Join Us to Beautify our New Extra-Wide Sidewalk

This is not everyday that we get a brand new sidewalk, let alone a sidewalk that has taken over a full parking lane!

Not only is there such a sidewalk on the north side of 36th street between 9th and Dyer Avenues, but NYC Department of Transportation and artist John Locke will beautify the barriers with a unique design at the northwest intersection of 36th Street and 9th Avenue under the Community Commissions Urban Art Program.

Beautify the Sidewalk
Saturday, April 12, 2014, 9:00 a.m.
Northwest intersection of 36th Street and 9th Avenue

Final Design

Volunteers interested in participating in the painting of the barriers can gather at this intersection and speak with DOT Representative, Courtney Mulligan (on-site) in order to sign an “Artwork Volunteer Release Form” and join the painters.

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Vision Zero: Learn more

Slide1We attended the Vision Zero announcement in front of the victims families on the left and many elected officials including Borough President Gale Brewer on the right, Council member Helen Rosenthal and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal amongst others. Amongst the  63 recommendations: the administration pledges to fix 50 dangerous intersections a year, and provide better driver education. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton indicated that 70% of pedestrian deaths and injuries were due to drivers’  carelessness , speeding or refusal to yield and that will be the focus of his enforcement campaign. Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Bill Bratton indicated that enforcement of jaywalking is NOT part of the plan, but still at precincts’ discretion.

Of particular interest was the number of initiatives that include community consultation:

  • Develop borough-wide safety plans in close coordination with community boards, community organizations, and the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit
  • Conduct intensive street-level outreach and enforcement on safety problems and traffic laws, focused in areas with known crash histories
  • Launch a Vision Zero website to gather input from New Yorkers
  • Modify precinct-level traffic plans to increase focus on pedestrian safety

For us activists for pedestrian safety, this moment in history is exhilarating. But it is not the time to relax  : this plan must become a reality, our voices need to be heard,  compete for scarce resources and secure speedy implementation.  Join us at this event to learn more and speak up :

Senator Brad Hoylman Presents “Counting down to Vision Zero”
Tuesday , February 25, 2014, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. 
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th Street, 6th Floor ( 8/9)


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Join Us: Families for Safe Streets

Tomorrow Sunday at 2 p.m. on City Hall Steps to launch”Families For Safe Streets”  created by relatives of traffic victims. Another milestone, to ensure that Vision Zero becomes reality . Never Again.


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Reclaiming Sidewalk Space

In the last four weeks, our volunteers in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen took an inventory of sidewalk obstructions. They identified  423 (!) illegal obstructions.

The obstructions include storm enclosures as large as a studio apartment, the ubiquitous sandwich boards in bands of 2 or 3,  cafe furniture left in the snow, advertising, hand trucks, shopping carts, products (half the store) etc.. You name it, it is on the sidewalk !

This list has been sent to our Council Member to obtain enforcement. 8th and 9th Avenues are of particular concern since the sidewalks there are significantly narrower than on the other avenues  and pedestrian often have to jaywalk because of the sidewalk crowding.

Thank you to Will Rogers, Burt Lazarin, Ernest Modarelli, George Forbes, David Solnick and Mark Robinson for going out in the freezing weather for this much needed inventory.

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Top 10 Reasons for Jaywalking

# 10 – I cannot move forward:  there are hordes of people coming at me

# 9  - Where do I cross ? the crossing between avenues is so far away, I cannot even see it!

# 8  - Sidewalks are dangerous:  they look like my neighbor’s lawn:  too many useless things make you trip and fall

# 7  - I am not an Olympian: pushing a wheelchair through ped ramp trenches requires too much upper body strength!

# 6  -  Second hand smoking: patrons outside bars and sidewalk cafe block the way

# 5  -  I can’t afford walking on Sidewalks: I ruin my heels every time I walk on ConEd grids

# 4  -  I am not a rat:  why should I walk next to mounds of garbage?

# 3  -  I do not want to die: traffic agents wave turning drivers into my path

# 2  -  I can’t swim: with rain or snow, I can’t get over the rivers at the crossing

# 1  -  I want to live: turning drivers are out there to get me!

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Speak Up at this historical moment: Vision Zero: How to get there

