Wanted: Better Protection for Thousands of Cyclists Dumped Onto the Bowery

Cyclists exiting the Manhattan Bridge this morning were immediately greeted by a parked NYPD van in the new temporary bike lane on the Bowery. Photo: Ben Fried

Today was the first day of a construction detour expected to send thousands of cyclists onto the Bowery from the Manhattan Bridge every day. A temporary bike route extending from the south side of Canal Street to Prince Street was constantly blocked by parked police vehicles, trucks, and cars during the morning rush, forcing cyclists to weave into the stream of Bowery traffic — full of buses and large trucks.

The northbound detour sends cyclist up the Bowery from just south of Canal. Image: NYC DOT

The detour is expected to last for at least six months. As a consequence of cable rehabilitation work, which according to the city will make the Manhattan Bridge bike path unrideable, DOT is directing cyclists to swap places with pedestrians and take the south side of the bridge. The announcement mapping the detour routes went out last Friday [PDF].

The Manhattan Bridge sees the second-most bike traffic of the four East River bike crossings — an average of about 3,000 cyclists each day, according to DOT’s 2010 counts. All was well on the Brooklyn side this morning, and the detour for bridge-bound cyclists on the Manhattan side doesn’t call for riding on any streets that might be especially hazardous for cyclists.

But the Bowery detour was hairy, to say the least. Some sort of physical protection, like Jersey barriers, will be necessary to prevent situations like this, just north of Canal:

Photo: Ben Fried
Photo: Ben Fried

North of Hester Street, the route consists of curbside sharrows until you hit Prince. Curb regulations apparently call for no standing in the shared lane from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on weekdays (that is unofficial — Streetsblog is trying to confirm the rules). Even when the regulations were in effect this morning, the lane was constantly blocked and impassable for cyclists:

Photo: Doug Gordon

Streetsblog has a request in with the Manhattan Bridge community liaison about further steps to protect cyclists. If the Bowery is going to be the northbound Manhattan Bridge bike detour until January 2012, more must be done to clear the route of obstructions and keep cyclists safe.

  • Mike

    This is a debacle. DOT needs to install physical separation, 24/7, stat.

  • Kaja

    *donates to Streetsblog*

  • Daphna

    Very good article, Ben.  And good pictures.  You clearly show the problem.  Your assessment that “more must be done to clear the route of obstructions and keep cyclists safe” is exactly on target.

    From the DOT website: “Under Contract 14, DOT is replacing the bridge suspenders, wrapping the four main cables, and replacing the necklace lighting….Most work will occur Monday through Friday between 7:00 am and 3:30 pm.  There may be minimal weekend or night work.”

    Presumably, the workers do not mind people walking by when and where they are working on the north side of the Manhattan bridge, but they do not want people biking by.  And the DOT is not doing this on an any sort of expedited schedule, but just regular 7am-3:30pm hours.  This shows how easily bike infrastructure is dismissed without an effort to minimize the time frame that it will be unavailable, or to investigate if taking away that infrastructure absolutely necessary.  And as Ben illustrated, the infrastructure was taken away also without providing an adequate alternative.

  • Ian

    Notice that is not the same police van in 2 pictures. Those are two police vans, parked in separate locations in the bike lane.

  • car free nation

    I might be wrong here, but it seemed that the police were out ticketing the trucks parked in the lane this morning. Could the ticket agents have come out of these illegally parked police vans?

  • Great reporting, horrible situation.  I hereby rescind my tweeted suggestions of earlier today that folks might be able to just suck it up.

  • The issue really isn’t the bridge. I found the detour on the Bklyn side to be no big deal and as long as people take the narrow space slow there shouldn’t be too many problems.  I think they should install a mirror at the switchback since it’s impossible to see anyone coming, but that’s a minor detail.

    The real issue is the Bowery, as Ben notes.  Being dumped below Canal on the Bowery is a disaster.  You’re placed right near what is essentially an automobile on-ramp to the Manhattan Bridge, which you have to cross before you even get to Canal.  The drivers do not yield.

    Once you cross Bowery, it’s every cyclist for himself.  And it’s mostly vans, buses, and trucks that make up the bulk of traffic here, not passenger vehicles, and we all know how well delivery and service vehicles are at obeying the law.

    DOT needs to stripe a bike lane on the Bowery, not sharrows and possibly put up at least a few jersey barriers to make it harder for trucks to suddenly pull over and stop.  Tiny little orange signs that tell drivers “no standing” isn’t going to cut it.  If they get any pushback, they can tell drivers the same thing they’re telling cyclists: it’s just until January.

  • The issue really isn’t the bridge. I found the detour on the Bklyn side to be no big deal and as long as people take the narrow space slow there shouldn’t be too many problems.  I think they should install a mirror at the switchback since it’s impossible to see anyone coming, but that’s a minor detail.

