An Open Letter to the People of Nassau County

TSTC recently received an email with the attached letter from Westbury, Long Island resident Kevin Lucas, along with a note informing us that it had been sent to “a number of public officials, interest groups, and media organizations” with the hope of creating an opportunity for dialogue on the subject.

Though local leaders are pursuing policies to increase road safety across Nassau County, the true challenge is how to bring about cultural change. While Complete Streets policies are a politically visible means of demonstrating commitment to the cause, they are not as visible to motorists as the installation of dedicated infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians, which serve to convey to drivers the message that the roadway is for sharing. It’s time for the state and local governments to hit the pavement and start walking their Complete Streets talk.

A couple of weeks ago my wife began joining me on my daily runs, except she follows along on her bicycle. And even though the run is only a mile, and is over in less than ten minutes, it has been a fulfilling and fun bonding experience for us. The runs instantly stopped feeling like a daily chore, and I looked forward to them. The way she encouraged me every day made me feel like we were Rocky and Mickey. This was going to be our daily routine. That is until July 12, 2014, at 8AM, when a man pulled up beside my wife in his car to tell her she was stupid for riding her bike in the street.

We moved to Long Island, Westbury to be exact, in February and for the most part we’ve enjoyed it here. We do not drive, by choice, and we knew that the area was suburban in nature before arriving. And although this has proved somewhat difficult we enjoy walking and the increased distances between necessities has not deterred us from walking to them. In fact, we’ve found certain stretches to be enjoyable on foot, despite being poorly designed for pedestrians. Mostly, the only consistent issues we’ve faced are lawn sprinklers spraying directly onto the sidewalks, pushing us into the street; and inattentive drivers failing to yield, particularly when turning right.

With this in mind I thought it would be nice for us to get bikes. Neither of us are cyclists, and only I had ever even really used a bike to get around before at any point in my life. She was nervous, but I assured her that it would be fine, that in a way it was safer than walking because drivers can see you better in the road. After all, everyone who drives learned how to properly give way to bicycles and pedestrians, to properly and safely pass, and to share the road. Plus, we would keep to the neighborhood streets. There would be no braving the traffic on Old Country Road. We just wanted to get around a little quicker, not make a statement. The busiest road on which we would travel was Maple/Westbury Avenue. Anything more than that and we would get off and walk our bikes. Once we got our bikes the apprehension quickly gave way to excitement. This was going to be fun, or so we thought.
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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

New Amtrak baggage cars feature roll-on bike storage. | Photo: blog.amtrak.com

New Amtrak baggage cars feature roll-on bike storage. | Photo: blog.amtrak.com

WINNERS

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo – This morning Governor Cuomo signed into law a piece of legislation that authorizes the expansion of speed camera use on Long Island, saying that “By empowering Nassau and Suffolk Counties to install dozens of speed cameras in school zones, we are helping to protect our students and ultimately save lives. This should send a message to all drivers – slow down and obey the speed limit, especially when passing by a school.”

Hopewell Township, NJ – The township became the 100th municipality in the Garden State to embrace Complete Streets and the first municipality to do so by way of a Complete Streets ordinance. According to the Township Administrator/Engineer Paul Pogorzelski, “we decided that this policy should be in the form of an ordinance and have the weight of law rather than simply be part of a resolution which does not transcend governing body changes. “

Amtrak - Amtrak announced that they have begun testing new bike-friendly baggage cars to alleviate passengers of the hassle of boxing and checking their bikes as luggage. These baggage cars, which are manufactured in New York state, are expected to be put into service on all 15 long-distance routes by the end of this year.

