TagNYC

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.

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.

Take the helicopter to the airport!

If you have a lot of money, you can skip the road traffic and take a helicopter from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport to JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark airports. U.S. Helicopter provides shuttle service for $800 one-way and will get you there in 10 minutes or less. HeliNY Charters charges $1,850.

After the helicopter landed, some people got on and one minute later it took off. While I stood here, a couple helicopters came and went. I took video but I accidentally deleted it later.

Sources: U.S. Helicopter, Downtown Manhattan Heliport, HeliNY

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.

New York City, a dreamland

Rather than write a lengthy post here describing my recent trip to New York City (I went in the last weekend of August), I will invite you to peruse my 50 photo gallery. They are in order by date and time taken and fully mapped and described.

I was last in New York City in August 2001, for the MacWorld Conference where I saw Steve Jobs announce the iPod – I got that iPod for Christmas that year. I stayed in Connecticut. The first day, my dad and I drove into the city. The next day we took Metro North from Bridgeport. The only thing I remember doing on that trip is taking the subway from the Javits Center to the Hard Rock Cafe and over to Grand Central Station.

I’ll describe my 2010 trip as a “whirlwind tour.” In three days I rode over 100 miles on a too-small borrowed bike. I met fourteen people. I went up and down the island four times. I wouldn’t shut up at work about it for a week.

The first photo in the set, about the typography of the New York City yellow cab system.

The last photo in the set, about pedestrian craziness in the segregated bike lanes.

Full photo set. The set is sure to grow, so stay tuned to my Flickr photostream or Twitter feed for updates.

I saw all the movie and photo shoots in New York City

New York City doesn’t need Google Street View.

Every street has been captured at some time or another in a shoot for photos, music videos, or movies.

Two simultaneous photo shoots. I couldn’t tell if they were related. The one on the right might be pointed in the wrong direction and feature the people in the left. Right above this was a movie shoot on the High Line.

I saw one movie shoot, five photo shoots, and this music video shoot all while riding and walking around New York City. Just in three days!

A rap music video shot across the street from Recycle-A-Bicycle.

Everything in New York City is normal.

Travel grief

I came back to Chicago today after a trip to New York City.

The first thing I did when I arrived was imagine all the things that I want to change based on what I saw and learned in New York City. Someone told me this is travel grief, states of emotion and motivation in order to effect change.

What was the first thing I saw?

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has three types of ticket vending machines (TVM) in the O’Hare Blue Line station. One is the common TVM that can create cards with cash value, add value to existing cards, or add value to Chicago Cards (with cash). The second TVM did all of this and accepted credit cards. The third TVM issued single or multi-day passes (I don’t remember if it took credit cards).

The vending machines in the New York City subway perform the functions of all CTA three machines AND all accept credit cards. Since 1999.

There’s more. I tried to keep a list. As I process my 500+ photos, I’ll be reminded of the ones I forgot to write down.

The truth about Wal-Mart’s contribution to the tax roll

I recently wrote about how Wal-Mart plans to expand its reach in Chicago in a big way (30 new stores big). Politicians around the country consistently like to be heard saying how one way the store(s) will benefit the city is the additional tax revenue the city will see from property and sales tax contributions. Here are selected quotes from Chicagoans:

On Tuesday, [Chicago Mayor] Daley noted that a Wal-Mart expansion would pave the way for sales tax windfall for the cash-starved city budget.

In suburban Cook County, about 20 percent to 30 percent of all sales tax revenue comes from Wal-Marts, Daley said.

Chicago Sun-Times, June 15, 2010

“Everyone realizes we need the tax revenue,” [Alderman Anthony] Beale [9th Ward] said.

Chicago Sun-Times, May 5, 2010

Ald. Richard Mell, 33rd, a pro-union alderman, lamented Wal-Mart’s domination of the nation’s retail market and its tendency to sell foreign-made products, but voted for Pullman Park because of the need for jobs and additional tax revenue.

Chicago Tribune, June 30, 2010

Comparatively, Wal-Mart brings in little property tax revenue on a per acre basis, according to a study from Sarasota County (Florida) and Public Interest Projects and posted by Citiwire. I’ve summarized their findings:

  • Single-family home: $8,200 per acre
  • Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club: $150.00-$200.00 per acre
  • Southgate Mall: $22,000 per acre
  • High-rise mixed-use project in downtown Sarasota: $800,000

That last one’s the kicker! From the Citiwire article, “‘It takes a lot of WalMarts to equal the contribution of that one mixed-use building,’ [Peter] Katz noted.” Read the full story for more examples and for more discussion on how this specific breakdown of costs and benefits is only one way to look at fiscal and retail impact.

If the same tax revenues were true for Chicago or Cook County (and I can’t say it is or isn’t), then the city planners and aldermen should be seeking developers to build high-rise mixed-use projects. Right.

But the issue Chicago and other cities have is that Wal-Mart is one of the most willing developers – they will build where no one else will. They have capital that no one else has. They have the resources to sway the population. It’s more politically difficult to resist such a willing partner like Wal-Mart than it is to seek relationships with developers who have the resources to create more beneficial mixed-use projects in the neighborhoods Wal-Mart seems to prefer.

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