Search results for " bike lanes"

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Vision Zeroing In

NY court says cities can be liable for dangerous streets
New York States's highest court has ruled that cities and towns can be held legally accountable when dangerous streets are not improved via better design. In December, the New York State Court of Appeals decided a case in favor of Anthony Turturro, a 12-year-old who was stuck in 2004 by a driver traveling almost double the speed limit in a 30-per-mile-hour zone. Turturro, Streetsblog NYC reports, was riding his bike on Brooklyn's Gerritsen Avenue, a wide main street where, locals say, drivers disobey posted speed limits with impunity. The driver, Louis Pascarella, put Turturro in a coma; he subsequently pled guilty to assault. Citing in part the poor design of Gerritsen Avenue, a jury found the city 40 percent liable for the incident and awarded $20 million to Turturro, whose everyday functioning is diminished as a result of the crash. The case contended that despite years of complaints, the DOT didn't do enough to remediate underlying conditions that led to Turturro's—and others'—injuries. Though the DOT initiated traffic studies at three intersections in the years after Turturro, court documents show that speeding along the wide-open avenue as whole was not studied, and that the city declined to follow up with the NYPD on the speeding issue. In the past decade, four people have been killed on the avenue, which connects the small neighborhood of Gerritsen Beach to neighboring Marine Park and Sheepshead Bay. A year after Tuturro's encounter with Pascarella, the city unveiled a painted median near the crash site and downgraded Gerritsen from four lanes to three. “This ruling from New York’s highest court puts an end to the notion that traffic safety improvements should be subject to debate and contingent on unanimous local opinion,” Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White told Streetsblog NYC. The decision, he added, should convey to Mayor Bill de Blasio that street safety redesign must be a bigger part of the city's next budget. For the past two years, the mayor's office has butted heads with the City Council on funding for Vision Zero initiatives. This past fall, the city began installing pedestrian islands and a protected bike lane along Gerritsen. Steve Vaccaro, a lawyer who represents crash survivors, said the decision “will create an affirmative obligation on the DOT’s part to—at the very least—conduct studies to determine whether infrastructure can reduce traffic violence, and unless such studies indicate otherwise, to install the infrastructure.”  
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CoRe Foro Urbano CDMX 2016

What is the future of transportation in Mexico City?
Mexico City is the largest city in North America and has been around since the 14th century when the Aztecs settled the area. Many layers of history, culture, and development—both private and public—can be seen in its rich architecture and urbanism. Crumbles of pyramids abut Spanish cathedrals and huge modernist housing blocks, foregrounded by spectacular parks, statues, and fountains from the various periods in the history of the region. However, along with the complex history comes a complex city. The organizers of CoRe Foro Urbano CDMX 2016, a two-day summit of experts from the development, policy, design, and transportation sectors, cited this complexity and a perceived lack of leadership among the different stakeholders as the impetus for getting together and addressing the multi-faceted challenges of the city. The main initiator of the conference was Kaluz, "a diversified conglomerate of companies active in the following sectors: industry, construction materials, and financial services." They worked with the Planning Commission of Mexico City and the Delegacion Cuauhtmoc (the local borough government) to realize the forum, which is organized into four panels: Mobility, Public Space, Citizenship and Responsibility, and Zoning and Diverse City. It was not structured as lectures or talks, but more of a series of roundtable discussions that were aimed directly at the problems of Mexico City, and how each can be addressed with real solutions. This is part one of our series, "Urbanism in Mexico City," reported live from the discussion.  