DOT Proposes Solution to Houston Street Cycling Danger

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In response to the deaths of three cyclists on Houston Street in two years and the ensuing community pressure to make the area safer for biking, the Department of Transportation is proposing to establish two new bike lanes along streets running parallel to traffic-heavy Houston Street.

DOT’s plan seeks to transform Bleecker and Prince Streets into Lower Manhattan’s primary east-west bike routes. A DOT Powerpoint presentation, available for download here, compares the Houston Street "parallel facilities" plan to the heavily-used bike lanes on Dean and Bergen Street running adjacent to Brooklyn’s busy Atlantic Avenue.

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Perhaps most notable, DOT’s plan includes the removal of 187 on-street parking spaces from the area, the bulk of which would be eliminated from Prince Street. The results of a recent study by transportation expert Bruce Schaller suggested that Soho businesses, visitors and residents would all benefit by removing parking space from crowded Prince Street. Schaller’s study, however, pointed more towards replacing parking space with expanded sidewalks, particularly on weekends.

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Ian Dutton of Manhattan Community Board 2 has been organizing many of the efforts to make bicycling safer along Houston Street. DOT will present its plan at CB2’s Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 13, 6:30pm at the NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Place, Room 411. Also on the agenda Tuesday evening is the Lower Manhattan Transit Priority Plan, a proposal to improve bus service along Broadway south of Houston Street.

On his Bike Houston Street web site Dutton says, "With the release of this proposal, it is evident that DOT has taken our cries for action seriously, even though that was not clearly communicated to us until now. Regardless of the merits or problems within the proposal itself, DOT’s carefully studied response to our concerns is most appreciated."

  • da

    Re: “echo chamber”

    Streetsblog isn’t the echo chamber. Voice of sanity in the wilderness is more like it. To find the “echo chamber”, walk out into the middle of any street in NYC.

  • karen

    This is a bit off topic, but I grew up in Mineola and could not resist commenting on Lee’s comments above. It’s weird to me that he chose Mineola as an example, because as a kid, growing up in the seventies, I don’t remember anyone’s dad (and there seemed to be more dads at the time commuting in to the city) driving into Manhattan. When you went into the city, you took the train. Mineola is a pretty quick direct commute into Manhattan. 35 to 40 minutes. (I can’t speak for current trends, but that was my experience growing up. I imagine Lee was referring to Nassau county drivers in general and not that specific town, but of all the Nassau towns, Mineola is actually pretty well served by the LIRR.)

    Of course, when you went to visit your grandparents in Brooklyn, the family always drove. Otherwise you’d be travelling forever. The MTA/LIRR/MetroNorth all seem to work for commuting to/from Manhattan, but they start to fail people who are going from say Jackson Heights to Park Slope, Brooklyn or from Mineola to Williamsburg with a handful of kids.

    Interesting fact: if my dad were still working, he could leave the Mineola train station and catch the LIRR, commuting the 25 miles or so to Manhattan,(it could be more—I’m going by my bike odomoter from Mineola to Brooklyn–around 20miles) and he would get there in about the same time it currently takes me to commute from Brooklyn to midtown. (about 8 miles or so.) The trip (8 miles on the 4 train from Crown Heights, Brooklyn to 59th Street Manhattan) takes about the same time by subway as it does by bike– 40 minutes, on average I’d say.

    If more people understood just how slow the subway is, or rather how quickly you can get around by bike by comparison, I think they’d lose their minds.

    Or get on a bike.

    Or move to Mineola.

    I don’t see this selling point mentioned enough when people talk about biking in NYC. It’s pretty fast. At least as fast as the subway is.

  • John

    In my experience, Karen is absolutely right about cycling as the fastest way to get around the city. I live in the East Village at Second and C, and I work in Chinatown at Centre and White. Some days I walk to work, some days I bike to work and other days I take the subway from Essex/Delancey to Canal Street. Comparing the amount of time it takes to travel from door to door by the various modes of transportation, biking is by far the quickest — and most pleasant — way for me to commute to work.

  • lee

    I kinda just pulled mineola out of the air since I grew up in that area. It’s true that there is great lirr access there and in many towns on LI. But peak hour trains are often packed, and people still drive into manhattan or brooklyn from that far out.

