TagNew York City

TV shows can’t fool me with their inaccurate train portrayals

I have an idea. I have a TV show that takes place in New York City. I need to film a scene on the subway. So I use the closest subway… Los Angeles Metro.

Oh, and I’ll place “NYC Subway” signs on the walls (replete with graffiti).

No one will see the red stripes all over the place indicating this is the Red Line.

When you live in those cities, or you’re just enough of a railfan to see the difference, it becomes annoying and makes you despise the TV show you like.

On this particular show, they show footage actually taken in New York City to show the subway entrance. Some stock footage I guess.

That show was “Don’t Trust the B**** in Apt. 23“. The other filmed product that got it all wrong was “The Bourne Legacy”. It partially takes place in some bastardization of Chicago. In this movie, which stars Jeremy Renner instead of Matt Damon, the director depicted the Chicago ‘L’ while showing footage of a New York City elevated train. How could one tell? Nowhere in Chicago are there two parallel tracks, with one above the other. Nor are the elevated tracks that high above the street, nor do they use curved elevated columns. This happens about 50 minutes in. Immediately before this fake scene is shown, you’ll see aerial footage of the real Chicago ‘L’. This lasts for 4 seconds.

Real Chicago ‘L’.

Stand-in Chicago ‘L’. 

I don’t want to call this “disingenuous” (but I think it is) and TV show producers aren’t required to film exactly where they portray; these “stand ins” are probably for budgetary reasons. I don’t think it harms a city’s brand or image. I just get annoyed: the show becomes less believable. Maybe I know too much about cities.

Film crews get tax breaks in lots of cities and states in the United States and Canada. If I were the city’s film office manager, or the city’s lobbyist or brand manager, I’d want it to be portrayed accurately.

The 3-way street

Update June 12, 2011: Added a link to and excerpt from commentary by David Hembrow, a British blogger in the Netherlands.

How does a 3-way street work? Easy, just watch the video.

I like the term “aggressive yield” to describe the situation when a motorist does yield to pedestrians crossing the street, but in a way where they inch forward continually, slowly pushing, with a buffer or air, the people out of the way.

I really like the comment from Tuesday by Anthony Ball:

those red markers are just showing the limits of tolerable risk as established by years of system development. If the collision speeds were higher, those red circles would be far few – it’s simply a system finding its own point of stability.

If you really want to wreak havoc – try to control that system without corrective feedback (eg more rules, lights, controls, etc) and you’ll see the system kill people while it tries to find new stable relationships.

don’t forget that rules, signs, lights, etc have no direct impact on the system – they only work through the interpretation of the users.

What did David Hembrow have to say? David lives in the Netherlands and disagrees with the common sentiment that these conflicts are caused by selfish users.

I don’t see the behaviour at this junction as being about “bad habits”. What I see is simply a very badly designed junction which almost invites people to behave in the way that they do.

Dutch road junctions don’t look like and work like this – they are different for a reason: it removes the conflicts and improves safety. A long-standing theme of Dutch road design is the concept of Sustainable Safety. The concept is to remove conflict so that collisions are rare and the consequences of those which remain are relatively small. Roads are made self-explanatory so that bad behaviour is reduced and the way people behave is changed.

Reading this reminds me of the work of the students in George Aye’s class at SAIC, “Living in a Smart City.” The students attempted, through an intersection redesign, to reduce the stresses that lead to crashes.

Where are the 3-way streets in your city? Grand/Halsted/Milwaukee in Chicago comes to my mind easily. Also a lot of streets in the Loop. Oh yeah, and The Crotch, at Milwaukee/North/Damen.

Do you want this facility? Where?

Take a look at this protected two-way bike lane in Brooklyn, New York City.

Some people are suing to remove (or change it). If you’re someone who doesn’t live there, here’s why this fight could still be important for you. Or maybe you want to know why the bike lane was installed.

If your city’s transportation or public works department proposed a protected bike lane or cycle track for your town, where should the first one go?

