Two-Way Protected Bike Path Sails Through CB6 Committee

ppw_bike_path.jpgImage: NYCDOT

Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors files this report.

Last night, the transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 6 unanimously endorsed a plan by the Department of Transportation to calm traffic on Prospect Park West through a major street redesign.

The plan features the implementation of New York City’s first on-street, two-way, physically separated bike lane, which will run alongside Prospect Park on the east side of Prospect Park West, and will be protected by a four-foot striped buffer and a parking lane. In order to accommodate the new bike lane, Prospect Park West will be reduced from three south-bound travel lanes to two, and the remaining lanes will be narrowed to ten feet each.

The planned changes address two major issues: the need for northbound bicycle access on Prospect Park West, for which there has been strong demand, according to DOT Bicycle Program Coordinator Josh Benson; and a major problem with speeding, which has been a longtime concern of residents and neighborhood activists.

Preston Johnson, DOT’s project manager for the Prospect Park West redesign, highlighted the problems caused by the street’s current configuration. At nearly 50 feet wide and with three travel lanes, the street encourages high speeds and reckless driving, forces pedestrians to make long crossings, and lacks dedicated cycling space, despite a high volume of bicycle traffic. Prospect Park West’s existing vehicle volume, which peaks at about 1,100 cars per hour, can easily be accommodated by two lanes, Johnson said.

In field surveys last month, DOT found that more than 70 percent of the cars on Prospect Park West were exceeding the 30 mph speed limit, and at least 15 percent were traveling at 40 mph or faster. From 2005 to 2007, there were 58 reported crashes on Prospect Park West.

In addition to the the two-way bike lane and buffer, the street redesign will include concrete pedestrian refuge islands, which will significantly shorten the crossings at intersections, and extensive new landscaping under the DOT’s Greenstreets program. Parking spaces will be maintained along Prospect Park West with the exception of approximately two spaces at each signalized intersection.

The plan was enthusiastically received by the CB 6 transportation committee and an audience of about three dozen people. Board members raised some concerns about the lack of dedicated signalization for cyclists, especially those riding northbound. In a unanimously approved motion introduced by transportation co-chair Joanne Foulke, the committee asked DOT to include north- and southbound signals for cyclists, some daylighting measures, and dedicated drop-off zones in the final redesign. Roger Melzer, a 30-year Prospect Park West resident, was the only person to speak against the plan, saying that he feared the loss of a travel lane would create a "nightmare" of double-parking near the 9th Street park entrance.

Said Jeff Prant, a Park Slope resident, Transportation Alternatives
board member and long-time advocate for livable streets, "I never
thought I’d see the day when a proposal to remove an entire lane of
traffic would encounter virtually no objection."

The Board chairs would not entertain a question from a resident regarding the possibility of converting Prospect Park West to two-way traffic, in conjunction with a similar reconfiguration of Eighth Avenue, asking that the discussion be limited to the proposal on the table. DOT’s Benson, however, said that he thought such a change would create problems with additional signal movements at Grand Army Plaza, but he didn’t rule out the possibility of further design changes over the long term.

According to DOT, the Department of Design and Construction will likely begin implementing the Prospect Park West redesign in September, and the full build out would take a few months.

In addition to the Prospect Park West changes, DOT announced that it is planning to permanently close the 3rd Street park entrance to vehicles beginning next month. In conjunction with the closure, DOT will stripe new bike and pedestrian lanes into and out of the park at 3rd Street, with the intent of reducing conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians. DOT will also permanently close the vehicle exit at 16th Street and Prospect Park South, so that all cars entering the park at Grand Army Plaza will exit at Park Circle. The park’s West Drive is open just two hours each weekday, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

DOT also presented a plan for a traffic-calming redesign on Baltic Street between Hoyt and Bond Streets, a very wide block that has been plagued by speeding. The plan involves the installation of a landscaped 10-foot median, three lanes of parallel parking (two on either side of the eastbound south side of Baltic and one on the westbound side), and pedestrian refuges at the intersections with Hoyt and Bond. DOT cited the redesign of the north end of Carlton Avenue as an example. DOT also plans to implement a Class III bike lane on this stretch of Baltic Street, with "sharrows" to indicate shared road space for cars and bikes.

  • gecko

    Great news! Serious consideration should be given to putting protected bike lanes or cycle tracks down the center of most major two-way streets in all five boroughs.

  • J-Uptown

    This is phenomenal news. It heartening to see the combination of community desire for bike lanes ans traffic calming and DOT planning for and installing them. Hopefully, this type of planning will spread to nearby neighborhoods.

  • oscarfrye

    would love to see this continue around the perimeter of the park

  • Larry Littlefield

    That is certainly good news. Once installed, I’ll use that path northbound almost every weekday.

  • This reminds me of how one of the only truly good buffers I’ve ever noticed in NYC was the OLD lane buffer on 2nd Ave. between 14th St. and Houston BEFORE that stretch was repaved a year or year and a half ago. That buffer was, wonderfully, about 100% as wide as the bike lane itself.

