CB 2 Panel OKs Hudson Street Bike Lane Upgrade, Bowery Ped Safety Tweaks

The Hudson street buffered bike lane is set to become a parking-protected path. Image: DOT
The Hudson Street buffered bike lane is set to become a parking-protected path. Image: DOT

Last night, Manhattan Community Board 2’s transportation committee unanimously supported two safety measures: one to upgrade a bike lane on Hudson Street, and another to tweak pedestrian improvements at the car-clogged intersection of the Bowery and Delancey Street.

Almost two-and-a-half years after asking DOT to upgrade the faded buffered bike lane on Hudson Street to a parking-protected path with pedestrian islands, the committee unanimously endorsed a plan from DOT to do just that [PDF]. The next steps: support from the full board at its April 24 meeting, and construction beginning in July.

The plan actually extends two of Manhattan’s most popular protected bike lanes southward. The Ninth Avenue protected lane will now reach a few blocks further south of 14th Street, on the southbound section Hudson Street, before joining the curbside striped bike lane on Bleecker Street. And on the northbound section of Hudson, cyclists will be able to use a protected bike lane starting at Houston Street before joining the existing Eighth Avenue protected lane.

CB 2’s request in 2011 asked that the lane extend south to Canal Street, but DOT’s plan stops at Houston. When the board made its request then, Hudson Square Connection BID executive director Ellen Baer said her members were split on the concept. While the BID has supported a number of other street safety improvements, it opposed the CB’s request for Hudson Street. Since then, the BID has released a concept plan that includes a protected bike lane along Hudson Street, but asked DOT to leave it out of the plan the agency presented last night.

“So far, we’ve gotten very positive responses, but we continue to go out there and build support for the plan,” Baer told Streetsblog. The BID’s plan includes widening the sidewalk to create space for green stormwater infrastructure, a more significant design change than DOT is proposing north of Houston. “You want to do it all at once,” she said. “You wouldn’t want to put a protected bike lane in this section and then come back.”

The BID has been working with DOT on its plan, and hopes to release designs in the coming months and begin construction as soon as 2016. I asked DOT bicycle program director Hayes Lord if he had spoken with the BID about using paint instead of concrete for pedestrian islands south of Houston, so the protected lane could be installed this summer while the BID finalizes a more permanent design. He said he did not, and that the BID and DOT decided last year to pursue the projects separately.

At Abingdon Square, where Hudson Street changes direction, the southbound lane transitions from a protected path to a buffered curbside lane as Hudson feeds into Bleecker Street. The project does not include the blocks north of 14th Street in Community Board 4, where the protected bike path on Ninth Avenue gives way to a painted curbside lane that loading trucks and left-turning vehicles regularly intrude upon.

The project involves a loss of 58 parking spaces, most of them to mixing zones and pedestrian islands. DOT said the plan would not affect more than three-quarters of the curbside spots on Hudson Street, and that the agency did not see a need to change curbside rules, but would be open to suggestions.

DOT is adjusting pedestrian safety improvements at Delancey Street and the Bowery because high car volumes have wiped out hoped-for safety gains. Image: DOT
DOT is adjusting pedestrian safety improvements at Delancey Street and the Bowery because high car volumes have wiped out hoped-for safety gains. Left: Existing conditions. Right: DOT’s plan. Image: DOT

DOT also presented plans to adjust pedestrian safety improvements it made in 2008 at the intersection of Kenmare Street, Delancey Street, and the Bowery [PDF]. The plan shifts a pedestrian island on the south side of the intersection and adds an 11-second leading pedestrian interval for people crossing on the north side of the intersection.

DOT is making the adjustments because the 2008 changes have not resulted in the expected safety gains. “The problem with this intersection is the volume,” said Sean Quinn of DOT’s pedestrian projects group. He explained that the crush of cars has effectively wiped out any safety boosts DOT was aiming for. “It didn’t get worse, it just didn’t get better,” he said.

Quinn was focused on the high volume of drivers going southbound on the Bowery and turning left onto Delancey Street. Backups there mean drivers feel pressure to clear the intersection quickly, leading to what Quinn called “rash decisions.”

To accommodate these drivers, DOT is proposing to eliminate a small concrete median on the north side of the intersection to create another southbound car lane. The plan also adds a larger pedestrian island on the Bowery at the south side of its intersection with Spring Street. CB 2 transportation committee vice-chair Maury Schott suggested DOT look into extending the left-turn lane north of Spring Street as well. Quinn said he would look into the idea, with the goal of keeping the new pedestrian island at Spring Street.

