Greenpoint Ave Bridge Plan Adds Bike Lanes With Fat Buffers

Greenpoint_Bridge_Lanes.pngThe proposed redesign for the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, which connects Brooklyn and Queens. Image: NYCDOT

Here’s a look at NYCDOT’s plan for the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge [PDF], which would give cyclists traveling between Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Sunnyside, Queens a safer and more comfortable ride by installing bike lanes with extra-wide buffers. The project recently got some press in the Brooklyn Paper for attracting the opposition of local trucking interests.

Also known as the J.J. Byrne Memorial Bridge, this span over Newtown Creek is currently a danger zone for cyclists. Heading toward Queens, the Greenpoint Avenue bike lane ends abruptly at the bridge, throwing cyclists into mixed traffic where the road widens from two lanes to four. The confusing intersection on the Queens side of the bridge, where Greenpoint Avenue meets Van Dam Street and Review Avenue, is one of the locations most prone to crashes that cause severe injuries in the entire borough.

Greenpoint_Bridge_Bike_Lane.pngCurrently, the Greenpoint Ave bike lane ends right at the Greenpoint Ave Bridge. Image: NYCDOT

As part of a badly needed resurfacing of the bridge, DOT has proposed putting the bridge on a road diet using new markings. Two of the bridge’s travel lanes and its striped median would be narrowed. The other two lanes would be turned into bike lanes with no physical protection but plenty of room: six feet of travel width with a nine foot buffer. On the Queens side, the intersection would be simplified and include new pedestrian crossings.  

The redesign, unsurprisingly, has already drawn some controversy. According to the Brooklyn Paper, truckers have objected to bike lanes on Greenpoint Avenue, both those proposed for the bridge and those already built on the Brooklyn side. Of course, Greenpoint Avenue is already only two lanes wide on either side of the bridge. Moreover, in addition to improving safety on this bridge, the new bike lanes may help relieve some pressure on the narrow bike/ped path of the Pulaski Bridge, which is terribly overcrowded.

DOT’s website has the redesign slated for November implementation. We haven’t received any replies from the department in response to requests for more information about the status of the plan. 

  • J:Lai

    I bike over this bridge a lot, and I think it’s great for bikers on this route to finally get bike lanes. It is always a little scary to ride over the bridge given the combination of bumpy road surface, and speeding cars taking advantage of the brief widening in the road.

    The Greenpoint avenue section between the bridge and McGuinness Blvd has bike lines without any buffer. This section is heavily used by cars and trucks during the day, both as access to the industrial area of northern Greenpoint, and as a connector to the LIE. Drivers often use the bike lane as a passing lane, or an extra travel lane for cars.

    I hope adding the bike lanes to the bridge will decrease speeding and the use of the bike lane by drivers, but maybe that is wishful thinking.

  • To be fair: the statement that “Greenpoint Avenue is already only two lanes wide on either side of the bridge” is a bit misleading, since on the Queens side, it only runs one way eastbound. Van Dam Street feeds into the bridge from Queens, and it offers two lanes both eastbound and westbound.

    Regardless, this area is in desperate need of safety improvements. Let’s hope the few detractors don’t keep this area from getting the road diet it needs.

  • 9 feet buffer seems like a waste of space.

    How is the sidewalk situation? Is it too narrow, because if so, it would be better then make a bigger sidewalk via the red paint treatment.

  • I ride commute over this bridge every day and yes – the 9′ foot buffer does seem like a waste, and I bet it will be used regularly as a passing lane for fast traffic, running the risk of collisions with cyclists.

    I’d like to see bike lanes physically separated on this bridge, or at least raised, like Sands between Gold and Navy.

  • Peter Smith

    without grade separation, no amount of buffer space is a waste. an unlimited buffer space will never be ‘enough’. the only amount of buffer space that could ever be considered ‘enough’ is to not allow motor vehicle to travel on the bridge at all.

    wish i could say i’m surprised that bikers are arguing against real bike infrastructure. hey – if you hate your kids and grandkids and women, then sure — go ahead and argue against real bike infrastructure — you have lots of company.

