Monday, June 30, 2008

I found it!

Once again I found myself outside IKEA this past Sunday afternoon. This time I decided to check things out for myself. While I was walking along the new waterfront park (thanks, IKEA), off in the far distance I saw it - could it really be? I hopped on my bike and rode through the parking lot, turned left, and there it was.

                                              Bike Parking.

Since I realized that it was really a part of the new park, I figured this is part of the new IKEA complex and must be bike parking that they provided for customers, right? Well, you would think not considering the distance from the parking spot to the store entrance, but actually (I'm pleased to say) this is parking that was provided by IKEA. (For clarification's sake, there are city racks across the street from IKEA, but these are provided by the city and are meant for any users.) 

Of course, here is the real parking:

Friday, June 27, 2008

The High Line

Growing up in Chicago where the subway system is called the "el" because the majority of the system is elevated, I find the High Line a great new open/green space in New York City. It is nice that this park will be above the automobile and pedestrian traffic that clogs the streets and sidewalks of Manhattan. Even better, this new park is strictly for walkers (no runners, bikes, or joggers), as it should be.

What I like about the High Line is that the city took a local groups idea, which was outside the box for the decaying freight rail line, and turned it into a public benefit for the city's residents. I hope that the Parks Department will be this proactive in looking at other areas of the city (e.g. the old Bay Ridge LIRR line) for future projects where underutilized areas can be turned into green and open space.

Check out the NY Times slide show and the Friends of the Highline.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Battle for Central Park

I am both a runner and a cyclist (I don't own a dog) and this NY Magazine article gets right to the matter: who owns the park space?
The struggle for Central Park is, in its essence, like any other New York neighborhood conflict, with the same kinds of seething antagonisms and the same immutable stereotypes. There are the old-timers (I was here first!), the colonizers (The park is ours!), and the new-money arrivistes (Who do you think you are?). Cyclists see runners as a domineering mass that has controlled the park since the jogging boom of the late seventies. “You’re not going to do a ride without having someone beam at you some feeling of resentment,” says Ken Harris, the president of the Century Road Club, the largest bike-racing club in the country. Runners, in cyclists’ view, shuffle along the road and are prone to swerve erratically in an iPod-induced trance. “Most of the runners have the headphones on so loud that they don’t have a clue where they’re going,” adds Thomas Kempner Jr., chairman of the Central Park Conservancy and a frequent cyclist. “There is a lot of hate,” nationally ranked cyclist Sarah Chubb, the president of Condé Nast’s CondéNet, tells me. “The Road Runners club can take over the entire park, and they get pissed at us if our races go past 8 a.m. The runners don’t stay where they’re supposed to stay, they’re wearing headphones, and they’ll scream at you if you ask them to get out of the way!”

There’s one issue about which runners, cyclists, and dog owners are in full agreement: cars. For years, Transportation Alternatives, the bicycle-advocacy organization, has been waging a campaign to banish cars from the park. “We’re incredulous that we don’t have a car-free Central Park already,” Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul White tells me. “The anger you see in the park is similar to the ire you see in Park Slope with the double-wide strollers. Our view is, Don’t get mad at the stroller moms. Get mad at the city for providing such limited car-free space.”

Although I live closer to Prospect Park, the little brother of Central Park, many of these experiences ring true. I have seen a dog attack a cyclist, I have been yelled at on my bike for not stopping at the red lights, a runner ran into me on my bike (when I had the right of way), and I have almost been hit by cars in the park (both running and cycling) about a half a dozen times.

While this article demonstrates that NYC is lacking in green and park space that can be used for active recreation, overall the cars need to get out. With all the issues park users face, the automobile should be the one thing they shouldn't have to worry about. Check out the TA carfree parks campaign and sign the petition.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bike parking at IKEA?

While doing some work on the Red Hook Bike Master Plan yesterday, I took a ride down to Red Hook. As the pictures demonstrate, here is the bike parking situation at the new IKEA:

Remember this just a few years ago? What happened, IKEA? Here is the real story, it was never planned for.

