Community Boards Split on Franklin Avenue Road Diet and Bike Lane

A proposal to enhance safety on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, which would put the street on a road diet and extend a painted bike lane one mile further south, is stuck in a tale of two community boards. CB 8, which covers the northern half of the project, is set to back the plan after its transportation committee voted 9-1 in support on Tuesday. CB 9, covering the area below Eastern Parkway, narrowly rejected the plan at a general board meeting last week, though the board’s district manager says it will likely come up again for another vote next month. The vote was a surprise coming from CB 9, which has a track record of urging the city to retrofit streets with bike lanes.

A road diet and bike lane could be coming to Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights. Image: DOT
A road diet and bike lane could be coming to Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights. Image: DOT

This stretch of Franklin Avenue is 34 feet wide and currently has one dotted line down the middle, with one parking lane and one travel lane on each half of the street. The narrow moving lanes leave little room for drivers to share space with cyclists — or even other drivers. Requests from the Crow Hill Community Association in 2011 and Assembly Member Walter Mosley in 2013 prompted DOT to take a look at the street. On April 2, the agency hosted a public workshop with members from both community boards to come up with solutions.

The plan [PDF] swaps the narrow two-lane configuration for an 11-foot travel lane, a striped five-foot bike lane, and nine-foot parking lanes on either side. The street would retain two car lanes for two blocks between St. John’s Place and Eastern Parkway to leave space for drivers to queue up before the light at Eastern Parkway.

Combined with changes to better coordinate the signal timing along Franklin for southbound traffic, DOT says the new configuration will have plenty of room for existing car traffic.

The plan also restricts left turns from westbound Atlantic Avenue to Franklin and would expand the concrete median on Atlantic to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians and slow drivers turning left onto Atlantic from Franklin.

“Our membership did have some concerns about eliminating the left turn from Atlantic to Franklin,” said CB 8 transportation committee co-chair Rob Witherwax in an email, but he noted that pedestrian safety improvements for residents crossing the 100-foot wide arterial street “will be well worth it.” DOT says the diverted car traffic, which it counted at no more than 83 vehicles per hour, can easily be absorbed on nearby streets.

DOT also proposed some ideas for parking restrictions along four commercial blocks of Franklin, such as adding one-hour limits during the day, except Sundays. Witherwax said that while these changes would not be implemented with the rest of the project, committee members were particularly interested in better managing curbside parking and hoped to work with DOT in the future on this issue along Franklin Avenue.

CB 8 is on track to support concrete pedestrian islands on Atlantic Avenue as part of the plan. Image: DOT
CB 8 is on track to support concrete pedestrian islands on Atlantic Avenue as part of the Franklin Avenue safety plan. Image: DOT

Things didn’t go as smoothly at CB 9. “This plan seemed like a slam dunk,” said Daniel Kristjansson, who was at the April workshop and last week’s CB 9 meeting, in an email. “I foolishly didn’t even stand up to speak in favor of the plan because it didn’t seem necessary.”

But after some procedural confusion, including a rejected motion to table the resolution, the plan was narrowly voted down — 10 in favor, 11 against, with three abstentions. CB 9 District Manager Pearl Miles said the board is likely to consider the plan again at a later date. The board’s next meeting, the final one before its summer break, is scheduled for June 24.

“We continue to work with them on this proposal, which originated from community requests, and look forward to returning at an upcoming meeting,” said DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera.

CB 8 is set to take up the proposal at its general board meeting on June 12, which will be attended by DOT staff. The agency says it could implement the project as soon as July, with concrete pedestrian islands installed on Atlantic Avenue next year.

This post has been updated to accurately reflect the status of proposed parking regulation changes on Franklin Avenue.

  • What about the 43 bus? Would this road diet slow it down further?

  • millerstephen

    @jrab:disqus: The project retimes traffic lights and provides a standard lane width, with the goal of improving vehicle travel times, so it will likely not slow down the 48 bus, either. (The 43 doesn’t run on Franklin.) http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/2014-05-27-franklin-ave-bk-cb8.pdf

  • Oops! Too many years biking to remember the difference!!

  • red_greenlight1

    I regularly cycle in Crown Heights and the bike lane will become next to useless unless it’s protected. They’re are just too many delivery trucks, taxis and cars who will turn that lane into parking.

  • J

    With Franklin one lane north of Lafayette, and one lane south of Atlantic, it seems logical to reduce it to one lane in the blocks in between. Keeping it 2 lanes will continue to encourage speeding on those blocks.

    Also, how does this fit into a larger picture of encouraging biking and building a bike network? Is this going to be an 8-80 corridor, or are bike facilities just an added bonus, since there’s space for them? NYC desperately needs an updated bike master plan, or else bicycle improvements will continue to only be implemented in fits and starts, where there’s excess space, and with wild variations in quality and enforcement.

  • Daniel

    The study area only included CB8 and CB9, but I know at my table we brought the problem of Franklin just North of Atlantic to the attention of the DOT.

    Franklin Ave, between Atlantic and Eastern Parkway is a destination in and of itself. South of Eastern Parkway this plan provides a low traffic connection to Prospect Park. I don’t think it necessarily needs to be part of the citywide bicycle network to be valuable. The current bicycle master plan was published in 1997 and created long before Franklin Ave became what it is today. And honestly if you look at that map the extension of this path looks like a pretty obvious upgrade.

    While a new master plan would be useful, I wonder if improving the existing network shouldn’t be a bigger focus. We should fix the gaps that occur in the network where traffic is most dangerous, we should upgrade sharrows to lanes and lanes to protected paths. And we should widen paths in the few places where the bicycle traffic warrants it. Lets work toward network paths safe enough that the average parent would let their 5 year old ride on them. We shouldn’t leave families out.

  • J

    If not a citywide plan, maybe a borough-level plan or something. Otherwise each project is done in isolation without a bigger picture in mind. Making a single 8-80 street, where it is politically easy to do, is great but it won’t make much of a difference in terms of getting people on bikes. You need an 8-80 network that actually gets you places. With an 8-80 plan, you say, “let’s figure out how to connect the 8-80 bike network through this area in a way that is 8-80 the entire way”. Then people are more willing to make concessions if there is a bigger, well-articulated vision of a bike lane that they might actually consider using. The current approach says “let’s make this single street better, what is politically feasible?”. The result is a piecemeal bike network, of wildly differing quality, which most people can never see themselves using. You can still improve street safety on individual streets, but this is no way to build out a high-quality bicycle network.

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