The big biking news this week is that the first phase of New York City's Citi Bike bike share system will finally launch on May 27th to program members (and to everyone else the next week), and New Yorkers' enthusiasm (and a little controversy) is mounting. Some New Yorkers, over 8,000 according to Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Kahn (with more than 4,000 of them in the first 24 hours), could not wait to start pedaling and have already signed up for annual memberships. Meanwhile, malcontents from across the City have spoken up in attempts to stop Citi Bike from rolling onto their blocks. Following initial delays from a malfunctioning electronic system, last fall's Hurricane Sandy caused damage to some of the docking stations stored at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, forcing the DOT to delay and downsize the first phase of the program from 420 stations to 330 around Brooklyn and Manhattan. Once the second and third phases are rolled out, however, there will be a total of 600 stations and 10,000 bikes available throughout New York City, rounding out what will be North America’s largest bike share system. Not only will the system provide healthy transportation alternatives for thousands of New Yorkers, but it will also create 170 jobs and generate $36 million in economic activity annually, the NYC DOT claimed in a press release. Despite general enthusiam for the program, a few disgruntled citizens have been stirring up controversy throughout City. One outspoken Fort Greene resident recently pasted fliers on newly installed docking stations, claiming that Citi Bank advertising and commercial activity have no place landmarked residential blocks. In nearby Brooklyn Heights, the co-op at 150 Joralemon Street is bringing a lawsuit to the DOT for blocking their garbage collection. Meanwhile in TriBeCa, the New York Post reported that a lone restaurateur held a street-side sit-in to protest the installation of a bike station in front of his French Bistro. In the West Village, a co-op on Bank Street filed suit against the City after a station was installed directly in front of its entrance, citing it as a threat to public safety. While the suit was dropped, part of the bike rack was removed and replaced by a mysterious, massive stone bollard, WNYC reported. City Comptroller John Liu has also raised safety concerns, arguing for mandatory helmet laws in a press release. Liu also raised the issue that the bike share program could result in an increase of legal claims against the City, but overall, his message was positive. Bike advocates have been shooting down criticism of the program through social media, and the Brooklyn Spoke blog launched the tongue-in-cheek Bike Share Criticism Challenge taking aim at the most common criticisms. During the first week of operation, only those with a 95$ annual membership will be able to ride, but by June 2 daily and weekly passes will also be available. Check the station map to find the bike share station nearest you, and the price guide to see you’re your ride is going to cost you.
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Peter Murray, of the New London Architecture center, together with a dozen architects and planners, is biking from Portland, Oregon to Portland Place in London, studying how cities are responding to the demand for better cycling infrastructure. He reports from the start of his ride. The Architect's Newspaper is USA media sponsor of the trip and will post periodic updates of these architects on bicycles. Portland is to America what Copenhagen is to Europe: everyone looks to it as an exemplar cycling city, and it has been continually improving its cycling infrastructure for more than 40 years - the first Bicycle Masterplan was published in 1973. As a result, 6 per cent of Portland commuters now bike to work and the Active Transport Alliance’s annual Bike Commute Challenge attracts over 700 participant companies. Cycling is undoubtably a part of Portland’s culture with its Neighbourhood Greenways, bicycle boulevards, routes across key bridges, safe routes to school and the Eastbank Esplanade - a wide path shared with walkers and joggers overlooking the Willamette river. The city was awarded platinum status by the League of American Bicyclists and acclaimed by Bicycling magazine as number one for cycle-friendliness. It was this reputation that drew us to start our mammoth ride in Portland. In the few days we were in the city preparing for our departure we were able to test out the quality of infrastructure and can report that cycling in Portland feels comfortable, enjoyable and safe, certainly in comparison to London. Although to a bunch of Brits it was not so much the infrastructure that made one feel safe, but the courtesy and calmness of Portland’s car drivers, all who could teach the London cabbie a thing or two about the etiquette of the road. As far as contemporary architecture goes, the city is only known on the other side of the Atlantic as the home of Michael Graves’s Portland Building. It is a building that is so familiar through a millionarchitectural photographs and Jencksian primers that one could draw it without reference, yet the promulgated images totally ignore the building’s context in the city street. Today it sits there comfortably enough, the exterior has worn better than many other POMO icons (although the interiors are low ceilinged and less generous than expected) and one has to rake through the cultural embers of the early 80s to remember what all the fuss was about. While we were in Portland, livable streets activist Mark Gorton rode into to town for a lecture. He’s spreading the message from New York to main streets across the US that it’s time to tame the automobile. Gorton seeks nothing less than an American Streets Renaissance. We were surprised, in the discussion after Gorton’s talk, that locals were concerned that Portland’s own plans for better streets were running out of steam. “Probably the worst thing that could have happened was the Platinum Award from the League of Bicyclists” said Chris DiStefano head of bike outfitters Rapha. “The politicians are now resting on their laurels but there is still a lot to be done.” And other cities are catching up. The next big city we get to on our trans America ride is Minneapolis, whose politicians are eager to knock Portland off its top spot. It’ll take us a month to get there - but we look forward to sampling the Twin Cities’s cycling infrastructure to see just how big a threat they are.
