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Posts tagged "Traffic Calming"

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20’s Plenty: The Movement for Safer Speeds in the UK

Five years ago, Streetfilms was in the UK town of Warrington to talk with the great folks behind 20's Plenty For Us, a largely volunteer group trying to get speed limits reduced to 20 mph. The first film drew broad interest in the 20's Plenty movement, and on a recent trip I caught up with them again.

Founder Rod King MBE reports some amazing statistics: More than 14 million residents of the UK now live on streets with speed limits of 20 mph or less, including 3 million in London. Despite being a very small organization, 20's Plenty has empowered 263 local campaigns across the UK asking for 20 mph streets. The film captures some of the impact of 20's Plenty in Central London, Liverpool, and Cambridge. It's amazing to see energized volunteers deploying all sorts of creativity to get the message out: stickers, banners, yarn-bombing, children's art, t-shirts. The success has been remarkable.

20's Plenty is now campaigning for "Total 20 By 2020" -- the goal of making most of the streets in the entire country 20 mph. For viewers in the United States, this film is like a road map for building public support and getting your community energized around lower speed limits.

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Fort Worth Turned Two Parking Lots Into Sundance Square Plaza

While in Dallas for the CNU23 conference this May, I wanted to explore. It was my second time there in less than a year, and I wanted to see if Fort Worth was much different than the tough-to-be-a-pedestrian conditions I was experiencing in Dallas. I spoke to some folks at Project for Public Spaces (PPS) who convinced me that I needed to go see Sundance Square Plaza, which PPS President Fred Kent has called one of the best squares in the world.

I was glad I went. Sundance Square Plaza is a bold, beautiful space filled with energy. As PPS wrote soon after the plaza opened in 2013:

Where once there were two parking lots on either side of Main Street in the center of downtown Fort Worth, there is now the much-loved and much-used Sundance Square. The Square has become an integral part of the downtown Fort Worth experience, hosting events both large and small, and taking on an increasing role in the life of the city.

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Watch what this group of frustrated Vision Zero activists did to get their Community Board’s attention!

For many years, residents of Manhattan's Community Board 7 have been frustrated by the lack of transportation initiative from the leaders of their board. So after many years of trying to work within the boundaries of the system they decided to stage a silent sign protest at February's board meeting.

Since Community Board members are rarely not re-appointed, their positions are essentially for life - meaning that newer and progressive ideas often aren't seriously considered. On the Upper West Side residents are sick and tired of the transportation arm of their board voting against sensible traffic calming and livable streets measures that save lives.

 

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The #Sneckdown at the end of my Street

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The original photo from Streetsblog's Tuesday post.

On Tuesday, Streetsblog did a post of photos of the latest round of #sneckdown madness sweeping the nation. I posted one (above) of a sneckdown at end of my street in Jackson Heights, Queens, the corner of 34th Avenue & 85th Street. It was pretty typical of what intersections looked like that morning following the pseudo-Blizzard in my nabe.

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A much dirtier sneckdown two and half days later, but functioning exactly the same.

It's now over 52 hours since the snow stopped falling so I went back and snapped some updates. Comparing the Tuesday and today photos there's really not much difference (except it's dirtier and wetter). We still have the SE corner (the turning corner) with essentially a ten foot snow extension from the curb. The closest tire track thru the snow is approximately 8 feet from the curb.

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This tire track is the closest groove thru the snow. It is still 8 feet from the curb.

Some critics of the sneckdown phenomenon cite that it fails to take in to account larger vehicle turns. This is why it is important to use a little moxie in your documentation. If the sneckdown hangs around days after the initial snowfall, you'll have more anecdotal evidence the street is overbuilt. NYC has been largely back to normal for the better part of two days. There are still large piles of ice & snow calming traffic.  The pace of cars is a bit slower. Good news for everyone except those who might want to drive more dangerously.

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A truck makes the turn from 85th Street onto 34th Avenue as easily it would on a clear day.

I've observed all kinds of vehicles easily make the turn on my block (which by the way could be considered more challenging since there's a median on 34th Avenue that makes the turn sharper - see photo.) I've seen SUVs, vans, long furniture delivery trucks, postal trucks and even a mini bus make the turn. Not a problem.  (I admit I have not seen a firetruck to those who will naysay.)

