CB 2 Panel Unanimously Supports Lafayette-4th Avenue Protected Bike Lane

Under the plan, a buffered bike lane would be converted to a protected bike lane. Image: DOT
Under the plan, a buffered bike lane would be converted to a protected bike lane. Image: DOT

In a unanimous 9-0 vote last night, Manhattan Community Board 2’s transportation committee endorsed a DOT plan to upgrade a buffered bike lane on Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue to a parking-protected lane, complete with new pedestrian islands, car lanes of an appropriate width for the city, and improved signal timing for pedestrians. The plan now moves to CB 2’s full board meeting on March 20.

“We’re here as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero campaign,” DOT project manager Preston Johnson said, pointing to safety gains similar projects have yielded on other Manhattan avenues. “This is a project that fits in with that by improving safety for all road users.” From 2007-2011, he said, six pedestrians, one cyclist and five motor vehicle occupants were severely injured in crashes on this section of Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue.

The proposal [PDF] does not remove any car lanes, but instead narrows them on the avenues. Currently, lanes on Fourth Avenue feature a 14-foot-wide travel lane and a 21-foot-wide shared parking and moving lane. Under the plan, car lanes would be narrowed to 11 feet, with the right-hand lane on Lafayette slimming down to 10 feet.

“You really have a highway standard… which is inappropriate for this context,” Johnson said. “These moving lanes are just overly wide, and we’re able to repurpose that space more efficiently.”

Under the plan, the existing buffered bike lane, which ranges from nine to 11 feet wide on the left side of the street, will shift to the curb. Pedestrian islands will be added to the floating parking lane to shorten crossing distances, which are currently 71 feet on Fourth Avenue and 48 feet on Lafayette Street, curb-to-curb.

In addition to adding pedestrian islands, DOT staff said they would be adjusting signal timing to reduce waits for pedestrians crossing Fourth Avenue. Today, many pedestrians are left waiting for a signal long after platoons of car traffic heading north from Astor Place have passed and the roadway is open.

The protected lane would run from Prince Street to 12th Street. Image: DOT
The protected lane would run from Prince Street to 12th Street. Image: DOT

The plan includes mixing zones where left-turning drivers merge with cyclists, and it would remove 25 parking spaces, 12 of which would be for pedestrian islands. DOT staff said last night that by adjusting parking regulations, particularly no-standing zones between Houston and Bleecker Streets, the plan would add 28 spaces, resulting in a net gain of three spaces after the project is complete.

The bike lane receives parking-protected upgrades only from Prince to 12th Streets. At the southern end, the existing buffered bike lane would be retained between Spring and Prince Streets, DOT said, because of objections from the fire department, which operates a firehouse on the east side of that block.

From 12th to 14th Streets, the buffered lane gives way to striped bike lanes next to parked cars on both sides of the street. Bike boxes at intersections would allow cyclists exiting the left-side protected lane to move across the street for right turns at 12th and 14th Streets, or to continue straight onto Union Square East, which does not have a northbound bike lane.

While most of the project area has two car lanes, Fourth Avenue between 9th and 12th Streets has three. Last night, a member of the public urged DOT to study removing one of the lanes. DOT Director of Cycling and Pedestrian Programs Josh Benson noted that traffic merges from Fourth Avenue at Astor Place, creating a third lane, and that DOT would study it if the community board requested. The resolution passed by the committee last night, however, did not include that request.

The plan received widespread support at last night’s meeting, which was attended by nearly 50 people. Only a couple of people spoke skeptically of the plan.

William Kelley of the Village Alliance Business Improvement District endorsed the plan, as did Scott Hobbes, deputy director of the Union Square Partnership, and Charlie McCorkell, owner of Bicycle Habitat on Lafayette Street.

“I think this is just great for guest safety, as well as our employees who travel in by bike,” testified Chris Holbrook, general manager of the Hyatt Union Square hotel.

“How many of you are in favor of this bike lane?” CB 2 Transportation Committee chair Shirley Secunda asked the crowd, a majority of which raised their hands in favor.

“It’s good to work in CB 2,” DOT’s Benson told Streetsblog after the meeting. “It was nice to see the support from the business community.”

“We actually go door-to-door, flyering these businesses to let them know about these meetings,” said DOT Deputy Borough Commissioner Nina Haiman, adding that the agency had met with schools, business improvement districts, and community groups in the area. “If this moves forward, we’ll be doing another round of door-to-door.”

The avenues are scheduled to be repaved beginning at the end of next month. DOT staff said last night that the entire project could be complete by early summer, but they would have to coordinate the schedule with Summer Streets, which runs along the route in August. If the open streets event delays construction, the project could be complete by early fall. The project also borders CB 3 along Fourth Avenue, which DOT says it has been in touch with about this project.

