DOT Bike Planning Starts From Scratch in Clinton Hill

So long, Clinton Avenue Greenway. Image: DOT
The Clinton Avenue Greenway is not going to happen. Image: DOT

After withdrawing its plan for a two-way protected bike lane on Clinton Avenue last month, DOT will start over with a series of public workshops to develop a new plan for walking and biking safety in Clinton Hill and Fort Greene.

DOT Bicycle and Greenway Program Director Ted Wright shared the news at last night’s Community Board 2 transportation committee meeting.

At the same meeting, the committee declined to endorse a new signalized crosswalk at the Jay Street exit ramp from the Manhattan Bridge, one of the final elements in the agency’s plan for a protected bike lane on Jay Street.

Wright said the purpose of the upcoming meetings will be to develop a new plan for bike and pedestrian safety in the neighborhood. “Everything is on the table. This is not just going to be us talking about Clinton Avenue again,” he said. “It’s a full scale re-look at the entire process.”

Local elected officials had promoted the meeting as an “update” on the Clinton Avenue project, and like last month it was packed with opponents of the protected bikeway plan. When Wright took questions from attendees about the new round of workshops, hostility to the old plan carried over. “Why are we having workshops? If we don’t want it, why are we having workshops about it?” said Clinton Avenue resident Bayo Oygunsanya.

Wright then presented the final design elements of the Jay Street project. The CB 2 transportation committee voted for most of the Jay Street plan in March, but at the time DOT had not finalized the design for the Manhattan Bridge exit ramp near Nassau Street or the blocks of south of Fulton Mall.

In response to concerns from CB 2, DOT plans to install a traffic signal at a newly-created pedestrian crossing by the foot of the Manhattan Bridge. Image: DOT
In response to concerns from CB 2, DOT plans to install a signalized crossing at this Manhattan Bridge exit ramp onto Jay Street, but last night a CB 2 committee failed to endorse the new crossing. Image: DOT

The updated plan puts a signalized crossing at the Manhattan Bridge off-ramp, giving pedestrians and cyclists dedicated signal time to cross. The plan would also remove the fence that currently blocks pedestrians from making the crossing.

Meanwhile, Wright said DOT will hold off on implementing a protected lane south of Fulton. There are too many bus stops on the two blocks between Fulton and Schermerhorn for DOT’s bikeway design elsewhere on Jay Street to work. At those other stops, the bike lane protection is interrupted so bus drivers can go across the bike lane and pick up passengers at the curb. Applying that treatment to blocks where there are several bus stops in a row would not be much different than current conditions.

DOT could try out concrete bus stop islands on the left side of the bike lane, a design that the city has yet to implement anywhere. But Wright said the agency will work with the MTA to reduce the number of bus stops on those two blocks.

The signalized crossing at the bridge exit was in direct response to requests from CB 2, but committee member Bill Harris proposed tabling a vote on it until the 84th Precinct confirmed it could “enforce all this stuff.” It was not clear what stuff he was referring to.

Wright said DOT has been communicating with NYPD about the project. The agency wants to implement the redesign this summer.

“I want to hear from the police on this, because the enforcement is going to be crazy,” Harris said. “I don’t know why it has to be done this summer, it’s waited this long. I’m glad it’s coming, I’m glad you all are rethinking it, but I want it to be right.”

In the end, the committee deadlocked 5-5 on whether to endorse the new signalized crossing at the ramp. While DOT’s Keith Bray said the agency wants “consensus” on projects before moving forward, the agency is free to proceed without a vote from the community board.

  • Nathan Rosenquist

    Stop letting CB2 cost lives. If they don’t want to be a part of the process, then listen to them and leave them out of planning altogether. There is zero legal reason that a dozen cranky property owners in Fort Greene should have anything to do with safe cycling redesigns. People’s lives are literally at stake and we’re letting these awful people tear the solutions to shreds. For what?

  • BBnet3000

    It’s clear that the fearful local provincials won’t unanimously approve anything that benefits cycling in Clinton Hill so if they’re not willing to override the CB it’s a complete waste of time and money to do any workshops or suggest any action at all. Whatever comes out of the workshops will probably be low quality and will still be rejected out of hand.

    Navy/Ashland is one of the few streets with Class II bike lanes that don’t suck in the whole borough. Figure out a low stress connection between Ashland and 5th Ave and I won’t ever have to ride on Vanderbilt OR Jay ever again. Alternatively make 6th Ave and S Portland a bike boulevard and I’ll learn to tolerate DeKalb and Lafayette for 2 blocks to get to Ashland.

    Basically, we need to focus on quality over quantity of bike routes, and deal with the black hole for cycling that is Metrotech and the Flatbush Avenue corridor all the way down to Atlantic Terminal.

  • Mike

    I know it’s not exactly low stress, but I generally just take 5th to Flatbush, ride down Flatbush to 4th, and haul my bike over the ten foot wide sidewalk to Ashland. It’s usually possible to do it in a cycle of the light at 5th and Flatbush, so the worry about traffic coming up from behind is minimal.

  • Eric McClure

    If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that enforcement has nothing to do with traffic-control devices. Thanks for playing, CB2.

  • J

    I think doing a more comprehensive approach to bike planning is a really good idea! Let the neighborhood decide how to make a good high-quality connections. It seems there is a lot of will to do something better on Vanderbilt. Then, it’s the neighborhood people figuring things out together, instead of DOT randomly proposing a project that’s not part of any bigger network plan and doesn’t have any neighborhood buy-in. The previous strategy has been divisive and disastrous.

    DOT needs to make sure, though, that high-quality is a must (protected bike lanes).

