Tonight: Support a Safer Lafayette Street at Manhattan CB 2

Swapping the parking lane and the bike lane will make Lafayette safer for walking, biking, and driving without changing the general traffic lanes. Image: Google Maps/Brooklyn Spoke

One of the first new street redesigns of the de Blasio administration calls for upgrading the northbound section of the Lafayette Street bike lane, between Spring and 14th Street, from a buffered lane to a protected lane. Manhattan Community Board 2 will consider the proposal tonight, and if you want a safer Lafayette Street it’s important to turn out and tell CB 2 why this project matters.

Lafayette Street has one of the first buffered bike lanes in the city — maybe the first — implemented at a time when protected bike lane designs weren’t in DOT’s toolkit. It already takes up as much street space as needed for a safe, protected bike lane. Swapping the bike lane and the parking lane would make the street safer for everyone by reducing speeding, and it would keep motorists out of the bike lane without changing how motor vehicle traffic flows. As Doug Gordon says, it’s a no-brainer.

But even this low-hanging fruit may be tough to pluck if people don’t turn out tonight and support the project. Recently, even suggestions as mundane as slowing down the traffic signal progression on Prince Street have had trouble gaining traction at CB 2. Word is that the local BID is change-averse and doesn’t want this redesign to happen.

To speak up for a safer Lafayette Street, head to the meeting at the NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Place, Room 520, a little before 6:30 p.m.

  • SteveVaccaro

    For years, I used this as my primary downtown-to-uptown commuting route, because usually I’m starting and finishing my ride neither east nor west but right in the middlde of the island. As I’ve gotten older (and been involved in a crash and some near-misses), I’ve started detouring to the Hudson River Bike Path or the protected Allen/First Avenue bike path for nighttime uptown commutes, because of the greater safety those facilities provide during speedier and more dangerous nighttime riding. This upgrade to the critical middle portion of the Centre-Lafayette-4th Ave route would is welcome and long overdue.

  • com63

    This lane really needs restriping, especially at locations where cars are turning left across the lane. You can’t even see the lane in many places right now and many cars have no idea it is there. It could also use a better transition to park avenue north of 14th st. Maybe provide a bike box on the south side of 14th st. so people can get over to the right side of the street.

    I ride this all the time and I would actually argue against a protected lane south of Astor place. This street is not bad to bike on already due to its width and relatively light traffic. The real challenge here is avoiding jaywalking pedestrians in the four consecutive crosswalks at astor place and 8th st. This is a place where it really helps to have a bell. The current design of having a wide street with no traffic allows you to take any lane to avoid the pedestrians. A protected lane could increase the pedestrian/bike conflict by keeping bikes adjacent to the curb without room to maneuver. I would support the protected lane as long as things open up a bit near the intersection and there are good markings so that pedestrians don’t stand in the lane.

    I do have to say that since citibike was introduced, the pedestrian awareness of bikes coming through this intersection after cars have passed has increased considerably.

  • Ben points this out, but it’s worth re-emphasizing: a protected bike lane will really benefit pedestrians here by shortening crossing distances and slowing down turning drivers on this very wide street. I’m willing to deal with a few pedestrians in the bike lane if that means a safer street for everyone.

    It’s sometimes hard for CB members to look at something that’s labeled as a bike lane project and see that the number one beneficiaries are the majority of New Yorkers who get around on their own two feet. This point should be hammered home repeatedly tonight by anyone who attends the meeting.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    As a seasoned cyclist, I don’t disagree with you about having the option to shift lanes to avoid pedestrians. But with the large lanes motorists can be all over the place, so I’d like to give the cyclists who need it (tourists, those new to cycling) the protected space. You and I can always take a lane there when needed.

  • Albert

    com63, your observation about the increasing pedestrian awareness of bikes is very important. As cyclists become more “normalized” (i.e., everyone gets used to their presence) pedestrian awareness will continue to increase. And protected bike lanes, much more than unprotected bike lanes, are contributing to pedestrian awareness because protected bike lanes are bringing out more cyclists than unprotected bike lanes—specifically “everyday” cyclists.

    Pedestrians walk in bike lanes not simply because they are “scofflaws” or “jaywalkers” — but because peds are following human nature and looking to avoid the crowding on sidewalks that have been narrowed over the years to give more space to motor vehicles. I guarantee you that pedestrians will vacate bike lanes completely once the number of cyclists using that space increases enough. And that will only happen when the streets are safe enough to motivate enough everyday cyclists to come out and ride. And *that* will only happen with more protected bike lanes (among other street re-engineering), not unprotected bike lanes — even buffered ones.

    And, if I may—instead of relying on a bell like a driver relies on a horn (i.e., using it to suggest that pedestrians get out of your way because you’re coming through, regardless), it might be better for ped-bike relations for cyclists to simply slow down a bit, carefully deviate from their path as necessary, and use their voice like a pedestrian would (an option drivers really don’t have, being closed up in their boxes), like, “Excuse me, can I get by you? Thanks.” Not to worry: It won’t be long before the need to take the time to extend this common courtesy will become very rare.

    That’s why I’m against bicycle bells being mandatory. One of the beauties of urban bicycling is how similar it is to walking, in important ways like the ability to use interpersonal relations in our interactions with others, like using the human voice.

  • Ian Dutton

    Really the thrust of the opposition is misunderstanding. NoHo has suffered through several major street projects which have choked traffic for years and sees this improvement as just one more hassle. That’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater: turning noses up at a project that really addresses the root of the problem – the cars. It must be noted that this really has little impact on traffic while providing a major upgrade for pedestrians and cyclists.

  • johnmassengale

    I’m in Chicago on business, so can’t attend tonight. My office is half a block from Lafayette and I ride in this lane al lot. It is one of my favorites because I’m NOT looking for a long distance high-speed route. Lafayette is a lightly trafficked street that should have a slow-speed, Vision Zero approach where cars and bikes are going slowly and pedestrians “jaywalking” are not a problem.

    Most here agree that cars should be slowed down in New York. That’s the only way to get zero deaths in places where cars and pedestrians come into contact. Then you can get away from the over-engineered solution of segregating everyone with heavy-duty infrastructure. On a street like Lafayette there should be no such thing as “jaywalking.” There should be a good bike lane BUT high speed cars and high speed bikes should move to other streets.

    We need bike lanes where kids are safe riding. Those should not have left turn lanes for cars, because those lanes encourage drivers to drive aggressively, “taking the lane” when they have the left turn lane. When cars go slowly, you don’t need left turn lanes.

  • SoHo’er

    Especially since this portion of Lafayette goes uptown with relatively light traffic at most times of the day. NoHo and SoHo’s worst streets for congestion are the crosstown and downtown streets that feed to the bridges and tunnels.

  • Geck

    This seems so obvious.
    Ideally, I would like to see the protected lane extended to include the full length of Lafayette and for it to be made two-way (with necessary turn restrictions and signalization).

  • Danny G

    I’m not able to attend, but I agree that two-way would be great, since riding a bike down Broadway from Union Square to Spring Street is not so great. Southbound on Lafayette would be a good option.

    I’d also like to see the short block of Lafayette between Spring and Kenmare (right next to the park) become a for-reals woonerf: Ample space for pedestrians, local delivery trucks, vans, and taxi dropoffs, and two-way bike traffic.

  • BornAgainBicyclist

    Just got back from DC where I tried the two-way cycle tracks on 15th St NW and Pennsylvania Avenue. They use different treatments and placements, which really drove home the reality that two-way cycletracks are very realistic for most of our wider streets.

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