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Headed to New York City for ‘Designing Cities’ conference

Posted by on October 17th, 2012 at 10:47 am

Next Tuesday (10/23) I will head to New York City to attend the NACTO Designing Cities conference.

NACTO is the National Association for City Transportation Officials, a group that was formed as a counterbalance to AASHTO, the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials. In a nutshell, the folks behind NACTO (whose founders include several key PBOT engineers and other local experts) were sick and tired of being constrained by outdated guidebooks and AASHTO’s old-school (auto-centric) standards for transportation planning. They wanted a group that understand their urban issues and that could provide cities with the planning and engineering tools to design streets for the future — not have them shackled to priorities of the past.

When NACTO formed back in 2009, I said the group would have a huge impact on bikeway innovation. From their Urban Bikeway Design Guide to their Cycling for Cities initiative, they’re well on their way.

The president of NACTO is New York City’s Transportation Commissioner — and the only transpo wonk I know to have ever graced the pages of Rolling Stone Magazine — Jeanette Sadik-Khan.

I decided to attend this conference because it looks to be far from a typical bike summit/conference. Here’s what organizers have to say about it:

Streets and sidewalks comprise close to 80 percent of a city’s public space. These streets not only represent essential corridors of commerce and industry, they serve as front yards, playgrounds, and theaters which showcase the expressions of urban life. It lies in the hands of the public to define how they use this wealth of space, but it is the responsibility of city leaders in transportation to stir their minds to imagine all the possibilities.

In addition to keynotes by the likes of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, Sadik-Khan, and others, the conference also has an impressive list of workshops and panels. There’s also a bunch of “WalkShop” tours where experts will share info on New York City’s infrastructure projects that have been making headlines for the past several years.

Check out the conference video for a bit more about it:

Beyond the conference, I will stay several extra days to explore New York City. I plan to observe their bikeways, interview activists and policymakers, and soak up the urban bicycle culture (stay tuned for a Manhattan edition of People on Bikes!).

This trip will not be cheap. Thankfully, Planet Bike has already stepped up as a partial sponsor. However, my accountant (hi Juli!) would sleep much better at night if I could find one or two more folks willing to help support this trip. Sponsors will get lots of shout-outs via Twitter and within all the coverage, as well as some banner space. If your company is interested, please drop me a line.

If you value this type of coverage, you can also help make this trip a success by visiting our Support page and making a contribution.

Feel free to share your feedback and tips about what I should cover in NYC and stay tuned for all the coverage!

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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    Matt Haughey October 17, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Nice! Now you finally get to enjoy all the green bike lanes in Manhattan. Seriously, every year I go back to NYC I’m amazed how much it’s starting to look like Portland.

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    Dan V October 17, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Thank you so much for making this trip, Jonathan! I look forward to hearing all about the conference; I think this sort of organization is much needed to counterbalance the auto-centric policy standards of the past and start making the community health changes necessary in the 21st century.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 17, 2012 at 12:46 pm

      Cool. Thanks Dan. Glad you’re excited about it. I will go into it without much knowledge at all of NYC. I was there once but it was many years ago… before I was so into transportation/bike issues.

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    Case October 17, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Is that like Designing Women? Please give Delta Burke a hug for me!

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    Jacob October 17, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Here are some thoughts from a NYer on things to check out:

    1) Hudson River Greenway:
    This is a well-designed, HEAVILY used bike path, with great views. It runs nearly entire length of Manhattan and gets used by nearly everyone.

    2) East River Bridges (Williamsburg, Manhattan, Queensboro)
    There is lots of bike traffic during rush hours, although probably not as much as Portland. These have great views of the city and people in subway trains passing by. Also, I would only bike the Brooklyn Bridge in the morning (before 9am), due to heavy tourist traffic. The Queens side of the Queensboro Bridge has a great new streetscape which includes high-quality bike paths.

    3) 8th/9th Ave protected bike lanes (14th – 59th)
    These are expanding rapidly, and now reach up to 59th Street. These are designed quite differently from anything in Portland, but have their own unique problems, like being overwhelmed by ped traffic during rush hour. Columbus Ave, in the Upper West Side, has a protected bike lane and is the same street as 9th Ave, but the two lanes don’t yet connect.

    4) Allen/Pike + 1st/2nd Ave protected bike lanes
    These connect from East River up to 34th & beyond. 1st Ave reaches up to 72nd, but with big gaps. Parts of Allen and Pike are fully built out and incorporated into the landscaped medians, which is certainly worth checking out. You can also see our new BRT-ish service, which includes bus-only lanes, pay-before boarding, and (some) bus bulbs.

    5) Bike over George Washington Bridge & up route 9A up to Nyack
    This is by far the most popular route for hoards of weekend warriors. There are cafes in many of the towns that are filled with men and women in spandex.

    6) Central Park & Prospect Park
    The loop drives are only open to cars during rush hour and only in the peak direction. Central Park has attracted a thriving tourist bike rental business, as well as pedicab tours. While you’re at Prospect Park, you should check out the “infamous” Prospect Park West bike lane and recent improvements to Plaza Street and Grand Army Plaza.

    7) East River Esplanade
    This is most interesting south of 14th Street, where you can ride along the water and under the East River Bridges. Much of this section has been recently redone and is very nice.

    8) Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway
    This isn’t entirely connected, but it will eventually stretch from Queens to Coney Island. The stretch on Kent Ave in Williamsburg is particularly well-used,and Brooklyn Bridge Park is worth a visit as well.

    9) Shore Parkway
    This stretch of Greenway is out of the way, but it sure is pretty and well-used. Sweeping views of the harbor and the Verazzano Narrows Bridge.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 17, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      Great list Jacob. Thanks!

      And thanks also to those of you who have already stepped up to help make this trip a little less expensive for me. I know a lot of people assume BikePortland is some huge money-maker/media empire… But I still rely on reader support and advertiser revenue isn’t stable nor is it always sufficient (because I spend more time thinking/writing than I do selling ads!).

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    thefuture October 17, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Can’t bike on it (unfortunately) but if you’re on the west side and nearby check out the High Line. It’s the ultimate separated facility:

    Say wazzup to bikesnobnyc too!

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    Spencer Boomhower October 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    I’d be interested in learning what David Bragdon has been up to. For those who don’t know, he’s the former president of Metro, who went to NYC to be their director of long-term planning and sustainability. I would think he’d have something to do with all the changes going on over there, or at least some good insight to offer.

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    Todd Boulanger October 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Jonathan – good to know you will be there – this will be one of the more important US conferences to attend this year.

    See you there!

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    Kris October 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    If you get a ChipIn widget, I’ll gladly throw a few bucks your way.

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    Jonathan Gordon October 17, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    I’m actually visiting NYC myself right now! One thing I’m finding really interesting is how aggressive people are driving in NYC. I nearly was hit by two different cars while crossing at a marked crosswalk this evening while I had a solid walk light. I’ve also seen cars blow through stop signs at speeds much greater than I’ve ever seen in Portland. I also lunched with my brother who just last year was hit by a car traveling 40mph while he was cycling in a bike lane. NYC is doing some amazing things with cycling infrastructure, but their car culture has a bunch of catching up to do. I think it would be interesting if you did a compare/contrast video piece of driver behavior between the two cities.

    Have a great trip!

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    john p. October 19, 2012 at 2:49 am

    NYC is not really a city for driving or biking. It’s a city for walking.

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    Jacob October 20, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Hey Jonathan,

    Have you considered meeting up with your NYC counterparts in the bike blogging world? I’m thinking that you and the people at Streetsblog-NY would probably have quite a lot to discuss. They are super nice.

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