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You Know I'd Bike 1,000 Miles: New York City celebrates milestone achievement in bike infrastructure
While major cities in Europe and across the world are experimenting with the car-free lifestyle, the American South is not likely on anyone's radar as the next to embrace the trend. A neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee, however, has promised to not use cars for an entire week, leaving them at home as part of the "Don't Car Campaign."Having started on September 19, 30 participants will go carless until the 25th. “Parking has been a big issue here,” said Jamie Brown, a member of the Nations Neighborhood Association (NNA) board speaking to the Nashville Business Journal. “The residential density is getting higher. One [house] goes down and two or three go up,” she said. “Now we’re starting to see condominium and apartment units." Elaborating on the parking difficulties in the area Brown went on to say: “We’re worried about how [new development] is going to affect our overflow parking in the street. We don’t have sidewalks in our neighborhood. The developers keep telling us this is a walkable neighborhood, saying it’s close to downtown. … We wanted to test that concept.” The NNA campaign to go car-less highlights the outdated transit system currently in place, adjudged by the Nashville MTA as insufficient for the growing local population. The city, according to the Nashville Business Journal, is fortunate in that it is walkable and pedestrian-friendly with plenty of bike lanes. Abstaining from car usage then shouldn't be that much of an issue. “People in other neighborhoods have reached out and told us this is a great idea,” Brown said. “We hope the campaign could be done by other neighborhoods.” The team of 30 who will record and document their experiences seeks to be a leading example of how a population can get by without being dependent on cars. They also want people to start seeing how capable their transportation infrastructure really is.
Fernando Romero has a plan to green Mexico City with the Cultural Corridor Chapultepec, a park-like linear thoroughfare
On a New York City map, the seven-mile roadway that cuts through Queens is designated as Queens Boulevard. But to many New Yorkers, the notoriously dangerous street is known by another name: the Boulevard of Death. According to the city, 185 people (most of them pedestrians) have been killed on the boulevard since 1990; over that time, scores more have been seriously injured. For Mayor de Blasio—who wants to eliminate traffic deaths through a street safety campaign called Vision Zero—overhauling the Boulevard of Death was an obvious place to focus his attention.
In March, the Department of Transportation presented a $100 million plan to transform an especially hazardous 1.3-mile section of the street where 42 people were killed or seriously injured between 2009 and 2013. The plan would fundamentally change the geometry of the street by widening sidewalks, shortening crosswalks, reorganizing slip lanes, and creating pedestrian plazas and protected bike lanes.
“Work has begun to turn Queens Boulevard into a Boulevard of Life—literally remaking this street, rewriting its future, making it safe for all,” said the mayor at a press conference along the street as construction kicked off in July.
Transit advocates and numerous elected officials from Queens and around New York heralded the redesign of Queens Boulevard—especially its inclusion of protected bike lanes—as a “safe streets” homerun. But to these same stakeholders, the laudable transformation of Queens Boulevard is an exception in the DOT’s track record of creating safe streets for cyclists. In the Vision Zero era—after Michael Bloomberg waged, and largely won, the battle to make New York more bike-friendly—the so-called “bicycle lobby” and its allies are questioning the DOT’s commitment to protecting people pedaling around town.
As work was just beginning on Queens Boulevard, the DOT presented a $60 million plan to remake part of another notoriously dangerous roadway in New York: Atlantic Avenue. The redesign included traffic calming measures to protect pedestrians, but like many recent road diets proposed and implemented by the department, it lacked any bicycle infrastructure. To the added chagrin of cyclists, as these plans have been rolled out, existing bike lanes across the city have been worn into oblivion while others have failed to reappear following street resurfacings.
In July, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James wrote a public letter to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg inquiring about these issues. After lauding the department’s commitment to Vision Zero, she asked why certain road diets were missing bicycle infrastructure and urged the department to make bike lanes the “default option when a street is up for a redesign.”