New Jersey Transit – The agency has unofficially launched its first-ever one seat ride summer shore rail service from Penn Station to Bay Head using new energy-efficient dual-powered locomotives. Riders will save 25 minutes by not having to change trains at Long Branch, which will likely boost ridership to the shore and alleviate summer parking in shore towns. » Continue reading…

Tennessee Adopts NACTO Guidelines; Still Waiting on New York, New Jersey and Connecticut

The NACTO "Urban Street Design Guide" provides detailed guidance on how to create vibrant streets that accommodate all road users as safely as possible. Image Source: NACTO

The NACTO Urban Street Design Guide provides detailed guidance on how to create vibrant streets that accommodate all road users as safely as possible. | Image: NACTO

Tennessee recently became the sixth state to formally endorse the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Street Design GuideThe guide provides technical standards that departments of transportation can use to create streets that safely accommodate all road users, including pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders. Thirty-seven cities, including New York City, and six states have adopted NACTO standards, but New York State, New Jersey and Connecticut are not included in this list.

Leaders in Tennessee have set an example for the rest of the nation by publicly stating the goal of “having the best multimodal transportation system in the nation.” They have also taken an innovative approach to transportation planning by aligning transportation projects with public health goals and implementing transportation investment strategies that prioritize pedestrian and bicyclist projects and public transportation over building new roads.

It’s encouraging to note that until recently, places such as metropolitan Nashville were on a similar trajectory to much of the nation by building infrastructure that promoted suburban sprawl development, but have since responded to the demand for walkable, higher density development by planning for growth along existing corridors and downtowns. Analysis of recent commercial real estate trends shows that walkable urban and suburban places demand a 74 percent rental premium over auto-dominated suburban areas. Likewise, 85 percent of all recently built rental apartments have been built in walkable urban places.

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Next Week: Connecticut Complete Streets Roundtable

Save the date for Bike Walk Connecticut‘s first-ever Complete Streets Leadership Roundtable!

On Monday, June 30,  planners, engineers, advocates and public safety officials from communities across the state will gather to exchange ideas and learn about how to make Connecticut’s cities and towns better places for all users of the road.

When:   Monday, June 30 [...]

Dan Burden, Advocates Lead Walking Audit on One of Long Island’s Most Dangerous Roads

The group crosses Sunrise Highway in Freeport. | Photo: Samantha Thomas/WALC

Dan Burden, a national authority on traffic, pedestrian safety and street design, led a walking audit with local elected officials, civic groups and advocates along Sunrise Highway in Valley Stream, Baldwin and Freeport on Thursday.

Sunrise Highway, a multi-lane thoroughfare that runs through each community’s downtown, [...]

Suffolk County Legislators Adopt a Complete Streets Implementation Fund

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Calarco | Photo: suffolkcountyny.gov

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Calarco | Photo: suffolkcountyny.gov

The Suffolk County Legislature voted today to establish a Complete Streets Implementation Fund behind the leadership of Legislator Rob Calarco and Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory. The 17-1 vote creates an amendment to the County’s 2015-2017 Capital Program, which will provide a yearly allotment of $250,000 to redesign the County’s roadways to more safely accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and motorists, beginning in 2016 and continuing each subsequent year.

Tri-State, along with the AARP and Vision Long Island and other safe streets advocates have been calling for the creation of such a fund since the County’s Complete Streets policy was adopted a year and a half ago.

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NYPD Must Do More to Fill Gaps in Vital Crash Data Recording

NYPD must record crash information accurately in order to achieve Vision Zero. Image: Streetsblog

NYPD must record crash information accurately in order to achieve Vision Zero. Image: Streetsblog

Since the release of New York City’s much-anticipated comprehensive crash dataset earlier this month, community members, advocates, and other proponents for safer streets can more easily access traffic crash data to advocate for safer streets. Opening crash data in this format is an integral step towards Vision Zero’s success.

As the City continues to outline next steps towards eliminating traffic deaths, the public can now view the NYPD-provided dataset, which includes information on all vehicle crashes dating back to July 1, 2012. Its 332,871 records (as of May 20,2014) contains date, time, number of persons/pedestrians/cyclists/motorists involved (broken out by injury and fatality), as well as geographic information. Of the 332,871 records within this period, 28,244 represent vehicle crashes that involved pedestrians or cyclists (or both).