  • There are two problems here that need to be unpacked a bit.

    1. Community Boards cannot and should not have a role in what is supposed to be a comprehensive network of streets for cycling and a comprehensive program for pedestrian safety. They can advise and raise legitimate concerns, but they should not be bulwarks against action on a citywide basis. It’s high time for administration and DOT officials to swallow whatever bitterness may come their way and act this way.

    2. DOT doesn’t actually have a comprehensive citywide plan for a cycling network or a pedestrian safety campaign, and they desperately need one. How do bike lanes interact with other bike lanes? Where do bike lanes go to connect? The NYC cycling map is a mess of nothing, and no one at DOT is really interested in rationalizing it. If they can show a CB how a bike lane on an avenue through that CB connects with bike lanes in six other surrounding CBs, DOT would be making a much stronger case for action.

    It’s all very frustrating.

  • Given the sturm and drang over this plan, one wonders why DOT didn’t just go for it and propose making over Vanderbilt. I understand that Clinton was probably initially seen as an easier lift, but if things are going to be this hard no matter what they propose, why not go big? Too often, DOT winds up having to go home.

  • BBnet3000

    Filtering is also an option, though probably not for streets with a bus line like Vanderbilt.

  • Geck

    I have often thought a short protected bike lane on 4th Ave from Flatbush to Dean/Bergen would connect in the Ashland/Navy corridor to the larger network (and a bike boulevard on 6th Ave is also a fantasy of mine), but something through Clinton Hill is in order.

  • Murderers.

  • BBnet3000

    I’ve often felt a short protected bike lane on 4th Ave from Atlantic to 95th Street might be nice to connect it to the larger network 😉

  • mfs

    Set aside the clinton ave craziness for a second, I want to know if DOT is going to do the signalized intersection at the crazy merge across the Manhattan Bridge exit ramp!

  • Vooch

    Class II = unprotected bike lane (UPBL);
    Class I = protected bike lane ( PBL )

  • Brooklynite

    OMG, f*ck you, CB2. Just this weekend I biked with my two young sons from Brooklyn into Manhattan. The absolutely scariest and most dangerous part of this bike ride was merging into what is, essentially, a highway off-ramp coming off the Manhattan Bridge onto Jay Street to try to gain access to the bike lane and the bridge. As an adult who has biked this mess regularly for years and years, it’s OK. I know how to handle it. But with two brand new, young cyclists who’d never experienced this before and had no clue how they were supposed to merge with these cars and trucks speeding down the off-ramp… it was really clear just how ridiculous and insane this. It’s also clearly how EASILY FIXABLE this is with the solution that DOT is proposing here. There is absolutely no reason why a local Brooklyn home and car owners’ association consisting mostly of elderly retirees — which is what CB2 is — should have any say whatsoever in basic street safety measure and the design of the Manhattan Bridge off-ramp, a piece of regional infrastructure.

  • Brooklynite

    Seriously. The best way to shut these guys up now and in the future would just be to build the thing that they oppose, wait six months and prove via demonstration that all of the Community Board cranks’ complaints and predictions of catastrophe are completely bogus. None of the bad things they predict come true. No one should listen to them ever again.

  • KeNYC2030

    Has CB2 committee member Bill Harris ever tried to navigate the Manhattan off-ramp on a bike? Let him do that a few dozen times and, if he’s still among us, let’s see how he feels then about tabling this life-saving proposal.

  • J

    +1
    This hits the nail on the head. Without a plan, and without buy in, each DOT project becomes a battle that pits bike advocates against the people on the street in question who will be directly impacted. Develop a real comprehensive high-quality plan with extensive community input but requiring a high quality fully connected network. Then, implement that plan, even when small groups object!

  • JudenChino

    It’s incredibly unsafe. I took it Sunday late afternoon into the City. The “green” paint doesn’t give much protection as the cars veer into it anyway for space. I shouted “watch it” at a guy who was veering into it and he took issue with that of course.

    The City just dumps us into this unsafe shit. It’s kinda appalling. Like, seriously, this is an incredibly major route for people riding into the city and they expect everyone coming from the S to just merge with Manhattan Bridge traffic trying to get to the BQE.

  • Brooklynite

    The only thing that makes this area moderately safe is the fact that it is so often congested all the way up through to the bridge off-ramp. So, you can often just weave your way through the gridlocked, exhaust-spewing, crap-mobiles blundering off the bridge and find the bike lane. Why DOT considers this an acceptable solution and has not acted to fix this situation over the years is beyond me. And why CB2 — an organization consisting mainly of local retirees who own homes and cars in residential neighborhoods far from this location — has any say over this is… It’s just bizarre. This is probably one of the most important and heavily traveled segments of the citywide bicycle network. And, yeah, it just dumps cyclists into an absolute toilet bowl. Fix it, De Blasio, and stop screwing around with these CB2 people. The only obligation the City has is to tell CB2 they’re doing this and to listen to their feedback, which has consistently and repeatedly proven to be useless and wrong in case after case.

  • Brooklynite

    Bill is, like, 75-years-old and the husband of State Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon. He probably hasn’t ridden a bicycle in 25 years. Bill’s a nice guy and I’m sure he did a great job in fighting Robert Moses’s efforts to plow the BQE through Brooklyn Heights, or whatever. But his time has clearly come and gone. As has Jo Anne Simon’s. Someone between the ages of 30 and 49 please run against her and soon.

  • Joe R.

    Given that his generation mostly saw bicycles as children’s toys, I think it’s fair to say he hasn’t ridden one in probably 60+ years. In general, most of those over about 60 don’t think bikes are something an adult should be using.

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