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Posts tagged "New York City"

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Listen to these New Yorkers ideas of what we should do next for safe streets!

As many of you know, here in New York City there was an overwhelming reaction to the horrible tragedy in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where two young children were killed by a red-light running driver. Numerous events held, including a large NYC March for Safe Streets, put together by Transportation Alternatives, Families for Safe Streets and many other community partners. Hundreds of people joined in an incredible show of emotion and anger, and there were many suggestions on what we need to do next as a city and state.

The clips here show five short revealing conversations I had with pairs of people and their ideas about what needs to come next. All of their relfections were smart, sobering and perfectly appropriate.

If you are Mayor de Blaiso, Governor Cuomo, NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, a council member on the city council or one of the thousands of community leaders out there, you should take a quick listen. I'd say implement all of what these people have to say.

In order to save our children and save all of us, it is a good start point.

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The New Bus Campaigners

Half of transit trips in America are made on buses.

But over the past several years, nearly every major US city has witnessed dramatic declines in bus ridership.

Some blame may go to low gas prices and new services like Uber. But transit advocates think bus service is declining because of longstanding policy neglect, and that something can and ought to be done about it. They’re pushing elected officials and transit agencies to apply changes like bus lanes, all-door boarding and traffic signal priority.

These kinds of policy changes require political attention and will, which will only be obtained through a groundswell of public support. To give voice to bus riders, a new generation of bus campaigners are now canvassing buses, bus stops, and transit hubs to hear from and organize riders. We were able to spend some time with organizations in New York City (Riders Alliance), Boston (LivableStreets) and Chicago (Active Transportation Alliance) to find out what is new there and how they are encouraging volunteers and city leaders to make improvements to their systems.

Buses are a relatively inexpensive and flexible form of transit that American cities could be making much better use of. Thanks to many new advocacy campaigns, we think we’ll see buses turning around.

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Streetopia: Reclaim Your Streets! (Streetopia Kickoff Promo)

Welcome to Streetopia the new push to drastically reimagine our city streets as places for people, with more efficient transport and safety for children & seniors to recreate and live. This is the "kickoff" promo, one of five we produced for the event.

The below paragraphs were so excellently written by Streetsblog's David Meyer in the article "Envisioning NYC Next Streets Revolution" that I'll now just lift those paragraphs below to describe some of why Streetopia is upon us.

About 12 years ago, a coalition of advocates under the banner of the New York City Streets Renaissance set out to transform city transportation policy away from the car-oriented status quo and toward people-first streets. Streetsblog and Streetfilms have their origins in that campaign, propelling a growing public awareness that NYC doesn’t need to settle for dangerous, traffic-choked streets.

While small interventions like signal changes, pedestrian islands, and safer markings have touched many neighborhoods, only a sliver of a fraction of city street space has been reallocated from cars to other modes. You’re less likely to lose your life in traffic now than 12 years ago, but New York still doesn’t have streets where, say, parents feel comfortable letting a child in elementary school walk a few blocks on their own to a friend’s house.

New York can be a city where everyone from young kids to elderly seniors can get around without fear, where neighborhood streets can be places of congregation and activity instead of motorways. To become that city, we’ll have to shift a lot more street space from cars to transit, biking, and walking.

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Should NYC Have a Bicycle Mayor? Meet Anna Luten Amsterdam’s Bike Mayor

During 2017's Vision Zero for Cities Conference in New York City I got to spend a few minutes chatting with Amsterdam's Bicycle Mayor Anna Luten about her biking public advocate status and then I wondered if we could do the same in NYC.

Could we? Who would you nominate? What would be their qualifications? What powers would you like them to have? Most people I spoke to thought it would be an excellent idea.

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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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NYC Buses: Time for a Turnaround

New Yorkers take 2.5 million rides on the city's buses every day. While NYC's buses provide essential transit, especially in areas beyond the reach of the subway, they are among the nation's slowest and least reliable.

Now a coalition of transit advocates are promoting practical strategies to improve the performance of NYC buses systemwide.

Transit advocates knew something was wrong when they observed declining bus ridership despite increasing population, a growing economy, and record-high subway ridership. To figure out what could be done about it, they spoke to industry experts and researched successful efforts in peer cities to identify common sense solutions to NYC's bus problems. This research is summarized in their report "Turnaround: Fixing New York City's Buses".