Apple's spaceship-like campus plans, designed by Foster and Partners, have been criticized for—among other other things— a lack of pedestrian friendly design. It appears the company has listened. New documents presented to the city of Cupertino show extended bike paths, winding walkways and private roads both circling the grounds and running through the center of the campus. The bike lanes would have buffer lanes to protect them from cars, pedestrian walkways would have increased lighting, a transit center would be the focal point for buses, and the plans also make room for public art projects. Not all the changes are eco/pedestrian friendly. The new design calls for an increase in parking spaces from 10,500 to 10,980. Slated for completion in 2016, the campus has also been in the news for budget overruns and delays, with Bloomberg Businessweek reporting its cost ballooning from $3 billion to $5 billion. The first phase of the campus is scheduled to be complete by 2016.The original date was 2015.
Chicago’s bike share program will kick off in June when the city debuts hundreds of light blue, three-speed bicycles that can be rented for an hourly fee or with a yearly $75 membership. Managed by Portland, OR–based Alta Bicycle Share, which also runs New York and DC’s bike share, Chicago’s program goes by the name “Divvy.” Alta was supposed to launch the $22 million program last summer, and has since become the subject of controversy. Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein was formerly a consultant for the company, and competitors have alleged foul play, which Alta and the city have flatly denied. The first of Divvy’s 75 solar-powered docking stations will be downtown and in River North. Within a year the city’s plan is to roll out 400 stations and about 4,000 bicycles across the city.
The English architectural editor, author, and founder of the London Festival of Architecture, Peter Murray, is also a devoted urban bicycle activist. Murray always arrives at events in London with a bicycle helmut under his arm because it's the only way he moves around the city. He believe's that "cyclised cities are civilised cities" and has organized group rides around Britain and Europe to publicize the need for cities to become more bicycle friendly. To demonstrate that commitment and to promote cycling, Murray and a group of peers are taking a 4,347 mile ride. But starting on April 27th, Murray will lead a group of 15 architects, designers, and urbanists (including for a time Richard Rogers; Norman Foster—as his diary permits—and, in New York, Bill Pedersen) on a bicycle trip from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine and then to Portland Place in London—home to RIBA. They plan to link up with the architectural community en route and learn from what American cities are doing—or not doing—to accommodate cyclists. They will present their findings at the Center for Architecture in New York on July 1 and on August 2 at the London Cycling Summit. The group is encouraging people to join them for parts or their ride and their website lists where they will be on a daily basis. The Architect's Newspaper will be a media sponsor for the trip and we'll be posting regular dispatches from the group as they pedal across the country from West to East and newspaper staff will join them from Princeton, New Jersey to New York City.
500-cyclists and pedestrians an hour simultaneously traveling along the same route bordering the Regent's Canal in north London certainly makes for one congested—and with cyclists and pedestrians jockeying for limited space, a treacherous—commute. According to BD Online, landscape architect Anthony Nelson, director at Design International, has proposed a dramatic solution that could resolve the long-standing battle between fast-moving cyclists and slower pedestrians. The plan would elevate cyclists up to 13 feet into the air on a lightweight steel platform interspersed with cultural hubs, a sort of High Line for bikes, to completely detach the bicycle path from the pedestrian walkway. Nelson told BD challenges include raising the path to allow large boats to pass beneath and crossing other bridges where clearance won't allow the path to cross underneath. Nelson plans to gain additional feedback from waterway users this summer—during the months in which waterway congestion is at its highest—before presenting the project to politicians in the fall.
As one of a slew of successful placemaking initiatives of late, along with the recently reopened Washington Park, Cincinnati’s Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park is a key component of the city's resurgent urban identity. It’s a multi-faceted design, aspiring to filter water for flood control, provide green space and connect two downtown stadiums with a multimodal trail along the Ohio River. Smale, designed by Sasaki Associates, is also the site of a bike hub that ties two-wheel infrastructure into the city and two regional trail systems: the Ohio River Trail and the Ohio to Erie Trail. Along the edge of the park’s grand stair and within sight of both bike trails and the parking garage, the facility is intended to encourage travel by bicycle, Quadcycle and Segway. The hub celebrates its first birthday this May. This Friday April 19, Cincinnati will convene a panel to discuss multimodal connectivity throughout the city, including bikeways and bus rapid transit, co-sponsored by the Urban Cincy blog and the University of Cincinnati's Niehoff Studio. According to Urban Cincy, the event will "include discussion about how multi-modal transportation concepts can be applied throughout Cincinnati."