Fewer studies, more action

This was posted via Street Blogs about a situation all too common in New York City. Residents have made their case to local elected officials and the community board, but still DOT seems reluctant to take any action on this intersection. This article gives you all the details:
Since 2005, the Friends of Washington Market Park have begged city transportation officials to bring Greenwich St. traffic under control. Our Tribeca Kids Zone coalition comprises the P.T.A.s of the area’s dozen schools — public, private, nursery and religious — along with the Independent Plaza North Tenants Association. We’ve enlisted the support of Community Board 1 and local electeds, we’ve shot photos and videos documenting the danger (see, we’ve tabulated vehicle frequencies and timed “traffic gaps.”

We’ve “dialogued” with city officials till we got blue in the face. We’ve traded data with the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Signals, which subjects traffic signal requests to the voodoo science of federal traffic “warrants.” We’ve met with three different D.O.T. borough commissioners in as many years, and we’ve submitted a petition demanding a traffic light, signed by 600 neighborhood parents. All to no avail.

Sadly, D.O.T.’s much-ballyhooed regime change hasn’t made a dime’s worth of difference. Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has been lauded for pushing innovative traffic policies like congestion pricing and protected bike lanes, but she has turned a deaf ear to our pleas. Sadik-Khan has even rebuffed our invitation to come observe conditions for herself when schools have let out and Greenwich St. swarms with kids and caregivers.

It seems that a neck down, raised cross walks, and a stop sign (traffic signal) would be a simple fix. Once again, this intersection is an example of DOT and engineering versus the reality of the pedestrian environment. Sometimes the best approach is for those that are doing the planning to actually use the space in context. This process will increase understanding of the multiple uses of a space, as opposed to it being dominated by a single use.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Houston Mayor Bill White

Biking riding, Prius driving, and light rail building: Mayor White is ready to put Houston on a different track. For you political junkies White actually has a pretty interesting background and his win in 2004 was not expected. Here is an article about his plans from 2004:
The first 7.5 miles of what planners see as a 47-mile, $8 billion network by 2019 opened on Thursday with free rides. Travelers thronged the snub-nosed blue and silver cars, and many people were unable to board on the 14 platforms between the University of Houston campus downtown and Reliant Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be held on Feb. 1.

Traffic congestion has been high on the list of irritants here in the nation's fourth largest city, which has long been a monument to the automobile and was the last big urban holdout against rapid transit. Mr. White said his first task would be to resynchronize traffic signals and speed up the roadwork that seems to be reconstructing all major thoroughfares at once.

Here is a recent interview from NPR where White talks about the changes taking place among the city's residents because of congestion and gas prices. I am adding White to the list of mayors that are having a major impact on their cities. Considering Houston is the 4th largest city in the nation, I am going to keep a close eye on White.

Monday, June 23, 2008

WillyB is going carfree

Not sure how I missed this, but Williamsburg is going to have 4 car free Saturdays. Brooklyn Heights is also following suit. Looks like Summer Streets is catching on. Here is an older article about a carfree Bedford Avenue.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Bike Superhighway

Biketrans has this idea that a bike network can be more like a bike superhighway. While I am not sure our current built environment can handle this idea, I do see some possible uses for it. First here is what Biketrans says:
Bicycle Transportation Systems, Inc. has a revolutionary new product that increases urban mobility while lowering every aspect of transportation costs. People and freight will be transported at speeds faster than light rail, buses, or motor vehicles at a fraction of current cost levels. This new strategy for mass transportation will make it possible to match the carrying capacities of rail systems at an affordable cost level. By lowering capital and operating costs this transit system will generate large profits and will not require continuous subsidies. Developing urban areas need a low-cost, low-tech transportation solution to meet the challenge of providing affordable effective mobility that offers an alternative to the environmental problems created by burning petroleum fuels and the increasing levels of motor vehicle use.

While building the entire network is not going to pass the cost-benefit analysis stage, I can see a use for this is some places. For instance, bridge crossings and short distance connections with high auto use which create a dangerous paths for cyclists. I especially like the idea to retro fit some of the bridge crossings because of high winds and bad weather, which can be extremely dangerous on bridge crossings. I can also see this put into places where separated bike paths are need to create more connections in existing networks, and the only place to build is up.

