Eyes on the Street: Bigger Sidewalks, Better Bike Lanes, Safer Streets

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Clarence Eckerson sends these shots of DOT street safety improvements taken on a recent ride near the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront. Above is the newly traffic-calmed intersection of Joralemon and Hicks — part of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project — which now sports two sidewalk extensions. (According to the Post, a third corner was slated for a curb extension, but DOT changed plans after residents said they were worried about how fire trucks would negotiate the turn.) Says Clarence: "I am sure the speed reductions will be dramatic, the equivalent of a chicane."

Heading towards Queens, the city’s stock of bi-directional, protected bike paths is on the rise. Williamsburg Street West now connects Kent Avenue to Flushing Avenue, allowing cyclists to ride contraflow to Kent safely and legally. This is also a segment along the future Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway.

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More pics after the jump.

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On Kent Avenue, cyclists entering the bike path from South 4th Street now have a high-visibility entry point, which should help remind drivers not to park here and block the way.

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A new planted median calms traffic on Jackson Avenue in Long Island City. At some intersections these long median strips are equipped with pedestrian refuges, Clarence informs us, concluding his tour of stuff that, apparently, has some unnamed council members calling for the DOT commissioner’s head.

  • Robert

    I really want to be excited about the Kent Avenue Greenway, but the reality of these protected bike lanes is that they are taken advantage of by much non-bicycle traffic. I ride the Kent Ave route daily and each day is an exercise in patience.

    In the past week *alone* I’ve seen:
    -Several box trucks and vans parked in the bike lane *next to* an adjacent parking area.
    -Construction area security personnel standing in the bike lane, refusing to step aside.
    -Many pedestrians walking in the bike lanes.
    -Many runners running in the bike lanes.
    -Car service drivers pulling out of side streets into the bike lanes without looking or yielding, nearly causing a collision.
    -Vehicles crossing the bike lane without yielding to bicycle traffic.
    -Pedestrians standing in the bike lane (specifically in front of the East River State Park entrance).
    -Cyclists riding in the opposing bicycle lane.
    -A car continuing south where Franklin becomes Kent (and one-way northbound) at the 14th Street intersection, into the oncoming bicycle lane.

    I’ve seen no enforcement keeping the bike lane clear, which makes it difficult to speak up while riding. I’m hopeful that it will get better when the condos’ construction is finished, but it’s less than ideal now.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    I think it will get better when the construction is finally over, no doubt. I absolutely love the lane and have now adjusted some of my routes to take advantage of it. Other than vehicles parking in it, I have no problem with the occasional runner or pedestrian, it is nothing like the Hudson River Greenway.

    The only downside I have been seeing to some of this great biking infrastructure: I have actually noticed my travel times have increased a tad bit. Why? I am starting to enjoy riding a more laid back style…the other night while riding Kent I felt almost peaceful, felt like I was on a bike boulevard in Portland, Oregon. Before the physically separated lane on Kent, I would ride as fast as I could because I just wanted to get off of it as quickly as I could. As far as I am concerned, it is an awesome trade.

  • > I’ve seen no enforcement keeping the bike lane clear, which makes it difficult to speak up while riding.

    Robert: How old are you?

    If you’re over 21 or under 65-ish, and don’t have a family, you should be yelling instructions with a tone of OBEY to anyone exhibiting the antisocial behavior you describe.

    You are the front line of social norm enforcement. Everyone else has more of an excuse than you do. If you don’t do it, no one will.

    Clarence said everything else that needed be said!

  • J

    Does anyone know if there a connection between the stretch of Williamsburg Street with the Jersey barrier (pictured above) and the Kent Avenue lane? The Kent Ave lane just seemed to end at Clymer St when I was there last.

  • J: Yes, sort of. Northbound you’re supposed to ride on the sidewalk from Williamsburg Street to Kent & Clymer. Southbound you’re supposed to ride with traffic in the southbound lane. Which is scary fast-moving traffic. It’s not ideal.