The first panel focused on transportation, which for Mexico City is seen as a hinderance to development, as the public systems are not as robust as in London or New York. Mexico City has developed along long corridors that have been around since it was founded, and in the 1860s, these large streets became boulevards, as was the European tradition. Development followed these main arteries, but the car came along and made them less effective for the city. While the city has adapted and incorporated cycle lanes and sidewalks on the main areas, gentrification has brought more traffic. Riccardo Marini of Gehl Architects pointed out that this is not just about livable cites, but also about the species-scale problem of burning fossil fuels. Camilla Ween of Transport for London explained how some of the best projects in central London are smaller-scale pedestrianization projects and connections rather than big technical undertakings. Architect and urbanist Jan Gehl agreed that cities are not great for cities, and took it a step further: Shared cars and autonomous cars are no better than single-driver cars, which were perhaps a good idea on the open ranges 100 years ago, but are bad for people and the environment. He is optimistic that we are winning, and that the future is bright for public transportation, although it will require big commitments. Planning, real estate, and transportation consultant Andres Sanudo cited parking lots as a big problem for Mexico City. The money that private developers spend on parking lots could build a huge amount of public transport, while also encouraging people to get rid of cars and take them off the road. Their solution is to change the codes to have maximums for parking spaces in developments rather than minimums. Michael Kodransky of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy said that minimums also prevent the city from densifying, and that densifying a city gives it the resources and users for public transportation. Edgar Farah of 5M2 noted that while public transport allows more access for the young and the poor, it is also important to have a range of transport systems for a range of people. "The main problem of mobility in the city is that we have made many people go away," he said. Sanudo agreed with this statement, saying "How do we get those people—that the market has driven out—back into the city without distorting the market?" For Mexico City, connections to the metro area are a challenge for the future, as many of the workers in the central districts commute over two hours to work. Florencia Serrania of Prodi said that reducing that by even 30 minutes with better transport, signage, and connections would make a big difference. The metropolis of over 23 million has to become a connected and mobile city to be one that is accessible to all of the populations. The participants each suggested an action they would implement first, which included:

Give over half of the streets to bikes and walkers.

Make people give up cars for a short period of time.

Commit to the Metro system (subways and buses).

Build things for the people who build the towers.

Limit the number of plates that could be issued and make it an auction.

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Cool Park Bro

L.A.'s Grand Park gets new paper airplane–shaped shade structure
Downtown Los Angeles has a new public park art piece and shaped like paper airplanes. Big ones. The new, semi-permanent shade canopy installation, Paper Airplane, consists of a steel armature-supported canopy populated by eleven large-scale "paper" airplanes made out of canvas. The piece was designed by local artists Elenita Torres and Dean Sherriff. Located in Grand Park, itself designed by Rios Clementi Hale Studios in 2012 to much fanfare, the installation marks the latest addition to the city’s public space boom. Dubbed by city officials as “The Park for Everyone,” Grand Park spans the blocks between the steps of City Hall and those of the Music Center and Disney Concert Hall complexes; it sees roughly one million visitors each year. The installation is the by-product of A Cooler Grand Park, a semi-public design competition held by the Music Center concert hall that sought to bring additional shading to the park’s Olive Court which spans between the Los Angeles Chief Administration Office and the Los Angeles Courthouse. Paper Airplane runs the length of the broad promenade between the two buildings and also acts as the edge of a fountain and splash pad area popular with children.  For the competition, the Music Center invited local visual artists with at least three years of experience working in their field to submit designs for a new installation. The winning proposal by Torres and Sherriff was selected via public vote with input also provided by a selection committee organized by the center. Construction and installation of the project were funded by Goldhirsh Foundation’s LA 2050 Grants Challenge, a prolific public arts program in the city. The installation adds to a banner year for parks in L.A, with recent months also seeing the selection of design teams for two new Downtown L.A. parks as well as stretches of the Los Angeles River redevelopment. The city’s Bureau of Engineering revealed in June its choice of Mia Lehrer Associates and OMA as the design team for the new Grand Park-adjacent FaB Park at the corner of First and Broadway. In April, Pershing Square Renew selected a proposal from French landscape architecture firm Agence Ter and local landscape architects SALT for the latest iteration of Pershing Square. Lehrer’s office was also selected this summer in conjunction with architecture firms Gruen Associates and Oyler Wu Collaborative to work on a 12-mile bike path along the L.A. River in the San Fernando Valley.
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Akron to D.C.