So is this a possible tool for the future or something out of the Jetsons?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Amtrak, anybody?

Amtrak is getting a lot more attention these days. Streets Blog had this 5 part series a while back, but this recent article in Good Magazine gives us the good and the bad.
Ask around onboard almost any Amtrak train, and you’ll get a pretty short list of reasons why people ride the rails. In the café car, chugging along one of the country’s oldest routes, I counted four types of passengers. There are thrifty ones looking to save a few bucks on plane tickets. There are those who are scared of flying, a group that has no doubt grown in recent years. There are the zealots—without exception, older men—who describe themselves with charming lack of inhibition as “rail junkies,” “railroad nuts,” “train buffs,” or, my personal favorite, “railfans.” The rest—indeed the majority—say they’re here for “the experience.” Good thing for Amtrak, that romantic notion of the rails is alive and well. Naturally, it’s something the beleaguered rail company promotes to death. The experience is an important sell; nobody ever mentions reliability or practicality.

The American passenger rail—once a model around the globe—is now something of an oddball novelty, a political boondoggle to some, a colossal transit failure to others. The author James Howard Kunstler likes to say that American trains “would be the laughing stock of Bulgaria.” The numbers show just how far this once-great system has fallen. In 1960, U.S. rail travelers logged 17.1 billion passenger miles (the movement of one passenger one mile), the standard measure of a system’s reach; by 2000, that number had fallen to 5.5 billion, just one percent of the total travel between U.S. cities that year. (Of course, over this same period, airlines’ passenger miles increased 16 times; even intercity buses’ service nearly doubled.) Most of this decrease was seen in the 1960s, as highways and air travel took precedent both in travel plans and in government subsidies. Since its ill-fated formation as a quasi-public, for-profit corporation in 1971, Amtrak has seen only meager growth and loses billions of dollars annually.

Will increased ridership finally be the thing that gets Amtrak more funding and the proper attention it deserves in Washington? This week the house passed a $14.9 billion bill to fund passenger rail for Amtrak. Although this is great news for me, it is not so much about the time it would take (I am hoping to take Amtrak from NYC to Chicago), but rather that the cost is still too high. While flying is clearly not the direction to go as costs are skyrocketing, Amtrak is going to have to compete with buses to stay viable and keep moving forward, especially in the Northeast corridor.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Car Free Portland

NYC had its big day on Monday, and now PDX is having a car-free conference all week (sorry I am not there). Here is a blog entry on Bike Portland and you can catch it live here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Car Free NYC!

New York City is pushing the envelope, but will this experiment be enough? I will give credit when credit is due and DOT is closing streets for three Saturday mornings in August. August makes sense since this is the time NYC'ers take their vacations and Saturday mornings are very light with traffic. Streets Blog has a good post and comments, and here are today's stories:

On 3 Days in August, City Will Try No-Car Zone
Car-free zone for biking and walking runs through city 3 days in August
Cars Can't Crash This Party
City To Try Out Car-Free Zones This August
Vehicles banished for Summer Streets program
Car-Free Manhattan Boulevards on August Saturdays
A Walk in the Park (Avenue)

Uprooted, Displaced, and Rezoned

Harlem has been next on the chopping block for some time. As the residents of the Upper East and Upper West Sides have pushed farther north looking for more affordable housing, it has caused an influx of white middle class professionals into Harlem. Although this can be cast off as the usual gentrification taking place all over the city, this NY Times article actually digs a bit deeper on how this affects old and current residents.
It isn’t news that just two or three years ago, Harlem had a paucity of bank branches, grocery stores and other basic amenities, or that now that more affluent people have started to move there, upscale shops and restaurants have followed.

Gentrification, it turns out, can have an odd psychological effect on those it occurs around. No one — almost no one — is wishing for a return of row upon row of boarded-up buildings or the summer mornings when lifeless bodies turned up in vestibules, or the evenings when every block seemed to have its own band of drug dealers and subordinate crackheads. But residents say they do miss having a neighborhood with familiar faces to greet, familiar foods to eat, and no fear of being forced out of their homes.

