Brooklyn CB 2 Committee Approves New Plan for Flushing Avenue Bikeway

flushing_phase_two.jpgPhase two of the Flushing Avenue project maintains the city’s commitment to a two-way bike path, but Brooklynites will have to wait a few years to get it. Image: NYCDOT

Last night, NYCDOT’s Ted Wright presented a revised design for the Flushing Avenue bikeway to the transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 2. The new version preserves plans for a fully-protected, two-way bike path while leaving room for two-way bus service and auto traffic. Because the revised design requires more complex construction work than the original, however, Brooklynites will have to wait a few years before that phase of the project gets built. In the meantime, DOT plans to lay down a less-robust interim project, which the committee endorsed unanimously.

The interim project will extend the two-way bike path on Williamsburg Street West — which is protected from traffic by jersey barriers — onto the north side of Flushing, up to Washington Avenue. (To orient yourself, check out this map.) Between Washington and Navy Street, the plan calls for buffered bike lanes on each side of the street. Parking on the north side of the street will be removed.

flushing_phase_one.jpgPhase one will add buffered bike lanes west of Washington Avenue. Image: NYCDOT

The original concept for Flushing Avenue called for a two-way, protected bike path all the way to Navy Street, preserving curbside parking while eliminating the eastbound traffic lane. DOT could have built that out as an in-house project this summer, but adjusted its plans after Navy Yard businesses and local residents objected to the new traffic pattern.

The city hasn’t backed away from its commitment to build a safe connection for bicyclists and pedestrians on Flushing, but it will take longer to get there. Phase two of the new plan for Flushing calls for widening the sidewalk on the north side of the street by six feet. The wider sidewalk will then accommodate a two-way bike path and pedestrian space. Since expanding the sidewalk along the entire street entails changes to drainage and grading, phase two will have to proceed through New York’s multi-agency construction bureaucracy. Wright estimated that it would take two to four years to build.

After Wright’s presentation, Alfred Chiodo, a representative of Tish James’s office, said the council member is "very happy with the plan," including the two-phase build-out. Shani Leibovitz, a Navy Yard vice president, also said her tenants were pleased with the plan, which doesn’t alter traffic patterns or bus routes (one westbound bus stop where about 35 people disembark daily, at Ryerson Street, will be removed).

John Eddey, representing Navy Yard tenant Steiner Studios, was still unwilling to fully endorse the second phase of the project, prompting Wright to plead with board members to remember the core goal behind the development of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway — to build a continuous route that gives people of all ages a safe path to walk and bike.

"I want to ask you guys to support the greenway as much as possible," he said. "Lets not shoot it down before we get it up and running." The committee voted unanimously in favor of both phases, asking DOT to return with specifics on phase two at a later date.

AtlanticVanderbilt.jpgThe bike lane extension proposed for Vanderbilt Avenue would add some order to a chaotic intersection. Image: Google Maps

DOT also presented plans for a new bike route on Vanderbilt Avenue that would link up with the Flushing bike lane. Most importantly, the Vanderbilt proposal extends bike lanes across Atlantic Avenue, a wide, complex, dangerous intersection on a street where more than 1,000 people ride every day. Cyclists riding southbound on Vanderbilt will approach the intersection on a painted curbside lane. On the northbound approach, the bike lane will be placed between traffic heading straight and a right-turn lane. Between Gates Avenue and Flushing, Vanderbilt narrows, and the project calls only for sharrows.

The proposal was crafted in response to a request from the committee, which asked DOT this spring to study gaps in the local bike network identified by CB 2 member Mike Epstein. Despite the fact that the Vanderbilt bike lane would eliminate no parking and leaves traffic patterns basically unchanged, members felt uncomfortable proceeding without informing the Fort Greene Association and the Society for Clinton Hill, neighborhood groups that had received invitations to last night’s meeting but sent no one to attend. (The Fort Greene Association had also endorsed Epstein’s earlier request.)

DOT’s Keith Bray reassured the skittish members that the agency would publicize the project before implementation. Nevertheless, the committee chose not to render a verdict on the proposal.

  • Great work Mike and CB2 moving these proposals forward. I hope the delay in implementation of Phase II doesn’t create opportunities to derail the project. And I’m looking forward to the Vanderbilt upgrade. Do I understand the Vanderbilt summary correctly that the southbound curbside lane would begin at Gates and run south past Atlantic?

  • I believe so, but I don’t have the drawings in hand. Northbound, it would be an offset lane from Dean to Atlantic, and then a curbside lane from Atlantic to Gates.

  • kaja

    Am I going to have to cross both lanes of Flushing, and then hop a curb, to transit Flushing from Kent to Navy?