  • JST

    How do I request that DOT look at other situations like this? The Flushing Avenue tunnel that goes under tracks @ ~Rust Street (near the Brooklyn/Queens border) is dangerous but has plenty of ROW width to make it safer for bikes.

  • Paul

    What if car lanes suddenly ended just as bike lanes do?

  • Ben,

    You stole my thunder! I was thinking the same thing that a 9 foot buffer is so wide that it would only encourage reckless drivers to pass on the right, endangering bicyclist.

    Peter,

    I agree that a barrier would be a preferred alternative over such a long stretch of bring but I doubt NYCDoT has the money for it at the moment. And BTW, barrier / grade separated bicycle facilities ARE NOT always the preferred alternative and can be more dangerous depending on the project and the application.

    I’m also not thrilled about the bike lane / motor vehicle lane merge on either side of the bridge. While this is a very common design treatment at intersections in NYC and elsewhere, I feel that it encourages bicyclists to hug the curb and for motor vehicle drivers to attempt right hook maneuvers. Admittedly, I don’t have a clear cut idea of how to remedy this particularly in a straight / right turn lane.

  • Larry

    JST – i recommend you bring it up on the transportation alternatives – queens committee email list. join here – they’ll have ideas. http://www.transalt.org/takeaction/queens

  • Andrew

    What could be the possible justification for having installed four lanes on a bridge connecting a two-lane street to a two-lane street? (I’m referring to the current layout, of course, not the proposed layout.)

  • Andy, are you talking about right turns?

    If so, this is the solution.

    http://www.tfhrc.gov/safety/pedbike/pubs/05085/images/fig1513.gif

  • Andrew – it’s not two lanes on either side. On the Queens side, the two eastbound lanes over the bridge split at Van Dam and Greenpoint and turn into four eastbound lanes.

  • Five eastbound lanes if you count Review Avenue, but the two on Greenpoint merge with traffic from southbound Van Dam Street into a single lane, so yes, there’s a total of four. It’s still overkill, as you note.

  • JST, several years ago, there was a grade-separated path on the north side of the Flushing Avenue tunnel. Has it disappeared?

  • Brooklyn

    There was a similar situation in Brooklyn — as part of the Park Circle traffic calming, DOT established a bike path on the overpass that carries Ft. Hamilton Parkway over the Prospect Expressway. A painted buffer would have been overrun by every jackass treating the overpass like a highway extension, given the history of driver behavior at that spot.

    Instead, DOT reinforced the lane separation with jersey barriers. The result is a slightly narrow-feeling bike lane. But a very, very secure one that couldn’t be encroached by anything short of an infantry tank.

    Grade separation would $10mm of concrete pouring that’s never going to happen on this bridge. be Jersey barriers could be put up overnight.

  • JST

    Jonathan – there is a grade-separated sidewalk on the Flushing Ave tunnel, but there are at least three issues with it – (1) it’s only on one side (north) (2) there are stairs on at least one end of it and (3) bikes cannot legally ride on a sidewalk, unless signage specifically permits it, which here, it does not.

    I’ve been commuting on this route for the past several months and this is, by far, the most dangerous segment of my ride.

  • Jersey barriers can be put up overnight on a fixed overpass, but not on a drawbridge like the Greenpoint Ave Bridge. Unless you want them sliding around every time the bridge opens. There are probably also engineering concerns with the added weight on the opening/closing mechanism.

  • A line of flexible bollards up the middle of the 9′-wide buffer may be the way to go–keeps all but the most drunken/sociopathic motorists out, but would not stress the bridge deck.

  • Brooklyn

    My bad – thought the bridge was a fixed one. Maybe that’s why it’s not called an overpass. . .

