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Posts tagged "Clarence Eckerson Jr."

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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.
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Snowy Neckdowns Redux: Winter Traffic Calming (Now: #sneckdown)

As you may recall, many years ago I shot a Streetfilm taking about what winter weather can teach us.  In many ways the snow acts like tracing paper on our streets and records road user movements: at each intersection where the snow ends up piled can teach us a lot about where people drive and chose to walk.  It's a great experiment that costs no money and anyone can play traffic engineer. If you ever want safer streets around your block get out and take some photos next time it snows, it can bolster your arguments before a nay-saying community board (or politician) whether you are in New York City or Iowa.

With it having been over a week since we had our last big snowfall, I had been noticing some of the most dramatic examples of neckdowns & curb extensions made out of the fluffy white stuff - now hard as concrete - which brought a real sense of calm to crossing some streets in Jackson Heights, Queens.  And predicted, drivers don't seem to be having any problems with them, just taking the turns a bit more slowly and carefully as they should 365 days of the year. I've seen delivery vehicles, garbage trucks, EMS, and buses all have little problem navigating them (although admittedly did not observe any firetrucks.)

Of course, you can also check out how chicanes naturally occur.

UPDATE FROM THE FUTURE!

Now "snowy neckdowns" have been christened sneckdowns or through the magic of Twitter: #sneckdown

Just a few articles:

http://www.streetsblog.org/2014/01/22/sneckdowns-taking-the-world-by-storm/

http://thisoldcity.com/advocacy/photos-what-snow-tells-us-about-creating-better-public-spaces-e-passyunk-avenue

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25788068

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Mapping Your NYC Bike Commute

Regardless of age or ability, everyone deserves the right to a safe and convenient bike commute. In New York City, every day the DOT is making that more of a reality - thanks to an incredible diversity of bike facilities. The city has moved past simple, striped bike lanes and on to refreshing configurations like curbside, floating parking-protected, physically separated, two-way bike paths.

Bike riding is on the rise. Commutes that were unthinkable years ago, are becoming attainable. Riders are more confident in their knowledge of the street grid. One resource that helps is the NYC Cycling Map. Use this cycling freebie to not only link up to the best routes in your neighborhood, but also to find alternatives and experiment with your riding. You'll be amazed how easy - and safe - it can be.

So for inspiration and major cajoling, I decided to hop on my Batavus Dutch crusier and show you my new commute from Jackson Heights, Queens all the way to the Streetfilms offices in lower Manhattan via the Manhattan Bridge. It's a hardy 11 miles each way, and yet almost 90% of the journey is on some sort of bike facility or marked bike route.  Furthermore, about 5 miles of it is on completely separate car-free bicycling paths, its no wonder that many days I arrive at work in a zen-like state.

Streetfilms would like to thank Bicycle Habitat for sponsoring this film.

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Sands Street Gets a Sassy, Center-Median Cycletrack

Chalk up more bikeway innovation to the folks at the NYC Department of Transportation. Now nearly complete, the Sands Street approach to the Manhattan Bridge is now safer and more enjoyable thanks to a first-of-its-kind in NYC: a center-median, two-way, protected bike path. Frankly, the facility is a perfect solution to counter the dangers posed by a tangle of roads and highway on-ramps that burden the area. Dramatic before and afters tell the delicious story.

We'll also take you back into the archives to April 2005, when following a severe injury to Transportation Alternatives' then Deputy Director Noah Budnick, advocates held a passionate rally to ask Mayor Bloomberg to not only improve bike access to the Manhattan Bridge, but to all East River Bridges. Four years later, there's much to be proud of. As Ryan Russo, NYC DOT Assistant Commissioner for Traffic Management points out, back in 2005 about 800 cyclists used the bridge daily. In 2009, those numbers have soared to over 2600. That gives us a serious case of happiness.

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PARKing Day 2009 NYC

This year we took it down a notch. After covering PARK(ing) Day events for the past three years, we figured it was about time we got to relax a little and enjoy the space and - frankly - not get dehydrated from bicycling about all day. Oh, that and the fact we were trying out the new-ish FLIP cameras to evaluate whether or not you can pull off a good-looking video with them. I think the result speaks for itself.

So sit back and enjoy. This year over twenty countries participated. New York City featured about 50 spaces filled to the gills with people, sod, chairs, food, fun, games, and in one case - bubbles galore! You'll also get a look at "Hex Pack Patio" the POP.Park winning design from Samina Iqbal.

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The Search for the Zozo

In the early part of the 1900s, Zozos - large, furry, innocent, purple creatures - once freely roamed New York City's streets, and were seen frequently mingling among its denizens and enjoying the public realm. But with the advent of the automobile their numbers slowly dwindled, until the 1930s when sightings became rare and they were thought to go extinct.