  • J

    The Vanderbilt project is pretty good and will almost certainly be approved and implemented, as it has almost no effect on cars.

    The Flushing project is more disappointing, but is interesting, none the less. Before I start my rant, let me say that the buffered bike lane is decent, and a marked improvement from nothing. Double parking isn’t a huge problem there right now. Also, it’s about time that the road was narrowed, since speeding is rampant there, but I actually think speeding will increase in the interim plan, since more space will appear to be open.

    Now i will describe some serious issues with the design. First, the Phase 1 buffered lane is no substitute for a protected lane, and will not connect to the Kent Avenue lane the way it should in the interim. All the folks venturing out on Kent on weekends will not continue onto Flushing until a protected path exists. Second, the connection to the path at Williamsburg Street will be tricky and somewhat illogical, while the original plan would have made a very nice easy connection. These, however, will be addressed in Phase 2.

    The Phase 2 design, however, has some serious flaws, in my opinion. Bikes will be on an 8 foot path on the north side of the sidewalk, with no buffer, between them and pedestrians. 8 feet is tiny and the north side is directly against a fence most of the way. Since people can’t/won’t ride right next to a wall, westbound bikes will certainly ride in the eastbound lane and eastbound bikes will ride on the walking path. God forbid anyone need to pass ever. The only reason 8 feet works on Kent Ave, is because there is an additional 3 foot of buffer that gives you some wiggle room, especially for passing. With bikes riding in the sidewalk, walkers and joggers will likely just go ahead and use the bike path, especially with their meager space allocation.

    On the issue of space allocation, why is there a turn lane added in Phase 2? There isn’t a turn bay in Phase 1, so are we wasting 10 precious feet on one in Phase 2? That space could easily be used to make a more substantial bike path and sidewalk, instead of adding unnecessary capacity to a low volume, high-speed roadway.

    End rant. Kudos to DOT, though, for allocating the space and somehow managing to keep (most) everyone happy. Hopefully some design tweaks will address these issues and create a plan that works.

  • J,

    Regarding the transition from Kent in the short-term plan, it will be fine. Both Flushing Ave (east of Washington) and Williamsburg St West will have Jersey-barrier-separated bike lanes adjacent to the Navy Yard. You’ll just turn the corner. The section where there won’t be a separated path is from Navy Street to Washington Ave.

    Regarding the path width, yes, 8 feet is tight. I think there’s a plan to move the Navy Yard fence back in some places to make more room. Not sure if that’s still on the table.

    Regarding turn lanes in Phase 2, this is so that eastbound left turns can be separately signaled vs. the 2-way bike path. This seems to be a non-negotiable design requirement from DOT.

  • Danny G

    Hope that the transition at Washington Ave for eastbound bike traffic from the buffered lane to the protected path is easy to use, with provisions for waiting in the median if need be.

  • JJJJJ

    I dont understand why phase 2 leaves the north sidewalk exactly the same, at 12 feet.

    Paining two lines does not make a mixed use path.

    Why is there a 13 foot parking lane on the right? Thats misleading, its a 10 foot parking lane and a 14 foot travel line.

    Why not take 4 feet and put them on the northern sidewalk?

    That way you have 16 feet. 10 for bicycles, 6 for pedestrians.

    The phase 2 plan seems to actually reduce pedestrian and cycle space from phase 1! Instead it adds a bunch of room for vehicles.

    Phase 1: 34 feet + 6 of buffer (aka, the walk fast zone)
    Phase 2: 24 feet + 6 feet of buffer (bus stops)

    Thats a 10 foot loss!!!

    How exactly is this plan a good thing??

  • i can’t wait for this change. the 1 block separated bike lane sucks right now. it has holes, glass, etc.

    tonight some guy ran over my foot while we were “having words” about why i wasn’t in the bike lane. called 911 and no one cared.

    can anyone tell me if we, as cyclists, have a right to take a car lane when there is a bike lane available?

  • Zmapper

    If motorists prefer this over a parking lane, great! The public has spoken. Now, the 12′ sidewalk MUP is a joke at best, and needs improvements. Here’s my solution:

    AT NAVY YARD ENTRANCES

    12′ South Sidewalk
    10′ Parking
    10′ EB lane
    10′ Left Turn Lane
    12′ WB lane
    6′ Walking
    12′ ROAD LEVEL Cycle Track
    Navy Yard Fence

    EVERYWHERE ELSE
    12′ Sidewalk
    10′ Parking
    10′ EB Lane
    12′ WB Lane
    10′ Bus Waiting Area/Plantings/Street Furniture
    6′ Walking
    12′ ROAD LEVEL Cycle Track
    Navy Yard Fence

    My Proposal Requires WB Drivers to Chicane a little so it should slow down traffic, too! Anything else to improve this plan?