In other business, the committee approved a request for DOT to study separate, conflict-free pedestrian crossing phases on Lafayette at Broome and Kenmare Streets, which handle heavy volumes of Holland Tunnel-bound car traffic. The committee and supported a proposal from the Village Alliance BID to upgrade Ruth Wittenberg Triangle, which is bounded by Sixth Avenue, Christopher Street, and Greenwich Avenue.

  • Clarke

    Excited for this…but, let’s be honest, it’ll turn to sharrows at the BP station on Houston Street and be entirely blocked by taxis. Interested to see how they deal with that block.

  • guest

    Fantastic! Too bad that the Astor Pl area still be a mess, and it will actually get a bit harder for cyclists to get through, because of the horrible behavior of pedestrians. People crossing Lafayette in front of Walgreens and Starbucks *never* stand on the sidewalk, but instead congregate on the street. Car traffic isn’t usually heavy there, so people just cross at all times and stand on the street, because they feel safe, I guess. I suspect cyclists will need to come to a near halt to get through that spot in a bike lane that runs by the curb.

  • snobum

    Definitely needed. I hope they add countdown signals to the area too.

    Personally, I think they should have eliminated the 3rd lane on 4th Ave (but I know any elimination of traffic lanes is an uphill battle). The 3rd lane just isn’t needed, and only appears between 9th and 13th Streets.

  • J

    Great news that we’ll see these upgrades!

    Sadly, this project makes abundantly clear that vision zero takes a back seat to vehicle throughput and parking.

  • J

    With a ped refuge, I think the situation will actually improve, since pedestrians will be able to stand out past the bike lane.

  • Jeff

    Agreed. I also think a lot of the issue we see today stems from the near total lack of lane markings.

  • Reader

    Considering many people’s fears about de Blasio’s commitment to bike infrastructure, I think this is a huge win. And it’s only March 2014!

  • J

    Also, why doesn’t the project start at Spring St? The width is identical to portions of the route north of Prince, and it connects to the Citibike station at Petrosino Square and the heavily-biked Spring Street, which provides a good connection from the West Side (even without a bike lane).

  • J

    Just saw that the FDNY objected to this. Apparently they’re not on board with Vision Zero. De Blasio, what say you??? Is De Blasio’s FDNY going to be like Bloomberg’s NYPD, where they simply ignore his policies and do whatever they want?

  • Isn’t someone on the verge of demolishing that station and putting a real building there?

  • Clarke

    That’s good then! Looking forward to seeing the complete plan for this route

  • I’ll never forget that our original video on Physically Separated Bike Lanes – we shot most of the interviews – and some of the footage – on Lafayette Street. Demonstrating that even on a street with a wide buffer, riding was not safe. Look back 7 years! http://www.streetfilms.org/physically-separated-bike-lanes/

  • BornAgainBicyclist

    I was almost as excited to learn that gas station is going as I was to learn about these improvements.

  • guest 2

    I agree that pedestrians shouldn’t obstruct bike lanes and should behave predictably. However the current design of Astor place is confusing for all roadway users, and this ambiguity only invites “bad” pedestrian behavior. This is one of the areas that I walk the most often, and still find that intersection extremely confusing. The good news is that DOT is studying a redesign of that intersection, which hopefully will make it more legible and safer for everyone.

  • MattyCiii

    11′ lanes == 45MPH+ driving.

    Why not 10′ travel lanes, an 8′ parking lane, 4′ buffer and an extra 8′ for the bike lane (contraflow?)

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I suspect cyclists will need to come to a near halt…”

    I have to stop at a green light there all the time, to avoid running over the jaywalking wave. It’s the worst in the early fall when the NYU freshman show up. But what the heck, I can stop for a second.

  • AnoNYC

    Why would the FDNY oppose a traffic calming effect? I haven’t noticed any sidewalk parking on the side of the street this bicycle lane is being considered (West side). (And for the record I do not support sidewalk parking at all.)

    Hopefully the parking lot adjacent to Bicycle Habitat is developed on very soon too. Property values are likely to rise after the construction of this new infrastructure.

  • Downtown Activist

    This map shows all that is currently, or within the next 2 months to be, under construction on Lafayette St. from Houston St to 9th St along Lafayette:
    http://www.nohomanhattan.org/wordpress/?p=1888.

    NoHo has no objection to eventually having a protected bike lane along this part of Lafayette St. We have many resident bike riders, have welcomed bike racks, and Citi-bike installations but until the constructions are near completion around here, we feel it is irresponsible and premature to represent this area – protected lane or not – as a safe biking street.