It’s been about a year since the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (DOT) took the reins over MyFigueroa, a project that hopes to remake the 4-miles in and around Figueroa Street from LA Live to Exposition Park, near USC. But things are quickly wrapping up, because the $20-million Proposition 1C funds it was awarded need to be spent by 2014. On April 9, DOT hosted a community meeting in downtown LA to unveil updated designs for this crucial connective corridor, which when finished, would be the city’s first implemented complete street. The design includes plans for a cycle track, a fully separated path from 7th Street south to 11th Street and then again from 20th Street south to Exposition Boulevard. Remaining areas will have painted, buffered bike lines, which would delineate between bike lanes and car lanes. Other elements include: bus platforms built into the sidewalk; improved LED street lighting; pedestrian-oriented signage (including ones that will inform pedestrians how long it takes to walk toward certain destinations); high-visibility crosswalks; new and repaired paving; as well as additional and removed plantings. The result is meant to be a street that “reflects the way we live now,” said Melani Smith, principal at Melendrez Design Partners. It would transform Figueroa Street into a fast-paced alternative to taking the 110 highway into a multimodal hub that would accommodate bus lanes, bike lanes, and pedestrians on its streets. A few skeptical community members raised concerns on the design’s traffic impact, especially on 11th Street, which will be reduced to one car lane from two, but will have a buffered bike lane and possibly an extended sidewalk. Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, looked for the traffic studies and environmental study that was done in the corridor. David Somers of City Planning assured the public that traffic projects with a 20-30 year horizon were taken into consideration in the plans. Past precedents do make a strong case for MyFigueroa. Designing complete streets not only increases pedestrian safety, but also adds to commerce. When Union Square North in New York was protected from traffic, studies showed a 26 percent decrease in injuries and 49 percent decrease in commercial vacancies. When complete street extensions were implemented on 8th and 9th Avenues (again in New York), there was 35 and 58 percent decrease in injuries respectively while retail sales increased 49 percent. Jeff Jacobberger, vice-chair of Mid-City West Community Council agreed. “Change is always unsettling,” he said. But as a cyclist and a car driver Jacobberger said MyFigueroa is something that needs to be done rather than maintaining a status quo where drivers are continually given precedence on the streets at the expense of the city’s quality of life. MyFigueroa plans have finished environmental studies and will be up for approval by the Los Angeles DOT General Manager sometime in May. Once approved, the designs will go out for bid the rest of 2013. Construction will occur throughout 2014.
With the launch of the Citi Bike share program around the corner, New York City's bike advocates are focusing their efforts on the next cycling obstacle: the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Harbor Ring, an advocacy project of the Regional Plan Association, is calling for a 50-mile cycling and pedestrian route encircling New York harbor. The group has published a new petition with over 1,000 signatures at press time pushing for the construction of a bike and pedestrian lane across the double-decked suspension bridge, which turns 50 next year. The Brooklyn Daily reported that bike advocates are hoping Governor Cuomo will support the proposal for the new bike path, which would not only connect Brooklyn and Staten Island, but also provide a critical connection for the Harbor Ring. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has said it will “consider conducting a feasibility study,” but not until 2014 or later. MTA spokesperson Judie Glave told the Daily, "MTA Bridges and Tunnels is considering this issue as part of a future Belt Parkway ramp reconstruction project." This proposal to add a bike path isn't new: A feasibility study conducted in 1997 by the Department of City Planning revealed that it would be possible to build a bicycle lane without removing any vehicle lanes, but could cost around $26.5 million.
Pittsburgh is the latest in a long line of cities preparing to launch a bike share system. According to the Bike PGH blog, Mayor Ravenstahl announced the 500-bike, 50-station program earlier this month. Similar to systems in other cities, bikes will be available for short-term rides for a small fee. Portland, OR-based Alta Planning and Design will partner with the city to launch the system, the same company involved with New York, Washington DC, and other major bike share systems. More information will be available at two community meetings scheduled for April 2nd and 3rd. The city hopes to roll out the new bikes in 2014.
While Two Trees still needs to make it through the ULURP process before breaking ground on its SHoP Architects-designed mixed-use development for the Domino Sugar site on the Brooklyn Waterfront, the developer has just announced plans for Site E, a vacant parcel on the corner of Kent Avenue and South 3rd. A large section of the 55,000-square-foot lot will be dedicated to a community green space run by North Brooklyn Farms that will host a range of Brooklyn-friendly activities and classes from yoga to urban farming. And on the western side, there will be a bike course, organized by New York City Mountain Bike Association, with areas for riders of all levels. This new urban farm-meets-bike recreation spot will open to the public in May and close once construction commences on the development.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is expanding its programming to the streets of Fort Greene. Brownstoner reported that the multi-arts center is proposing a series of temporary murals in front of an empty lot at 31 Lafayette Avenue, across from one of its performing arts spaces, the Howard Gilman Opera House. BAM plans to launch the program with a mural by Brooklyn artist KAWS, and then invite other local talent to display their art. There will also be space made for more of David Byrne’s sculptural, letter-shaped bike racks akin to the ones he designed in front of the Peter Jay Sharp Building. Community Board 2 will vote on the art wall tomorrow.