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Posts tagged "Clarence Eckerson Jr."

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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 Streets Have Changed: A NYC Bicycle Journey During the Coronavirus

I hadn't been on my bicycle in over a week, choosing to walk and run for exercise during the Coronavirus (and observing recommended precautions) but I was curious what my normal commute looked like. So on Friday I chose to get my exercise by bicycling in to Manhattan and brought my camera along as I visited many spots I might typically do if scouting for great locales to film footage for a Streetfilm.

The amazing thing is I have so much archives of New York City that in many cases I had exact matching footage from the last few years of each location or spot, showing what it looks like typically (or in some cases showing what it looked like before the streets received an intervention from NYC DOT) and in some cases is pretty mind blowing.

I hope this Streetfilm (likely the final "new" one shot until the world heals) is entertaining, gives you hope and stretches your mind to what is still possible when we emerge from this pandemic.

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Highlights from NOLA: Riding Blue Bikes, Fixing Transit & The “Neutral Ground”

As I usually try to do, here's a quick wrap-up of highlights from my adventures in New Orleans from mid-December to work with TransitCenter and Ride New Orleans. The above Streetfilm was quickly pieced together as I wasn't there to focus on bicycling. But thanks to using New Orleans' Blue Bikes bike share to get around to many shoots (its debut week!) and being around the Bike Easy staff (who shares an office with Ride) I was able to gather a few interviews and footage. Let me stress this one fact: New Orleans has a lot of cyclists. An incredible diversity in age, race, sex and type of bike ridden. I don't think my footage here does it any justice. Cyclists are a constant presence on the streets, but unlike many big cities, you won't see commuting peletons or large groupings waiting for lights. They are just there. Every intersection you'll see them.

But as I said the mission was to showcase the hard work of Ride New Orleans who is scoring victories for its riding public and providing momentum in a city that desperately needs even the bare essentials for its bus riding public. Simple things many might take for granted like signage, route schedules, benches and shelters. The above excerpt with Matthew Henrickson, the Policy Director for Ride, wasn't planned. We were waiting to interview another subject and he sarcastically pointed out we were standing under a bus stop. Knowing there are uncountable similar conditions throughout the city, I just told him to start talking. We got one fast take in right before our interviewee showed up. But this shows the hard choices facing their incoming mayor, which was buoyed by this late December news where the RTA approved a long-range, comprehensive plan to improve NOLA transit.

And speaking of interviews, one of the lovely people you will meet is Ms. Sonja (below with me, and by the way that's HER bike bag) who is on the Transit Riders’ Advisory Committee that meets first Saturday of the month. They're a wonderful, smart group of people who know they pushing the conversation to drastically change their city. Ms. Sonja gathered 600 signatures to get a bench and bus shelter installed at her senior living home, which she is very proud of. And now she is helping other volunteers and motivating people do the same.

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I really get to meet so many nice people in my travels. She's certainly one of them.  You'll get to meet her and up to a dozen others (hopefully) by the end of the month or early February.

And finally, if you watched the Streetfilm at the top of the page, you'll see I became a bit obsessed bike riding in the "neutral ground", which is the term for medians (grassy, concrete, whatever) in NOLA. I did some research on it and the history of the evolution of the term is quite cool. Click to read here. Then watch my extended outtake riding on the neutral ground and many of the other people riding bikes enjoy there.

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2004: bikeTV Examines the dangerous Manhattan Bridge bike entrances

Here's one from the archives from my bikeTV days (2001-2006) when we had a group of advocates strongly advocating for better safety measures for the access points to the new Manhattan Bridge shared bike-ped path on the south side.

I did an entire episode on entrance/exits to all five East River bridges in 2004.  Here you can see particularly dangerous conditions on Brooklyn side competing with 18-wheelers and fast cars coming off the ramp.  Some of the footage is scary as vehicles hit the curb.  On the Manhattan side it would be a little bit safer if NYPD vehicles weren't parked everywhere possible on the sidewalks surrounding the bridge access points. But a simple stop sign you will see does nothing to slow cars.

Of course these days for bicyclists the path is now on the north side and is pretty much wonderful after years and years of continued improvements. You can see many of those in this "4 Boro Protected Bike Ride" at the 2 minute mark of this awesome 25-mile tour!

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Surviving Montreal’s Frigid, “Snow Moon by Bike” Ride

I'll come out and say it: I am a NYC winter-bike-riding wimp: I almost never jump on the bike once temps dip below about 35 degrees. But after visiting Montreal to ride on easily the coldest night I ever have, just maybe I'll re-think that.

