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Posts tagged "Traffic Calming"

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Why Does Montreal Have So Many Beautiful Curb Extensions?

When I visited Montreal last week, I knew I was gonna produce Streetfilms on bicycling and the hugely wonderful pedestrianized streets program.

However, I always have been fascinated the ample and omnipresent curb extensions, neckdowns, gateways (whatever you want to call them) just about everywhere, especially in the neighborhoods. Thankfully, in the middle of filming I asked the CEO of Velo Quebec JR Rheault and he knew the answer how Montreal got so many (and continues to build them!)

Curb extensions/bulb outs/gateways/neckdowns
are vital for a number of reasons:

- They slow down cars
- Allow for better visibility of peds/bikes
- Space to make streets green/water management
- They are really pretty

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Life on a Dutch Woonerf (Living Street)

When I posted I was headed to The Netherlands once again to visit (and for my first time to Utrecht,) as usual I got a lot of recommendations on what to look at. One of the first people to contact me was Rebecca Albrecht, who moved there with her husband Paul from Boston about three years ago and couldn't be more delighted to live there.

She mentioned she lived on a Dutch play street (woonerf) and when I looked at the photos she had snapped from the window of her bed & breakfast, my first thought was: maybe this would be an opportunity to get a unique angle from residents since I had ridden on so many similar streets in Amsterdam and in Copenhagen but didn't want to be too nosy.

When I arrived the street was full of neighbors and children and they wanted to talk to me about their lovely street. But this is not something exceptional as over 2 million Dutch people live on play/living streets. So take a gander but be warned: you will want the same thing for your block.

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Barcelona’s Superblocks: Change the Grid, Change Your Neighborhood

Two years ago, Barcelona announced it would transform chunks of its street grid to prioritize people over cars. The method: superblocks.

When American planners think of superblocks, they probably think of big parcels that disrupt the pedestrian network and discourage walking. Barcelona's superblocks are different. They only limit motor vehicle movement, which makes walking and biking easier and opens up streets for people to gather.

On Barcelona's superblocks, local access for motor vehicles is still permitted, but through traffic is not. The streets are designed to make drivers feel like they are visitors, with narrow rights-of-way for cars. Almost all car traffic is local residents or people with personal business on the block.

Without dangerous car traffic overrunning the streets, generating noise and pollution, superblocks are full of life. Children can play and explore. Seniors and people with limited mobility can relax and socialize. People -- including young kids -- can feel safe and confident riding bikes.

I visited Barcelona in June, when some of the initial, temporary superblock treatments were being made permanent in a nine-square-block section of the street grid with a lot of public housing in the Poblenou neighborhood. The drone of cars was gone, and you could hear sounds you normally can't in the center of a city. Street life ebbed and flowed through the course of the day and the week.

Barcelona has not installed many superblocks yet. In fact, until recently Poblenou was the only one. A second superblock officially opened in Sant Antoni just days before my arrival, a project tied to the redesign of a public market.

More superblocks are on the way, according to Barcelona officials, with roughly a dozen others in the pipeline. It will be exciting to see this experiment continue to transform Barcelona and show the rest of the world what cities can do when they tame car traffic and put people first.

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Ride the new Connect Historic Boston bike trail

Protected bike lanes are becoming less rare in many U.S. cities and I got to ride a fine new one in the City of Boston. Called the Connect Historic Boston Bike Trail, it is the beginning segment - about two miles so far - of a longer loop that plans to circle the downtown area.

The idea was to connect historic Boston places via a safe bike route that not only commuters could use to get about, but also visitors or residents wanting to further explore the city.

The segment features a lot of good design practices. Where it intersects with driveways or parking lots the drivers are slowed by having to meet the bike lane which has been raised to the level of the sidewalk. It also features ample #freshkermit (that's green paint) in areas to highlight possible conflict areas between motorists and cyclists. Additionally, some intersections have been built with some protection.  And some environmentally friendly bits as well: permeable pavement and a bioswale.

There's one section here tha'ts center running - which, yes, always has its critics - but in this case it makes much more sense to put riders away from crowded sidewalks at North Station/TD Garden. I'd much rather ride in the freedom of the center versus contending with pedestrians and cars. Just imagine this scenario averted.

Big thanks to the good transportation folks from the City of Boston who came out to meet me after work with little notice to take a one hour excursion with Streetfilms!

