In Progress: Better Bike-Ped Access on the South Side of Grand Army Plaza

Crosswalk on steroids: The pedestrian connection between the greenmarket area, shown during a recent food truck rally, and the central public space of Grand Army Plaza is about 100 times more visually prominent after the addition of these huge zebra stripes. Photos: Ben Fried

Earlier this week we showed some before-and-after shots of the pedestrian improvements on the north end of Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. Here we’ve got a batch of pictures from the south end, by the entrance to Prospect Park. These pictures are already a little out of date — DOT has put down an epoxy-and-gravel surface on the pedestrian area where the greenmarket sets up every Saturday — so keep in mind that this isn’t the finished product. I think you’ll still get a good feel for how much of a difference this DOT project will make for pedestrians and cyclists.

Thanks are due again to the folks at the Grand Army Plaza Coalition, who’ve been pushing for changes like this for five years.

Walking from Prospect Park to the Bailey Fountain in the center of GAP now looks like something you're supposed to do.

For cyclists, GAP is quickly becoming a much more functional hub, with bikeways leading into and out from the area in all directions. The addition of a greenway connection on Eastern Parkway, projected to be finished next year, will complete the spokes in the system. A two-way, circular protected bike route on Plaza Street (currently a one-way bike lane) would fill out the hub, though plans for that segment have been on hold.

The additions on the south end of GAP provide much improved bike connections between Plaza Street, Prospect Park West, and the loop road inside Prospect Park. Readers report that the new signal timing makes for slow bike trips across the south end of GAP — a shortcoming that can hopefully be addressed soon. Here’s an early look at the new stuff:

Chevrons point the way to and from the north end of the PPW bike lane.
The bike and pedestrian connections across Union Street.
A segment of protected bikeway, looking toward Plaza Street West and Union Street. We're hoping the traffic light pole anchored in the bike lane is a temporary construction measure.
The view looking the other direction, toward the Brooklyn Public Library.
Facing back toward Union Street again. The redesign routes westbound cyclists over an existing sidewalk. On a busy weekend afternoon, there was lots of foot traffic and bike traffic, and plenty of space to go around.
  • Anonymous

    The added bike connections and crosswalks really work. The whole area is a lot less daunting to cross now.

  • Anonymous

    The added bike connections and crosswalks really work. The whole area is a lot less daunting to cross now.

  • Michael Cairl

    Let’s not forget how much better pedestrian access is with the redesign. And it’s even better for motorists, esp. with the split signal southbound.

  • Michael Cairl

    The article does an excellent job pointing this out. Stay tuned for next steps from GAPCo.

  • J

    This is great stuff. Any word on Plaza St protected bike lane?

  • Robert

    The 2-way protected Plaza Street bike lanes were deferred because of the Prospect Park West lawsuit.  There is no reason for DOT to delay the rest of this project.  It has already been approved by the community boards.

  • J

    Thanks, @5416db5a166bcb8045f0c369ebd62201:disqus.  Also, has DOT begun installing the concrete ped islands on PPW? I imagine that since the lawsuit is over, they can finally finish that project. 

  • Anonymous

    I read somewhere that raised pedestrian islands on PPW are to be put in place in the Spring.

  • Greg

    Have you seen the “weekender” version of the MTA website? Worst website design ever! Only a bureaucrat could design such a mess.

  • dporpentine

    I’m glad if it’s nicer for some folks, but for me, as someone who goes through here twice a day and wants to bike in a lawful way, the redesign remains entirely negative. The lights are timed terribly, there are all kinds of tight right-angle turns that you can’t realistically take on a bike, and just too much paint, not enough signage. 

  • Joe R.

    @deporpentine:disqus What you describe seems to be a citiwide philosophy regarding cycling infrastructure.  Apparently people who plan these things treat bicycles as simply “fast pedestrians”.  If I were in charge, I would personally keep the curve radii on all bike routes to 200′ or greater.  This is a wide enough curve to allow the fastest cyclists (~25 mph) to take without slowing down.  It also goes without saying I would avoid traffic lights on bike routes to the greatest extent possible, particularly on downgrades.  Maybe the city should have just had the PPW path transition into a flyover to get past GAP.  I’m not really familiar with the area so I can’t say.  The problem here is trying to please all groups without grade separation.  What results in an “enhanced pedestrian experience” usually turns out to be awful for bikes because it means frequent, long red lights as you’ve seen.

  • gapco member

    The bike infrastructure in the new GAP is designed for the local cyclist, bound for Greenmarket or Prospect Park or local spots. It is not designed for commuting cyclists, for whom speed and directness are necessary. There is a philosophical decision that needs to be made concerning cyclists in GAP. Are they better paired with pedestrians, as commenters point out that they currently are? Or with cars, with dedicated space running between PPW and Vanderbilt through the center of GAP? some who have looked at this closely would say that relegating cyclists to Plaza St treats them as pedestrians, not commuters, and thus is unsatisfactory.

  • GAP commuter

    There needs to be a two-way Plaza St bike lane.  The GAP design includes a two-way bike route that ends just before you get there by Union St, depositing you at the top of Plaza St West.  (For reference, it’s the picture with the light pole in the middle.)

    It more or less says to cyclists who’ve gone around GAP, “Go this way down Plaza St.”  Without the proper infrastructure, an accident is a certainty either between two cyclists or between a driver riding in the bike lane and a wrong-way cyclist.  It’s time for DOT to get back some spine now that it beat back the lawsuit from NBBL and put this original part of the redesign back in.

  • Anon

    I’m sure it’s an imporvement from the existing grand army plaza, but it looks like a lot of confusing paint (that will fade quickly). And it’s really ugly. I wish they incorporated aesthetics into their design.

  • Anon

    I’m sure it’s an imporvement from the existing grand army plaza, but it looks like a lot of confusing paint (that will fade quickly). And it’s really ugly. I wish they incorporated aesthetics into their design.

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