Six U.S. cities will join tactical urbanism workshop series
Is the dawn of “Tactical Urbanism” upon us? This approach to reshaping urban environments, which focuses on small-scale interventions, is a rising trend in urban environments across the U.S. Now six cities have been chosen to be part of a tactical urbanism workshop series. Selected from a group of 18, Akron, OH; Austin, TX; Fayetteville, AR; Long Beach, CA; Washington, D.C.; West Palm Beach, FL were the lucky half-dozen who will be part of a series that aims to "jump-start" tactical urbanism in the areas. The program, which benefits from funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, aims to "advance street safety and placemaking projects such as pedestrian plazas, bike lanes, shared streets, and more." City authorities in the chosen cities will work alongside urban planning, design, and research firm, Street Plans Collaborative. The firm and city officials will design a workshop that encompasses tactical urbanism methodologies with a "hands-on" project that positively impacts a local street or public space. In doing so, the workshops will see the first physical application of the Tactical Urbanist’s Guide to Materials and Designa resource produced by the collaborative that specifies materials and design principles for tactical urbanism projects. “Over the past seven years Street Plans has built a practice around implementing Tactical Urbanism projects around the globe,” said Street Plans Principal Mike Lydon, who leads the firms New York office. “Our four open-source guides and recent book, along with many other resources, provide substantial case-study level information on the topic. But, we’ve heard time and again that what is needed now is more guidance about design and materials, for both city- and citizen-led projects.” “The Tactical Urbanist’s Guide to Materials and Design will address this need by providing design and materials information for Tactical Urbanism projects of varying time scales and level of formality,” added fellow Principal Tony Garcia, who leads the Miami office. “This new resource will help bridge the gap between city- and citizen-led projects, helping a host of stakeholders widen public engagement and accelerate project delivery and evaluation.” Meanwhile, Knight Foundation director for community and national strategy Benjamin de la Peña said: “Cities can invite more of their citizens to help shape their communities. The Tactical Urbanism Workshops and the Manual will open up new channels of civic engagement.”
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Bridge Games

This is how the DOT could turn the Brooklyn Bridge into "Times Square in the Sky"
For both cyclists and pedestrians, traveling across the Brooklyn Bridge is far from a pleasant affair. Squeezing onto a ten-foot-wide (17 feet at its widest) elevated path intended for shared use may no longer be viable as the bridge becomes a destination in its own right and not just a piece of infrastructure. In light of this, the New York City Department of Transport (DOT) is looking into creating a "Times Square in the Sky," an expanded pathway thats accommodates more foot traffic. As complaints mount, the DOT seems prepared to take action. “We’ve decided the time has come,” New York's Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the New York Times. “We want to think in a deep, thoughtful way about the next evolution of the bridge.” The resulting plan, dramatically titled "Times Square in the Sky," looks to widen the pathway used by non-vehicle travelers on the bridge. As its name suggests, the project acknowledges the bridge's role as a place to visit as many tourists stop to take photographs of the views it offers as well as the structure itself. In addition to this, the bridge is also uses as a place for sitting, talking, performing, as well as selling and buying goods. In its study of the bridge, the DOT notes that its narrowest point is also conveniently a hotspot for picture taking. The DOT suggests a central bike path, protected by railing or barriers to create dedicated cycle lanes going in each direction with pedestrian walkways on either side. This would take advantage of the un-used promenade space between the two towers. As for the approaches to the bridge, two options have been put forward: A short range plan to "reallocate existing even split between bikes and pedestrians to 10 feet for pedestrians and 7 feet for bikes" and a "seasonal fence to reduce conflicts," as well as a long range plan to build elevated cantilevered walking spaces. Pinch points around the staircases are alos recognized and targeted for remediation. Controls and crossings to manage speed and different uses would be located at the Brooklyn end, while the DOT would "explore the feasibility of closing and covering the stairway" on the Manhattan side. For now, the DOT's next course of action is to go ahead with a consultant study, running through to February of next year and to be carried out by AECOM. This will include structural analysis, conceptual design development, historical preservation implication study, and a conceptual cost estimate.