  • If you have a 9 foot buffer and a 6 foot bike lane next to it, some drivers will cheat by driving in the buffer to get around congestion – endangering bicyclists in the bike lane.

    It would be safer to narrow the buffer to 5 or 6 feet and to make up for that space by widening the moving lanes to 12 feet and widening the median.

  • vjulie

    I love that they are attempting to make the separation but I agree with the others that 9 feet may endanger the bicyclists rather than keep them safe. Safety is my biggest issue with commuting to work by bicycle. So it’s a good thing that I receive up to $20/month in vouchers on repairs and equipment for my bicycle. Check it out at http:// http://www.commuternation.com/nyc. I would be very satisfied if both my ride and the roads were safe.

  • Andrew

    Chris and Cap’n: Thanks for the clarification. Still, if one end of the bridge is only fed by a two-lane road, there’s no need for the bridge itself to have four lanes. (Three might be warranted, if necessary to handle the Van Dam/Greenpoint split.)

  • Andrew: Actually, you bring up an interesting point… rather than 18 feet of buffers, how about two eastbound lanes (since there are three turning movements at the east end of the bridge)? Narrow the bike lane to the standard 5 feet and that allows for a more reasonable 4-foot buffer that won’t be encroached upon.

  • joshua

    At what point has this city decided that commercial interests are no longer valued over leisurely ones? This plan will stifle car traffic to the point that going up over Greenpoint avenue will longer be an option for trucks and cars who use this bridge to help facilitate their livelihoods. The real answer is to create a separate bridge off of Greenpoint Avenue so this heavily used road isnt suffocated by a few bikers who want to get to Queens. I go over it every day. When did the interests of 5% at best trump the interests of 95% of the public. Really, as gentrification continues to annihilate the various business sections in the area, where are all the people going to go when these businesses close up shop? The people will be moved elsewhere replaced by the types who ride bikes, pick up their iced coffees at Brooklyn Label then ride on Franklin sipping it, weaving in and out of car traffic, giving the finger to people who get in their way. Then, the “authentic” culture that so many have moved to the area for will be gone and the new people will wonder about the history of all these old buildings and wonder about what once was there. They’ll take pictures, stand out in front of them and pose and post them on their semi-ironic blogs. Not all the drivers are “drunken sociopaths” – some actually have real jobs they need to get to. Basically, no bikers should be on Greenpoint Avenue at all. If they want to ride their bikes through Industrial Zones, do so at your own peril. Stop this whiny crap already.

  • Joshua, it’s the automobiles who are looking to avoid the I-278/I-495 interchange who are responsible for traffic jams on Greenpoint Avenue, so the question you should ask is, “At what point has the city decided that the rights of people who live and work in Brooklyn neighborhoods can be infringed by drivers heading from Long Island to New Jersey?”

    Also, your remark about riding bikes through industrial zones is in particularly poor taste today in light of this industrial-zone news.

  • Ian Turner

    Joshua, I gotta say, your post sounds incredibly whiny to me.

  • Joshua, hate to pile on, but why do you assume that cyclists who would use this bridge are involved in leisurely pursuits as opposed to community to work or actually working on a bicycle? And why do you assume that the motorists driving over this bridge are all involved in beneficial economic activity?

  • So Joshua, as you go over the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge every day, have you ever seen enough automobile traffic to warrant more than one lane in each direction? I haven’t.