The bus system faces big challenges, but these challenges have clear, proven solutions. By transforming how riders get on and off the bus, designing streets to prioritize buses, adopting better methods to keep buses on schedule, and redesigning the bus network and routes, policy makers in city government and the MTA can turn around the decline of the city's buses and attract riders back to the system.

We'll get to see how serious public officials are about tackling these problems on October 6, when the City Council transportation committee holds an oversight hearing on how to improve the quality of NYC bus service.

This Streetfilm was produced in partnership with TransitCenter, the second in a series of four films examining transit in American cities. If you enjoyed this one, check out the first film, "High Frequency: Why Houston is Back on the Bus."

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Bikes Are Freedom: Inspiration from the Experts

Just a little bit of bubble-gum-pop, montage inspiration, "Bikes Are Freedom" showcases bicycling footage from 30+ diverse cities around the globe while featuring over a dozen quotes of inspiration of how biking & freedom intersect for world transportation leaders.

If you are ever feeling sad and blue about the world being dominated by the automobile, this is the pick me up you've dreamed about. At the very least will make you happy for two minutes before pessimism consumes you again. Bikes are rising. Carry on.

(Oh and make sure to watch in High Def for the best swell feeling experience.)

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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!

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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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Vintage Transportation Films from the Prelinger Archives

The 1968 "Playstreets" video above just blows my mind - and probably will yours if you love open streets and ciclovias. I had no idea PAL (the Police Athletic League) was closing down streets/blocks in New York City for kids for so long. In fact since 1914, over one hundred years ago!

I found it while looking thru the Prelinger Archives which has made over 6600 vintage mini-documentaries, news reels and random works free to use by the public. There's so much history to peruse. I re-edited the "Playstreets" to under 3 minutes and added a bit of Streetfilms-style music to make it more swift & modern.

But really, some of the archives can be sad and stark. For example, check out this victim blaming 10 minute short produced to air in schools titled "The ABC's of Walking Wisely (1959), an attempt to cleverly "educate" children by using the letters of the alphabet to demonize walking behaviors. Never once in the film does the female narrator talk about the responsibility of drivers, instead choosing to call school kids insulting names while championing, "Don't be a J-Walker, be an A-Walker". I trimmed this down to several cringeworthy moments you'll be aghast by including the narrator saying, "show consideration for the drivers - and be safe yourself." I'll add: there are several moments where it looks like the producers dangerously put the children in potential harm filming around cars. Oh yeah, definitely watch.

There are dozens of transportation films I found in Prelinger sponsored by (who else?) car companies pushing the idea of how wonderful the modern conveniences of the car are.  Some are somewhat harmless like fun family car vacations but others push highway building, parking and the oil industry showing how the propaganda-filled 1950s set in motion some awful transportation policies.

And we are still recovering from the auto's invasion of our cities. "Give Yourself the Green Light" (1954) is a half hour bonanza chock-filled with moments that will make you groan, and likely, get depressed.  I selected about 4 minutes filled with items I found particularly egregious. You'll see: a frustrated Miss America searching in vain for parking, a narrator saying "the best investment a town can make is parking" plus some vintage highway footage on the Gowanus Expressway and BQE Brooklyn Heights where the script unbelievably notes that these are structures which solved transportation problems "without disturbing life below." (Yeah anyone seen Sunset Park under the elevated highway?)

You'll find full-length copies of "Give Yourself the Green Light"on Youtube if your interest is piqued and you want to consume the full film. But I fully encourage you to browse and use the Prelinger Archives. I watched 100s of them this past week. So much fun.

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Five Eclectic Questions for Streetfighter Janette Sadik-Khan

Right before former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan set off on a multi-city book tour for Streetfight (along with co-author Seth Solomonow), I was able to get a few minutes to ask her five eclectic questions in Washington Square Park.

Want to know the story behind the appearance of hundreds of cheap lawn chairs on opening day in car-free Times Square? We asked her. Want to know if she has a crush on David Byrne? We asked her that too! Want to know her favorite color jellybean? Well, we didn't ask her that.