On Saturday, I participated in Velo Quebec's "Snow Moon By Bike" ride which featured about a thousand riders taking a journey around the city in temperatures in the single digits. (Wind chill below zero F). Montreal had just finished hosting the Winter Cycling Congress and I decided if I was gonna try to make it thru, I'd ask people not only about why they come out for the ride, but any advice they could offer riding in sub-zero temperatures.

Many good layers, of course, was the suggestion of the day. But also making sure to take it easy so you don't sweat which can be very perilous in the cold. I also learned - the hard way - that breathable footwear and gloves (mittens especially) were especially vital in the wind!

It was a challenging but fun ride for me since I not only had the icy roads and other riders to contend with, but also was documenting, thus I had to hop on and off and only wear a very light glove on my shooting (right) hand. By the end I couldn't feel my middle finger at all - and my hand didn't really return to fully useable until about a half hour indoors. My toes got it pretty badly, too, they felt fine walking around prior to the start but once you're on the bike the blood flow in your feet changes and any wind just wicks heat right away. My doubled up socks in my snug sneakers weren't much of a barrier, but I didn't bring boots.

All in all this was a splendid experience. I certainly have even more respect for the #VikingBiking mentality of Montreal residents to battle temperatures that scare me. I think I'll now be more brave in my future winter NYC riding.

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Streetfilms and Streetsblog: The First 10 Years

This summer, Streetfilms and Streetsblog celebrated our 10-year anniversary, and to mark the occasion, we created this film looking back at how our reporting and videos have changed streets in New York, the U.S., and cities all over the world.

This film showcases only a small portion of the work that thousands of volunteers and advocates have put in. It begins with the NYC Streets Renaissance, a collection of organizations that banded together in 2005 to rally people around the idea that streets can change, by showing best practices from other cities and photosimulations of what NYC streets could become.

You'll see clips from important Streetfilms like the series on Bogota's Bus Rapid Transit and Ciclovia, as well as recaps of how Streetsblog influenced transportation policy at City Hall, defended the work of transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and put pressure on Albany to stop raiding transit funds. Getting closer to the present day, we look at why Streetsblog's coverage of traffic crashes matters, the new generation of elected officials working for better streets, and what's next for advocacy in NYC.

A note: This Streetfilm runs over 12 minutes, but if we had the resources it easily be a 90-minute feature documentary. Apologies to anyone left on the cutting room floor and topics not addressed, but perhaps someday we'll be able to make that film!

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Biking NYC Pre-2005: Shorts from the bikeTV era of 2001-2005!

That's me above in a promo for bikeTV!

Many of you know that before I got heavily involved in what was to become Streetfilms, I produced a cable access show in New York City called bikeTV. We had a lot of fun and the main goal of the half hour weekly slot was to show New Yorkers how much fun it was to bike places in the city with friends, how much better biking could be and to cover the advocacy world (Transportation Alternatives, Time's Up, 5BBC, etc) and what they were promoting.

Recently, I took the time to finally upload some episodes from my work (and other contributors) to Vimeo and Youtube. It's quite amazing some of the work we did - usually trying to produce a new half hour show every month. I still have people come up to me and say they discovered biking through bikeTV!

Read more...

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Why are New Yorkers bicycling to work in record numbers?

Today is Bike To Work Day in NYC. And as usual Transportation Alternatives was out hosting some fueling stations in the morning.

We thought with the newest NYC DOT data showing bicycling at an all-time high, it would be great time to ask bicyclists why they are riding their bikes more. Interestingly, the answers seemed to fall in three distinct categories: it is safer, it is healthy and MTA is falling apart.

But don’t take our word for it, listen to what your fellow city riders told us.

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Streetfilms University: The “Simple” Art of Editing (YOU can do it!)

The first thing I like to emphasize to folks when they come to see me at conferences to give my Streetfilms University presentation is that if you have a little bit of patience, really anyone can make and edit a decent short film. Even with little or no experience. Sure, perhaps not to a "Streetfilms standard" right off the bat, but believe me: if you put the time in, you can edit and make a successful and perfectly watchable advocacy tool.

One method I like to use is playing videos showing a progression of clips, each step showing the transformation of a talking head interview to its placement within a Streetfilm. First, I play the raw soundbite I was working with. Next, I edit down my taking head and remove extraneous information to make a sleeker, faster answer. Then, I show what it looks like with b-roll (footage), sound and/or graphics edited in to showcase the final Streetfilms product.