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Pedal Around

Los Angeles bike share program launches July 7th
Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is planning to debut the first pilot phase of a new bike share system for the region in Downtown Los Angeles on July 7th. The initial roll out will feature 1,000 BCycle 2.0 bicycles accessible from 65 stations distributed across the downtown area. Metro plans to expand the fledgling system in the coming years, with up to an additional 7,000 bicycles planned for the entire system. Under this plan, Pasadena to the northeast will get Metro's bike sharing system next year, followed by Koreatown and University Park to the west by 2018, Hollywood to northwest by 2019, and other areas including North Hollywood, East Los Angeles, and Venice by 2020. Metro granted an $11-million contract to a partnership between bike share system provider Bicycle Transit Systems and BCycle, itself partnership between Trek Bicycle Corporation, health insurance provider Humana, and advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky. The system utilizes BCycle’s 2.0 model, an update of the model originally utilized in recently-developed bike share systems in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Fargo, North Dakota, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Denver, Colorado. The 2.0 model features a lightweight aluminum frame and includes a front basket as well as a protected chain and rust-proof components. The bicycle is designed to be heavily used in public settings and permanently live outdoors. The 1.0 model was made of steel and clocked in at 55 pounds; the 2.0’s aluminum frame is ten pounds lighter by comparison, lowering the cruiser’s weight to a still-hefty 45 pounds. Ryan Callahan, BCycle’s Senior Industrial Designer responsible for the design of the bikes and stations, told AN over telephone, “We referenced traditional street furniture by making (the bike stations) large and tall and incorporating solar energy masts, as well as wayfinding graphics and a map and ad panel. We wanted it to look natural, like it belongs on the street.” With its bike share system, Metro aims to make two-wheeled transportation a more viable option for closing the gap between the “first and last mile” between Metro commuters’ destinations. In a press release from Metro, Mark Ridley-Thomas, L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair said, “Marrying bicycle and transit trips will go a long way in supporting healthy lifestyles, easing traffic on downtown streets and, perhaps most importantly, getting Angelenos where they need to go in an efficient and affordable manner.” In a heavily automobile-dependent region, there were 88 pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in 2013, so safety will be essential if the system is to be successful as a viable means of transportation for city residents. This effort comes on the heels of a steady expansion of the city’s bicycle infrastructure, including Downtown L.A. councilperson Jose Huizar’s DTLA Forward initiative, which plans to add curbside bicycle lanes to several major downtown thoroughfares, the Vision Downtown pedestrianization plan, and the completion of many neighborhood-specific Civic LAvia open streets festivals.
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New York City bike lane art scores high points with videogame references
The New York City Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Art Program has partnered with nonprofit New York Cares to paint two bike lane barriers in styles that will appeal to true 90s kids. On Columbia Street, between Atlantic Avenue and Congress Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, 30 volunteers assisted artist Nancy Ahn to paint 1,000 feet of concrete barrier. The piece, Crushing It, is influenced by pixelated video game graphics of the 1990s. Like Donkey Kong, cyclists get to "collect" coins and bananas as they traverse the path. Up in the Bronx, the two organizations collaborated on another barrier beautification on East 161st Street between Gerard Avenue and Concourse Village West, in the Concourse neighborhood. 20 volunteers pitched in to help artist Sarah Nicole Phillips paint “Cats in Repose,” a linear piece inspired by the artist's own languid black cat. The DOT notes that these projects are intended to beautify the otherwise drab concrete dividers, and add a measure of delight to the daily commute. The cat painting, like its Brooklyn sibling, seems designed to appeal to millennials specifically, although who doesn't love colorblocking, cute felines, and Nintendo? DOT Art is currently soliciting RFPs for temporary, site-specific installations for Summer Streets events. A minimum of two artists (in any medium) will be chosen, and artists can receive up to $20,000 to realize their projects. To see past installations, check out the program's Flickr page.