    Whatever could be jury-rigged now would have to be done over, maybe even several times. Between the closed sidewalks; blocked crosswalks; sidewalk sheds; large Citi-Bike rental installations; a significant increase in pedestrian traffic from NYU student population travelings by foot daily thru NoHo to and from east side dorms and classrooms, the additional impediment of a protected bike lane to safe pedestrian traffic is, to us, an issue.

    Additional to the planning for this protected bike lane should be the provision of a fire lane up Lafayette from Engine 33, Ladder 9 on Great Jones which will be the only means of reaching anything north, east or west from that station within its service area.

    DOT’s standard seems to be to provide two lanes for moving traffic –
    though reduced from 14′ to 11′ . It is doubtful that even this is going to manifest particularly for traffic approaching Astor Place (one of several massive constructions underway for the next 3 years). . It would seem that a
    lane (usually in the middle so large fire trucks can make corners) should
    be a major consideration in determining even the sufficiency of two lanes.

    This initiative needs considerable reconsideration before it is employed.

  • guest

    Doubt it; it’s a heavily trafficked by pedestrians area, with crowds passing for most of the day. A pedestrian island has space for a few people, not for a couple dozen.

  • J

    Fair enough. It’s also good to see the CB show strong support.

  • Daniel

    It’s ok. Astor place is a heavy pedestrian area. Just slow down you’ll be past the bottleneck in a minute or two.

  • AnoNYC

    This city is always under construction.

  • Downtown Activist

    No contest. The issue is biker and pedestrian safety. DOT and DDC are fully aware of the projects underway on sidewalks and roadbeds. Their job is to #1 initiate projects that will IMPROVE safety. #2 utilize budget efficiently and effectively. NoHo has been repeatedly subject to compromises on both counts. The accident and fatality counts speak for themselves regarding lack of safety. The do-overs on Houston St. on Bowery, on 4th St. and now on Lafeyette St. are worthy of investigation from the Comptrollers office.

    Again, there is no objection to advancing bicycle transportation as a major mode of NYC transport. The issue is how responsibly DOT addresses its implementation and how much burden on the residents, merchants and cycler expectation needs to be compromised for the sake of purely political pressure.

  • Daniel

    I would much rather have the city work on the Chrystie St bicycle path first, but I think this design is an obvious improvement for pedestrians, cyclist and drivers. My experience with the DOT is that every 10 years or so they look at a street and at that point you have a chance to shape it, at any other time even minor changes involve an uphill battle. The when isn’t really up for debate, just the details of the implementation.

  • JK

    Great news! Have to ask, what about the bike lane south of Spring? The wide south-bound bike lane in the eight long blocks from Broome to Worth is heavily biked. But, during peak periods it’s occupied by left turning and double parked vehicles. Also, the prime northbound biking route from the B-Bridge is Centre Street, which is very inhospitable to cyclists. Has DOT given any thought to a two-way bike lane on Lafayette from Worth to say Kenmare? Or have these streets been permenantly sacrificed to East River drivers — like Canal Street?

  • G

    I don’t know why FDNY is against this particular case of the Spring-Prince stretch of protected bike lane, but fire departments nationally tend to go against projects that narrow roadway widths. FDs want the most space possible to have the biggest truck possible maneuver as easily as possible. A district-, borough-, or citywide master plan would be a tremendously challenging process that could address this.

  • Ian Dutton

    The reality is that there is widespread illegal parking by FDNY personnel visiting a department health facility at this location, and the department seeks to preserve the constant double- and triple-parking that they foist onto the neighborhood.

    They are able to get away with constant illegal parking because the traffic volume on this stretch of Lafayette is so low that even with only a single lane available to moving traffic there is no capacity problem whatsoever. I think maybe that’s the answer – start the protected lane at Spring St. – which is a necessity to curtail illegal parking in the bike lane – and mark the street with a single moving lane and a giant buffer on the east side to contain the illegal FDNY activity.

  • J

    Or maybe de Blasio could somehow convince his FDNY to, you know, both follow the law AND support his Vision Zero efforts. Both seem to be well within their mission of public service and public safety. And frankly it should be a scandal that they blatantly break traffic safety rules on a daily basis for no reason other than their own convenience.

  • BBnet3000

    Great but for only 12 blocks? Thats a very short distance on a bike.

    Are we EVER going to start treating the bike network like a network rather than a series of short lanes?

  • Sabina

    A bunch of Lafayette has already been repaved and repainted with a “protected” bike lane. That was surprisingly quick.

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