    I don’t want to get so far afield on this topic. My main point is that decreasing the number of car trips into manhattan will probably do more for cyclist safety overall than a protected bike lane on houston st will.

  • is it wrong to wanna chime in? i even want to shout!!! WE BIKE EVERYDAY!!

    these streets make me feel like a warrior for a rightous cause:
    “cleaner air, lower childhood asthma rates, less dependence on foreign oil, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, a more physically fit population that puts less stress on the city’s public health system (see Copenhagen health stats), safer, more pleasant streets for walking, dining, recreating, whatever.”

    it is however, disturbing to think the DOT will offer this “parallel routes” alternative to the CB’s call for a Class I facility on Houston knowing it could be shot down and then DO NOTHING. the worst thing for this city would be the failure to BUILD CYCLING INFRASTRUCTURE. (sorry about the caps, i just want that statement to stand out). we must demand the infrastructure that will take us into a future with fewer cars, whether it be dedicated, car free bus rapid transit lanes, wider sidewalks, or cycle lanes. yes, if you build it, they will come. everyday the design of our streets, with the blessing of the NYPD, cater to motorists and eliminate cyclists. higher numbers of cyclist means safer streets. come on spring!! dust of those wheels!! see you in the street…

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    “But peak hour trains are often packed, and people still drive into manhattan or brooklyn from that far out.”

    True enough. But somehow those people and their neighbors are still managing to block the LIRR’s third track project. Apparently they’d rather drive into Manhattan, since the DOT will accommodate their cars without question.

  • moocow

    I rode friday.

    I have found in talking to people, that if you make cycling seem safer, i.e. bike lanes, or less cars that appear to be trying to kill you, they will ride. At least those are the excuses I hear.

  • Don Norte

    Cycling in any big city has its ups and downs.
    In California there is a Senate Bill being considered SB650 that would allow busses and trolleys the opportunity to add bike racks.
    Appealing and pro-transit oriented people say cool. The problem is that there has not been discusssion about traffic engineering. OK bored? Let me tell you why you should think about how extending the length of aa bus or trolley from 60-65 feet could be an inconvenience for the transit vehicles to navigate substandard streets with not enough width or radius to make the turn safely.
    Is anyone looking up from their cell phones long enough to realize more cars, especially driver’s side rearview mirrors are being decapitated? Who wants to ride your bike if its going to mess it up. Lawyers in CA take note-“Is the MTA responsible or the bike owner?”. Let’s ask the Senators Padilla and Kuehl who introduced the concept.

  • John

    I sent the following e-mail message to Community Board 2, Transportation Alternatives and the DOT today:

    I am writing with regard to the Department of Transportation’s proposal to put
    a bike lane on Prince and Bleecker Streets instead of on Houston Street.

    As a cyclist, I find that the Prince/Bleecker proposal is flawed for three reasons.
    First, it is circuitous. Second, the official NYC cycling map, which is printed
    and distributed by the DOT, clearly designates Houston Street as a proposed/planned
    bike route. Neither Bleecker nor Prince Streets are designated bike routes on that
    map. Because the DOT’s map encourages cyclists to ride on Houston Street, I
    believe the DOT has a duty to put a bike lane on Houston and take steps to prevent
    additional fatalities and accidents on Houston. Third, a bike lane the entire length
    of Houston from the FDR to the West Side Highway would provide cyclists a clear
    shot all the way across Manhattan. Fourth, many cyclists will continue to ride
    on Houston Street even if the DOT creates bike lanes on Prince and Bleecker Streets.
    Thus, the DOT has an ongoing responsibility to make Houston Street a safer place
    to cycle.

    After studying the DOT plan and the CB2 bicycle subcommittee’s proposal for
    a Class I bike lane, I would recommend a compromise. Instead of the DOT’s proposal
    for Bleecker/Prince, a buffered bike lane similar to the one that presently exists
    on Eighth Avenue should be created in one eastbound lane and one westbound lane
    on Houston. In addition, the DOT could significantly enhance safety for both cyclists
    and pedestrians on Houston by reducing the number of intersections where left hand
    turns are permitted.

    Thank you for considering my suggestion.

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