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A new future for Old City: Vision2026 puts Philadelphians, not tourists, first
At first pass, Philadelphia's Elfreth's Alley looks like any other quaint, well-preserved historic street in a typical northeastern U.S. city. Look closer, though, and it'd apparent that the rowhouses are much older than the 19th-century homes found in New York's West Village or Boston's Beacon Hill. That's because Elfreth's Alley welcomed its first residents in 1702: the block-long lane is the oldest continually occupied residential street in the United States. Although the street is afforded protection by its National Historic Landmark status, escalatingultra-bland development in Philly's historic core means that it, and the surrounding urban fabric, must protect their assets by conceiving of a future that balances site-sensitive private development with public amenities that cater to Philadelphians.
Old City District, a city-sponsored historic preservation group, commissioned planning consultants RBA Group and Philly–based Atkin Olshin Schade Architects to stake out a future for Old City. Vision2026 is intended to complement the City Planning Commission's Philadelphia2035 plan and, in a nod to local heritage, will coincide with the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
To some, Old City is thought to be bound by the Delaware River to the east, 4th Street to the west, Vine Street to the north, and Walnut Street to the south. The Old City District's definition is narrower, encompassing a 22-block area bounded by Front Street to the east, 6th Street to the west, Florist Street to the north, and Walnut and Dock streets to the south. The genesis of Vision2026 was a community discussion on development goals that began in January 2015. Traffic studies and user surveys evinced a desire for standard-issue urban features: Quality public space, public transportation access, better bike infrastructure, stores that serve the community's needs (especially a grocery store), and a development vision that encourages new investment without overriding the neighborhood's charm. The suggestions take a deep dive into specifics. To reduce car traffic, Vision2026 suggests improving bike infrastructure (addressing a lack of bike lanes and inconsistent linkage to the waterfront, for example) concurrently with initiatives to consolidate commercial package delivery, privilege commercial loading access over private parking, and promote the use of car shares. The population of Old City has grown 16 percent since 2000, and the area needs Complete Streets (streets designed for safe use by pedestrians, cars, and bicycles alike) to enhance the neighborhood's vitality. A proposal for a 2nd Street Station plaza (the 200 block of Market Street) envisions 14-foot sidewalks flanked by an allée-meets-bike lane. The proposal suggests eliminating street lights—a counterintuitive but effective traffic-calming measure—on the 10-foot-wide stretch of road set aside for private cars.
Although the vacancy rate hovers at around ten percent, studies show that, if current trends continue, the area could support an additional 122,000 square feet of retail. More than 1,000 new residential buildings in the district are proposed or currently under construction. Vision2026 echoes Robert Venturi's 1976 master plan for Old City, calling for redevelopment of the area's Victorian commercial and industrial buildings erected between 1840 and 1890. Eight parks, including the Venturi–designed Welcome Park, are highlighted as spaces to improve and capitalize upon. Activating underused areas around the Benjamin Franklin Bridge is a priority: Proposals include an under-the-overpass market (like New York's Queensboro Bridge, but hopefully more successful) with restaurants and vendors, as well as wayfinding improvements, especially at night, to enhance connectivity between neighborhoods rent by the interstate. Next steps include beta-testing the ideas via tactical urbanism, temporary bike lanes, and legislative action, through zoning and permitting amendments, to pave the way for concrete improvements.
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New study: trail-oriented development improves public health and property values
We all know there's value in transit-oriented-development, but what about trail-oriented development? The nonprofit Urban Land Institute (ULI) released a study that examines how active transportation—biking and walking infrastructure—can work in urban planning, development, and land-use projects. The report highlights ten case studies (a blend of mixed-use, multi-family, and residential projects) in cities across the the world, from Des Moines, Iowa, to Singapore. European cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam have some of the highest percentages of people who commute by bike. Therefore, they've long factored this type of design into their urban development. In the U.S., cities like New York, Seattle, Portland, and Washington D.C. are investing in bike lanes. What happens when officials, urban planners, and developers, and other professionals involved in the built environment put a premium on safe sidewalks, cycle paths, the pedestrian, and the cyclist? Trail-oriented development can create major savings in health costs. “In terms of health and wellness benefits, the report points to savings of $103 million (US dollars) in Sydney due to the increase in bike trips and reduced traffic congestion,” writes the ULI in a release. “Also, in Philadelphia, a 2011 study found that residents’ use of biking trail system avoids $199 million per year in direct medical costs and $596 million in indirect costs.” The ULI report looks at global active transportation infrastructure from multiple perspectives: highways for bicycles in Copenhagen, bike sharing in Paris and China, and The Circuit Trails bike paths in Philadelphia. Real estate also figures prominently in the report. In addition to supporting health and wellness, urban and suburban trail systems help spur real estate development and increase property values. You can read the full report here.
