If DOT Doesn’t Add a Bike Lane to 4th Avenue Now, How Long Will It Take?

DOT is set to cast Fourth Avenue pedestrian safety improvements in concrete, which may preclude the possibility of future protected lanes on the corridor. Image: DOT
DOT is set to cast Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue pedestrian safety improvements in concrete, which will make it harder to add a protected lane on the corridor. Image: DOT

Sunset Park residents are calling on DOT to change its plans for Fourth Avenue to include a protected bike lane, the Brooklyn Paper reports. They make an excellent point: If DOT doesn’t change the design of an upcoming capital project on Fourth Avenue, it’s going to be very difficult to add a protected bike lane on what should be a major corridor in the city’s bike network.

DOT installed pedestrian safety improvements along Fourth Avenue between 65th Street and 15th Street in 2012 and between 15th Street and Atlantic Avenue in 2013. The projects used temporary materials like paint and plastic posts to expand pedestrian medians and narrow traffic lanes, reducing the bloodshed on a wide, dangerous street. Pedestrian injuries fell 30 percent in Sunset Park and 61 percent in Park Slope.

But bike lanes were not included, and Fourth Avenue remains a forbidding street to bicycle on, despite being the best continuous connection between Bay Ridge/Sunset Park and Downtown Brooklyn.

Soon, the city plans to cast the wider medians in concrete with a “Vision Zero Great Streets” capital project. The first phase of construction is set to begin in the spring, between 8th Street and 18th Street and between 33rd Street and 52nd Street. Once that concrete is poured, it’s going to be a lot tougher to return to Fourth Avenue again and add a good bike lane.

DOT expects cyclists to ride in the leftover space of 13-foot-wide parking lanes on Fourth Avenue, but those provide no protection from moving traffic and are often blocked by double-parked vehicles. In 2015, 19 cyclists were injured and another one was killed along the corridor, according to Vision Zero View.

Most people in Sunset Park live east of Fourth Avenue. Other than Fifth Avenue, all the other north-south streets near the residential heart of the neighborhood end at Greenwood Cemetery. But Fifth Avenue is a bus route and commercial corridor where squeezing in protected bike lanes would be harder to do than Fourth Avenue.

Since the current design of the capital project will basically replicate the improvements that have already brought down injuries on Fourth Avenue, implementation is not especially urgent. The safety gains have already been achieved. If DOT can come up with a better design that includes safe space for bicycling, the extra time it would take to change the plan would be well worth it.

  • BrandonWC

    Casting this in concrete would be such a wasted opportunity. More than enough room for protected bike lanes as long as you don’t expand the median.

  • ahwr

    What are you asking for it to look like at intersections with left turns?

    http://i.imgur.com/o7NlQJU.png

    http://i.imgur.com/3MFcVZB.png

    http://i.imgur.com/96Xd5Jk.png

  • BrandonWC

    The first option you put up. Turns lanes used to fit into the existing median, no reason we can’t go back to that. The design DOT wants to cast in concrete doesn’t leave enough room for real pedestrian islands so nothing is being lost.

  • BrandonWC

    Not that I particularly care, but engineers hate diagonal lines so I figure that’s the easiest sell.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Somewhat tautological but serious answer to the title: whatever the lifespan of the capital project is. Almost certainly it’s going to be at least 30 years. Streetsblog readers in their 50s may not live to see this project replaced.

    Perhaps it’s time to revisit the idea of a citywide cycling master plan (like every US city with more cycling than NYC has). Otherwise we get empty promises like Candidate De Blasio’s 6% mode share promise which became Mayor De Blasio’s 3% mode share promise, neither of which has any relationship to a bike network that would actually fulfill that promise.

