Eyes on the Street: The Evolution of the Bergen Street Protected Bike Lane

Photo: Gary Eckstein
Photo: Gary Eckstein

What began as an ad hoc fix for a bike lane chronically clogged by cars has become permanent after DOT installed a block-long barrier on the Bergen Street bike lane in front of the 78th Precinct in Prospect Heights.

It started more than two years ago when Ian Dutton moved some leftover ConEd cones a few feet into Bergen Street to cordon off the bike lane for cyclists:

Photo: Ian Dutton

The bike lane had become a parking spot for vehicles from the 78th Precinct, pushing cyclists out into traffic angling to get to Flatbush Avenue. The cones were removed, before returning again when construction resumed.

The breakthrough came when the precinct and commanding officer Michael Ameri, who has since been promoted to lead NYPD’s Highway Patrolupgraded the barrier by installing a metal barricade months after the cones first appeared:

Photo: Ian Dutton

The bike lane has since become a symbol of shared goals between street safety advocates and the precinct, which has gone on to target drivers who fail to yield and hosted monthly traffic safety meetings. Officers have even shoveled snow out of the bike lane.

Now the project has the imprimatur of the city’s transportation department, which installed a strip of plastic posts to keep drivers out of the bike lane. Perhaps this success story could be a model for other locations in the city. Where else should DOT install low-cost barriers to keep drivers out of curbside bike lanes?

Photo: Ian Dutton
We’ve come a long way, baby. Photo: Ian Dutton
  • bondstreet

    Schermerhorn

  • BBnet3000

    “Where else should DOT install low-cost barriers to keep drivers out of curbside bike lanes?”

    How about every curbside parking lane? If cars do not have a legitimate reason to cross into the lane, they should be physically blocked from entering it.

    “That sounds like a great idea, but don’t drivers need to get around double-parked cars?”

    No, they need to call the police to report double parked cars, or have a kind word with the driver encouraging them to find a better place to stop. There’s a lot of things that legitimately or illegitimately block the streets (garbage trucks, ambulances, and double parked cars), but you don’t just get to drive into bike infra or sidewalks to get around them (of course people do both of these all the time).

  • Mike

    If only there were a barrier on the other side to keep pedestrians from wandering into it.

  • Eric McClure

    Thanks to everyone responsible: Ian –> Deputy Inspector Ameri –> Captain DiGiacomo –> NYC DOT!

  • Commuter

    The jug handle leading from the Bowery to Prince Street needs something like this to keep drivers from blocking it. Cyclists trying to make the turn there get squeezed all the time by truck traffic.

  • Adrian

    The south-west corner of the Smith/Jay and Fulton St junction. Commuting past this junction every day for 2 years, I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been able to stay in the bike lane.

  • Wes

    Need this on the Brooklyn Greenway along south Kent (if not the whole of Kent)… Brinks trucks, among others, love to park there in the mornings.

  • Wait. Is this that teeeeeeny tiiiiiny little stretch right before Flatbush? It took them this long to do that??

  • They put up plastic barriers.
    Which many were promptly mowed down.

  • Cold Shoaler

    I know this bike lane is close to the hearts of the good people behind Streets Blog. I appreciate that it represents the activist community, the NYPD and DOT working together and actually improving something. I also recognize the reduction (though not the elimination) of combat parking by the 78th as a significant improvement in this area.

    However, it still irks me when I see the coverage of this as such a huge success. This lane is 75’ at best. The entire block of Bergen between Carlton and 6th as you approach this project sees some of the worst bike lane blocking I’m likely to encounter on any given day. The same goes for the eastbound stretch of Dean just on the other side of the 78th station house. If there’s such a commitment from the 78th – to the extent that they will shovel snow from a bike lane – why can’t they actually keep more than 75’ of bike lanes clear? Other than this short stretch, the bike lanes in the immediate vicinity, not to mention the balance of the precinct, are no better than those in the rest of the city.

    At least the cattle chute of metal barricades (that was so frequently blocked by pedestrians standing in the bike lane) is gone.

  • Adrian

    Also worth noting the recent roadworks on Bergen between 4th and 5th avenues. They’ve done a bloody awful job or re-laying the surface, so you’ve got horrible bumps every 5 metres in the bike lane on an otherwise immaculately paved road

  • Commenter

    That’s not a bike lane, its a sidewalk extension, fail,

  • kaja

    They should stick a two-way cycle track in the MIDDLE of schermerhorn, and give the sides to double-parkers and slow auto traffic.

    Schermerhorn’s one street where all motorized vehicles are legit local traffic, and nearly all cyclists are through/express commuters.

  • BBnet3000

    That block is actually just sharrows isn’t it?