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Epic Chicago development along Lake Michigan stalls as partners split
As developer and property owner part ways, one of Chicago’s largest planned developments gets put on indefinite hold. The Lakeside development, planned for the former South Works United States Steel mill site in Chicago’s South Shore, was to be a $4 billion, 369-acre mixed-use development. Twelve years in the making, the projects was being developed through a partnership between Chicago-based developer McCaffery Interests and the land’s owner Pittsburgh-based United States Steel. Plans called for upwards of 13,000 residential units, over 17 million square feet of commercial space, 125 acres of public land, and a 1,500-slip marina. Situated in the formerly industrial area along the lake, tens of millions of dollars have already been invested in the project, including rerouting a public road. Though the Illinois Department of Transportation planned to reroute the road before McCaffery first presented the Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) Master plan in 2004, when built, the $64 million improvement anticipated the development. The road includes parallel parking spots surfaced in permeable pavement, high-efficiency LED streetlights, and bike lanes. Both Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel were on hand for the much anticipated ribbon cutting for that new road back in 2014. With no development, that road will continue to sit mostly empty. But now with the land's future in limbo, local 10th Ward Ald. Susan Sadlowski-Garza and McCaffery are hoping entice George Lucas to move the much embattled Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts to the site. Ald. Sadlowski-Garza and McCaffery also had lobbied to have the Obama Presidential Library located on the site. Though the project is stalled for the moment, even if it was to move forward, it would be a long time in the making. According to earlier press releases, the plan called for at least six phases and between 25–45 years to finish.
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State of the City
The fabric of New York—from shoreline to skyline—is getting a thread-count upgrade, much of it due to the success of ongoing projects like Vision Zero, coastal resiliency efforts, and a spate of new public ventures coming down the pike. In his annual State of the City address in early February, Mayor Bill de Blasio championed accomplishments from 2015 and shed light on what’s to come: New Yorkers will see projects and policies that could facilitate new commutes, provide civic and green spaces in the outer boroughs, and reshape neighborhood density via rezoning. Streets and Shores
Two large-scale, controversial rezoning proposals, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning For Quality and Affordability (ZQA), reached the City Council early February. Councilmembers heard public testimony for and against the measures, which are intended to increase the amount of affordable housing and create more interesting streetscapes in exchange for increased density in special districts. The full Council will vote on the proposals—the most sweeping zoning changes since 1961—in March.
Rezoning may change the look of the streets, and it’s almost guaranteed more pedestrians would be around to see it. Since the launch of Vision Zero three years ago, traffic fatalities have fallen annually, with a drop of almost nine percent between last year and 2014. (Although City Hall may not want readers to know that traffic-related injuries spiked by more than 2,000 incidents in the same period.)
The initiative is New York City’s version of an international campaign to end traffic-related deaths through better street design and harsher penalties for traffic offenders, and it has a record-setting $115 million budget for 2016. More than a quarter of that money (plus $8.8 million from the NYC Department of Transportation’s capital budget) will go to road improvements in Hunters Point in Long Island City, Queens, especially at busy nodes along main thoroughfares Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue.