In the next two weeks ,  a multi departments working group convened by Mayro DiBlasio to figure how to get to Vision Zero (zero vehicular deaths or serious injuries ) will release its findings. For all of us activists in the field of pedestrian safety, this moment in history is exhilarating. But it is not the time to relax and let the agencies decide our fate: remember that the usual suspects are writing the report: DOT engineers who cannot stand giving up any traffic time and the NYPD who loves to erect pedestrian barriers and give tickets for jaywalking!

We need to seize this unique opportunity to shape the agenda based on the communities’ experience on the ground. We are fortunate that this administration and all our elected officials are ready to listen: the time is now for the public to tell what we need and engage our elected officials to speak up on our behalf.

What do we need?:

To cross the street without conflict with cars
To cross the street when it rains or snows
A crossing when we need to cross long blocks on two-way streets
More space on sidewalks
Much less honking
Less gridlock
Drivers who hurt or kill us to go to jail and lose their vehicle

Join us at these three events to speak up :

Borough President Gale Brewer and Transportation Alternatives:
Realizing Vision Zero In Manhattan
Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Office of MBP Brewer, 1 Center Street, 19th Floor.

Joint Hearing of City Council Committees of Transportation and Safety:
Oversight: Preventing Traffic Fatalities: Examining the Vision Zero Working Group’s Report
Monday, February 24, 2014 – 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 pm
Council Chambers, City Hall

Senator Brad Hoylman Presents ” “Counting down to Vision Zero”
Tuesday , February 25, 2014, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th Street, 6th Floor ( 8/9)


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Superbowl’s Green Dividend

Yes the Superbowl was awful. Per Crain’s poll: 58% of respondents said: “Awful game, uninspired advertisements. Move along. Nothing to see here”. Let’s not forget that for a few days it completely gridlocked 9th Avenue and we had to endure hours of Homeland Security helicopters hovering over our windows. New Yorkers were miserable as the real life was sucked away from New York and an artificial one took its place.

IMG_3010But there were a few silver linings: the Garment District BID had to relocate all its planters to make space for the Super Bowl boulevard and was kind enough to donate 25 additional planters  to green Dyer Triangle. Thank you to Barbara Randall and Leigh Harvey for their generosity! there are now 65 planters on the plaza. Our next step will be to add trees and shrubs to augment shading and privacy.


And then on a larger scale, this was the first “Mass Transit Superbowl” and it (mostly)worked. Demonstrating that such a car centric event – one that embodies so much of the cultural identity of the nation – could be sold out and successful without cars is a very significant milestone.

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Pedestrian delight! 57th Street and 9th Avenue soon to be safer

New York city DOT just notified us that this coming spring, it will change the timing of the left turning light for the 57th street westbound traffic from the beginning of the green cycle where cars conflict with pedestrians to the end of the green cycle which minimizes the conflicts .

This is terrific news for this intersection which is so dangerous. There were 144 Collisions over 29 months at 9th Avenue and W57th Street with 19 pedestrian/bicyclists injuries (NYPD stats).  

It was not easy: CHEKPEDS had identified this measure called a lagging green turn arrow, as critical in November 2003 and has advocated for it at every chance ever since. In the Hell’s Kitchen Traffic Study, in the Senior DOT study and in the Westside Study that covered 57th Street.

Dan Leers, member of the CHEKPEDS board, took the lead last year on elevating this issue, with a letter to the DOT, a CB4 letter to the DOT, and  a Council Member Gale Brewer’s letter to the DOT on this matter. You can imagine how many phone calls had to be made to get a result.