Okay, yes, the sneckdown is not an absolute 1:1 ratio. But it's a conversation starter. It shows evidence where streets are seriously overbuilt and where modifications could help pedestrians. Of course I wouldn't advocate for 10 foot curb extensions on this block. Or even 8. But 5 or 6 feet is certainly a reality.

Finally, check out below the progression of what traffic calming does and the sneckdown simulates in this triptych.  This parent starts crossing 34th Avenue with her child as the car waits patiently on 85th since they cannot make that turn so sharply. Then the car makes its turn. We can do this in so many places if we have the will and funds.

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Light goes green. Car waits. Pedestrian crosses with child.

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Car makes slow turn around sneckdown/curb extension.

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Driver heads towards the light on 86th Street, which in all likelihood probably will be red anyway - so there is no rush to make the turn in the first place.

So get out there and document. And if you want more info on how to do it and inspire others, go to ioby right now where Streetfilms & Sneckdowns are featured in their 5 x 5 Getting Good Done in the Cold & Snow. Download the PDF for more #sneckdown tips. And keep posting on Twitter!

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The Complete Origin of the #Sneckdown

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Nearly everywhere in the livable streets world you look, the sneckdown phenomenon is growing - with hundreds of photos tagged #sneckdown on Twitter in the last month.

Although the majority of  news articles & blogging sites have done a commendable job spreading the word, there's still a bit of confusion about the origin of the term and how it all started up.  So let's clear that up.

About me: I've been shooting video since the late 1990s, always looking for interesting ways to explain transportation concepts to people. At first it was a hobby. In 2003, it morphed in to a full time job. During that time I learned much from volunteering with Transportation Alternatives and at some point I most certainly read this article in their monthly magazine which spoke about snow calming on curb corners.

(And if we want to delve back further, I've been told by friends that they had professors in urban planning courses talking about observing the patterns of footprints and vehicles in the snow, some as early as the mid-1990s. Dan Burden adds this wonderful bit of history. And somewhere l feel like Jane Jacobs must have pondered this too.)

I lived in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. I was frustrated with our Community Board always being resistant to the concept of traffic calming. They'd come up with ridiculous reasons against sensible implementations.  Then one day in 2006 we had one of the largest NYC snowstorms ever and I decided to go walk around and record this: Street Lessons from a Blizzard.

I got a lot of positive feedback on that short. But in the back of my mind, I wanted to do a more serious Streetfilm, one that focussed on slowing down traffic in crosswalks and making the case for putting in curb extensions, or as some wonky traffic experts referred to as "neckdowns".  In 2011, now living in Queens, I shot a sequel finding that some of these collections of snow - which I have referred to as "nature's tracing paper " - are nearly 10 feet out from the curb!  At one point I improvised the term "snowy neckdowns" when describing them, which was used in the title of this Streetfilm.

Both videos were moderate hits, attracting periodic attention from fans & advocates - some emailing me or tweeting the occasional photo(s). During this time Doug Gordon, from Brooklyn Spoke, was a regular contributor trying to rally folks to do the same.

Sneckdown Twitter

Then suddenly, interest in the videos climbed in December, most likely due to the copious winter snowstorms rolling across the U.S. One day before an impending storm was due to hit the northeast, Doug Gordon suggested we needed a hashtag for encouraging posting of a new batch of photos. As you can see from the above Twitter screenshot, Aaron Naparstek, Streetsblog founder and former Editor-in-Chief suggested #sneckdown, a portmanteau of "snowy neckdowns".

It was perfect. The hashtag got people psyched. And it got even more people curious. "What the heck is a #sneckdown?" was a frequent tweet I'd attempt to answer in 140 characters. Then the news stories started. The first big one was by the BBC.  That was followed by many more media reports and a few radio interviews.

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Credit: Nels Nelson

Read more...

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A Montreal Intersection Morphs Into a Wonderful Neighborhood Space

On a Bixi bike excursion to get some ice cream in Montreal, my wife and I stumbled upon the intersection of Fairmount Avenue and Rue Clark, recently upgraded with colorful new street furniture, traffic calming treatments, and a two-way protected bike lane. The space is teeming with street life. When you arrive at this lovely place your first instinct is to stop, sit down, and enjoy.