  • joshua

    Bicycles Only,

    I’ll be happy to concede your point about not all cyclists being leisure riders. Many are, not all. Understand that I dont have any problem with bike riding as recreation, mode of transportation to work, deliveries, whatever it may be. I don’t mind the piling on or being disagreed with either. What I do have a problem with is the truly aggressive tactics being used in this area which in the name of bike-riding threaten to overwhelm and eradicate an area that is vital to working people in the city. More traffic congestion means less deliveries per day, less transported goods, etc. Many of these businesses in Greenpoint are already teetering because of the economy. Do they really need one more thing to make their lives more difficult? By the way, I dont represent them. However, there is a strong connection to be made between the rise of more affluence in the area with the rise of bike riding and when pursuing the goal of more bike lanes, it should be done with common sense in areas that can support them, not in places that need the infrastructure because they built their livelihoods around it. I agree that not all cars are engaged in commercial activity, but can a bike carry 5×7 pieces of granite or move vast amounts of equipment being used at the water treatment plant? I feel bad for the bicyclist who was hit but that has nothing to with what policy should be. That is simply populist. Are you suggesting Jonathan that because one event occured that all trucks should be taken off the road? The real answer is another bridge and bicyclists and drivers together should lobby for it. There is a way to share the road in a sensible way. 9 foot buffers on each side of the bridge is an overreaction brought to you in part by an aggressive campaign by the urban planners at the Bloomberg administration who read the wrong pages In a Jane Jacobs book.

  • Peter Smith

    I agree that a barrier would be a preferred alternative over such a long stretch

    i’m not actually aruging _for_ a barrier at this point, I’m just arguing for the proposed design — 9′ buffers. 9′ is nothing. buses and trucks and cars scare the crap out of people, so people won’t ride. simple. to allow people to be comfortable enough to ride, we have to keep them as far away as possible from killer cars/trucks/buses. simple.

    if it is not possible to design the bridge such that motorists will feel compelled by conscience, reason, or the law to abide by the buffer restriction, then we will have to ban all motorized traffic from the bridge completely. i don’t want to do that — i think it’s possible to design the bridge in a way that we can still allow motorized traffic to traverse it. there are all sorts of possible remedies, including soft hit posts, law enforcement, security cameras, etc. we definitely don’t want to get into a situation like those ridiculous unenforceable bus-only lanes all over the place. we need a design that works, not just adds an incredible burden to an already overburdended traffic control police force.

    I’ll be happy to concede your point about not all cyclists being leisure riders. Many are, not all

    all of your text is based on the premise that life should go on as is, with bikes being effectively exluded from most roads of Queens. cargo bikes are now almost commonplace in Portland, and they’re going to be commonplace in Queens, too — how soon we allow that to happen is up to us.

    what is being proposed here is not ‘truly aggressive’ — it is ‘too little, too late’ — but we’re going to go ahead with it anyways, because we have to try.

    can a bike carry 5×7 pieces of granite or move vast amounts of equipment being used at the water treatment plant?

    yes. that has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.

    not only have people moved huge amounts of materials by bike, but they’ve even done it without bikes (and without cars or any sort of motorized transport) — see World, Seven Wonders of the Ancient.

    besides, if we started doing some actual work during our lifetimes, maybe we could stop piling the climate debt onto our children. their lives are already shaping up to be shorter and more miserable than ours, so we should consider, you know, doing something different than our parents did.

  • joshua

    Peter,

    your premise is based upon the notion that things should change. Sometimes this premise has its’ faults as well. Its funny how I’m arguing a conservative point which isn’t usually my style but uber-liberalism also makes me rather nauseous.
    I am not in any way arguing against more bike lanes, just in places that are unable to handle them in a safe way.
    West street is a far more ideal pathway for bikes than say Manhattan Avenue. Someone was arguing here that people shouldn’t park here at all, which is just crazy for the impact potential on business owners. On Bedford Avenue, where weekends are being devoted to closed streets, most businesses have lost customers, not gained.
    That last part, with your references to the pyramids, is rather silly.
    The climate debate is a real one and eventually all modes of transportation will be carbon neutral. Until then though, people have livelihoods they need to attend to. Not everyone can afford to be environmentally sustainable. Some people will need to commute by car and goods need to be transported.
    Are you planning on starting a company that carries pieces of granite from Brooklyn to Long Island by foot? Or riding a bike from FLushing to Central New Jersey for your commute? People have to do things like this, and public transportation or bikes sometimes isn’t the fastest way to get from here to there.
    Yes, it is environmentally sensible to live close to where you work, walk there if possible, bike if you are a little further etc. , take the trains when running. All this is good and I agree with it. However, for some people this isn’t possible.
    By the way, if the Egyptian slaves could have used an F150 to transport stone im sure they would have. It would have been a good alternative to dying in the sun.