Those who stayed during the worst years say they developed an even stronger psychological attachment to Harlem, its flaws not unlike their own. The perceived diminution of that neighborhood, caused in part by an influx of middle class people of all races, can feel like a loss of self, they say.

The recent rezoning was the final blow. As any NYC resident knows, when the city steps in to rezone your neighborhood, chances are they are making the necessary changes to increase the influx of new residents; not putting in protections to create and help current residents. While having some new residents move in is not a bad thing, when the influx is so unbalanced displacement of current residents starts to take place. As with most NYC real estate, what follows is the new towering condos that are only affordable to those outside the neighborhood.
In East Harlem, East River Plaza, a $300 million shopping mall anchored by Home Depot, is being built on the site of a long-abandoned wire factory. Two blocks away, glass-walled $1 million condominiums are rising next to six-story tenement buildings. Earlier this year, the average price for new condominium apartments in Harlem hit $900,000, although average household income remains less than $25,000.

What is even worse than the uprooting and displacement of these current residents is that the fabric of the neighborhood is going to change for good. Beyond this first wave, these "pioneers" will themselves be displaced as well. Displacement of the displacers has become a common thing as those individuals who initially moved to the next neighborhood (because prices were cheaper), end up being the victims of the process themselves.

Overall, the city is losing diverse vibrant communities that have been the backbone of NYC for years. These are the communities that have stayed through the rough times and should be able to prosper in the good times. Instead, a cycle of displacement is taking place that is only going to leave the super rich and those who work for them. Is this the city we really want?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Monocle Quality of Life Survey

Monocle, a magazine focused on design and culture, has just released the top 20 international cities based on their global quality of life survey. Here is what the Financial Times had to say:
There's nothing quite like a global city ranking that mixes the scientific (hard data on crime, education and healthcare) with the more subjective (quality of housing, urban scale and the availability of a good cocktail in the wee hours) to make people consider uprooting. In Monocle's 2007 top 20 cities survey, a healthy combination of an exceptional airport, good urban transport links, low crime, inviting neighbourhoods and a heart of Europe location made Munich number onecity.

Here are the top 20, plus five extra:
1. Copenhagen
2. Munich
3. Tokyo
4. Zurich
5. Helsinki
6. Vienna
7. Stockholm
8. Vancouver
9. Melbourne
10. Paris
11. Sydney
12. Honolulu
13. Madrid
14. Berlin
15. Barcelona
16. Montreal
17. Fukuoka
18. Amsterdam
19. Minneapolis
20. Kyoto
21. Hamburg
22. Singapore
23. Geneva
24. Lisbon
25. Portland

Only four North American Cities made the cut and three US cities. What is even more interesting is which US cities are not on list. Where is New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, Toronto, and Chicago? Here is what the article had to say about Toronto and NYC:
Toronto doesn't qualify because it has allowed its suburbs to become unconnected, ugly sprawls of hideous houses (garages bolted on to the front of houses are far better suited to southern California than to southern Ontario) and has done little of merit to deal with its derelict railway lands. New York continues to grind to a halt under the weight of automobile traffic, has no coherent scheme to get more people on to bicycles and still no sign of a high-speed, non-stop rail link to any of its airports.

Honesty hurts in regards to why some did not make it onto the list. Here is a short video from Monocle about the survey.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

DOT does right, CB1 doesn't agree

Ever since the new NYC DOT commish took over there has been a buzz about a Ciclovia type street closing plan for NYC. While many thought that Broadway would be closed from the top of the island to the bottom, NYC rolled plans this week for Saturday morning closures in August. The Downtown Express broke the story.
On three Saturday mornings in August, the Department of Transportation will ban cars from nearly 5 miles of city streets to make way for cyclists, joggers and walkers. Starting at the beginning of Centre St. in Lower Manhattan, then moving north onto Lafayette St., Fourth Ave. and Park Ave., people will be able to travel all the way to 72nd St. and then to Central Park by walking down the middle of a street. The streets will be closed to cars on August 9, 16 and 23 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. On 15 major east-west streets, like Canal, 14th St. and 42nd St., cars will be allowed to cross the car-free zone.

Board members countered that Downtown streets are already heavily constricted by construction and street fairs, and the last thing anyone needs is to close a major northbound thoroughfare.