Of particular interest when looking at crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists was the “Contributing Factor” attribute, which is what the investigating officer indicated as a factor in what caused the crash. This attribute could help us understand the true causes of crashes, but the dataset leaves a lot to be desired.

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Suffolk County Set to Establish a Complete Streets Fund

Suffolk County is poised to fund the implementation of complete streets infrastructure, like the sidewalk and bike lane in the Town of Brookhaven, Long Island, pictured here. | Photo: Ryan Lynch/TSTC

The Suffolk County Legislature is poised to fund the implementation of complete streets infrastructure, like this new sidewalk and bike lane in the Town of Brookhaven, Long Island. | Photo: Liz Krolik-Alexander

After repeated calls from Tri-State and safe street allies for additional funding for complete streets implementation in Suffolk County, it appears the County Legislature is primed to create a Complete Streets Fund in its 2015-2017 Capital Program. Scheduled for a final vote tomorrow, the proposed amendment to the Capital Program calls for $250,000 a year – beginning in 2016 and each subsequent year – to be dedicated to building infrastructure that enhances the mobility and safety of all users of Suffolk’s roads.

The amendment has been championed by Legislator Rob Calarco and supported by Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory as a means of facilitating the implementation of the County’s complete streets law adopted in December of 2012.

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Advocates Call on Suffolk County to Fund Complete Streets Implementation in Capital Plan

Advocates called on the Suffolk County Legislature to fund the implementation of Complete Streets this week. | Photo: Ryan Lynch

Advocates called on the Suffolk County Legislature to fund the implementation of Complete Streets this week. | Photo: Ryan Lynch

Suffolk County is home to some of the deadliest roads for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists in the region. According to a Tri-State Transportation Campaign analysis of federal data, 122 pedestrians were killed along roads in Suffolk County from 2010-2012, with the Suffolk County portion of Jericho Turnpike seeing 16 pedestrian fatalities alone. According to Governor Cuomo’s Traffic Safety Committee, 278 motorists and passengers, and 22 cyclists were killed during the same time period. 52,000 non-fatal injuries occurred as a result of almost 90,000 crashes from 2010-2012.

Suffolk County adopted a Complete Streets law in 2012, but implementation of the law is still in its early stages. One reason for the delay is a lack of available funding. The federal transportation bill, MAP-21, cut dedicated walking and biking infrastructure investment by 30 percent while New York State plans to spend less than one percent of its transportation dollars on pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. This represents a reduction of more than $100 million — a 40 percent cut — in its 2014-2017 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) as compared to 2011-2014.  In Region 10 on Long Island, planned spending on walking and biking projects will be cut by 24 percent over the next four years, resulting in a paltry .57 percent of the regional allocation of transportation dollars for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

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Why Queens’ Woodhaven Boulevard is a Prime Opportunity to Implement Full Bus Rapid Transit

Woodhaven Boulevard cross-section with proposed offset bus lanes. | Image: NYCDOT/MTA

Residents, advocates and bus riders gathered last week to kick off the community engagement process for Queens’ first Select Bus Service (SBS) route. The meeting was held to solicit participants’ transportation concerns along the Woodhaven Boulevard corridor and to describe the benefits of SBS.

Although the plans for enhanced bus service are not set in stone, the MTA and New York City Department of Transportation showed examples of offset and curbside bus lanes along Woodhaven Boulevard along with other SBS treatments that have been implemented on six SBS routes throughout the city: painted bus lanes, off-board fare payment, traffic signal priority and pedestrian safety infrastructure. Existing SBS routes have demonstrated that these modest changes do in fact yield benefits such as increased bus travel speeds between 5-20 percent, decreased traffic congestion, higher economic activity and improved pedestrian safety — but it’s time to raise the bar.

Woodhaven’s infamously wide corridor presents an opportunity to move SBS beyond the status quo toward full-fledged bus rapid transit (BRT). One key BRT feature not yet utilized on the existing SBS routes is center median or physically separated bus lanes.

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