  • Reader

    Here’s Sonder Boulevard in Copenhagen. Sidewalks, protected bike lanes, parking lanes, and one moving lane in each direction. A wide median with benches, recreational space, etc. I believe it used to be, if not a truck route, then a somewhat busy multi-lane traffic sewer. It was the Fourth Avenue of Copenhagen, more or less. But as this area of the city became more residential, it got a people-friendly makeover. This should be the goal on Fourth Avenue, which is adding countless apartments every year, but the capital project would make it impossible. That would be a shame. NYC should be looking for nimble designs that can change with the times.

  • J

    Yep, plenty of room for protected lanes without removing any parking. DOT has a bad habit of casting bad designs in concrete. Just look at East Houston Street. It could have been awesome, but instead we’ll have a crappy buffered bike lane for many decades. For the latest Christie St redesign, DOT has to rip up concrete refuge islands that they installed just a few years back.

  • J

    This is why NYC needs a bike master plan! If you don’t plan for a network, you miss opportunities left and right. Also, you get utter incompetence like this:

    https://twitter.com/miller_stephen/status/757074306576871424

  • Joe R.

    Practically speaking, putting half of a two-way bike lane over a sewer grating is already a sign of gross incompetence. The curb extension is just kind of making the unusable bike lane in that area “official”.

    The poor pavement condition is the icing on the cake. And DeBlasio wants to get to a 6% 3% bike mode share?

  • BrandonWC

    With all the great streets money, DOT could put in raised cycle tracks in both directions (same design as my streetmix above just with the buffer and bike lanes, you know, raised).

  • ahwr

    This should be the goal on Fourth Avenue, which is adding countless apartments every year, but the capital project would make it impossible.

    How would the capital plan make that design impossible? Wouldn’t it be more like a first step towards it? After the median is expanded to better match the one in your picture the city could still get rid of a general traffic lane in each direction, move over the parking lanes, and put in a wide bike lane next to the sidewalk on each side.

  • van_vlissingen

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if we used that 2′ of sewer space as a buffer between pedestrians and the bike lane? It could be planted and function as a bioswale. It would prevent tourists from accidentally crossing into the bike lane, help control the flow of water, and would narrow the roadways.

  • Joe R.

    Yep, that would be a perfect use for it. It’s a shame DOT just seems incapable of thinking outside the box.

  • Kevin Love

    We could also have sewer grates set vertically in the curb instead of horizontally on the street. See:

    https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/drainage-in-the-netherlands/

  • J

    Way too sensible. Itll never happen

  • rogue

    Those targets are just for campaigning. He has no intention of hitting them…

  • To be fair, the DOT did reply to that tweet saying they’re working on fixing it.

  • 4th Ave would be a great street for bike lanes. It’s plenty wide. It goes a long distance. The lights are green forever.

  • c2check

    We really need to get parking under control in this city
    stop it with the sanctioned double parking!

  • dpecs

    Not to mention that 4th Avenue is a “signed bike route” which is a meaningless distinction until a PBL is put in place. Combined with the double-parking and truck loading/unloading (and sometimes truck double-parking to load/unload) along 5th Avenue — rendering that bike lane unusable and quite frankly making any mode of traffic dangerous — a 4th Avenue lane is a necessity.

  • NYperson

    The city should deploy snow plows to fix the problem.

  • c2check

    We could combine with the proposed regulation of the private hauling industry:
    while they make rounds in their nicely-designated zones,
    they are free to haul off illegally-parked cars for scrap.

  • NYperson

    good idea

  • AMH

    Exactly, there are actually a few around the city. I don’t understand why it’s not the standard.

  • Kevin Love

    Because the standard is, “Good enough for the likes of you peasants.”

  • I’m a loss as to why the city doesn’t just charge more for parking across the board. Every other square inch of space in this town is priced at a premium rate, why not double the cost to park and then offset that by using the funds to build PBLs?

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With DOT preparing a major capital project for Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue next year, it’s now or never for a protected bike lane on this important route linking Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Park Slope, and Downtown Brooklyn. Fortunately, local Council Member Carlos Menchaca has been on the case for months, talking with local residents, community groups, and DOT about how the Fourth Avenue […]