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Hoboken: Where Safe Intersections Matter More Than a Few Parking Spots

Last week, I happened to be on the other side of the Hudson, cruising the New Jersey waterfront on a Citi Bike, going up from Jersey City to Hoboken and Weehawken, then back.

On the return leg of my trip, I just couldn't believe how comfortable the streets of Hoboken felt as I was biking and walking. One thing stuck out to me: Nearly every intersection has "daylighting," meaning the space approaching the crosswalks is kept clear of cars, so everyone at intersections is more visible to each other. At several intersections in Hoboken, every corner is daylit.

I didn't plan to make a video about daylighting in Hoboken or schedule interviews with city officials. But I had my camera, thinking I could get some nice NYC skyline shots (nope, overcast), and I'm glad I did. I started taping and put together these observations, which I think will be valuable in New York and elsewhere.

Daylighting is a strategy that advocates are well aware of, but city governments hesitate to do it if it means repurposing parking spaces. Even in New York, where most people don't own cars, at a typical intersection drivers are allowed to park right up to the crosswalk, limiting visibility to the detriment of public safety.

Hoboken is showing what a city can do when it prizes safety for everyone above free car storage for a few. It should be the default practice everywhere.

For bonus footage from Hoboken, check out the awesome Observer Highway protected bike lane -- one of the best green lanes I've seen in an American 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.

Read more...

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Stop the Child Murder: Kids Lead the March for Safe Streets

Last night hundreds of New Yorkers marched in Brooklyn for safer streets. In the lead were kids, mourning the loss of other kids — 13-year-old Kevin Flores, 4-year-old Abigail Blumenstein, and 20-month old Joshua Lew were killed by motorists in the first three months of 2018.

In this Streetfilm by Clarence Eckerson Jr., Families for Safe Streets member Amy Cohen — who lost her son Sammy when a driver struck him in 2013 — likens yesterday’s march to the Dutch movement to stop the killing of children with automobiles the 1970s, which led to dramatic and sustained decreases in traffic deaths.

We can reshape our streets and our laws to protect children’s lives too. As you can see in the video, New Yorkers are ready for bold action to prioritize people over cars.

At Monday’s event, city leaders including Council Speaker Corey Johnson pledged to do what it takes to prevent further loss of life on NYC streets. To make good on that commitment, they’ll have to reform a system where even the most basic safety improvements are subject to the whims of people whose top priority is preserving curbside parking.

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Transform Your City With Tactical Urbanism

Tired of waiting for local governments to fix dangerous conditions, in many cities everyday citizens are practicing DIY traffic-calming to make streets safer for walking and biking. Some are forming “Departments of Transformation” to show others how to implement low-cost interventions, like traffic cones, to slow drivers down.

Often these installations are quickly removed by local DOTs, but in other cases, cities are embracing what’s come to be known as “tactical urbanism.” Some cities are making citizen-generated improvements permanent, while others are encouraging the movement by sanctioning, and even sponsoring, tactical urbanism projects.

Watch as we check in with people who are making this happen around the world!

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Riverside, CA Tries Out Pedestrian Scramble Intersections

Go Human is a community outreach and advertising campaign with the goals of reducing traffic collisions in Southern California and encouraging people to walk and bike more. Developed by the Southern California Association of Governments, Go Human implements open streets and pop up events throughout the Southern California region.

Recently in Riverside, CA, the Go Human campaign employed Street Plans & Alta Planning to help install temporary tactical urban installations at two intersections and develop and implement a 3-week pilot for a pedestrian scramble on Mission Inn Avenue and Market Street, considered to be the gateway to the city of Riverside. These efforts are a fun way to help educate and inform city residents while gathering feedback both visual (from city engineers) and written (from users) at kiosks set up by Go Human.  The quick feedback in our Streetfilm shows people seem to love the idea!

Over the years, also known as the Barnes Dance and Diagonal Crosswalks, the NYC Council recently passed legislation that would require having the NYC Dept. of Transportation bring 25 such treatments to high-crash, dangerous intersections in the city.  This is great news.

But let me add this: although Pedestrian Scrambles are an effective implementation in very complicated, high volume places, Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs) - where pedestrians get a 5 to 7 second head start on traffic - are also extremely effective and can be done with a flip of the switch.  NYC DOT has installed many of these in my neighborhood in the past few years.

All in all, the more tools to slow cars and tame the streets, the better.

 

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Sneckdown Legitimized: Real World Applications from NYC Streets

I just got sick of it.