  • Robert

    @kaja I’m 31, and you’d better believe that I speak up. I ride defensively and am very vocal in claiming my space as a vehicle and a cyclist. Regardless, in the absence of actual enforcement, my words generally fall on deaf ears, at best.

    At worst, I’ve been verbally abused and threatened in response to “inflammatory” remarks such as, “this is a bike lane” (to walkers), “you need to look before pulling out” (to a car service driver who nearly hit me), “why are you parked in a bike lane?” (to the driver of a box truck) and “on your left” (to a security guard loitering in the bike lane – this fine gentleman threatened assault).

    My point is, in the absence of enforcement, words are often ignored.

  • J:Lai

    Mike Epstein – are you sure about that? You’re supposed to ride on the sidewalk going north?
    I don’t mind southbound riding with traffic with the last stretch before flushing, but northbound can be tough, especially around rush hour, because I thought the most natural thing to do is to ride with vehicle traffic until the light, then cross over (across all lanes of traffic in both directions) to the bike path. This crossing can be challenging at times.

    Although it is not perfect, I think this bike path greatly improves the trip between southwestern queens or northern brooklyn and many other parts of brooklyn. I’m not sure I want too much more enforcement; I prefer not to have police regulating every aspect of our interactions.
    As Kaja says, you can just yell at people, or else deal with it.

  • Yep. Positive. More signage should be going in soon.

  • Kaja

    Robert: It sounds like you’re doing everything right. Those reactions are to be expected; if those men have souls, they’ll sleep worse at night, and otherwise, it’s no loss so long as it doesn’t weigh you down.

    And then once in a while you’re awarded the pleasure of politely evoking fury from someone whose wife or girl’s in the passenger seat, and knowing they may sleep on the couch thanks to your speaking up.

    Though I totally love the new Wburg St lanes, I’m also skittish about riding on the sidewalk north towards Clymer, since it’s illegal and all. Until I’ve plausible deniability for overzealous cops I’m staying in the car lanes. ūüėź

    Mike Epstein’s tips are the best tips, never stop posting.

  • Emily Litella

    As a non-daily bicycle commuter and recreational rider for 35+ years in Queens and Manhattan I can say this, a fair amount of conflict arises from bicyclists expecting to ride at any speed they wish and encounter no obstruction. Even I am in the right, I expect to often adjust my speed. If I just go slow enough, peds do get out of the way if warned; if I go fast enough, fewer cars need to pass me. One speed does not fit all situations. Until there are many more of us out there, we need to go with the flow and contain our anger. We expect patience from others so our right of way and momentum are preserved, but there are many times that our patience is called for as well, regardless of who is right or wrong. And for JSK sake, if you aren’t going to get across the whole intersection, can you please stop and wait BEHIND the crosswalk and not in it? You gotta give if you want to get respect.

  • Brooklyn

    I rode the Kent Ave. lane last week for the first time southbound. Some types of transgressions, like pedestrians in the bike lane, are dirt-off-your-shoulder non-issues. But any obstruction that forces you beyond the paint — and therefore into oncoming traffic — is a major issue. That’s the risk with a bidirectional lane like this, it’s the good with the bad.

    Kent’s end at Clymer Street was, at the time, completely confusing. I didn’t see any signage. I just went with the unpleasant flow of traffic until I wound up at Flushing Ave. I don’t know if there’s a better solution than a sanctioned sidewalk ride — with the BQE and all that crap around there, it’s an intractable bottleneck.

  • Brooklyn

    And. . .

    I haven’t had to ride too much in the Joralemon/Hicks vicinity, but I’m wary of sidewalk extensions that hinder my ability to skirt a line of cars and get to the front of the line at a red light. It’s an anarchic tactic, I know, but one that I’m used to.

  • Free Wheel

    Hats off to Sadik-Khan for fixing the Kent to Flushing connection. No more faustian bargain of heading the wrong way into aggressive getting on the BQE traffic, or having to go out of the way on Classon and dealing with the getting onto BQE agressive traffic.

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