This intersection is a prime example of how a neighborhood street should cater to people. All local streets should strive to make pedestrians feel welcome, slow traffic speeds with physical infrastructure, and provide art and greenery wherever possible.

Since we were only there for a short time and could dig up only scant information online, I don’t have much backstory to share about how this space was created. If anyone can provide more info in the comments, please fill us in.

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MBA: Road Diet

What’s a road diet? Quite simply, traffic-calming expert Dan Burden told Streetfilms, “A road diet is anytime you take any lane out of a road.”

The first time people hear about a road diet, their initial reaction likely goes something like this: “How can removing lanes improve my neighborhood and not cause traffic backups?” It seems counterintuitive, but taking away lanes can actually help traffic flow smoother while improving safety for everyone.

Road diets are good for pedestrians: They reduce speeding and make vehicle movements more predictable while shortening crossing distances, usually through curb extensions or center median islands. They’re good for cyclists: Many road diets shift space from car lanes to create bike lanes. They’re good for drivers: Less speeding improves safety for motorists and passengers, and providing left-turn pockets allows through traffic to proceed without shifting lanes or waiting behind turning vehicles.

And here’s something to keep in mind during this era of lean budgets: Road diets are a highly-effective infrastructure improvement that can be implemented quickly and at low cost.

Streetfilms would like to thank The Fund for the Environment & Urban Life for making this series possible.

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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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Portland’s Bike Boulevards Become Neighborhood Greenways

Transportation planners in Portland, Oregon are taking their famous bicycle boulevards to the next level. By adding more routes and stepping up the traffic calming treatments, the city is not only making these streets more attractive and usable for cyclists, but also for pedestrians, runners, children, and anyone else who gets around under their own power.

These next-generation facilities have been christened “Neighborhood Greenways,” and by 2015, over 80 percent of all Portlanders will live within half a mile of one. The city is counting on these re-engineered streets to reach its goal of increasing bicycle mode share from eight percent to 25 percent by 2030.

Just about anybody who’s biked one of these routes can testify to the safety and peace you experience. You’ll see scores of families and children riding to school with regularity. At any time of day, there’s a constant buzz of activity, and during rush hours you’ll see many more bikes than cars. As Portland Mayor Sam Adams points out, “They’re on a quiet street, where that bike boulevard is prioritized for the bike, not the car.”

On a final fun note, one day Portland may also be able to lay claim to being the birthplace of the “sharrow flower.” What’s that? You’ll just have to take watch this Streetfilm and find out.

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Revisiting Donald Appleyard’s Livable Streets

You may have wondered, while watching a Streetfilm or reading a post on Streetsblog, where we got the term "livable streets."FTGMlogo4web

The answer can be found in the work of Donald Appleyard, a scholar who studied the neighborhood environment and the ways planning and design can make life better for city residents. In 1981, Appleyard published "Livable Streets" based on his research into how people experience streets with different traffic volumes.  The Second Edition of Livable Streets will be published by Routledge Press in 2011.

Today we're revisiting Appleyard's work in the second installment of our series, "Fixing the Great Mistake." This video explores three studies in "Livable Streets" that measured, for the first time, the effect of traffic on our social interactions and how we perceive our own homes and neighborhoods.

"Fixing the Great Mistake" is a new Streetfilms series that examines what went wrong in the early part of the 20th Century, when our cities began catering to the automobile, and how those decisions continue to affect our lives today.

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Traffic Calming Postcards from London

Judging by recent comments from some local pols, you'd think the addition of pedestrian spaces and bikeways in New York City has somehow thrown our streets out of whack. But what would our streets look like if we really did balance everyone's needs and made them safe and functional for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists?

In this Streetfilm, you'll see some of the new street designs in London shopping districts and residential neighborhoods. In many cases, these traffic calming treatments -- including raised crosswalks, traffic diverters, and chicanes -- go further than what we've seen in New York City so far. The attention to detail has created a truly balanced street environment, enhancing safety for pedestrians and cyclists while maintaining access for the trucks and cars that need to use the road.