  • BicyclesOnly

    It should be obvious to anyone that a proposal for a separate cyclists’ bridge over the Newton Creek in this spot is a non-starter, given the contraction of the city’s finances. It’s disingenuous to propose such an “alternative” as if it were viable. I would be lining up with the opponents of such a plan if it were seriously proposed by the city.

    The suggestion that converting a MV lane on the bridge to a bike lane + buffer would so slow MV traffic that it could materially affect ot even sink local businesses is overblown. In almost every case I’ve seen, DoT has studied the impacton MV traffic of cyclist improvements before proposing them. Those concerned about the MV impacts of this project should get involved in the Community Board process as a first step, rather than sounding the alarm based on speculation.

    More fundamentally, those concerned with the impact of slow MV traffic on economic activity should focus their attention on the real source of congestion– inefficient, unnecessary use of private cars for personal transport in NYC. Reducing that element of traffic by removing the subsidies or taxing the costs associated with it is likely to yield a far greater time savings for beneficial economic activity than opposing a safety project designed to allow cyclists to cross a bridge safely rather than detour miles out of their way.

  • I think we can all agree that this is a primarily industrial area, meaning it is important to have infrastructure which supports the mass movement of goods. Additionally, I think we all agree that bicycles are not a practical tool for moving goods on an industrial scale (though on a commercial scale, i.e. deliveries between stores and whatnot, cargo bicycles tell a whole different story).

    Of course, we are talking about the men and women who work here, not the well-being of the industrial goods themselves. So let me ask you, how are these men and women getting to work? Horses? Jetpacks? The now-decimated bus system? (Since we are restricting this discussion to what is practical from the perspective of economics for both the individual and the city, I am not going to give the notion of using a private automobile to transport an individual to and from work any more credit than I would to using a bicycle to transport several tons of granite).

  • joshua gelfand

    I am not going to give the notion of using a private automobile to transport an individual to and from work any more credit than I would to using a bicycle to transport several tons of granite).

    really?????
    you guys are funny

  • You seem thrown off by my use of the literary technique known as “tongue-in-cheek.” I am clearly aware that private automobiles are used to transport individuals all throughout this country, and that within the present-day cultural context, it does indeed demand consideration with respect to infrastructure projects.

    But if we step back, and look at the problem at hand from a purely logical perspective, surely the notion of using a vehicle which weighs two tons, demands we plunder the seas for fossil fuels in order to be propelled forward, demands we destroy or severely degrade urban environments to give it space to both move and be stored, presents a public safety hazard, and so on and so forth, simply to move a human being from point A to point B, seems absolutely absurd. It is simply not a logical solution to the problem at hand (moving humans from point A to point B).

    Social change isn’t always going to be popular. Individuals who happen to benefit from the status quo are of course going to be the most vocal opponents. Those who benefit from the favorable public policies, tax structures, infrastructure designs, and so on and so forth are of course going to fight tooth and nail to keep these benefits.

    Motorists currently have the privilege of dominance over the city’s public spaces, very low direct taxation (i.e. gas tax), even lower indirect taxation (consider subsidies to oil companies for exploration and drilling), very little legal liability (as Streetsblog likes to remind us on a weekly basis: 68 New Yorkers killed by automobiles this year as of June 25, 10 drivers charged with a crime). Sounds like a pretty sweet deal for the motorists, huh?

    Motorists want to drive a car everywhere and not share space or pay taxes. I wish that the city provided free ice cream cones on every street corner, and constructed a system of water slides which parallel the Subway lines. Of course I’m not going to press my case, because I’m not self-entitled to the point that I believe my personal wants and needs supersede those of the other 8 million people in this city.