The low-lying neighborhoods are some of many flood-prone areas that will benefit from the $20 billion in climate-change-resiliency measures that launched following Hurricane Sandy. Included in that figure is a massive project coming out of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design competition to protect Manhattan from rising seas. The City has selected AECOM to lead the design and build of these coastal resiliency measures, formerly known as the Dryline (and before that, BIG U). The project team includes Dewberry, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and ONE Architecture. BIG and ONE provided the original vision for the 10-mile-long project, and are now working on Phase One, the $335 million East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. That phase, which should go into constriction next year, deploys a series of berms and floodwalls from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street on the island’s Lower East Side. Phase Two extends the project from Montgomery Street around the tip of Manhattan up to Harrison Street in Tribeca. Although those ten miles of coastline could be safer, the other 510 would still have a lot to fear from global warming. Fortunately, the Department of Design and Construction’s Build It Back RFP is having an immediate impact on those who lost homes to Sandy. By last October, the program, which rebuilds homes ravaged in the 2012 hurricane, broke ground on around 1,900 projects and finished construction on 1,200 others.
Targeted Reinvestment The recovery impetus extends beyond the property line and out into neighborhoods. In his speech, the mayor singled out three outer-borough neighborhoods—Ocean Hill–Brownsville, the South Bronx, and Far Rockaway—for targeted reinvestment. Civic architecture often heralds or spurs financial interest, and these neighborhoods happen to be the sites of three public projects by well-known architects in plan or under construction. Studio Gang is designing a 20,000-square-foot Fire Department of New York station and training facility in Ocean Hill–Brownsville in Brooklyn, while BIG is designing a new NYPD station house in Melrose in the Bronx. In Queens, far-out Far Rockaway, battered by Sandy and isolated from the rest of the city by a long ride on the A train, is anticipating both a $90.3 million, Snøhetta-designed public library and $91 million in capital funds for improvements in its downtown on main commercial roads like Beach 20th Street. On and Beyond the Waterfront In New York, a trip to the “city” is a trip to Manhattan. This idea, however, doesn’t reflect how New Yorkers traverse the city today: Older, Manhattan-centric commuting patterns at the hub are becoming outmoded as development intensifies in the outer boroughs. It’s estimated that this year bike-sharing service Citi Bike will have 10 million rides. The system is adding 2,500 bikes in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens to accommodate the increased ridership. The East River ferry service will begin this year, knitting the Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan waterfronts together in patterns not seen since the 1800s. Along the same waterway, the project that’s raised the most wonder (and ire) is the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), a streetcar line that would link 12 waterfront neighborhoods from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to Astoria, Queens. The project proposal comes from a new nonprofit, Friends of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (FBQX), which first surfaced in January of this year. Its founders include the heads of transportation advocacy and policy groups Regional Plan Association and Transportation Alternatives; directors of neighborhood development groups; and real estate professionals like venture capitalist Fred Wilson and Helena Durst of the Durst Organization. The full plan, commissioned by FBQX and put together by consultants at New York–based engineering and transportation firm Sam Schwartz, is not available to the public, although the company’s eponymous president and CEO shed some light on the plan with AN. “Within an area that has so many [transit] connections, what we are addressing is transit that goes north–south,” explained Schwartz. His firm’s plan calls for a 17-mile route that roughly parallels the coastline, dipping inland to link up to hubs like Atlantic Terminal and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. At a projected cost of $1.7 billion, why not choose the bus, or bus rapid transit (BRT)? The team considered five other options before deciding on the streetcar, Schwartz explained. “The projected ridership is over 50,000 [passengers] per day, while ridership for the bus and BRT maxes out at 35,000 to 40,000 per day.” Streetcars, Schwartz elaborated, can make fine turns on narrow streets, reducing the risk for accidents. They will travel at 12 miles per hour in lanes separate from other traffic, and, to minimize aesthetic offense and flood-damage risk, overhead catenaries will not be used.
Although sources tell AN that the city has a copy of the plan, City Hall spokesperson Wiley Norvell denied any relationship between de Blasio’s streetcar proposal and the plan commissioned by FBQX. (Although it’s not unusual for the city to consider the recommendations put forth by outside groups: In 2014, the city adopted many of the Vision Zero recommendations created by Transportation Alternatives.)