  • Kaja

    Emiliano: Yes, it’s up to the cyclist alone to determine whether the lane is safe to use. NYS VTL section 1234, I think, IANAL.

  • J

    Anyone have a link to the PDF presented on Tuesday? I can’t find it online.

  • dan

    anyone know when phase-1 will be completed or at least started???

  • JK

    Does this process leave room for design changes to Phase 2? Be nice to do some additional thought about Phase 2 given the extreme difficulty future generations will have widening the 8 foot path once it is built. Eight feet is really narrow for a multi-use path in a high demand corridor. This path is going to call forth lots of demand, think about volumes here in 10,15, 25 years. It is worth putting real effort into getting even a couple more feet there. During peak periods, an foot wide path can be really miserable: think about passing a slow skater into a stream of oncoming cyclists etc. When the Hudson Path was built, TA and friends tried and failed to get the section near Chelsea Piers twice as wide. That failure is an everyday reminder of why it is hugely worth the energy to advocate for the best possible Phase 2 design. Even considering difficult political constraints, an eight foot width can’t be that best possible design.

  • Geck

    The Hudson Path at Chelsea Pier is a disgrace. So many path users crammed into that narrow space with all that almost empty space right next to it for cars entering/exiting the parking lots at Chelsea Pier. They really need to change that and to find a few more feet to widen the Flushing phase 2 path.

  • J.Mork, that link is to the previous, abandoned design.

  • Kaja’s right, cyclists decide when lane is reasonably safe for use. The proper cite is 34 Rules of the City of New York Section 4-12(p)(1). VTL Section 1234 does not apply in New York City.

  • kaja

    This design may be inferior to the existing condition.

    Flushing’s current state allows me full use of a largely empty (rightmost) travel lane, with ample room to pass the occasional parked car outside its door zone. The central reservation allows a safe wait before making a left across Kent.

    The new eleven foot single travel lane will not be wide enough to share with vehicular traffic, which, as this is flat long truck route, is a series of 30mph semitrailers.

    So, we’ll have to use the greenway, which is… four feet wide in both directions. Not sufficient for safe passing, or group riding. And, if it’s actually on sidewalk pavers and not asphalt for a few years, will make my butt hurt.

    I ride this route three or four times a week, and I’m fairly certain I’d prefer the current configuration to the new proposal. If they build this I’d guess I’d switch to using Park.

    God was I psyched about the original stab at this. Too bad.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “So, we’ll have to use the greenway, which is… four feet wide in both directions. Not sufficient for safe passing, or group riding.”

    I don’t think it’s that bad, and I’m amazed they took out a parking lane. Expect a reaction to that.

    You have to consider the level of pedestrian traffic there — virtually nill — and the fact that most cyclists will be riding in the same direction — to Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn in the AM, from those areas in the PM.

    All that will be required is a little courtesy — pass in the oncoming lane when there is no oncoming traffic, as you would on a two-lane country road, and/or shift to the sidewalk for a few feet if necessary and it is empty.

    I won’t be a speedway for cyclists, but my view is we need some of those far from corridors used by children and people just riding along.

    Meanwhile, back in the “Bronx is Burning” days the fact that the Navy Yard was an isolated fortress primarily accessible by motor vehicle and inaccessible for the rabble on foot was an asset. Is it still? That is a question worth asking the firms inside.

  • Hmmm…

    No one reacted to the bike path in Phase II being outboard of the pedestrian sidewalk. I’m not familiar enough with the area to comment with any authority but on face value, I found this to be a less than ideal location (yes, I understand pedestrians may need to access bus stops, etc.). Still it would seem that placing cyclist further away from vehicle traffic and closer to the fence and any building walls would create a greater hazard for cyclists, particularly with the bike path being of minimal width already.

    To me, the proposal for Phase I seems like a much more preferable, if not most ideal alternative. I would just tweak bike lane width a little since a wider lane is preferable on the side with parking to avoid the car doors and less is needed on the side without any parking. Maybe a 4 foot lane on the side without parking and 6 on the side with.

  • J

    We should definitely be thinking long term. While I think initial commuter volumes will be handled just fine, weekend and summer peak traffic will be a nightmare, with no room for expansion apart from moving the fence, which is a huge lift.

    I keep comparing this to Kent Ave in my head. On Kent, first DOT eliminated all parking on the street to create the buffered lanes. After months of community screaming about loss of parking and loading, DOT came up with a new plan (Phase 2?), and the restoration of loading/parking WAY overshadowed the one-way conversion element. Perhaps the same will happen here later.

  • J

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