Bravo to Dan for his persistence and let’s keep an eye on this change. We want to see it installed before we celebrate.


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Jaywalking: it’s complicated!

As we entered the new era of “Vision Zero” , I started to exhale: I envisioned drivers who sped or refuse to yield  would be ticketed with vigor. When NYPD Commissioner Bratton hired his broken windows consigliere, I was hoping for a crackdown on gridlocking and honking, two behaviors that are most emblematic of the lack of respect of the law and of others in our public  space.

It would be an understatement to say that NYPD giving tickets to jaywalkers gave me pause: my emotions ran  from despair at the thought of never changing NYPD, upset at being fooled by Bratton (what did I expect? he is coming from LA) ,  outrage at the “blame the victims” reaction.

Daily news jaywalking

The following week the Daily News blasted the word “jaywalker” in its headline, referring to  a pedestrian injured in Hell’s Kitchen on 11th Avenue.  This brought us back to the 1920′s when injuries and fatalities grew so numerous that some states considered imposing restrictions on the use of automobiles in cities. The auto industry coined that word to redirect the attention and instead criminalize the pedestrian.

And yet we should differentiate between those pedestrians and bicyclists injured and killed  while they have the right of way, and those who jaywalk.

When pedestrians respect the rule, they expect others to do so as well. Essentially the logic goes that if they play within the system, the system will take care of the: streets are designed to protect them, the rules will be enforced and if everything else fails the system will be just and punish those that do not respect it. In truth, pedestrians have no choice: they cannot afford the same physical protections the manufacturers have given to the car driver;  pedestrians have to trust the DOT engineers, the NYPD, the courts. And paradoxically, DOT engineers have been trained to design safe roads for cars, not pedestrians; NYPD does all its work in cars. So the system is ill-equipped to protect the pedestrian.

When someone jaywalks , tho person is clearly saying “I do not trust the system, the rules are not for me, I am taking things in our own hands”. Can you blame them? There are examples that could justify this behavior, where the risk-rewards are worth the try. Just go to Eighth Avenue at 5 p.m. and try to walk on the sidewalk! The good news is that – different from cars – the probability that such action by a pedestrian causes others to be injured or killed is utterly remote.

And even when jaywalking occurs, one should wonder why? For example, I always jaywalk to cross the narrow street in front of my house, where I can see cars coming, instead of crossing at the corner where I believe the danger of being hit by a car would be greater:  in 2009, a 7-month pregnant woman was killed by a turning car, in the crossing while she had the walk sign . We are still waiting for a split phase there. On the other hand I consider it very dangerous to jaywalk across a two way street.

Do you remember this mother in Atlanta who was convicted of manslaughter because she crossed the highway and her child was killed? There was a bus stop, her house was across the wide thoroughfare but there was not a single crossing for another mile… Well on two-way streets there should be a pedestrian crossing in the middle of the long blocks similar to  those on 34th , 42nd, 57th streets. And when MTA and DOT install a subway entrance in the middle of Broadway forcing pedestrians to cross two streets to get there, with cars turning at the same time, clearly the street design was at fault there.

This is why for me , Vision Zero should focus first and foremost on pedestrians and bicyclists who follow the rules. These people are real victims of a system that is broken . The street design is not appropriate and one of the parties, the most dangerous one (with a car), is not following the rules; the enforcement is not sufficient.

If the DOT engineers always chose to protect pedestrians over giving one more second of green light to cars, to install more crossings and install split phases at every intersection or at least on every two-way streets, and to give more sidewalk space to pedestrians , if the NYPD focused on gridlock, honking, speeding and yielding, the system would start to deliver what pedestrians expect: that the system is as safe as possible. And who knows , maybe fewer people would  jaywalk, because finally they would trust the system.

See also the Savy New Yorker’s guide to Jaywalking

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The Remedy for Honking

After one week of Super Bowl and our daily dose of regular honking it maybe time to use this brilliant device in New York City.(

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