The plan has already received support from CB 3, which borders the area. After receiving a go-ahead from CB 2, Quinn said he hopes the project can begin construction in May.

George Haikalis, a longtime regional planner and public member of CB 2’s transportation committee, noted that the high car volumes at this intersection are the result of a dysfunctional regional tolling system that provides an incentive to use the free Williamsburg Bridge to cross Manhattan. At the end of the meeting, he joked that to take cars off surface streets, maybe the Lower Manhattan Expressway should have been built, after all.

  • Eddie

    I was almost hit today by a left-turning car in the First Avenue bike lane. Unless a segregated lane comes with a separate set of lights that doesn’t allow cars to turn across the lane while the cyclists have a green, I much prefer a painted buffered lane, where visibility for turning cars is much better.

  • I rode up the 1st Avenue bike lane last Saturday (yup, the very rainy day) with my son on a trailer bike. The lane is a menace. Because I had my son with me, I worked especially hard at signalling to drivers to stay back in the mixing zones so that they wouldn’t turn left through us. At a couple of intersections, that led other drivers to decide that the cars in the mixing zones must be parked, to bypass the line of left-turning cars and to have to stop suddenly when they turned into the intersection and saw us. The lane desperately needs to be improved. Some exemplary ticketing of drivers parked in the mixing zones or refusing to yield to cyclists would surely be helpful too.

  • Gezellig

    Every time I see NYC’s Before-and-Afters like this I weep because the NYC Befores look like the Afters SF is still proposing and building to this day. And inexplicably patting itself on the back for.

    Are You There, Janette Sadik-Khan? It’s Me, San Francisco.

  • Ian Dutton

    The Hudson Sq. BID thinks safety upgrades could come AS SOON AS 2016? Two additional years? The most serious hazard on all of Hudson St. is the limo parking and dropoffs in the bike lane south of Houston St., and when Ellen Baer talks of “building support” she means getting the people whose limos are causing the hazard to agree to stop their illegal behavior. I’m thankful that there was unanimous support and that the BID is proposing exactly what we requested, but think a minimum of two more years of enabling this terrible condition is inexcusable. The solution you suggested, Stephen, would have been a brilliant compromise.

  • Daniel

    If it makes you feel any better… In Brooklyn we’d be excited to see a
    few afters that look like the befores in these drawings. We still have a
    whole lot of sharrows, even streets that see heavy bicycle traffic like
    on Vanderbilt North of Atlantic.

  • Sean Kelliher

    Daniel is correct. Sadik-Khan did some noteworthy things for New York City, including installing some good quality “protected” bicycle infrastructure. But this is really a small part of the city’s overall bicycle network. Most of our bike infrastructure, even the stuff installed during JSK’s time in office, consists of painted lines and arrows wedged (often dangerous close) between parked and moving vehicles. Motorists routinely park and drive in them and they’re really semi-functional. We’re a long way from becoming an Amsterdam even though news stories may make us seem close at times.

  • Kevin Love

    By this logic, police should stop their organized crime law enforcement until the Mafia godfathers agree.

  • Kevin Love

    You mean an intersection that looks like this?

  • Kevin Love

    With a name like Gezellig, you are surely away that even the crappiest infra in The Netherlands tends to be better than the “after” in New York.

    I find it mildly amusing watching Dutch advocates criticize their infra and point out how it should be fixed and made better. They are right, but…

    For an example, see:

    http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/almere-nominee-for-best-cycling-city/

  • R

    Totally agree. It seems everyone always has to compromise, except for drivers. Even asking them to walk a few more feet to the curb is too much to ask.

    There’s a growing concentration of tech and media companies in this area and a lot of bike commuters. The BID, which has generally been far more supportive of pedestrian and bike safety than most, is essentially saying these people don’t count as much as the higher-ups who get dropped off in black cars. Or at least they won’t count until sometime two years from now.

    A painted lane with parking protection as well as designated drop-off/loading zones could be implemented tomorrow if the BID backed it.

  • Spring has Sprung, and I’m not the only one riding a bicycle on Long Island today, saw several groups of cyclists. Would be nice to have decent bike lanes *continuous*, from Eastern Queens to Midtown. Many gaps in the Bike Lane road map. Bike Ridership must increase! Rental Bikes will help.