I propose 11 locations for Chicago (see link for ideal segments):

  • Blue Island Avenue
  • Chicago Avenue
  • Fullerton Avenue
  • Grand Avenue
  • Halsted Street (in some discrete locations)
  • King Drive (connecting downtown/South Loop to Bronzeville, Hyde Park, Washington Park)
  • Ogden Avenue (the entire street, from the city boundary on the southwest side to its dead end at the Chicago River near Chicago Avenue)
  • Wabash Street (connecting downtown and IIT)
  • Washington Boulevard/Street
  • Wells Street – this may be one of the easiest locations to pull off, politically at least, especially if Alderman Reilly pays for all or part of it with his annual appropriation of $1.32 million (“menu funds”).
  • Western Avenue

    Notice how I didn’t propose Stony Island. Here’s why.

    P.S. This will not be like the case of high-speed rail in America, where if one governor refuses money for an HSR project, other governors can compete for that money. The Prospect Park West bike lane will not be picking up and moving to another state ;)

    Look at all that room for people to go about their business, whether by car, bike, roller skates, wheelchairs, or their own two feet. Photos by Elizabeth Press.

    Why I’m keeping track of Brooklyn’s bike lane drama

    A protected bike lane on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn installed by the New York City Department of Transportation in summer 2010 is under attack. Two groups have sued the city in March 2011 over the lane’s installation. The city published a report that indicated that the new bike lane contributed to fewer drivers speeding, a decrease in injuries, and an increase in compliance of the law banning bicycling on the sidewalk.

    I have written several articles about the drama, including New Yorkers really want to keep their bike lanes.

    Why am I paying attention?

    I believe this fight may come to Chicago when the Chicago Department of Transportation starts planning the cycle track to be installed on Stony Island Avenue between 69th and 77th Streets, which may be installed as soon as 2014.

    And when the fight does come, I want to know as much as possible about how to defend Chicago’s first cycle track.

    Will we be successful and install a similar facility in Chicago? Photo features New York City’s first cycle track, from 2007, on 9th Avenue.

    Weighting people’s experiences in route choice

    An iPhone app is not a substitute for a paper map*, good signage on your bikeway network, or someone just telling you, “Turn right on Church, right on Chambers, left on Reade” to get to the bike shop where you left your water bottle.

    At the bike shop I asked about how to get to the Williamsburg bridge so I could go “home” to Brooklyn. After looking at the map, he said, “Oh, take Grand.” -He then told me how to get to Grand.

    The Williamsburg bridge. I took this one even though the Manhattan bridge was probably closer to my “home” because I hadn’t yet ridden on it!

    I did. It worked. It was excellent. I even passed by the Doughnut Plant (which I had forgotten about visiting).

    Doughnut Plant makes really tasty donuts. I wouldn’t get them too often, though, because each one costs $3.

    Not only did I receive a “tried and true” route suggestion, I got it faster than any automated route devising device would have generated one.

    Each month I’m asked by people how to get somewhere in Chicago. We have so many resources these days but we often still rely on the spoken interaction to get us to our destination.

    *I’ve read or heard people suggest that “someone should make” an app that puts the bike map on their smartphone. I don’t think this app would be very useful or easy to use. But a paper map is both – and almost always free.

    Why did women in Chicago stop bicycling to work? And other stories about data

    Why did women in Chicago stop bicycling to work?
    Or is our data unreliable?

    Showing relative cycling-to-work rates between 2005 and 2009 in Chicago. Data from table S0801 in American Community Survey, 1-year estimates. Read the comments on this post for why this is not the best data source – 3-year estimate shows same decline in women cycling to work.

    Note: The sample size is puny – data was collected from 80,613 housing units in Illinois. I don’t know how many of those were in Chicago (and we have 1,063,047 housing units). The American Community Survey only collects data on transportation modes to work for ages 16 and up.

    But we simply have no other data! Maybe the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning can release the Chicago data they collected for the 2008 household travel survey to show us bicycling rates for all trip purposes (they divided the report into counties). The sample size would still be small, but we could compare the work rates to find some support between the datasets.

    We should look into how New York City counts bicycling as an additional way to gauge trends in Chicago (it has limitations of geography and area).

    They conduct two types of counts. The first is the screenline count for bridges, Staten Island Ferry, the Hudson River Greenway, and all Avenues at 50th Street. They do this three times per year. Then, seven more times a year, they count at the same places (except the Avenues) from April to October.

    While this data does not give them information on who cycles in the boroughs, it does give them a good indicator of cycling levels in Manhattan. It also disregards trip purpose, counting everyone going to work, school, or for social activities.