Paul Steely-White, executive director of the non-profit Transportation Alternatives, said the DOT must be bolder about implementing bicycle infrastructure if it is serious about eliminating traffic fatalities by 2024. With the rate of bicycling increasing, neighborhoods clamoring for bike lanes, Citi Bike now doubling in size, and the mandate of Vision Zero, he believes the department has all the political capital it needs to do so. “It’s no longer a political issue, it’s simply a DOT performance issue,” he said. “There is a residual shyness from a lot of DOT professionals who are perhaps gun shy from the bike lanes battles of the Bloomberg years,” he said. “But politically, socially, we’ve evolved beyond that and it’s time for the agency to catch up.”
DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo said the criticisms levied at the department are not reflective of the reality on the ground. “People should be impatient, they should want things to come quickly, but there has been a process,” he said.
Russo explained that while certain road diets may exclude bike lanes, they can be the first step in convincing skeptical communities that precarious streets can become complete streets. “We have to get people from A to C,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean every single street has to have a bike lane initially or when you do a project.” In the Vision Zero era, he continued, redesigning a dangerous intersection might initially get priority over a bike lane. The idea is that once a street is made safer for all users (cyclists included), the DOT can go back to a community board with a more substantial focus on cyclist safety.
To Ben Fried, the editor-in-chief of StreetsBlog, a popular pro-transit publication, this strategy amounts to unnecessary “self-censorship” on the part of the DOT. Since road diets often meet community resistance whether they include bike lanes or not, the DOT “might as well propose the bike lane anyway,” he said. To many advocates, the best way to create support for bike lanes is to implement bike lanes.
As for the condition of the existing bike network, Russo, who bikes to work from Brooklyn, understands cyclists’ frustration about faded markings and vanished paint. He said the winter was especially harsh on existing lanes, but that “under Vision Zero we have money we never had dedicated to upgrading our markings, and we’ve been growing that operation.”
Overall, the DOT is bullish on its bike lane record—especially outside of Manhattan. The department highlighted bike networks it has proposed or implemented in Long Island City, Ridgewood, Queens, Brownsville and East New York, and around the Harlem River. Each of these plans includes a mix of bike infrastructure from shared lanes to protected lanes to bike pathways. In August, Commissioner Trottenberg also announced that the DOT would be presenting plans for a bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue, a project cyclists and local officials have been requesting for years.
The DOT plans to install 50 miles of bike lanes per year, at least five of which will be protected.
This fake town by the University of Michigan to become testing ground for developing smarter driverless cars
In the 1960s, then-Baltimore Mayor Theodore McKeldin launched a visionary effort to transform the city’s Inner Harbor from a rat-infested cesspool of rotting piers and banana boats to the vibrant tourist, business, and residential district it is today. Fifty years later, local architects and landscape architects are trying to continue this tradition by creating a more welcoming gateway to downtown and continue the revitalization along the waterfront. In the process, they have found themselves caught up in Baltimore’s biggest preservation and urban design controversy of 2015, as the plan calls for the removal of a prominent Brutalist public fountain designed by Philadelphia firm of Wallace Roberts & Todd (then Wallace, McHarg, Roberts and Todd) that was dedicated to McKeldin.
Set in an oversized, triangular traffic island at Pratt and Light streets—cut off from the harbor’s edge by two lanes of northbound traffic—McKeldin Plaza is an 18-foot-high concrete mountain with water cascading down on all sides and collecting in shallow pools below. Built into it are skywalks that connect the fountain to the Light Street Pavilion of Harborplace and the Hyatt Regency Baltimore hotel, by RTKL Associates. Since being completed in 1982, the fountain and its adjacent plaza have been a magnet for tourists, shoppers, and office workers on a lunch break.
In the early 2000s, seeking to compete with other urban centers, city leaders began looking for ways to jumpstart redevelopment. They started with a plan to alter Pratt Street, the main east-west thoroughfare downtown. A master plan by Ayers Saint Gross (ASG) showed McKeldin Plaza replaced with a new sort of gathering spot, containing large video screens high above the sidewalk.
Several years later, again working with ASG, city leaders unveiled a new master plan to guide development. The resulting plan, dubbed Inner Harbor 2.0, recommended that the McKeldin Fountain be removed and that the triangular traffic island be redesigned and made part of the Inner Harbor shoreline.
