Eyes on the Street: A Flower-Protected Chrystie Street Bike Lane

Bike commuters on Chrystie Street found a pleasant surprise this morning. The street’s northbound bike lane, a busy connector from the Manhattan Bridge that’s usually a favorite of illegally-parked drivers, had received an upgrade: Someone added orange traffic cones, decorated with the occasional sunflower, to keep cars out of the bike lane.

Earlier this year, DOT agreed to study upgrades to the Chrystie Street bike lanes after Community Board 3 and a united front of local elected officials asked for fixes. CB 3 is still waiting for DOT to come back with a plan.

This morning’s pop-up protected bike lane was the work of the “Transformation Dept.” Photos were first posted under the @NYC_DOTr handle on Twitter. The project, covering two blocks between Grand and Delancey streets, had a budget of $516 to purchase 25 cones and about a dozen flowers. It took four people less than 20 minutes to install, said a Transformation Dept. representative who asked to remain anonymous.

“Drivers frequently park or idle in this part of the bike lane, even though no parking or standing is allowed at any time,” the group said in an email. “While we appreciate DOT’s recent repainting of large segments of Chyrstie Street, they are still failing to provide the kind of safe and low-stress riding experience New Yorkers deserve.”

This isn’t New York’s first guerrilla protected bike lane. In 2012, Ian Dutton moved some leftover ConEd cones to keep drivers out of a short stretch of the Bergen Street bike lane. The 78th Precinct soon embraced the idea, adding metal barriers. Last year, DOT made it official by adding flexible bollards.

Last month, a Boston cyclist used cones and flowers to keep cars out of a bike lane where a truck driver killed a cyclist. As with Chrystie Street, city government in Boston had been planning its own safety upgrades, but the quick-thinking cyclists were able to put in a temporary measure before the city’s bureaucracy could act.

Cyclists cheered this morning’s quick fixes. Transportation Alternatives volunteer and frequent Chrystie Street rider Dave “Paco” Abraham, who has led the charge for a safer Chrystie, said in an email that he didn’t know who was behind the the orange cones, but he liked it.

“It’s a godsend,” Abraham said. “While we wait for DOT to figure out long-term permanent design fixes that will enhance safety, there is no reason short-term measures like this should not be pursued.”

“We may check in on the cones and flowers this week, but we also encourage anyone riding on Chrystie Street to re-position cones that may have moved since this morning’s installation,” the Transformation Dept. said. “If someone wants to buy new flowers, go for it!”

Story updated at 12:40 p.m. with information from the “Transformation Dept.” activists behind the pop-up installation.

  • BBnet3000

    Another guerilla protected lane popped up recently at 3rd and 3rd westbound in Brooklyn, which is frequently used as a turn lane by people driving. Unfortunately the cones have since disappeared.

  • Reader

    DOT is (finally!) repainting the bike lane at 3rd and 3rd, so they may have moved the cones. Still, DOT needs to pursue a better design there to prevent this bike lane from being an extra car lane, which it often is.

  • When someone can do this with a budget of 500 dollars and under 2 man hours, what excuse does DOT have for not fixing these problems.

  • D’BlahZero

    Exactly. DOT has no excuse. They could install some protection next week if they wanted to. It’s pretty clear that there’s no down side to this for other (law abiding) street users and it has been well received by people on bikes. DOT needs to step up. As someone who rides on Chrystie St. (and other mediocre NYC bike infrastructure) I’d love to see DOT spend some time/$ on this kind of fix.

  • BrandonWC

    The flexible barrier used for one block of Bergen St should be the standard treatment for all curbside, buffered lanes. This sort of low-hanging fruit would cost almost nothing and deliver huge improvements in user experience.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    doing more than Bratton & Trottenberg combined to protect New Yorkers from Traffic Violence

  • HamTech87

    Any idea how this lane gets plowed?

  • Alexander Vucelic

    the same way any protected bike lane gets plowed, simple

  • nanter

    Don’t forget deBlasio.

  • D’BlahZero

    This is a legitimate concern. That section of Bergen isn’t always clear in the winter, and relies in part on shovel work from the 78th Pct, which, while appreciated, isn’t an ideal solution.

    Many other section of the bike lane “network” become unusable in the winter. DOT does have the necessary tools, though. I’d just file snow removal under the general “DOT needs to step up” header.

  • Lol, the city I live in claims to plow bike lanes, but generally just plows snow into bike lanes. Yet they use this excuse to not put in protection. Rather frustrating.

  • stairbob
  • Miles Bader

    Seems like concrete planters could hold a lot more flowers…

  • J

    It’s pretty sad that the citizens of NYC are much better at installing effective bicycle facilities than the Vision-Zero-Supporting-#1-biking-city-in-the-US government.

  • neroden

    Awesome. Taking a lesson from LA’s Department of DIY.

    Of course, given the record of the city government, we can expect NYPD to hunt the Department of Transformation down with assault rifles… but I hope NYPD will show more sense.

  • neroden

    There’s a small type of plow (photo of one of the larger ones in D’BlahZero’s comment) which can be used to clear sidewalks and bike lanes. The DOT needs to have these ANYWAY to clear the pedestrian paths, soooo might as well use it for the bikeways too.

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