Every time I post a new video on the sneckdown phenomenon, I get all sorts of comments, emails and tweets on social media that it will never work. That you can't justify the idea. That I should "stop hating on cars". That no matter how well done, the video showing sneckdowns 10 feet from the curb that have been there for weeks (that drivers are successful navigating) that they couldn't work. That we still need all the asphalt for video and that pedestrians are second class citizens.

Well thank goodness I had a camera with me as I walking around the city a few days ago! Since by chance I stumbled upon a number of installations the NYC Dept. of Transportation has placed at intersections that are exactly what we would like to see after sneckdown documentation.

Enjoy. I think this really visualizes how effective traffic calming can be.

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#Sneckdowns Before and After: The Final Storm

After a decade of documenting nature's traffic calming, I decided to go out to the snowy streets of Jackson Heights for one final Streetfilm about the craze we helped start: sneckdowns! There's a new wrinkle in this installment -- before-and-after images to show how dramatically the snow changes the dynamic of the street.

If you're new to sneckdowns, it's a portmanteau of "snow" and "neckdown" (a technical term for a corner sidewalk expansion). A nice snowfall constrains the area where motorists take turns and provides clear visual evidence of where street space can be repurposed for walking instead of driving, creating much safer intersections in the process.

Sneckdown spotting is now a global phenomenon. To get a sense of how it all started, you may want to check out the first two Streetfilms in the series:

And the rest is history -- which I recapped in this post from 2014.

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Great Streets: Walking Burlington’s Church Street

From the beautiful photos of its major car-free shopping street, I've always been intrigued by Burlington, VT. While looking for a destination to bring our young son for his first airplane trip, we opted to go explore via a one hour flight to Burlington.

It's a very lovely small city and as you'll see Church Street did not disappoint. We spent a good deal of our time there. It was a vacation but my wife allowed me a few hours to shoot a little video and an interview.

One thing that did not make the final cut, was the story of how the marketplace came to be. I will type it verbatim for you from the historical markers that bound the street.

In 1962 architecture student Bill Truex experienced the transformation of Straget, Copenhagen's main shopping area, from traffic-snarled nightmare to successful pedestrian mall. Seven years later, while on the Burlington Planning Commission, Truex enlisted support from Pat Robins of the Street Commission and together they promoted turning Church Street into a pedestrian district. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and his chief of staff, Paul Bruhn, secured a federal grant and Burlington voters, with support from Mayor Gordon Paquette, passed a bond for the city's share of construction costs. The Church Street Marketplace, which opened on September 15, 1981 has been described as a the gem in the crown of the Queens City of Burlington.

What's amazing of course is how much further Copenhagen has gone in the years since the 1960s. Church Street is a great street and more U.S. cities need the heart of their downtowns to look the same.

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Sneckdown: The Streetfilms Comic Strip!

screenshot267

This year in NYC we had one giant #Blizzard2016 but little other snow to speak of.  The region as a whole has missed out on the train of traditional nor'easters that dump feet of snow on the D.C.-Baltimore-Philly-NYC-Boston megalopolis.  This year #sneckdown hunting was certainly down.

But we still wanted to get this fantastic comic strip on sneckdowns that my brother Gary put together out in front of the masses (and we'll probably be using it every season anyway!) It's a real unique way to have a little humor and educate the public on traffic calming and Vision Zero. In fact, we are hoping to raise a little bit of funding so we can do this on different transportation terms maybe monthly. So hopefully more to come. Enjoy and click the image below to embiggen.

sneckdown

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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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Central London Streets Transformed: A Walking Tour with Iain Simmons

While filming an exciting Streetfilms update about the progress of the "20's Plenty" campaign in the UK, I got to interview Iain Simmons, assistant director of city transportation for the City Of London. What was originally supposed to be a few short clips for that piece turned into an unexpectedly generous two-hour walking tour of central London! I seized the opportunity and kept the camera rolling. The result is this "bonus" Streetfilm.

We did quite a bit of impromptu touring, looking at sidewalks that have been widened, traffic calming techniques that keep speeds at 20 mph, and one of London's next generation of protected bike lanes under construction.

What I found most refreshing was hearing a public official speak so candidly about how we need to accommodate people first and not cars. Mr. Simmons emphasizes the lesson cities have learned over and over: While skeptics always predict "everything will start to fall apart" when new bike lanes, sidewalk extensions, and traffic calming street redesigns are proposed, "the reality is it never, ever, ever does."