But we think you'll enjoy our quick, engaging conversation that's saturated with footage from the Streetfilms vault from Sadik-Khan's 2007-2013 tenure at NYC DOT.

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The Transformation of Queens Boulevard, Block By Block

For many years, New York City's Queens Boulevard was known as the "Boulevard of Death." The street cuts through the heart of the Queens, expanding at some points to a chaotic 12 to 16 lanes of traffic -- which makes it extremely dangerous for human beings. From 2003 to 2013, 38 pedestrians and cyclists were killed and 450 suffered severe injuries.

Last year, the New York City DOT announced a $100 million dollar commitment from the de Blasio administration to humanize Queens Boulevard and make it safer, a flagship project in the city's Vision Zero initiative. Instead of waiting until the planned permanent reconstruction in 2018 to make any changes, DOT wanted to build in safety improvements immediately. After holding public workshops with communities along the corridor, 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard have been redesigned, and the changes are already making a huge difference.

If you're an urban planner, transportation engineer, or advocate wondering just what can be done with what seems to be an irredeemably messed up street, then this is the Streetfilm for you. We got an exclusive tour of the changes with NYC DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo, going block-by-block over the creative solutions the DOT team implemented. Queens Boulevard is as complicated a roadway as there is: Nearly every block is different. To add a functional bike lane and pedestrian mall seemed highly unlikely. Yet here it is.

I'll admit, I'm especially excited about this project since I've lived near Queens Boulevard for years. I was skeptical when the announcement was made that I would see any truly life-altering change, and even if the city pulled it off, it would take years and years. But the installation has been swift and extremely well thought out. The service road is noticeably slower, narrower, and easier to navigate for people walking or biking. So much so that I was motivated to document the transformation with this Streetfilm, which I hope will be a learning tool that people can put to use in their communities. If you can put a good protected bike lane on Queens Boulevard, then just about any street in America should be in play.

In 2015, no one was killed on Queens Boulevard.

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NYC David Bowie Dance Ride 2010 (B-Roll)

Okay, something I almost never do - in a bike tribute to the legendary musician David Bowie who passed this morning at age 69, I'm loading up straight b-roll to a bike ride I attended with Time's Up in 2010. It was plenty of fun and perhaps the shortest ride ever (maybe a mile?) from Tompkins Square Park to go dance at the Cube. And lots of New Yorkers on the street joined in! Sit back and watch the fun, there's lots of it. Again - this is straight up footage as it happened, essentially un-edited, but captures the spirit of those who love Bowie so I thought I'd let that shine!

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NYC’s Varick Street Gets a Granite Bike Path

As any bicyclist can tell you, a bumpy ride on cobblestones is no fun. In NYC, the DOT has implemented its first granite bikeway on one block of Varick Street to make it easier for cyclists and to keep them off the sidewalks.

You will almost never see me on a sidewalk in NYC for any reason, but I confess, I have used the sidewalk for this one block in the past. The smooth granite is a great idea.

I got to speak with Nick Carey, a project manager with NYC DOT's bicycle program, about how the project came to be and how the department might use the same idea for future bike routes.

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These four Streetfilms may help sway Your City into accepting Protected Bike Lanes

I am gonna keep this simple: are you having difficulty convincing your city/town about the merits of protected bike lanes? Streetfilms can help.

The above Streetfilm was put together back when then-New York City Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan was under a full-on bikelash assault from the media. It was done to show that protected bike lanes on wide avenues can have a wide range of benefits. From pedestrians to transit riders.

That was nearly four years ago. All those lanes survived and now some of the earliest lanes installed in NYC are becoming greener and making the streets more wonderful. Just see for yourself.

One excerpt I posted from that original video that I have gotten positive feedback was the next video. I interviewed Gary Toth from Project for Public Spaces and we chatted about why you need to have a buffer. So many people have emailed or told me this little clip was very useful.

Finally, hopefully cities in the U.S. will have the courage to do protected bike lanes with true style and safety like Copenhagen and Amsterdam do. One way of encouraging that is to show one place in the U.S. that has done an amazing job. Like they've done along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Yes, this loop was expensive, but you could do them with a little less panache for far cheaper and still make them look good. I hope these Streetfilms help.