Will self driving cars improve pedestrian safety?

The US DOT thinks so , and that is why 2016 is the first year when self driving cars became a reality on multiple levels: the US DOT published rules to create a regulatory framework by  types and related expectations and some sates (Nevada, California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, North Dakota, Tennessee and Utah—and Washington D.C.)  ( Pittsburgh) have legalized their use on the road. Technology companies, (Google)  car companies (Tesla , Ford and Audi ) and fleet companies (Uber) are actively working in that space. It is anticipated that New York State legislature will be asked to legalize them in 2017.

IMG_5620Earlier this year Manhattan Borough president Gale brewer convened a summit with DOT and car manufacturers  to better understand what the NYCDOT is doing to prepare the city for the advent of driverless cars.




And in November Sidewalk Labs whose offices are located on Hudson Yards invited CHEKPEDS to participate in a public chat on the matter.

I am no expert but it seems like there is a long way to go for these vehicles to deliver on increased safety in an urban environemnt:  first it is not clear how much of the technology is dedicated to recognizing pedestrians as a priority. Second, most of the technology currently in operation requires that a driver be alert and ready to take over .  This is a concern since currently drivers get distracted even when they are engaged, and the science shows that it is more difficult for the human brain to perform in exception mode once disengaged.

Driverless technology is being developed where the cars will be able to avoid all obstacles, but  it may be dependent on  some features embedded in the surroundings: special traffic signals, cameras, very good markings etc. This could become the highest priority for the DOT instead of installing pedestrian safety features.

As for our local concerns, I raised three :

  • How will driverless cars be coded to stop turning at a green light while there are pedestrians in the adjacent crossing or bicyclists on the bike lane?
  • How will driverless cars be coded to refrain for entering an intersection even with a green light to avoid gridlocking the intersection?
  • How will driverless Uber cars pick up and drop off passengers when there are no curbside available? Will they be coded to stop illegally  or will they be coded to respect the law and continue cruising around the block until a parking space frees up?

More generally, will the software of self driven cars be “localized ” to reflect driving styles when they will have to compete with aggressive New York drivers during the transition? 

A lot to think about , but it is happening so let’s hope the US DOT is right and pedestrian lives will be saved.  In the meantime we will remain vigilant on the matter especially when the legislation comes to a vote in New York.

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Governor Cuomo does not care about the Bus Terminal – We do and We VOTE

While everyone bickers about which project to fund, the community continues its steady work on planning our area to include a replacement terminal. Please join us  and bring your ideas!

We Need Your Input! Community Planning Session Dec 6 Flyer PDF.compressed

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Join the World Day of Remembrance for crash victims

14925689_1380200375324465_5632184900206965694_nBe there for the global event that commemorates the lives and death of traffic crash victims. In tandem with people around the world, NYC will remember those lost.

WALK , RIDE or STAND  Join Families for Safe Streets and the TransAlt community to honor and remember victims of traffic violence and stand together to create a safer city for all.

Gathering at City Hall
Sunday, November 20th 2016, 12pm
City Hall Park
Brooklyn Bridge Walk,
Sunday, November 20th 2016, 11 am 
Prospect & Washington Street (DUMBO)
Brooklyn Bike Ride
Sunday, November 20th 2016, 11 am
Grand Army Plaza
Manhattan Bike Ride
Sunday, November 20th 2016, 11 am
72nd Street and Riverside Drive

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We Need Your Input: Update on Port Authority Bus Terminal

We Need Your Input! Community Planning Session Dec 6 Flyer PDF.compressed

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Mark Your Calendars: Port Authority Bus Terminal Community Input

So much has happen since the Town Hall in April 2016! Through continued pressure, letters and meetings, our elected officials obtained that the Port Authority consult with the community for the siting and design of a new Bus Terminal on the west side of Manhattan

Please Join Community Board 4 and our elected officials to hear where we are, what are the next steps and help us develop YOUR plan for a new bus terminal.

Port Authority Bus Terminal – Update and Community Planning
Tuesday, December 6, 2016 at 6:30 p.m.
Metro Baptiste Church, 410 West 40th Street (9/10) ADA accessible


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Pedestrian Delight: 40 phone booths will be removed

After years of advocacy ( since 2008!) and with the help of MCB4 District Manager Jesse Bodine  and Borough President Brewer and her staff,  DoiTT has finally confirmed in writing which phone booths will be removed and NOT be replaced by a LinkNYC installation. See the complete list HERE .

45th street Double cirme sceneSome of them  do not comply with the new more stringent placement rules: a good example is the phone booth at the NW corner of 45th Street and 9th Avenue that the community has tried of years to get removed, especially after two pedestrians  were killed in the crosswalk.

Others because you had  successfully illustrated all your complaints and the MBP supported our requests.  For those, we have proposed new sites for relocation. The phone booth at 402 West 44th Street is a perfect illustration and will be removed.

There is still a small contingent of installations for which we have requested relocation , but could not get confirmation since they belong to an operator who is suing the city. The lawsuit’s outcome will dictate if and when the installations will be swapped out .  Unfortunately the  phone booth at 125 West 25th Street falls into that category. We will need a bit more patience and follow-up to get resolution.

Unfortunately our requests for removals on 8th Avneue were not honored. DOT took a very long time to respond to the removal requests and the franchisee moved in before a final determination was made.  If they had been removed , some o the most troublesome installations would not be in place today.