But now thanks to a burgeoning livable streets movement and a marked improvement in public spaces in NYC, Zozo sightings have been reported. World-renowned crypto-zoologist Donald Druthers has convinced us to document the facts - and yes, it looks like Zozos could be making a comeback! See the evidence for yourself.

Presenting our long-awaited mockumentary "The Search for the Zozo," featuring many of New York's greatest citizens. You'll hear NYC urban expert Professor Kenneth T. Jackson from Columbia University talk about the history of the Zozo. But in addition, you'll hear accounts of sightings and Zozo-inspired stories from Colin "No Impact Man" Beavan, restaurateur (and cyclist) Florent Morellet, livable streets advocate Mary Beth Kelly, author Tom Vanderbilt, and a slew of advocates working to make safer streets a reality for pedestrians, cyclists, and the general public.

And if you see a Zozo? Let us know in the comments section, or dial 555-ZOZO. You can also check out our website WhereistheZozo? for the latest in sightings and news.

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Seattle Crosswalk: Tap foot, Lights blink, Cross street

Along Seattle's historic waterfront I happened upon a unique pedestrian-activated crosswalk that blinks as people cross. Yes, I have seen over a dozen lighted ped signals before in myriad cities, but all required the user to press a button to manually begin the cycle. So, you ask, how is this one different?

Well check this out - as you enter the crosswalk make sure you touch the yellow rectangle on the sidewalk. This activates the lights that line the crosswalk. Drivers stop and it should be safe to begin your adventure: you'll feel a bit like an airplane coming in for a landing. Frankly, it's very empowering and a lot of fun!

Reason dictates that A) there must be a sensor contained within the yellow pad, or B) there's a helpful gremlin who lives underneath and throws a switch for pedestrians. Regardless, anyone else seen one like it in their town?

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Daylighting: Make Your Crosswalks Safer

Daylighting is a simple pedestrian safety measure achieved by removing parking spaces adjacent to curbs around an intersection, increasing visibility for pedestrians and drivers and minimizing conflicts. It's beneficial to young and old, but is especially helpful to children, who often cannot see, or be seen by, oncoming traffic. By removing parking adjacent to the crosswalk, the child does not have to wade into the street to see vehicles entering the intersection. At the same time, drivers don't have to roll into the crosswalk to see if pedestrians are waiting to cross.

Compare the photos below, showing the sight line difference with and without a parked car.

Neighborhoods around NYC and beyond are nearly shouting for daylighting to be implemented for safer streets. Streetfilms went to Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan to check out what some neighborhood leaders have to say. And though we love the concept, we think the term, Daylighting, is a little stale. So how about some suggestions? As you'll see, we came up with one, "Pedestrian Peek-a-boo," but we're sure there are others out there.

Learn about daylighting on Streetswiki.

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D.C. Launches Bike-Sharing Program

Last week the first North American public bike-share program debuted in Washington D.C. With 120 bikes at 10 self-service racks, SmartBike DC officially launched. This week the Streetfilms team took it for a spin.

Here are some helpful facts about SmartBike DC:

  • To use this bike-share program you must become a member for an annual fee of $40 and have your membership card.
  • Locks & Helmets are not provided so bring your own.
  • Each trip has a 3 hour limit, but you can park at a station and take out another bike for no fee or penalty.
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LPI – Leading Pedestrian Interval

Leading Pedestrian Intervals (or LPIs) are a traffic signalization strategy that assigns pedestrians an exclusive 3 to 5 second signal (in some cases much longer) to begin crossing the street before cars get a green light. Consequently, they are also known by their sassier nickname, Pedestrian Head Start. But in my view the best variation on what LPI stands for comes from Christine Berthet of the Hells Kitchen Neighborhood Association who proposes: "Life Preserving Interval". That's what it is.

Transportation Alternatives has recently begun a push to make these more common in NYC. Here's hoping our video (featuring some nice visuals from TOPP's own Carly Clark) can help aid the case and explain what this arcane phrase means.

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Portland (Green) Bike Box!

At just about any public gathering I go these days, there's usually at least one person who will come up and give me an enthusiastic "Bike Box!", based upon our earlier, popular Streetfilm. In my heart I hoped there would one day be a sequel to Bike Box, and it all came together last week while in Portland at the World Car-free Conference. Earlier this year, Portland's Office of Transportation installed many high visibility bike boxes that are filled in lime green to help cyclist avoid right hook collisions. (Note: NYC now has a few green ones as well.)

What we were unprepared for was being stopped by random cyclists who wanted to lend their collective "Bike Box!" exclamations. So watch and see all the fun improv as it flows. Do you have Bike Boxes in your city? Want to be creative? Then upload a YouTube video and tag it "streetfilms" and we will feature it in our sidebar!