The word I am hearing is that DOT will make a formal announcement on Monday. While this is a step in the right direction, morning closures seem to be half measures. The streets aren't bustling with activity until at least 1 o'clock. A full day street closure (much like street fairs and block parties) until at least 6 or 7 pm would be much better.

Hopefully Monday we will get all the details.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Gene Russionoff of the Straphangers Campaign

Gene Russionoff of the Straphangers Campaign is answering questions in New York Times city room.
Since 1978, Mr. Russianoff has been a mass transit and government reform advocate. His work has helped revive transit as an engine for the city’s vitality and economy, with subway ridership at its highest level in more than 50 years. This achievement was advanced by his efforts to win: unlimited-ride transit passes and free subway-to-bus transfers; $53 billion in funds to rebuild the subway and bus system since 1982, including the “trade-in” of Westway highway money for transit; increased transit service; creation of independent transit safety and management watchdog agencies; and rider and labor representatives on the M.T.A. Board of Directors.

Here are the three sets of questions and answers.

When public transit works

Sometimes bridge closings, transit strikes, high gas prices, and construction force commuters to take a new way to work. In Winona, MN that is exactly what's happening. MDOT closed the Highway 43 bridge that commuters would usually take to get to the other side of the Mississippi River to Wisconsin. While they had to close the bridge unexpectedly on June 3, they had ferry service up and running by June 9. The Star Tribune had this to say:
Cities like New York, San Francisco and Sydney are famed for their commuter ferries. And this morning Winona joined their ranks.

With a sweeping river view that included both the closed Hwy. 43 bridge and a dilapidated steamboat replica perched on a levee, several hundred Wisconsin residents made their way across the Mississippi River via a pair of excursion boats that were brought to Winona to help keep the city -- and its economy -- moving.

The ferry is going to carry 2,500 passengers daily and a weekly pass costs $15. I find it exciting that when these opportunities present themselves, people end up taking mass transit as an alternative. Winona is far from the public transit systems we are used to in large American cities, but this small city made it happen when it needed to. I wonder if after the bridge reopens will they continue the ferry service and will ridership stay steady? We can hope.

On a side note, the I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge that tragically collapsed back in August of 2007 in Minneapolis is going to be reopened in December of 2008. I know they have been working hard to get it to reopen, but that is a lightning speed pace! The World Trade Center site and New Orleans should take note.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tragedy in Chicago

It is never a good way to start out the day reading about a cyclist killed because they were doored in the bike lane. Unfortunately, one Chicago resident is no longer with us because of this. The Chicago Sun Times reports:
Miceli, 22, was cycling in the bike lane on La Salle around 6:45 p.m. Monday when he slammed into an open SUV door, was thrown from his bike, then struck by a second car. The driver of the Nissan Xterra who opened the door into Miceli's path was cited for opening a car door in traffic, police said.

Miceli's boss, avid cyclist Ric van Sickle, said about 80 percent of Plan B employees commute by bike. Miceli started working there as an intern about nine months ago and was promoted to a full-time staff position because of his work ethic and the high quality of his work, van Sickle said.

Miceli "was a good bike handler, always wore his helmet and knew what he was doing," van Sickle said. "He was conscientious."

Be safe out there people.

Pic from

Misc Video Pt. III

Here are some videos I watched recently (thanks Bike Blog and Streets Blog)

X up

Bike Anarchy in LA

Improvements or Scraps from DOT

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New York Times Magazine

Although I am not a regular reader, the New York Times Magazine has some good articles this past weekend, especially an interview with Penalosa. Here are a few:

The New, New City
Metropolis Now
Man with a Plan
Crowded House
Face Value

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Interview with MUNI's executive director Nat Ford

Here is a really good interview (via capntransit) with the executive director that runs an aging multi-model system.
“People, operators, those types of folks. Everyone recognizes that it’s been 30 years and a lot of things have changed in that 30-year time frame technology-wise, origins and destinations, travel patterns. Our ridership has changed in 30 years.

“And particularly in this city, a great deal more seniors, a great deal more disabled passengers. And our operation carries a lot of school trips for school-age children so what happens in our particular case with the special events and all the different services we provide, in the 30-year time frame, a lot of things have changed.”

