May/June 1997, p.2
Reclaiming the Streets
CMAQ Process Confirms Brooklyn Neighborhoods' Worst Fears
Foes of traffic calming won another battle recently when New York's metropolitan planning organization refused to provide federal clean-air funds for Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden's $20 million Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming proposal. Golden submitted the proposal in response to a series of pro-traffic calming rallies held last summer by neighborhood groups, T.A. and the Neighborhood Streets Network.
A byzantine program of bureaucratic maneuvers on the part of the City Department of Transportation (DOT) and other members of the planning group left Borough President Golden, Councilman Ken Fisher and community groups feeling that the proposal had not been killed on its merits. Instead, it appears that the project died from a reluctance to allow a project with significant community control and funding for traffic calming. When rejecting the project, planners cited several excuses that had not been raised before, despite more than three months' consultation with supporters of the plan. The DOT withdrew the project without conferring with Golden, who was an equal co-sponsor.
Golden took the issue all the way to the Mayor, but Giuliani was unwilling to overrule DOT bureaucrats. As a result, Brooklyn residents will be back out stopping traffic on the streets this election-year summer. If you're outraged that the Mayor refuses to support reducing traffic in neighborhoods, tell him. Write to: Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, City Hall, New York NY 10007.
To help plan the summer's rallies, attend T.A.'s next Brooklyn Committee meeting.
TA Wins Assembly Hearing
City DOT head Christopher Lynn argued that the DOT had made progress toward safer streets, and highlighted the agency's speed hump program and efforts to create a pilot "Residential Safety Zone" in each borough. However, the commissioner avoided discussing the Network's joint effort with Assembly member Deborah Glick to get 15 mph zones legalized, and the DOT'S efforts to curb dangerous driving continue to fall short. Where Montgomery County, Maryland installed more than 1,000 speed humps last year, New York City put in fewer than fifty. Unlike Seattle and Portland, New York still lacks a systematic approach to calming neighborhood streets and dangerous intersections. Commissioner Lynn will have to create one if he wants his traffic calming efforts to be more than a quickly forgotten series of pilot projects.
Commissioner Lynn pronounced at the December pedestrian safety hearing that the DOT had plenty of cheap asphalt and concrete curbing-and he intended to use it. The Commissioner said he would add raised medians and mini-traffic circles to the department's traffic calming tool-kit of speed humps and chevrons. If you have locations in your neighborhood where painted medians should be filled in, or where extra-wide streets intersections should be narrowed, write the Commissioner. Mini-traffic circles help with small, but dangerous, intersections-if you've got them, send him a list! Make sure he has heard from you before spring, when the warm weather needed to install these devices comes.
Send him a note at: 40 Worth St., New York, NY 10013. Or fax to 212-442-7007. Make sure to send us a copy.
As car speeds rise, so does the crash rate, noise levels, and an atmosphere of chaos. Bin New York State law prohibits localities from doing anything about it, outlawing speed limits below 30 mph. The state legislature has reacted to calls for change from all over the state by introducing no less than fifteen bills allowing more local control over speed limits. One of those bills, A3969, is in direct response to demands from members of the Neighborhood Streets Network.
Introduced by Assemblymember Deborah Click, the bill would allow New York City complete control over city speed limits. Unlike legislation introduced last year, A3969 only applies to the city, making it more palatable to legislators. The Giuliani Administration has yet to take a position on the bill, but recent actions by DOT show a desire to respond to community concerns about speeding and danger. DOT has created five "Residential Model Safety Zones," relying on pedestrian and driver education, strict NYPD enforcement, and other changes that would reduce crashes. The ability to establish 15 mph speed zones would dramatically enhance the effectiveness of these zones. A strong message of support from the administration is needed to get this bill passed. Write to: Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, City Hall, New York NY 10007. Ask him to actively support A3969.
The DOT is experimenting with using optical illusions to slow down speeding cars. Chevron markings painted on the road "convince drivers that they are traveling faster than they really are" and "create the impression that the road is narrowing," according to a study by the American Automobile Association. Data from six locations in Japan show that chevrons reduced crashes by nearly 40%. DOT Commissioner Lynn proclaimed that "this is a proven, simple and inexpensive way to slow down drivers who are approaching dangerous intersections or residential neighborhoods at high speeds." If you've got speeding drivers in your neighborhood, ask for chevrons: Commissioner Christopher Lynn, NYC DOT, 40 Worth St, New York NY 10013.
Prompted by T.A. after the hearings on pedestrian safety, the New York Times ran two lengthy articles last December about the city's deadliest intersections and the DOT'S failure to tackle the problem of chaos on the streets. The Times also described many of the solutions-such as sidewalk extensions and traffic circles-that T.A. has long been advocating, and criticized the DOT for failing to spend the tens of millions in available federal money to implement such pedestrian-friendly projects. "It's the Department of Transportation, not the Department of Traffic and Cars," T.A.'s Paul Harrison was quoted. "They should be paying half their attention to people. It's an agency that for a long time has focused on moving traffic."
© 1997-2013 Transportation Alternatives
127 West 26th Street, Suite 1002
New York, NY 10001