Eyes on the Street: Safer Passage Between GAP and Eastern Parkway

Cyclists were already using the median on Eastern Parkway near Grand Army Plaza earlier this week. Photo: Ben Fried

The reconstruction of Eastern Parkway between Washington Avenue and Grand Army Plaza is wrapping up. A big benefit of the project is the completion of a widened median, including a path for bicyclists, between the main traffic lanes and the service road.

What used to be a bumpy median that wasn’t useful or walking or cycling is now a link from the Eastern Parkway greenway to Grand Army Plaza and all the bike routes that converge there. While this is the last piece of the GAP bike network puzzle to materialize, it’s a project that’s been in the pipeline for many years, so in a way it predates other recent improvements.

The final product. Image: ##http://66.39.72.204/system/files/EasternParkwayHWKC1019.pdf##Department of Design and Construction##

The project also includes curb extensions and curb ramps for pedestrians, connecting to the expanded bike lanes and pedestrian areas around Grand Army Plaza. The project is scheduled for completion this fall.

Families are using the median's large curb extension to more safely cross Eastern Parkway. Photo: Ben Fried
  • Barnard

    What about the intersection of Eastern Parkway and Washington, where the greenway moves from the south median of the parkway to the north median? How is that transition designed?

    They should’ve just kept the greenway continuous on the south side of the parkway, but that would’ve required a rethinking of the sidewalks and frontage along the Brooklyn Museum, Botanic Garden, Mt. Prospect Park and library, not to mention realigning the roadway.

  • Crankenstein

    Better than nothing, I suppose.

    This project shouldn’t have taken the DDC ten years and so many millions of dollars to complete. Anyone who complains about DOT’s fast, inexpensive and not particularly pretty approach to street redesigns, take note of how lengthy and expensive this project was.

    This should have been a two-way protected bike lane along the sidewalk directly connecting the library and the museum. There will still be bikes on that sidewalk because of this bad design decision. Making cyclists cross Eastern Parkway twice to get from the library to the museum is, utterly, totally silly. 

  • Ari

    I live right around the corner from this area.  I don’t think the “Final Product” graphic is what was actually built.  I don’t think there’s a pedestrian refuge island.  And I don’t believe the neckdown on the median is that large, or even there at all.  Not sure.  Maybe they will be added.

    The thing that really annoys me is that the crosswalk leading to the 2/3 staircase (on the median) is BEHIND the staircase.  EVERYONE going to/from that station crosses the service road 10-20 feet from the crosswalk.  Why wasn’t the crosswalk put in FRONT of the staircase???  My guess is that they wanted it lined up with the other crosswalk.  But that’s silly.  Most people crossing there are going to the train station.

  • Reader

    I agree with Crank 100%.

    Designs like this are pretty, but they essentially consign cyclists into sharing space with pedestrians, since there’s very little to distinguish this from a regular sidewalk.  Look at that second photo of the family on bikes… now imagine them riding on a nice Saturday afternoon with dozens of pedestrians also waiting for the light.  What are they going to do?  Go with the walk signal and ride through the crosswalk into pedestrian areas on the other side.  The same thing will happen down by the museum.  This is not a forward-thinking, bikes-as-transportation design. 

    I guess mentalities were different 10 years ago.  As a result, 10 years from now this will be completely obsolete.

  • Kurt

    Why is this a DDC project anyway? Where does DOT’s scope end and DDC’s begin?

  • Anonymous

    Given that there is no South median along this portion of Eastern Parkway, I don’t think this was such a bad design choice. Although it is across the street from the major institutions, which is regrettable, it links up nicely with the Plaza Street bike lane and the the bike lane crossing directly in front of the Arch.

  • Kurt, my understanding is that DDC does the capital projects for DOT. The Giuliani administration created DDC in order to centralize project management among a number of different city agencies.

  • Jeff

    I haven’t ridden this yet, but similar to my reaction to the new permanent Allen St bike lanes in Manhattan, I’m going to take a page out of the anti-bike crank handbook: This isn’t Europe.  Unlike the cranks, however, who believe this means we cannot have robust bike infrastructure, I mean it in the sense that, for better or for worse, North American cities have a unique cycling style, much different from that in Europe, and we need our own style of infrastructure accordingly.  This median bike path looks adorable for leisurely pedaling along on your upright cruiser bike through a four-square-kilometer city center.  But for a 5+ mile interborough commute, I’m not sure this is designed for the necessary speeds.

  • Anonymous

    @7e1970922cf83fe54c9f1a64d1af39c9:disqus : I don’t think any bike lane in NYC is good for high speeds over long distances. The protected ones are clogged with pedestrians, or sometimes with slower cyclists, and the unprotected ones are clogged with double-parked cars. Still, I wouldn’t mind riding on a bike lane such as this one as part of my 6-mile commute. The fastest parts of my commute are usually on avenues that have no bike lanes (and that happen to go downhill 🙂

  • Jeff

    @qrt145:disqus I’m inclined to agree, with the exception of the Hudson River bike path.  That truly is an expressway for bikes–high-speed design with few crossings–and every time I take it I feel like some kind of teleporting wizard.

  • Anonymous

    @7e1970922cf83fe54c9f1a64d1af39c9:disqus : that one’s sometimes crowded, and sometimes great, depending on the day/time/weather. To be fair, there are greenways in in the Bronx too with little pedestrian traffic and where you can go relatively far and fast (if that’s where you need to go!)

  • Joe R.

    @qrt145:disqus I’m mostly inclined to agree with you here, if for no other reason than the sheer number of traffic signals in NYC will cause even the best bike infrastructure to be unbearably slow (assuming the signals are obeyed). I personally find the best routes, at least here in Eastern Queens, are invariably along arterials without bike lanes at all. The best of the best are generally expressway service roads, even though I’ll readily admit these are not for timid riders. These have three great features. One, you’ll only intersect 2 to 4 major intersections per mile. The rest of the cross streets dead end at the expressway, usually with stop signs. Two, it seems there aren’t as many autos parked on service roads. Along some stretches it’s not even allowed. Three, the signal timing usually lets me go at least a mile or two before hitting reds. Yesterday I went about 4.3 miles along the LIE service road westbound and only hit one red (which changed to green just as I coasted into the intersection). It helps that there are only eight signalized major intersections along the entire run.
    Although I’ve never been on it, the Belt Parkway Greenway looks like it would make for a great run also. There’s one road crossing in about 8 miles. We could probably do something similar along the LIE.

    Yes, I’m inclined to agree here with the posters who feel American cities have their own unique cycling style which largely isn’t being accommodated in most of the new infrastructure I’m seeing. From my own personal standpoint, I don’t want to encounter sharp curves or confusing routing or traffic signals/stop signs. Infrastructure which meets these criteria is really the only kind which is significantly better to me than just riding on regular streets without bike lanes.