    Sidenote: The New York Police Department will begin making monthly statistical reports on bicycle crashes in the city.

    Emanuel releases plan for safe bicycling in Chicago. I reconsider.

    UPDATE: I forgot to mention in the original post that Rahm gave a press conference on Sunday at Rapid Transit Cycleshop in Wicker Park (the bike shop doesn’t endorse any candidate for mayor). More photos from the event here and here.

    Before Sunday, January 30th, 2011, when candidate for Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel released details of his plans for bicycling in Chicago, I was a big fan of Miguel Del Valle (read my earlier posts).

    I was excited by what he included and it made me think that someone’s been to New York City recently (or knows someone else who did), or Rahm watched Randy Neufeld talk about ten great ways to make bicycling great in Chicago.

    So what does Rahm say? (Specifics in bold.)

    • Chicago lags behind many other cities in the rate of new bike lanes each year and providing bike parking in buildings. – Yep, check San Francisco, Portland, and New York City.
    • He will build 25 miles of new bike lanes each year and prioritize protected bike lanes. Great, Chicago will finally catch up on this sought-after bikeway over 12 years after one was installed in Davis, California. New York City installed several miles of this (“cycletrack”) in Manhattan in 2008 and continue today.

    New York City’s first protected bike lane, or cycletrack, on 9th Avenue in Manhattan’s west side. Will Rahm’s administration install something like this in Chicago before 2015?

    • “…initiate a review of [the Bike 2015 Plan's] goals and timelines to identify opportunities to expand the plan and accelerate the pace of implementation.” Right on. This needs to be done so we know our progress.
    • “…create a bike lane network that allows every Chicagoan – from kids on their first ride to senior citizens on their way to the grocery store – to feel safe on our streets.” Hey, that’s exactly what Randy said: Make bicycling for everyone, “from 8 to 80.”
    • Rahm will have the Bloomingdale Trail open and functional by the end of his term. The abandoned, elevated rail line promises to be an important part of the bikeway network, but also a neat recreational facility.

    The Bloomingdale Trail is an elevated railroad viaduct (at 1800 North) running from Lawndale Avenue east to Ashland Avenue (possible to Elston Avenue). It is just under 3 miles of uninterrupted, car-free transportation for people walking and bicycling. Photo by Kasey D.

    • Make an ordinance that says buildings with over 200 workers must install indoor bike parking. More than their desire for workplace showers, people who bicycle to work (or are considering it) want a secure place to store their bike for 8+ hours.
    • Double the number of on-street bike parking, including in neighborhoods. This is another point Randy made – there must be a place to park one’s bike at home!

    There are many opportunities in Chicago to install bike parking for neighbors. Not everyone can fit their bike inside or bring it up to the fifth floor. Bike parking could occupy a section of a wide parkway, or be in the street, providing space for 16 bikes where only 1 car can fit. Photo by Jonathan Maus.

    So far, no other candidate for mayor has released such a detailed and specific plan to include bicycles as a part of Chicago’s transportation system.

    Bike lane news around the country

    In other bike lane news around the country:

    • Kansas City, Missouri, now has two bridges with separated and protected bike lanes. A concrete barrier separates a combined walking and biking path from traffic.
    • Chicago’s door lane network grows a little more with new door lanes on Grand Avenue and Illinois Street. Downtown is in the most need of bike lanes so these should be useful (although I advocate for ones going through the Loop).
    • Separated bike lanes again under attack in New York City, this time on Columbus Avenue. It was only installed in August.
    • Washington, D.C., installed bike boxes and contraflow bike lanes (in August 2010) on a diagonal street at a six-way intersection (we have tons of six-way intersections in Chicago). John Allen, notable for his stance on bikeways and how they conflict with traffic engineering principles, approves of the design. In theory, contraflow bike lanes next to parallel parking lanes are good (and better than door lanes) because (1) the door to open is the passenger’s door, which opens less often than the driver’s door; (2) the person opening the door and the person riding the bike are staring at each other; and (3) if a person riding a bike collides with the door from the oncoming direction, the collision should be less damaging  to the person riding the bike. (You can thank former Mayor Adrian Fenty and former transportation commissioner Gabe Klein, and their staff, for these improvements to the bikeway network.)