Ford says the TEP was a top-to-bottom analysis of the system to not only deal with OTP issues, but also travel times and to gauge customers’ needs.

What they found was that congestion, population increase, bicycle use — which accounts for nearly 20 percent of the travel share according to Ford — and pedestrians are all key factors.

Here is San Francisco's transit page.

The Wizard of NYC

Lately I have been posting about mayors in cities across the US that have been making progressive policy changes to make their cities better for cyclists. I have also argued that these changes seem to come about because these leaders are cyclist themselves. Well, if only we could be so lucky in New York City. As this NY Post article demonstrates, the rhetoric and reality are far apart when it comes to bike planning in NYC.
He oversees a bike-friendly administration, but Mayor Bloomberg thinks it makes no sense to allow the two-wheelers on the subway.The issue came up yesterday, when the mayor mentioned on his weekly WOR radio show that he had spotted someone exiting the subway with a bicycle just as he was getting on that morning for his commute to City Hall."I don't run the subway system, I don't run the MTA, but if I did - if I had total power - I guess I'd say it's too crowded for bikes," the mayor said.

Thanks to TA for the fast response, but this really makes me wonder about this so-called "bike friendly" administration (who appointed a great DOT commish). Is NYC ever going to get to a point where we have an administration, city planning department, DOT, and populous that will embrace and encourage cycling?

I am not naive, or even hopeful, enough that we will ever be Portland, Minneapolis, or even Madison when it comes to a bike infrastructure and planning. That does not mean that NYC can't make the effort and necessary changes to pursue a better cycling environment. In NYC, while we are seeing positive changes, I think we have gotten much too used to being satisfied with the scraps that are thrown our way and that are packaged as grand improvements.

For instance, the new bike entrance/exit at Grand Army Plaza and 7 blocks of a protect/separated bike lane on 9th Avenue in Manhattan are steps (scraps), but where are the fundamental changes? These changes need to include a more equitable approach to all forms of transit: dedicated bus lanes, dedicated bike network, and safe streets for everyone. In a city this large, these fundamental changes have been lacking.  Carrots are not enough, we need the stick.

Monday, June 9, 2008

$2.8 million subway or lightrail

This article and recent report demonstrates one of the problems with transportation planning and funding. Considering the limited amounts of money, does it not behoove cities to maximize those funds to the best potential? This study questions why Vancouver would spend this money on a subway line that services so few, instead of a tram (lightrail) extention that would service more city neighborhoods.
"There is no doubt that such a system would not be as fast as a subway," concludes the UBC team. "However based on the Portland experience, the benefits may be an improved quality of life in many neighbourhoods, an improved investment climate for higher density homes and job sites, enhanced access for citizens within their own districts and to other parts of the city (especially for the rapidly expanding seniors' demographic) and a substantially reduced cost per ride.

This again makes me question the $3.8 billion New York City is going to spend to build one phase of the Second Avenue Subway. Most of New York is already convinced that the other phases will never get built. For more on the Second Avenue Subway and NYC Subway in general, check out 2nd Avenue Sagas.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Transit improvements coming (by IKEA)

How does the Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn get better transit improvements and a new park? By building a new IKEA! This NY Times article offers a brief synopsis of what IKEA will be doing to get shoppers to their box store without the use of a car:
Transportation options include free shuttles every 15 minutes from three Brooklyn subway stations — the Smith and Ninth stop on the F and G line, the Fourth and Ninth stop on the R, and Borough Hall — between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily; the B61and B77 bus lines; and a free water taxi from Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan, running every 40 mi daily from 10 a.m. to 8:20 p.m. The store will deliver furniture in stock and will have a courier service for small items ($39 in Brooklyn or $49 within 70 miles of the store, for a 3-by-3-foot box, filled with as much or as little as you want).

While Red Hook will be getting these much needed transportation improvements (so people outside of the neighborhood can get there), IKEA has also decided that they need more parking. This Brooklyn Paper article discusses how they are adding more parking even before the store has opened:
The Scandinavian home-furnishings giant’s first New York City store will use the neighboring site of the former Revere Sugar refinery to handle any parking overflow from its own 1,400-car lot at least until Labor Day. Company officials didn’t disclose how many vehicles can be packed onto the dirt lot, but it is large enough to hold several hundred.