The replacement of all the installations is due to be completed in 2019. At this time we do not have a schedule for the swap of the balance of the LinkNYC in our district. We will follow up with Community Board  4 to obtain a schedule of those coming to our neighborhood next year.

Again, none of these locations will receive a LinkNYC. The sidewalk will be refurbished and pedestrians will be once again able to use the space. A victory for our cause.

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Pedestrian Safety advances: 3 new Protected Pedestrian Crossings

At the September CB4 Transporation Committee Meeting, the Department of Transportation indicated they were proceeding with the installation of split LPIs at the following locations

@ 8th Avenue on W 31st Street (approved)
@ 8th Avenue on W 38st Street (approved – fatality)
@ 11th Avenue on W 37th Street (approved – fatality)

IMG_5608A split LPI signal consists of a red arrow that gives to pedestrians 10 seconds of exclusive crossing time on the side street, before a blinking yellow arrow let vehicles turn while urging caution .

DOT also indicated that 9 more locations were pending approval internally:

@ 8th Avenue on W 30st Street (pending approval)
@ 8th Avenue on W 36st Street (pending approval)
@ 8th Avenue on W 50th Street (pending approval)
@ 9th Avenue on W 45th Street (pending approval)
@ 9th Avenue on W 47th Street (pending approval)
@ 9th Avenue on W 49th Street (pending approval)
@ 9th Avenue on W 53rd Street (fatality) (pending approval)

Needless to say they got a round of applause for these proposals.  But the letter sent by CB4  continues to ask for mitigation at many more  locations:

  • At the priority intersections in CB4 listed in the Vision Zero Pedestrian Safety Action Plan
  •   On 39th Street, turning south on 9th Avenue
  •   On 40th Street turning south on 9th Avenue (Tunnel traffic)
  •   On 9th Avenue, turning west on 45th Street
  •   At all intersections along the bike lanes from 30th to 57th Streets where turn baysare already in place, and particularly in the midtown segment where fatalities have occurred and the commuting drivers are the most aggressive.

CHEKPEDS is entering the 2018 Participatory Budget,  with a project to install signals at 11 of our most dangerous intersections.

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This year again more greening and protected trees

We are continuing our annual program of greening the neighborhood . This year four new tree guards were installed in addition to the 25 that had been previously installed in Hell’s Kitchen South.

Two very large ones on 9th Avenue @ 56th Street and  on 8th Avenue @ 20th to protect  Micro gardens on the bike lanes;  and two on the sidewalks on 9th Avenue in the 40s  to protect newly planted and fragile trees. Mail Attachment

Let us know if you have newly planted trees that deserve protection  (on avenues and bike lanes only)

Over the summer, we  also orchestrated the creation of the East Chelsea Gardeners with the critical help of William Borock President of the Council of Chlesea Block Associations, and Shirley Secunda Chair of CB2 Transportation Committee.

After the Community Board insisted on the installation of pedestrian islands and refuges on the 6th Avenue bike lanes in January 2016, the DOT agreed to create micro gardens wherever a gardener was in charge. We recruited 37 volunteers who adopted one or sometimes multiple micro gardens. This includes the Flat Iron BID and the 34th Street Partnership BIDs, as well as Lowe’s and TD bank.

DOT has finished building most of the islands.  We held a kick off meeting on October 17 where everyone shared information and particularly the founders of the Chelsea Garden Club  shared their insights on planting etc .

The first micro garden was planted this week end on 6th Avenue and 15th Street !  This project will put a smile on your face.



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LinkNYC – A work in progress

LinkNYC Implementation 102816

LinkNYC is the Wi-FI and phone charging system that replaces the phone booths. It is currently installed at 364 locations in Manhattan, mostly on 8th Avenue in our district . The service has been very successful with 700,000 subscribers and 37 million internet sessions in its first year. It provides internet speed about 500 times faster than your internet at home .




However the experience on the ground has been  less than satisfactory. The kiosks became a magnet for gatherings that impeded pedestrian traffic on crowded sidewalks, for example near the Port Authority Bus Terminal and lead to illegal activities.

At Council Member Johnson’s  request, the franchisee  reduced the sound volume in some places and turned off most internet browsing capabilities at most of our installations. This brought significant improvements to the sidewalk. Indeed had the  DoiTT accepted our request to remove troublesome locations, they would have avoided all of the uproar on 8th Avenue.


Still the design of the appliance remains deficient since it forces people using the device to stand in the pedestrian right of way. A better design would put the controls on the sides of the appliance.

We are delighted that Councilman Johnson intervened and that thanks to Manhattan Borough President Brewer, 40 installations will be removed on our very narrow and overcrowded sidewalks.

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Regulation of Sightseeing Bus – Better but needs work

On September 23, 2016 the City Council held an oversight hearing of the Hop-on, Hop-off bus industry a welcome initiative.

Intro 529 -A increased safety requirements for drivers, a proposal we support whole heartedly. However CB4 asked that the drivers be subject to the same safety test as the MTA drivers. Nothing less.

Intro 713 -A proposed to subject sightseeing bus stops to Community board review and approval.

Intro 950 established  a quota system to limit the number of buses to 225 , approximately the existing number of permits. While this sounds like a good idea there is a serious downside to this idea and  CB4 proposed instead to limit the locations of stops  and  subject the companies to stringent method of operations including reducing the advertising they carry on their buses.

You can read the full testimony of Manhattan Community Board 4  HERE 

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