  • lop

    There were some people trying to extend the vanderbilt motor parkway path further east. If they get that done and combine it with making the Kissena park – flushing meadows segment a bit better, and the flushing meadows – 34th avenue segment safer too and there would be a nice path during the day to and from Manhattan that went to Eastern Queens. Would it be near you at all?

    http://www.motorparkwayeast.com/

  • Gezellig

    Yes, in my experience living in the Netherlands the Dutch are in another league in terms of infrastructure. Also, everyone likes to complain about Almere 🙂

    Still, as for the crapper-than-NL thing, NYC has been making impressive strides by US standards. Seeing as SF is still endlessly proposing these insufferable so-called “buffered” (aka Double Parking) lanes, it’s telling how far NYC has come to be proposing to *replace* one with actual protected infrastructure.

    NYC is closer along the way to Dutch-style infra in several ways with the major exception of the lack of protected intersections. When it gets this it truly will again be “Nieuw Amsterdam”:

    http://vimeo.com/nickfalbo/protectedintersection

  • Gezellig

    Yes, that’s true, and I definitely recognize that but NYC at least has these showcase corridors in the first place (and goes from concept to completion with much better turnaround time), off of which further infrastructure can be modeled.

    Meanwhile SF keeps on spending years striping “buffered” “bike” “lanes” and patting itself on the back for it as if it were innovative design.

  • Gezellig

    Yeah, I get that for sure. But with NYC’s track record changes will be coming there more quickly than anything in SF.

    Also! I was impressed recently to see that NYC had the first examples of protected quasi-Dutch-style bike lanes in roundabouts in the US. In Brooklyn! (Prospect Park Circle and Grand Army Plaza). That’s huge.

    Yes, these things need to be better and in more places. But NYC has at least started and is making progress.

  • Gezellig

    Yup! Or, adapted even more to US design guidelines:

    http://vimeo.com/nickfalbo/protectedintersection

  • pfrishauf

    Limo standing and dropoff is a huge issue on this street. For this reason it is absolutely critical that generous loading zones be included in the plan, Much of the limo biz in this area
    comes from the huge ad agencies and media companies that now line this corridor, many of whom have clients in NJ where there is no good alternative to car travel. Hopefully DOT and the CB will have the courage to do the right thing and cut way back on free curbside parking and swap it our for loading zones. Otherwise this plan is unlikely to have a high degree of success.

  • Hudson Shopkeeper

    Does this mean that the city’s street sweepers will FINALLY be able to sweep the curbs? I’m a shopkeeper on Hudson. For the last five years, the street sweepers have NEVER been able to run along the curb—it’s packed with police officer’s (private) vehicles, even during “No Parking” hours. Clean curbs would be a nice, welcomed change!

  • Jeff H

    Construction has started on the northbound portion of Hudson Street. I have to say, I really think this plan is a travesty for what was one of the most beautiful streets in New York. I am fully supportive of protected bike lanes, but the Hudson Street portion I think is a huge mistake, at least as is related to the strip of parking down the center of the boulevard. A protected bike lane should have been built along Greenwich St (1 block over), where a painted bike lane already exists, traffic is much less heavy, and the proportions of the street could have supported the plan that is being implemented on Hudson. As is being constructed right now, Hudson street has been turned from a beautiful, tree and shop lined, well proportioned boulevard (its scale so much more pedestrian friendly than any other north/south boulevard in Manhattan) to what essentially now looks like a parking lot! With parked cars now lined down the middle of the street on the outside of the new protected barrier, from both a pedestrian and driver standpoint, the built-environment has completely changed. When walking down the sidewalks on either side of the street, the site line has really become quite offensive. Given the way cars were previously parked, tucked closely in along the sidewalks, pedestrians used to be able to look out over the cars, across the wide street and to the shops and restaurants on the opposite side. Now with cars parked right down the middle, pedestrians are unable to see the opposite streetscape and are now essentially staring at the side of an impenetrable strip of parked cars (i’m surprised retailers aren’t more up in arms, given you can no longer see any of the signs or awnings for establishments on the opposite side of the street). I know so many of these posts have been in favor of this bike lane, but place-making, proportions and scale are important subjects in urban planning, and Hudson Street was one of the best examples of a well preserved, human scale streetscape in New York. I am actually quite sad that this beautiful boulevard has now visually turned into a parking lot. To be clear, I very much support the bike lane, but object to the parking down the middle. In a city that needs so much money spent up-keeping and improving infrastructure, I find it quite unfortunate that it was decided to “improve” the Hudson Street corridor from something that was so wonderful before to something that now looks like a suburban parking lot. What a shame.

  • HH

    I must say that I find the notion that shifting a parking lane 11 feet turns it from beautiful into horrible a bit hilarious. And the notion that a car in front of your nose blocks the view of the signs and awnings across the street more than one 11 feet away defies geometry.

  • HH

    Oops, I meant “less”, not “more” in the last sentence.

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