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The Taming and Reclaiming of Prospect Park West

Up until this summer, speeding was the norm on Brooklyn's Prospect Park West. With three wide lanes inviting motorists to hit the accelerator, it was a street monopolized by car traffic. That changed in a big way in June, when NYC DOT converted one vehicle lane to a two-way bikeway separated from traffic by the parking lane. Physically separated bike lanes are making New York safer for cyclists and pedestrians wherever they're installed, and this one is no exception.

The new lane feels safe and comfortable to ride on, no matter how much experience you may have as a cyclist, and it's attracting riders of all ages. For everyone walking to and from Prospect Park, the street re-design means slower cars -- compliance with the speed limit is up by a factor of five, according to a study by Park Slope Neighbors -- and safer crossings at intersections.

The transformation has been dramatic, and like any major change to the street, this one has attracted some vocal critics -- most notably Borough President Marty Markowitz.  While some opponents contend that the lane has been installed without public input, the truth is that community groups have been calling for traffic calming and safer biking on this street for years. Watch and see how the new Prospect Park West has made good on those demands.

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Copenhagen’s Car-Free Streets & Slow-Speed Zones

In Copenhagen, you never have to travel very far to see a beautiful public space or car-free street packed with people soaking up the day.  In fact, since the early 1960s, 18 parking lots in the downtown area have been converted into public spaces for playing, meeting, and generally just doing things that human beings enjoy doing. If you're hungry, there are over 7,500 cafe seats in the city.

But as you walk and bike the city, you also quickly become aware of something else: Most Copenhagen's city streets have a speed limit of 30 to 40 km/h (19 to 25 mph).  Even more impressive, there are blocks in some neighborhoods with limits as low as 15 km/h (9 mph) where cars must yield to residents.  Still other areas are "shared spaces" where cars, bikes and pedestrians mix freely with no stress, usually thanks to traffic calming measures (speed bumps are popular), textured road surfaces and common sense.

We charmed you last month with our look at bicycling in Copenhagen, now sit back and watch livable streets experts Jan Gehl and Gil Penalosa share their observations about pedestrian life. You'll also hear Ida Auken, a member of Denmark's Parliament, and Niels Tørsløv, traffic director for the City of Copenhagen, talk about their enthusiasm for street reclamation and its effect on their city.

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Transformando las Calles de Nueva York: Una conversación con Janette Sadik-Khan

Desde que empezó en su nuevo puesto como comisaria del Departamento de Transporte en la mitad del año 2007, Janette Sadik-Khan se retó a transformar las calles de Nueva York. Se reto a mejorar la comodidad y seguridad vial para peatones y ciclistas y a reorientar el foco del departamento al diseño de calles para múltiple medios de transporte. Empleando conceptos innovadores, la comisaria y su equipo lograron muchos cambios a favor de ciudadanos en poco tiempo. Para definir esta nueva dirección, el departamento tomó lecciones de otras ciudades - como Bogotá, Colombia y Copenhague, Dinamarca que lograron transformar sus sistemas de transporte - para crear su propio modelo para revolucionar el sistema de transporte en Nueva York.
En esta entrevista exclusiva, la comisaria conversa con Mark Gorton, el director ejecutivo de “The Open Planning Project” acerca de algunos de sus proyectos a corto plazo que aún logrados en poco tiempo, han mejorado totalmente el ambiente de la ciudad. Estos proyectos incluyen la nueva cicloruta en la 9o avenida, plazas para peatones en Madison Square y Broadway, vías exclusivas para los buses en carreteras principales y un evento exitoso estilo Ciclovía.

To watch in English without subtitles click here.

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Rethinking Streets in Paris

Back in July I made a video about Paris' public bicycle system, Velib. Its success must in part be credited to the provisions made for safe cycling and the understood "street code," where users are responsible for others whose vehicles are lighter than their own.

This video explores traffic calming amenities Paris has installed. For example, in several areas of Paris curbs have been removed and bikes, pedestrians, buses and taxis coexist at low speeds. On wider roads bikes share the BRT lanes with buses and taxis. Counter-flow bike lanes expand the bike network. Raised crosswalks and neckdowns slow traffic and make pedestrians more visible at intersections. Watch for more.