Company officials say the additional parking was added to meet demand, but also for a calming psychological effect on potentially frazzled customers.“The more spots you have, even if you don’t need them all, instill confidence in the customer that everything is going to run smoothly,” said Ikea spokesman Joseph Roth.

In an old industrial neighborhood that lost more than 50% of its popluation between 1950 and 1990, where 70% of the population lives in public housing, and where the annual median income is $9,500, is IKEA the answer to this neighborhood's concerns and issues? The IKEA in Red Hook is NYC's way of building whatever they want in a neighborhood that does not have the political capital to say no. And while at least IKEA is not a marine transfer station or power plant, what benefits (other than traffic congestion, increased pollution, and crowded streets) are the neighborhood and residents really getting?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Toronto: Whose Expressway? Our Expressway!

During critical mass in Toronto they decided to take to the expressway. While I have seen this in other cities, in Toronto they took over the entire thing.
The cyclists were part of Critical Mass, the huge group cycle that takes place on the last Friday of every month in Toronto and around the world. According to Martin Reis, who was in the pack, the decision to ascend the ramp onto the Gardiner Expressway was spontaneous (even though it bears some resemblance to a similar but much smaller Los Angeles freeway ride from two weeks ago), and was not intended to be a huge statement: as Reis put it, the groupthink was more along the lines of "Here we are. Let's take the Gardiner."

The cyclists started off in the merging lane, then gradually took over the rest of the lanes, controlling all of them by about the time they reached York Street. "We basically became like one giant automobile," Reis says. Fellow participant Nick Syperek told Torontoist that "it was exhilarating to see Toronto from that angle." Reis saw no confrontations between cyclists and motorists, characterizing the entire thing as "very very civilized, [and] very peaceful."

Here is the article and plenty of pics.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bike Guru John Pucher

John Pucher is one of the leading scholars, advocates, and bike gurus who has been challenging the way we use our streets. While I have come across his work during my current bike study, this recent slideshow and video are excellent resources. His paper should be published sometime this summer.

This paper shows how the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany have made bicycling a safe, convenient, and practical way to get around their cities. The analysis relies on national aggregate data as well as case studies of large and small cities in each country. The key to achieving high levels of cycling appears to be the provision of separate cycling facilities along heavily traveled roads and at intersections, combined with traffic calming of most residential neighborhoods. Extensive cycling rights of way in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany are complemented by ample bike parking, full integration with public transport, comprehensive traffic education and training of both cyclists and motorists, and a wide range of promotional events intended to generate enthusiasm and wide public support for cycling.

In addition to their many pro-bike policies and programs, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany make driving expensive as well as inconvenient in central cities through a host of taxes and restrictions on car ownership, use, and parking. Moreover, strict land use policies foster compact, mixed-use developments that generate shorter and thus more bikeable trips. It is the coordinated implementation of this multi- faceted, mutually reinforcing set of policies that best explains the success of these three countries in promoting cycling. For comparison, the paper portrays the marginal status of cycling in the UK and USA, where only about one percent of trips are by bike.

Check out this interview over at Bike Portland and this in Momentum Magazine.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Interview with Jaime Lerner

Jaime Lerner, for those that don't know, is the man who created BRT. As Mayor of Curitiba in the 1960s he introduced the system that we now call Bus Rapid Transit. Metropolis Mag has an excellent interview with him.
Next year marks the 35th anniversary of a simple but transformative idea in urban planning and transportation: Curitiba, Brazil launched a surface bus system that behaves like a subway. Better than, in some ways. Double-articulated vehicles carry large volumes of commuters, passengers prepay their fare in glazed boarding tubes, designated lanes keep traffic flowing smoothly, and one bus trails the next by one minutes’ distance. Curitiba’s transit system was established with little municipal investment and at a fraction of the cost of subterranean excavation, and today it carries some 2 million people per day.

For those who want to learn more here is a good 2004 report on BRT and Curitiba.