Inner Harbor 2.0 has been discussed widely but has never been adopted by the city planning department as a formal planning document. It was scheduled for a hearing by the planning department in September 2014, but was pulled off the agenda at the last minute due to protests about the proposed removal of volleyball courts on the south shore of the Inner Harbor, an area called Rash Field. The protest had nothing to do with the McKeldin area.
In the meantime, city leaders who want to see progress with redevelopment are pushing ahead with certain projects from the Inner Harbor 2.0 plan in a piecemeal fashion, including The McKeldin Plaza makeover.
The latest plan, presented July 2, shows McKeldin Plaza gone and the former traffic island connected to the Inner Harbor shoreline. A paved pathway bisects the triangular plot and serves as a gathering area for events. South of the walkway is a lawn that slopes upward to a height of 18 feet to form an amphitheater. Beneath it is a storage area for rental bikes. On the west side of the tilted lawn is a meandering pathway filled with indigenous plants. On the north side of the central walkway is a smaller sloped lawn, rising to a height of four feet. On the north side of the main pathway is a new water feature, including a fountain, a sunken rectangular pool, and a water wall. An inscription on the fountain quotes McKeldin’s 1963 speech in which he challenged the city to transform the Inner Harbor.
Baltimore’s preservation commission passed on taking a stand on the issue, saying that the fountain, now 33, was not old enough to fall within its purview. Baltimore’s Public Art Commission said the fountain is part of the city’s official inventory of public art and that they should be consulted about any proposed changes. At the very least, they said, they would have to formally agree to take it off the city’s inventory.
The pigskin may be deflated for Gensler’s design for Los Angeles’ proposed football stadium, Farmer’s Field, but a venue for the other kind of football is alive and kicking. On May 18, Major League Soccer’s newest team, the Los Angeles Football Club, announced plans for a new soccer stadium and mixed-use complex in South Los Angeles.
Gensler’s stadium scheme replaces Welton Becket’s 1959 Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, which was the subject of a 2010 environmental impact report ordered by the LA Coliseum Commission to study a replacement. Demolition of the existing venue is expected to take a year and will require a significant amount of infrastructure and environmental abatement.
The Coliseum Commission and the LA City Council are expected to sign off on the proposed design in July, giving a go-ahead for the estimated $250 million dollar project that includes a 22,000-seat stadium, as well as 100,000 square feet of new restaurants, office space, a conference center, and a world football museum. Plans feature outdoor site amenities, such as plazas that connect to the peristyle Coliseum and a wall of video screens ready to cater to MLS soccer and USC football fans alike.
Since this is LA’s first open-air professional sports arena built since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, the design of the roof is critical. C-shaped and asymmetrical, the steel and ETFE structure extends over the bleachers all the way to the edge of the pitch to provide protection from the western sun. There’s an expectation that the curved roof will also help keep sound from spilling out into the surrounding neighborhood. The canopy’s sections are strategically positioned to frame views of Downtown Los Angeles.
Located in Exposition Park, the new stadium complex sits between the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Figueroa Street. According to architect Ron Turner, director of sports and entertainment for Gensler, the design addresses both the street and the park. “From Dodgers Stadium at the north end, to the Staples Center, to our site in the south, the Figueroa Corridor is quickly becoming an important boulevard of the city,” he explained.
Although the wide boulevard, which boasts the occasional strip mall and a view of the 110 Freeway, seems an unlikely candidate for renewal, Turner references the MyFigueroa project, an initiative slated to transform three miles of the Figueroa Corridor into a “complete street” with a narrowed roadbed and protected bike lanes. As he describes a design that serves the South LA community, Exposition Park visitors, and event-goers, he envisions sidewalk cafes in the shadow of the stadium that are open to the public beyond game day.
Los Angeles Football Club hopes to have the stadium completed by the 2018 Major League Soccer season. Gensler was part of the team that designed Arena Corinthians for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, however this scheme takes inspiration from the English Premier soccer league. Even with 22,000 fans, it is meant to be an intimate experience: seats close to the pitch, steep raked bleachers, and separate entrances into the stands, so that each area feels like its own club. “It’s a stadium for the people,” said Turner.