    The new door lanes in Chicago on Grand Avenue (as well as Illinois Street) involved a road diet, the narrowing or removal of main traffic lanes. You can see how a lane was removed – the stripes demarcating the two lanes have been ground out. This may reduce traffic speed and reduce confusion and collisions, a welcomed change. Watch a video of the bike lane striping being applied.

    In Washington, D.C., a unique and adapted bike lane design for a diagonal street where it crosses two other streets at a six-way intersection. Another way to demonstrate what a bicycle lane could do.

    Update on Prospect Park West bike lanes

    On Thursday, the day of the anti-bike lane rally and adjacent counter rally, the New York City Department of Transportation released preliminary “before and after” data about speeding and sidewalk riding, the two major concerns the neighborhood had about the street.

    Instead of 46% of people riding bikes on Prospect Park West sidewalks, only 4% do. And only 11-23% exceed the speed limit, where before the new bike lane, 73-76% would. Download the document (PDF) via TransportationNation.

    A commenter (BicyclesOnly, from NYC) weighs in:

    One of the main complaints against the redesign is that it reduces the roadway from three lanes to two, which means that double parking (which is very common here) effectively reduces the roadway to one lane. At one lane, you get some congestion and delays.

    [...]

    But is that really so bad? The impetus behind this project was concerns for rampant motor vehicle speeding. Because this roadway at three lanes had excess capacity, more than half the vehicles can and routinely would exceed the speed limit, creating a barrier between park slope residents and their park. 90% of the Park Slope community lives, not on Prospect Park West, where this project was installed, but to the west.

    So to be fair, I wouldn’t suggest that the project has had NO effect on residents. But from a safety and utility perspective, and looking at the entire community of people who use this corridor–not just the people who live on it–the trade offs clearly are worth it. That’s why the local Community Board endorsed this project. And it bears mention that the Community Board is hand-picked by the Borough President, who is the leading OPPONENT of the project. So the community review process was NOT rigged in favor of approval.

    Photo showing bike lane construction in progress.

    New Yorkers really want to keep their bike lanes

    UPDATE March 21, 2011: Seniors for Safety and Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes have sued the New York City government. Stay up to date with Streetsblog and Brooklyn Spoke. While both are clearly in favor of the protected bike lanes on Prospect Park West, the other news sources (like the daily papers there) are getting decidedly nasty in their reporting. Brooklyn Spoke has been reporting on the Community Board 6 meetings. Read about why I post about this on Steven Can Plan.

    UPDATE 10-22-10: Streetsblog has posted new data showing before and after conditions on Prospect Park West.

    Alternate headline: People protecting their protected bike lanes, New York City edition.

    New Yorkers will show up at rallies to ensure the protected bike lanes STAY. Photo by bicyclesonly.

    New York City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) installed in early 2010 a two-way bike lane protected by a “floating parking lane” on Prospect Park West, an “arterial” road on the west side of Prospect Park. I rode on this bike lane during my August 2010 visit. It was fantastic.

    It’s like riding on an off-street trail – cars won’t be giving you the ol’ right hook.

    The only safety consideration is yielding to pedestrians who cross the bike lane. There’s no worry about dooring and little worry about moving cars hitting you.

    Pay attention to the pedestrian crossing. Note the painted large pedestrian refuge area.

    As you can see in this satellite image from Google Maps (link to map), the current roadway configuration from west to east is:

    Parking lane – travel lane – travel lane – parking lane – buffer – bike lane (SB) – bike lane (NB)

    Some residents want the bike lane removed. Their rationale is unclear, but it may have something to do with the perceived loss of parking. And being able to speed. The jury’s out on this matter. These residents announced a rally to demand its removal from the overbearing DOT. They specifically name DOT Commissioner Jeanette Sadik-Khan as the sole source of all that is wrong in transportation in New York City. Even the Borough President, Marty Markowitz*, is against it. (Also for irrational reasons.)

    So the bike lane opponents showed up to their rally. But 200-300 bike lane supporters came, too (Streetsblog). A neighborhood group researched automobile speeding before and after the bike lane installation and found, post-installation, a drastic reduction of people driving more than 40 MPH.

    Us Chicagoans need to borrow some of this pro-bike lane energy to support the Bike Boulevards Now! effort (I haven’t heard anything about this since it began in 2009.)

    *From what I’ve read, the office Borough President is a ceremonial position. They get a spot on the Planning Commission board and Panel for Education Policy.

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