  • joshua gelfand

    I’m going away for a bit so I think this will be my last post for a while. Jeff, I get it, you don’t like cars. And Youre right in that social change will not always be popular. However, sometimes the status quo is quite ok. I believe the bike vs. cars issue needs to be addressed on a case by case basis rather than a blanket “cars suck” or “bikes suck” stance. Cars dont kill people btw, its the people who drive them. I’m all for stiff penalties for poor/lethal drivers, but again when you argue from behind one fence its really hard to see over it.
    By the way, I’m aware of the idiomatic phrase you put into quotations. I’ve taught English for ten years and am pursuing a second masters in urban planning. Why be so dismissive of a differing opinion?

  • GRANDMA

    Capn Transit, Whining Ian, Jonathan, Jeff—-What motorist does not pay taxes, car registration, car insurance,—drivers license—Where is the cyclist revenue—-Bike license–insurance–registration–also–who is paying for all the bike stands—where do you put the quarters in. I’ve lived in Greenpoint 67 years—–WAKE UP—–This is a industrial area. We need our traffic lanes painted so we can see them—not new bike lanes added. Pay revenue for your bikes, and maybe you will deserve extra consideration. I’m all for making things easier for my children and grandchildren but not at the expense of the hard working people of Greenpoint—Bike lanes end at Greenpoint Ave bridge—-get off your bikes and walk over the Bridge. It is not a long bridge. Pay revenue—Pay your due—and GOD HELP YOU ALL!

  • What percentage of the roads and bridges do you think all that pays for, Grandma? The rest comes from income and sales taxes, and we pay plenty of those. Sorry, I think you’re the freeloader here.

  • GRANDMA

    Just like every other senior resident of Greenpoint, who have made this community what it is today, the community that welcomes new people, to bring a fresh spirit, to lighten our lives. We have been paying income and sales taxes since before you were riding your tricycle. Don’t over look us. We have been the backbone of this community. We were told to go to the Transportation meetings and voice our opinions and find out everything is all ready set in stone. I know that if we communicate a little better, all these problems can be worked out. We see our community changing, hopefully for the better.

  • Grandma, to recapitulate what I said in July, what is so fantastic about the status quo, where Greenpoint is just a neighborhood for people from Long Island to drive through on their way to New Jersey? Or for drag racing on McGuinness Blvd?

  • I’m glad Grandma wants to communicate better, because calling people whiners and freeloaders is a bad way to start. And how do you know how long ago I was riding a tricycle?

  • Grandma

    Before I commented, the last entry was in July, I went to the transportation meeting in June, and like I said before, it was all set in stone already. So all your comments did not do anything to change the plans of the city. I came upon this blog by accident, but I’m glad i did. Greenpoint is fantastic. It is more than short cuts to 59th street bridge or Queens Midtown Tunnel. I remember when McGuiness Blvd. was not McGuiness but Oak St—Pulaski Bridge was the “wooden bridge” that scared you when you walked over it—Manhattan Ave had cobble stones and trolley cars—then came electric buses—5 movie theatres—one pizza parlor–corner Huron and Manhattan Ave—7 Catholic churches and schools—Jewish synagogues—ice cream parlors—Honigs Department store—butchers shops–candy stores–small deli’s and we knew everyone in every apartment for blocks. Block parties every summer evening–no air conditioners–horse drawn fruit carts–the ice man–the pie man–the grinder for knives and scizzors–fuller brush man and of course the milk man delivering to almost every house—Polish, Irish,and Spanish neighborhood. Is this important—maybe—maybe not. So many of us did not own cars—used subway and buses to get around the city. My mother widowed when I was 5—able to pay a months rent from a weeks salary and still have money left over for food—–Did I beat your tricyle days yet? Everything changes—We can go back and forth, but the City has made up it’s mind already. Well Gentlemen, It has been a pleasure. Thank You

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