Paint It Green: The Grand Street Protected Bike Lane Is Almost Back

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After three years in hibernation, the Grand Street protected bike lane is about to return. Photo: Ben Fried

The Grand Street protected bike lane is on its way back after three years out of commission during construction of the Third Water Tunnel, the biggest capital project in New York City history. The Department of Design and Construction has repaved Grand between Lafayette Street and the Bowery, and preliminary markings for the bike lane are visible.

Grand Street has Manhattan’s only crosstown protected bike lane of significant length outside of Central Park — a key eastbound route that links up with the Manhattan Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge. For the last three-plus years, though, this part of Grand has been a non-stop construction zone, with pavement rough enough to untrue even the toughest spokes.

Now the street is smooth, except for a few blocks west of Lafayette, where crews are still at work. That stretch should get better pavement and protected bike lane markings soon, as work on the water tunnel shifts east to the section of Grand between the Bowery and Essex Street.

The thermoplast and green paint can’t come soon enough. Gotta stop this from becoming a habit:

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  • BBnet3000

    Is it going to be wide enough for faster cyclists to pass slower ones comfortably? I never got a chance to ride on the old one, though ive been on it in its rough condition a few times recently.

  • Seth Rosenblum

    Even if it was, it’s still too full of pedestrians to safely pass. There’s nowhere near enough sidewalk space on Grand between Broadway and Chrystie.

  • BBnet3000

    Widening the sidewalk would require removing a few parking spaces, which would be considered an unholy sacrifice in one of the oldest, densest, and most transit-accessible locations in North America, where thousands are packed on the sidewalk like sardines.

  • Reader

    Most of Grand in Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown could be shut to thru auto traffic with little impact on businesses. The north/south streets, like Mott or Elizabeth, could certainly be declared off-limits to all but delivery vehicles. There’s really no reason to allow car storage here.

  • Eddie

    I don’t expect it to be any better than before construction started: constantly blocked by oblivious pedestrians and covered with garbage and grease. Thanks, but I’ll take Delancey, despite the fast traffic.

  • J

    You’d think that after spending many years and untold millions ripping up the street, that they could put it back better than how they found it. Maybe a curbed cycle track with signalized intersections, Amsterdam style?

  • Seth Rosenblum

    Well, hopefully they’ll make the conversion from two-way to one-way permanent from Bowery to Essex after the construction. There’s not enough sidewalk space, there’s no proper bike lane, and it’s terrible for traffic almost everywhere.

  • Larry Littlefield

    We’ll have to see if cyclists can take back this space. It was barely usable before the construction.

  • I ride down Grand St on my way home from work and I noticed the street was returning to normal on Friday evening. I’ve been on a trip the last couple of days but I’ll look forward to a less fraught cycle home this evening than I’ve had in the past.

    There’s a desperate need for proper protected bike lanes across lower Manhattan in both directions. Grand St is the obvious route from SoHo to the Manhattan Bridge and I’ve preferred since my office moved downtown in October to risk Grand St rather than duke it out with the traffic on busier crosstown streets.

    All that said, the work on Grand St was responsible for one of the most extraordinarily transcendent experiences I’ve had on a bike. I was riding along there after midnight one night when they were working on the water tunnel and I suddenly saw the face of one of the workers lit up from below looking like some old master’s painting of the adoration of the shepherds or some such: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2013/10/a-soho-epiphany-south-london-mugging.html I’m glad the work has ended – but that unexpected moment will stay with me.

  • Lora Tenenbaum

    The City has learned a lot about building bike lanes since the Grand Street bike lane was first established. Lets hope that this time they learn from their mistakes and grab the opportunity to make it work. Car barriers might work on wide North-South Streets, but Grand is much too narrow. The street needs two driving lanes, enough space at the corners for Fire Trucks to turn effortlessly, and spaces at each block for deliveries to local businesses. The truth of the matter is that the Grand Street bike lane never worked properly. The barrier lane of cars needs to replaced with a proper, narrower protective barrier so that there is room for 2 driving lanes. Grand Street between Sixth Avenue and the Bowery has so much traffic on it that it needs two driving lanes. The reduction to a single traffic lane causes severe traffic backups that endanger pedestrians trying to cross Grand, and the resulting noise pollution from honking cars drive the residents crazy. In addition, the local fire captain and lieutenant both separately told me they had told the DOT the car barrier causes an unsafe condition (and that they had expressed that prior to the bike lane’s construction). This is true. I observed a fire truck responding to a fire at Grand and Crosby having to try to make the turn from Broadway five times before it succeeded…not because of traffic but because of the parked cars. As I said, let’s hope the DOT makes it better, not the same as before.

  • Two driving lanes would only lead to more traffic injuries on Grand Street. Even before the bike lane, there was just one motor vehicle lane on Grand.

  • Lora Tenenbaum

    You are mistaken, Ben. While there were no marked motor vehicle lanes, there was enough room for the cars to form two lanes, and in high volume traffic, they did just that. Two lanes made it less likely that the volume of vehicles caused backups into the intersections and the resulting honking and pedestrians having to weave through them. There was a clear negative impact for pedestrians and residents when the bike lane was placed there.

    Another point I should have made is that even if the parked cars are kept as a barrier, the DOT at the very least should implement some daylighting, which it had not done when the bicycle lane was first established on Grand.

  • Guest

    Eyes on the Street: Grand Edition

    * glitch makes it sideways

  • Eyes on the Street: Grand at Broadway Edition

    * glitch makes it sideways

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