This above clip is of Professor Norman Garrick from the University of Connecticut. He's easily become one of my favorite people to interview and this featured edit progression is from my recent Streetfilm "Zurich: Where People are Welcome and Cars Are Not." You'll see how I took a one minute soundbite and edited it down to 27 seconds with five edits. Then what it looks like once music and footage of transit & city life is ladled in.

There are many ways and styles to edit a film. But as a beginner don't get bogged down much on what music you are gonna use or how you are gonna begin the video or fancy animated graphics or kinds of transitions/fonts/titles you want. Just concentrate on your interviews. Edit them down to tell the story you want to. All of the other elements will actually be easier to decide once you have soundbites lined up. Trust me. There's not much sense putting effort into editing a fancy 20 second opening montage to your video and then saying to yourself, "Okay, now what?"

Here's another edit progression I've included, this time featuring three of transportation greatest heroes from the Streetfilm "The Rise of Open Streets". watch how three perfectly wonderful sound bites at a length of 1:12 sound even better at 33 seconds, and then the momentum it picks up by adding the appropriate corresponding footage.

I'm not saying this approach is the best for everybody, but it 's simple and always works. And you can duplicate it. Just be aware that it may take listening to a soundbite dozens of times to find out what to remove. Or better yet: letting the video sit and sleeping on it and coming back with a fresh set of eyes and ears. Just like a college term paper!

This final "riding interview" sequence I am attaching not to recommend you try for yourself (after all I've been doing this for 15 years) but it does illustrate how you can make magic happen. This is a clip of fellow media maker Chris Bruntlett I shot while riding in Montreal's Tour de l'Île. I accidentally had a GoPro recording during our chat and later when I realized I had the two angles, I wanted show what I sometimes endure and navigate while in the midst of my job. Nevertheless, the final product shows how adding in the right video b-roll helps tell the tale. Enjoy!

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Journey Around Copenhagen’s Latest Bicycle Innovations!

Copenhagen just keeps finding new ways to make it easier and more convenient to bike. Recently I had the chance to take a tour with Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize and see some of the innovations that have changed the city's streets since I was there four years ago.

First off, if you've seen my 2010 Streetfilm about Copenhagen's bike infrastructure and culture, the busiest bicycle street in the world has changed: The Knippelsbro Bridge now boasts 40,700 riders per day! And speaking of bridges, Copenhagen is building six new crossings exclusively for biking and walking to help its citizens get around.

Last month another cool bridge debuted -- the Cykelslangen ("Bicycle Snake"). You'll see loads of footage as we traveled back and forth. It is truly a handsome piece of infrastructure. Even going uphill seems pretty easy!

You'll see lots of other things that will make you happy (or angry your city isn't doing more!), including waste baskets angled for cyclists, LED lights that indicate whether riders have to speed up to catch the green wave, and a cool treatment for cobblestone streets that helps make biking easier.

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How a Massive Bike Tour Inspired Montreal to Become a Bike-Friendly City

Especially in the warmer months, Montreal is simply alive with street life and, of course, lots of bicycling. Its car-free spaces are inviting to everyone, and there's so much art and interactive installations in public space.

In 2001 and again in 2003, I got to ride the Tour de l'Île in Montreal while on group trips with NYC's Five Borough Bike Club. Both times were incredibly exciting, not only because of the rides, but because I could see and use wonderful, safe bike infrastructure. It helped me realize what could be possible in NYC one day.

I was invited by Vélo Québec to participate in this year's Tour de l'Île (as well as the Tour la Nuit), and I still think it's the best group ride in the world.

Riding this year, I was accompanied by many advocates and journalists from other cities. I learned how the ride's formation in 1985 helped inspire much of the city's bike infrastructure, and how it has kept pressure on the government to continue building more.  There are cyclists everywhere in Montreal: One report puts the bike-to-work mode share in the Le Plateau – Mont Royal neighborhood at about 18 percent.

So just go to Montreal. And go often. Don't bring a bike -- they have Bixi. That's all you'll need. If this video isn't enough of an endorsement, how about this: In all my riding over five visits, I've only ever seen one car parked in a bike lane.

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Amazing Art in the Public Realm (Chicago, Milwaukee, NYC)

Streetfilms Shortie - Fantastic Art in the Public Realm (Chicago, Milwaukee, NYC) from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Here's a quick Streetfilms shortie I just thew together that I shot with a point & shoot on vacation in Chicago and Milwaukee.  I hope you enjoy, with these shorts you never know whether a couple dozen people or thousands will watch.