    The real issue is the Bowery, as Ben notes.  Being dumped below Canal on the Bowery is a disaster.  You’re placed right near what is essentially an automobile on-ramp to the Manhattan Bridge, which you have to cross before you even get to Canal.  The drivers do not yield.

    Once you cross Bowery, it’s every cyclist for himself.  And it’s mostly vans, buses, and trucks that make up the bulk of traffic here, not passenger vehicles, and we all know how well delivery and service vehicles are at obeying the law.

    DOT needs to stripe a bike lane on the Bowery, not sharrows and possibly put up at least a few jersey barriers to make it harder for trucks to suddenly pull over and stop.  Tiny little orange signs that tell drivers “no standing” isn’t going to cut it.  If they get any pushback, they can tell drivers the same thing they’re telling cyclists: it’s just until January.

  • Amy

    I had the exact same thought on my commute from Brooklyn this morning, so thanks for putting this out there. The detour is kind of nice actually – the view from that side is lovely and there’s hardly a climb anymore (who knew the ped side had it so easy?). Shooting right up Bowery from the bridge would be super convenient too if it wasn’t for the constant threat of getting mashed under a delivery truck. Joking aside, here’s hoping DOT does something about that before there’s a casualty.

  • Amy

    I had the exact same thought on my commute from Brooklyn this morning, so thanks for putting this out there. The detour is kind of nice actually – the view from that side is lovely and there’s hardly a climb anymore (who knew the ped side had it so easy?). Shooting right up Bowery from the bridge would be super convenient too if it wasn’t for the constant threat of getting mashed under a delivery truck. Joking aside, here’s hoping DOT does something about that before there’s a casualty.

  • Eric McClure

    I guess on the bright side, NYPD wasn’t ticketing cyclists for riding outside the bike lane when they had to avoid the illegally parked police vans.

    Admittedly, that’s a very limited bright side.

  • Mwallin16

    The DOT put lovely big signs with a bike and a big red slash through across it and jersey barriers so that cyclists know that there is a detour and they should use the other side of the bridge.  Where is the big pedestrian sign with a big red slash through it at the path entrances letting peds know that they need to use the other side of the bridge?!

  • Ty

    What do the police say when you ask them to move?  (I ask knowingly)

  • Hilda

    Is the route on and off the bridge at the Manhattan side the same as it was before the North side of Manhattan Bridge was installed?  

    On another note, I feel like I keep abreast of this kind of info, reading Streetsblog, riding the bridge alot, etc. but I had no idea that this was happening, until after a friend told me on Sunday morning, after a ride.  I rode back over the bridge on Sunday before 9am, and there was not a sign to be seen about this change, and I was looking.  Was I completely missing this, or did it come as a surprise to others as well.?

  • dearnate

    Don’t worry, they all already use the north side anyway.

  • Mike

    DOT didn’t announce it until Friday. (!)

  • Emily

    It was being discussed this time last year: http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/07/06/manhattan-bridge-rehab-plans-pose-challenges-for-bike-ped-safety/

  • Ralph

    I run the manhattan in the morning and evening to and from work.  I notice the signs and DOT representatives are up and out in the morning but not in the evening.  So I asked and the DOT representative said it’s only between 9am and 3:30pm that the change of side is in effect.  I don’t remember reading this in the handout.  maybe, it’s only a practical guideline since the construction people may leave at 3:30pm

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Manhattan Bridge Bike Path Detour to End on March 5

|
The Manhattan Bridge bicycle path will return to its usual place on the north side of the bridge on March 5, according to a Department of Transportation spokesperson. Since July, construction has forced cyclists and pedestrians to swap sides on the bridge. Bike riders heading into Manhattan have had to navigate a dangerous detour onto […]

The Daily News Has Got to Stop Printing Cyclist Stereotypes

|
One of the enduring mysteries of the NYC transportation media landscape is how the Daily News opinion page can be so on-target with its transit pieces, and so far off the mark when the topic turns to bicycling. Last week, the opinion writers published this excellent takedown of the joint John Liu/Tom DiNapoli MTA audit […]

Hudson River Greenway Closure Forces Cyclists Onto Unmarked Detour

|
The Hudson River Greenway is the most heavily used bike path in the United States, carrying roughly one-seventh of all cyclists entering Manhattan below 50th Street. In Upper Manhattan, where there are fewer bike lanes and much less on-street protection for cyclists than further south, it is truly the backbone of the bike network. Despite […]

Monday: No More Detour on the Manhattan Bridge

|
After a seven and a half month detour, the time is finally upon us: Starting Monday, cyclists can return to the north side of the Manhattan Bridge, and pedestrians can go back to the south side. The days of biking on the harrowing Bowery detour are just about over, and knock on wood, there were […]