TagNYC

The snow debate: Who should clear sidewalks?

A couple of days ago (I think it was Friday night, December 18, 2009), a storm dumped several feet of snow in the northeast United States, covering New York City, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The storm was so eventful that Metro (Washington, D.C.) stored many of its trains in the subway tunnels to avoid getting them covered in heavy snow, and applied “heater tape” to the third rails to keep them from getting new ice after two passes from plows and deicing trains. [This information comes from the linked Metro press release on December 19, 2009.]

Now Streetsblog NYC is hosting the debate about snow removal from sidewalks. Why doesn’t anyone do it, and who should do it? Images of unplowed sidewalks and pedestrians walking in clean and clear streets bring up issues about priorities in street design and maintenance.

Many municipalities have ordinances requiring the property owner to remove snow from the sidewalk (Chicago even specifies a time frame in which the work must be completed; at my last apartment, I shoveled the snow from the sidewalk and porches for a deduction in rent). Many people report how these laws pass through the winter without enforcement.

My bike waits for me on unplowed sidewalk in front of my school. I live in Chicago, Illinois, not the east coast.

A plow removes snow from a bike lane in Copenhagen, Denmark. Is this something we can bring to our bike lanes and sidewalks in the United States?

Bike parking news for Chicago and NYC

First, let’s talk about Chicago’s bike parking news.

The Chicago Bicycle Parking Program, in August 2008, launched a web application that “does three things” (straight from the website) for Chicago residents: allows them to request a new bike rack; allows them to track their request; allows them to find existing and requested bike parking locations.* We call it the “Public Interface” in the office.

In the past three weeks, our “bike parking locator” was featured on:

  • Chicago Reader
  • Cyclelicious
  • GapersBlock (via Chicago Reader)
  • RedEye – “How much bike parking is in your ‘hood?” – This piece excited me the most. It was printed and distributed to thousands of Chicagoans on Friday, December 11, 2009! The article included a map based on the data that anyone can download from the Public Interface’s advanced search page.

Scan of article printed in the 12/11/09 publication of the RedEye, a Chicago Tribune tabloid-style newspaper.

Screenshot of the Advanced Search page in the Bike Parking Public Interface web application.

Now let’s move on to the news in New York City. The Bicycle Access to Office Buildings Law went into effect on December 11, 2009. Briefly, the law says buildings with at least one freight elevator and without listed exceptions must create a “bicycle access plan” for residents/tenants upon request. For interested tenants of building owners and managers, the NYC Department of Transportation’s “Bikes in Buildings” website is the first stop. It describes the process and offers tenants and building owners and managers an automatic request generator or plan builder. This also helps the NYC DOT track requests and deal with exception requests. In the spirit of President Obama’s desire for government openness and the Office of Management and Budget’s recently released “Open Government Direction,” I hope NYC DOT publishes the information it holds.

Streetsblog has posted a roundup of its previous articles leading up to the bill’s passing in July 2009.

*Disclaimer: I coded the web application. My boss was also involved, mainly in directing how it should function and what it should say (he’s way better at copywriting than I am). I also got help from someone who’s blind to test the accessibility of the website.

The automobile assault on pedestrians occurs daily

Transportation for America reports 400 pedestrians killed each month. Thankfully, no pedestrians were hurt in the collision you see here.

More of you need to carry cameras around to document this travesty. You’ve seen my photos. Where’re yours?

Watch for my article on pedestrian safety coming on Friday (I wrote it a month ago, but the information and message isn’t late).

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