    The only times ive ever been able to stay in the bike lane consistently on Jay Street is early in the morning on a weekend or late at night.

    Of course, staying in the bike lane means you get to ride over every slick and bumpy manhole, ventilation grate, hatch and fixture. If you wipe out on one and fall in the road, the penalty is death.

  • Reader

    It’s really rare for pedestrians to be in this bike lane. It works very well. Many thanks to the 78th for making this happen.

  • BBnet3000

    Poor pavement patching by utility crews is a HUGE problem in bike lanes all over the city.

    DOT needs to go after these idiots and either have them fix their shoddy work or charge them the cost of DOT doing it.

  • kaja

    I’ve had occasion to drive to Jersey more than usual lately, and Laight Street dumping cars into the Tribeca Film vicinity of Canal seems even worse than in memory.

    Lane markings don’t line up, there’s no lane guidance past the loop to discouage jostling, and yet a bunch of pavement at Canal/Sixth/Laight is simply never used by cars. Pedestrian crossings are way long, sidewalks by Tribeca Film are tiny given the volumes, while the road is used inefficiently for cars.

    It could be way more safe/pleasant+efficient for all modes, including or even especially drivers, with some thoughtful thermoplast and glued sand.

  • kaja

    I was super disappointed in this. That block of Bergen was way dangerous before the new tarmac, and now it’s differently dangerous, and nobody is used to it yet.

    I wonder how much that all cost, and what’s going on to the hillside itself that led to this repave failing.

  • Cold Shoaler

    I don’t agree that this “works very well” at all. It’s rare for pedestrians to be in the middle of the block. *However* the part of the bike lane near the crosswalk is a staging area for people waiting to go north on the Flatbush sidewalk. Because it is so consistently blocked when the light to continue on Bergen is green, I no longer enter it in the first place. It’s easier to just take the main street the 75′ between 6th and Flatbush. In this regard, the new configuration appears to be an improvement over the prior metal barricade setup.

  • Cold Shoaler

    Agreed, but I think in this case the roadwork may not be finished yet. I’m hoping that those patches every 6′ or so are temporary. It is idiotic that they JUST resurfaced this block only to dig it up right away.

  • Cold Shoaler

    I rode past there the other evening and there was NOT a livery car parked in the bike lane. I almost fainted. And to BBnet’s question, I believe that under the “livery parking spot”, there is in fact an actual (door-zone) bike lane. I may be the only living person to see it since DOT originally painted it.

  • Reader

    A polite ring of the bell works for me. Look, people walk in bike lanes. It’s not a big deal most of the time. I think bike advocates would be surprised by how much this happens in Amsterdam and other bike-friendly cities. We can’t go around putting barricades up between curbs and sidewalks all over the place.

  • Wes

    Exactly. Those little sticks they have there now (spaced 30+ feet apart) are a joke. What they have now at Bergen is much more substantial and would be great for Kent… and every other curbside bike lane.

  • G

    Clinton, Suffolk, Rivington, Stanton, Prince, Bleecker, MacDougal, Washington Square E, Washington Square N, Washington Square S, Flushing Ave, Kent Ave, Navy Street, Hoyt, Union Street, got frustrated so stopped listing the lanes that need this.

  • Enigma

    Seriously need this on the 49th Ave bridge over the LIRR tracks in LIC. The west bound bike lane is curbside but has been perpetually blocked by cars and commuter vans ever since it was marked. The traffic lane is now narrower which means bicyclists have to take the full lane… a terrifying endeavor with angry box truck drivers revving behind you.

  • Scott J. Epstein

    Southbound Chrystie Street approach to the Manhattan Bridge.

  • Cold Shoaler

    I agree that it’s not a big deal at this location, especially now that there won’t be a metal barricade preventing me from going around people who aren’t paying attention. However, it does not “work very well”, and in some locations with higher foot traffic it is a big deal. I’m not advocating barricades of any kind at this particular location. I think motorists (mostly officers of the law at in this particular case) should respect the bike lane or at least be so concerned about getting a ticket for obstructing it – in front of a police station no less – that they don’t park in it.

    Pedestrians really only constitute a nuisance here because of the measures taken to prevent cops from breaking the law.

  • katrinanyc

    What the article is implying is that guerrilla action by cycling citizenry prompted the DOT to make these safety measures official. So basically, it’s on us to show the DOT where it’s needed, until the DOT realize it’s on them to make it official.

  • • Here’s what it looked like before it started to evolve:

    https://flic.kr/p/97XLdu

  • Longer.

  • stairbob

    No thanks. Longer curbside lanes would attract pedestrians and leave no way to leave the bike lane to “avoid unsafe conditions”.

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