Norvell stated that the city’s plan calls for a $2.5 billion, 16-mile corridor that will be financed outside of the auspices of the (state-funded and perpetually cash-strapped) Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) using a value-capture model. The streetcar line’s success, essentially, is predicated on its ability to raise surrounding property values. The increased tax revenues, he explained, could be plowed back into a local development corporation, which would then use the funds to capitalize the project. Critics wonder why the streetcar is being privileged over other initiatives, such as the Triboro RX proposal, a Utica Avenue subway extension, and the not-completely-funded Second Avenue subway, that would serve more straphangers. Though a fare-sharing system could be brokered with the MTA to enhance multimodal connectivity, critics point out that the streetcar line’s proposed stops are up to a half mile from subway stations, bypassing vital connections between the J/M/Z and L. The Hills on Governors Island Are Alive and Ahead of Schedule With a growing population and growing need for more parks, the city is looking to develop underutilized green space within its borders. The Hills, a landscape on Governors Island designed by West 8 and Mathews Nielsen, is set to finish nearly one year ahead of schedule. The news coincided with the mayor’s announcement that the island, a former military base and U.S. Coast Guard station, will now be open to the public year-round. The city has invested $307 million in capital improvements to ready 150 acres of the island for its full public debut. Forty-eight new acres of parkland (including the Hills) will open this year. The Innovation Cluster, a 33-acre business incubator and educational facility that builds on the example of Cornell University’s campus extension on Roosevelt Island, will bring several million new square feet of educational, commercial, cultural, research, and retail space to the island’s south side. The Trust for Governors Island, a nonprofit dedicated to stewarding and capitalizing on the island’s assets, will release an RFP to develop the vacant land and historic district by the end of this year, and construction could begin as early as 2019.
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Pedal Power: London could soon have more cyclists than motorists on its streets
Since the turn of the century, the number of motorists in London more than halved from 137,000 to 64,000. In the same period, cyclist numbers trebled from 12,000 to 36,000, showing that more commuters are increasingly choosing two wheels over four to get to work. Britain now boasts over two million weekly cyclists—an all-time high, according to British Cycling, a governing body in the UK. Sales of U.K. manufactured bikes subsequently grew 69 percent in 2014 and the effect of this is most evidently seen in the capital. "You can probably trace it back to the bombing attacks in London in 2005," points out Simon Mottram, founder of cycling clothing firm Rapha, in a BBC report. "The day after, the tube lines were all still closed, and suddenly there were lots of people on bikes to get to work.” "Not to forget the government's Cycle To Work scheme [introduced back in 1999 and which allows people to buy a bike tax-free]. And the underlying increased focus on health and fitness” he added. Transport for London has described the shift in transport method as "a feat unprecedented in any major city.” However, change is not happening fast enough for some as London lags behind other European capitals. Such is the case with Madrid, which placed restrictions on vehicle types entering the city center. Oslo is banning all cars entering by 2019 along with large parts of the River Seine being pedestrianised in Paris. Dublin, too, will have pedestrianized areas by 2017. Cyclist safety is also hot on the agenda. In 2012, 14 cyclists died on London’s roads and a staggering 671 were severely injured. A year later, six more died in the space of three days. That period in late 2013 marked a turning point for changing attitudes towards cyclist safety in the capital. Campaigners prior to then had been calling for separate bike lanes for years, though only now are their efforts coming to fruition. Cycle “superhighways” have been introduced by Mayor Boris Johnson during his tenure, though many argue that while these are a step forward, they still fail to provide a physical barrier between cyclists and drivers. Changes, though, are still being made. Already, lower traffic lights for cyclists are being trialled across the city and new solutions are still yet to be implemented. These include a two-stage right turn system and early release for cyclists ahead of cars at traffic lights. Both can be seen in the video below. http://touchcast.files.bbci.co.uk/performances/6172b9e8049da6f6fa73b30a0ccd4f0c/A540765C-1265-4B0A-9F55-D947ACD20E0E.m4v “I think it is a lot safer for new cyclists, it will give them more confidence to cycle round London” said one commuter speaking to the BBC. According to city authorities, most superhighways should be completed by the summer. A map of all current superhighways can be seen below.