitants, 75,000 cars and around 300,000 bicycles. That's pretty extraordinary, but not car-free by any means.

How can bike mode shares possibly go that high?  Well wherever you go in The Netherlands great care is taken to make your bicycle trip safe, swift, and convenient. You prefer to ride a bike no matter the distance because it will be faster, healthier, and cheaper!  Here's a good example in this graphic from the still-uncompleted Streetfilm, comparing car & bike travel times from my hotel to shoot my first interview in Groningen.


My Streetfilm will contain lots of great moments. An IKEA's bicycle parking.  A crossing over a canal that goes the extra mile to accomodate cyclists. Bicycle parking for over 10,000 at Central Station. The amazing, omnipresent cycle tracks and car-free (and light) areas of downtown. And of course words from the denizens of Groningen telling you why it's so great to ride a bike. In the Netherlands it's nothing special to be accommodated as a rider.  It's just expected. Read more...

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Some Things You Might See While In Amsterdam

I'm currently on a European junket, and ahead of the more serious Streetfilms that will come out of it, I thought it would be prudent to put up some everyday street scenes of bicycling in Amsterdam.

Enjoy! Make sure to check back for more extensive coverage in coming weeks.

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There’s something special about riding a Bike on Block Island!

Yes that is actually a bush growing up and through the sign post!

Thankfully, I've been lucky enough to know many friends/relatives/colleagues who vacation on Block Island, Rhode Island - thus I get to visit often. If you don't know where BIRI is you go all the way to Montauk (on the eastern end of Long Island) and then jump a 90 minute ferry to a pork chop-shaped island in the Atlantic Ocean. For reference, it's southwest of Narragansett and Martha's Vineyard, but I find it is more laid-back and friendly then the Vineyard (and cheaper!)  Plus. far more people use bicycles as their main mode of transportation.

I was recently there before the big season launches and was still wowed by the number of people on bikes. And the thing about BIRI is drivers are so incredibly kind, they'll crawl along behind you at 5 mph until it is absolutely safe to pass or you wave them thru. And the number of children (we are talking VERY young children) riding bikes is unlike anywhere I have seen - except Copenhagen.

Perhaps my favorite point on the island is where Ocean Avenue and Corn Neck Road intersect. During the busiest weekend days of the summer, you can see dozens of bikes crossing at once in all directions while drivers calmly sit for up to a minute or more to get their turn. Just watching the ballet of bikes and pedestrians stream is fun in itself. Besides, no one is in a hurry.

I'll be upfront, there's not a lot of distance/courses to ride.  The island is small. You can do a nearly 10 mile loop of the island or an out and back 8 miler to the north lighthouse. There are a few additional streets to change it up a small bit, but the main point is to use a bike safely on vacation and enjoy. If you love bikes (and ice cream!) you should get there once in your lifetime.

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The Indianapolis Cultural Trail: The Next-Gen in U.S. Protected Bike Lanes

In May, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, a bike & pedestrian path connecting some of Indy's most popular cultural institutions, had its long-awaited public coming out with a ribbon cutting and celebration. It's one of the biggest bicycling infrastructure achievements in North America, and yet it's still practically a secret.

As you'll see, the Cultural Trail runs eight fantastic miles through the heart of downtown and features beautiful stone work, green landscaping and even bioswales to absorb stormwater runoff. There is great signage and trail design with an eye for maximum safety. In many places, parking and/or a car travel lane was converted to trail space. But most importantly, the trail features ample room for both cyclists and pedestrians (most of the time in separate environments) to get around downtown, whether they're commuting, exercising, running errands, or just going for an afternoon jaunt. It's fun and very safe and people of all ages using it.

Across the U.S. cities such as NYC, Chicago, and Washington are doing tremendous work installing miles of protected bike lanes with inexpensive materials. Although the Cultural Trail cost quite a bit, it's nice to know that to find extensive downtown bike infrastructure made with beautiful, permanent materials, we don't have to look to Europe. We can go check out Indianapolis.

Note: Please don't miss our related Streetfilm on Indy's bike-friendly GOP Mayor Greg Ballard and a 2 minute short looking more in-depth at the bioswales and storm water management system along the Cultural Trail.

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Streetfacts #4: Children Have Lost the Freedom to Roam

Think of this Streetfacts chapter as a PSA about how, in just a few generations, we have tightly restricted American kids' freedom to roam, play, and become self-sufficient.

The percentage of children walking and bicycling to school has plummeted from almost 50 percent in 1969 to about 13 percent today. Although distance from school is often cited as the main barrier to walking and bicycling, many families still drive when schools are close to home. According to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, driving accounts for about half of school trips between 1/4- and 1/2-mile long — which in most cases shouldn't take kids much more than 10 minutes to walk.

There are plenty of factors at work here: Lack of sidewalks and safe walking and biking routes. The fallacy of "stranger danger." School districts banning walking and biking outright. But all of these problems lead back to the original and biggest blunder: We continue to design our cities and towns for cars instead of for children, families, and human beings.

Look for more Streetfilms on this issue in the next year.

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Re-Introducing Zozo, our Lovable Livable Streets Hero!

Back in the Summer of 2010, the Streetfilms crew shot & edited ten wonderful vignettes starring Zozo, a purple Henson-designed creature, for the now-defunct Livable Streets Education. It was a great team effort from our colleagues Kim Wiley-Schwartz and Rebecca Jacobs as well as the hugely talented folks we partnered with to write and plan them. It's still one of the best times I have ever had as a camera person.

Each short was designed to teach children about the environment we live in and why walking, bicycling and taking transit is so important. They're great tools to use not only in a classroom-type setting, but for adults to introduce to their own children the livable streets world in a fun way.

However, due to various circumstances, the vignettes never got quite the publicity we desried them to. Thus this year I am going to be promoting them whenever I can. Until now, the films have only appeared on the Meet Zozo site but we have added them officially to Streetfilms in the hope that our fans will take to Zozo.

If you want to help promote or use the Zozo shorts, here are some things you can do:

1. Watch the videos on Streetfilms or Meet Zozo. Tell your friends about Zozo on Twitter & Facebook and make sure you reference us.

2. If you click on the Vimeo button, you can download the films for FREE to show your kids, their friends, your classroom, fellow advocates, etc.

3. If you want to go even further, there are even Zozo coloring book sheets you can download here and explore  the Meet Zozo site to see sample lessons that were prepared by Livable Streets Education.

4. Check out Streetfilms' pretty awesome mini-doc that started it all, The Search for the Zozo!