First, in Chicago's Daley Plaza, I stumbled upon one of the coolest art installations I've ever seen in a public space: interactive, human-size letters that spelled out the name P-I-C-A-S-S-O (which were helping advertise the current exhibit at the nearby Art Institute Chicago.) The energy in the plaza was magic. People were having so much fun posing and climbing all over the letters. Later on a short trip to Milwaukee I stumbled upon these some great flip-books downtown bolted onto light posts  featuring residents of the city in amusing interactions. Very cool, would love to see those in many other cities.

When I got home I had to add in a few seconds of my current favorite NYC MTA art project - "Hive" which went live last year when the opening of a new entrance to the Broadway/Lafayette (Bleecker Station) that happened late last year.

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How Many NYC Drivers Fail to Signal?

If you walk on New York City streets (or frankly anywhere in the U.S.), you're well aware of how much unlawful and dangerous driving happens on nearly every block: red light running, speeding, double-parking, you name it.

I first moved to NYC in 1991, and one thing that seems to have gotten much worse since then is the percentage of drivers who fail to signal their turns. I've lost count of the times I've been walking or bicycling and nearly been hit by drivers who didn't use their directionals. Anecdotally, I would estimate that about 25 or 30 percent of drivers don't signal.

So I set out to put my theory to the test where I live in Jackson Heights, Queens, taping the first 100 turning drivers I saw. I won't spoil the final count, but this video is more evidence of the poor quality of driving across the city. Failing to use blinkers makes it hard for walkers, bikers, and other motorists to anticipate a driver's behavior -- this is basic Driver's Ed, people -- but so many people just don't do it.

Every week we read horrible stories of drivers crashing into pedestrians or mounting sidewalks -- and yet hardly anyone is ever charged or even issued a ticket. NYPD could be issuing plenty of tickets for drivers failing to signal turns on just about any block at anytime. They could start a crackdown tomorrow, it doesn't require more legislation. It doesn't require an officer to be stationed in a car with a radar gun. Just stand on the corner and pull people over. Simple.

NYPD credits cracking down on small crimes with helping to dramatically lower the city's overall crime rate. If we started to show less tolerance for "smaller" infractions, might drivers in NYC eventually change their overall driving habits?

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Streetfilms University: How We Make Effective Films

For the last few years, we have been giving the fun and informative Streetfilms University talk at colleges and conferences. From Harvard to Long Beach, audiences have been excited about learning how we make the transportation films we do, from behind-the-scenes tips to how to avoid the mistakes we have made.

Now for the first time we have compiled a truncated 25 minute Streetfilms University lesson. Filled with video clips, stills and lists of advice there is much to take in here for the beginning filmmaker as well as the person who is just curious as to how we make our effective films. Perhaps one day you'll be lucky enough to get to experience the hour plus program, but until then get some popcorn and sit back and hear from Clarence Eckerson Jr, the Director of Streetfilms, on how we get it done.

And of course visit streetfilms.org to watch any of our 500 Streetfilms and to download them right off Vimeo to use in your own work and presentations using the Creative Commons 3.0 license.

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The Case for Bike Racks on NYC Buses

Over the last ten years (or more) just about every major city in the U.S. has added bike-carrying capacity to their buses. While cities like Chicago, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Seattle, Philadelphia, and San Francisco can boast 100% of their bus fleet sporting bike racks, NYC comes in at 0% - the only one in The Alliance for Biking & Walking's 2010 Benchmarking report.

This probably comes as no surprise to any cyclist from NYC who travels an ample amount, but what is shocking is this fact quietly goes unmentioned in NYC. We cannot recall a single news story or push to get bike racks anywhere in the last ten years.

Of course, there are reasonable assumptions one can make why NYC has not tried out some program. First and foremost: the NYC MTA subway system already allows bikes 24 hours a day.  It's an excellent benefit for sure, but there are many regions of the five boroughs that are not easily within reach of a train. If we want to encourage multi-modalism, we need seriously think about that.

Then there is a barrage of others: cyclists will be too slow to load, bikes might fall off the racks, cost, maintenance, etc, but after viewing our Streetfilm you'll see there really isn't a valid excuse not to.

So we think it's time that the MTA and the city to consider a few pilot programs to put some bike racks on some routes. Of course, we are not talking about places like Manhattan or most parts of Brooklyn but we feel there are some great candidates that would yield good results.  Look here:

  • Anywhere in Staten Island.
  • Eastern Queens.
  • Parts of The Bronx.
  • Any buses that cross bridges without cycle paths including the Verrazano-Narrows, The Whitestone and The Throggs Neck bridges.