    After the repaving, there were a few random small improvements, but more significant than them was one negative: that once healthy, truly protective buffer shrunk down to half the width of the bike lane it protected.

    That change unfortunately made that lane into one of the not-very-effective bike lanes: before, if a car double parked in the lane, the buffer provided more than enough safe room to pass the double parker without weaving into traffic.

    Now, with the skinnier buffer, it’s just like a typical crappy bike lane–if a car double parks in there, you’re screwed and have to weave into a car lane.

    Anyone (DOT readers??!!) know why this change for the worse–amid so many changes for the better–happened?

  • J-Uptown

    This should be standard policy for streets surrounding all large parks. Few vehicles crossings make protected bike path relatively easy to install. Additionally, the streets are calmed to allow easier ped access to the park. I vote for Central Park West, Fifth Ave, 59th, and 110th Street.

  • Mike

    J-Uptown, First Ave would be a great one too, because it has few intersections to its east between 14th and 50th. Also, Park Lane/Jamaica Ave could provide a ~4 mile dedicated facility. And Broadway next to Van Cortlandt Park could use some calming and a bike facility.

  • Anyone see this travesty of an article in the Villager?

    http://thevillager.com/villager_311/chelseabusinesses.html

    Jesus Christ.

  • I vote for Queens too: 111th and 112th Streets and Peartree Avenue on the west side of Flushing Meadows. Park Drive East currently has bike lanes on either side, but they’d probably be better as a two-way protected cycle track.

  • lauren

    I wrote to the DOT requesting something similar for the stretch of 5th Ave. that runs along the cemetary, but got a letter back saying something about lack of integration to existing bike lanes north and south of that section? Can’t remember exactly. But I would love to see a two-lane, protected bike path around Greenwood Cemetary.

  • Congrats Eric and the gang. I have seen this design in many places, especially in Montreal which has bike lanes along the perimeters of just about all of their parks.

    I guess this means I need to get that before footage since this is ANOTHER groundbreaking achievement by NYC DOT. If this timetable changes, someone give me a shout out please!

  • Jeff Prant

    Another positive aspect of this plan is the narrowing of car travel lanes from 11.5 feet to 10 feet, which should have the effect of slowing traffic.

  • Barnard

    Note: Tillary Street in Downtown Brooklyn and the entrance to the Harlem River Speedway Greenway in northern Manhattan also have on-street, two-way, physically separated bike lanes (though for much shorter distances). It’s very good to see the DOT making good on these successes and going for more ambitious projects, and it’s equally great (if not even better) to see the community and Community Board support the changes.

    As ambitious as the DOT gets, changes to NYC streets aren’t going to appear without strong community support. Thank you everyone!

  • Lauren I totally agree,

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/29453408@N07/2903171885/

    I took that last fall. Now is the time for a separated lane on that heavily biked speedway. I live off 5th on 13th and there is plenty of bike traffic out to Sunset Park to justify it. There is no other N/S way to get there, Going around is miles and hills out of the way and -4th Ave? ha!

  • pat

    this is awesome, my only concern is that if it’s just a painted buffer, and not a raised curb, that people will end up parking in the bike lane. like particularly if you’re moving in and need a great 14′ wide lane to park your uhaul in.

  • mary beth kelly

    This is such good news, not because I live in Brooklyn (which I don’t) but because it gives hope to us on The Upper West Side of Manhattan where a protected bike lane on Broadway is desired and would be a boon to the neighborhood. It would heighten safety for everyone by calming traffic while giving a needed incentive for more people to get on their bikes to go to work, school or the movies.

  • Chuck Reichenthal

    RIDICULOUS!!! The representatives of DOT have stated that Prospect Park is Park Slope’s ‘backyard’. It iis nothing of the sort… the Park belongs to the people of Brooklyn…not just the gentry of gold-plated Park Slope. As a parallel, Prospect is to Brooklyn as Central is to the BOROUGH of Manhattan. The feeling that ONLY the Slopers can determine the future use of the park is against everything fro which the park was created. And the closure of the 3rd Street entrance/exit is dire in that more and more motorists will be FORCED to use the bumper-to-bumper lanes of Flatbush Avenue exclusively. What about the impact on the air quality whenn every car is crush into a land-locked artery. It used to be healthier, for the rush hours during which drivers were allowed ‘passage’ in the park lane, for drivers to exit at 3rd instead o f bottlenecked Flatbush. enough is enough. Bikes are fine…but Lance Armstrong does not live in ConeyIsland or Flatbush or Midwood. Cars are still a necessity in Brooklyn….and the Slopers cannot determine the entire future of our entire borough.

  • the closure of the 3rd Street entrance/exit is dire in that more and more motorists will be FORCED to use the bumper-to-bumper lanes of Flatbush Avenue exclusively.

    You need to look at a map, dawg. This makes no sense whatsoever.

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