DOT Plans Better Bike Connections for Brooklyn Side of Williamsburg Bridge

DOT plans to add two-way protected bike lanes at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge bike path in Brooklyn. Image: DOT
DOT plans to add two-way protected bike lanes at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge bike path in Brooklyn. Image: DOT

DOT will present a plan to improve bicycle connections on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn Community Board 1, including protected bike lanes on the blocks approaching the bridge’s bike path [PDF]. (The meeting was originally scheduled for March 14 but will be rescheduled because of the impending blizzard.) The project was presented to the CB 1 transportation committee last week.

Cycling over the bridge increased 80 percent from 2010 and 2015, and DOT expects another large surge when L train service across the East River is suspended for 18 months in January 2019. But connections between local streets and the bridge path are not as direct and safe as they should be.

In general, bike infrastructure is skimpy in the immediate vicinity of the bridge path entrance. The worst conditions right now are for cyclists heading east from the bridge, with no intuitive route to get past the elevated BQE.

The DOT plan calls for a two-way protected bike lane leading to and from the streets east of the bridge (above).

At the multi-legged intersection of South 4th Place, Havemeyer Street, and Borinquen Place, where four pedestrians were injured last year, DOT wants to expand pedestrian space and add signalized crosswalks across South 4th Street and the bridge entrance for motor vehicles. Eastbound cyclists would be directed onto a short path running below the BQE:

DOT's plan includes a total makeover of the completed intersection of South 4th Street, Havemeyer Street, and Borinquen Place. Image: DOT
DOT’s plan includes a makeover of the intersection of South 4th Street, Havemeyer Street, and Borinquen Place. Image: DOT

The bike path below the BQE (currently lined with illegally-parked cars) would then feed into the eastbound bike lane on Borinquen Place.

DOT is scrapping one block of illegal parking under the BQE for an eastbound protected bike lane. Image: DOT
DOT would convert one block under the BQE to an eastbound bike lane connecting to Borinquen Place and Grand Street. Image: DOT

Borinquen Place connects to Grand Street, where advocates and elected officials have pushed for safer bike infrastructure since a driver killed cyclist Matthew von Ohlen on the street last summer. DOT says it will unveil a plan for Grand Street later this year.

DOT also wants to install regular painted bike lanes east of the BQE on Scholes Street and Meserole Street.

West of the bridge entrance, the plan calls for upgrading the buffered bike lane on South 5th Street with parking protection and a short two-way segment that would connect cyclists exiting the bridge to Driggs Avenue.

  • c2check

    This is great, though I would still expect a lot of parking in the bike lane (on e.g. Messerole & Scholes). It would be great to have some traffic diversion and traffic calming to make it safer for cyclists

    Making Roebling a bike boulevard (and timing the signals accordingly) would also be great.

  • Jeff

    David – The CB1 meeting has been pushed back to NEXT Tuesday (March 21) due to the impending snow storm (same location, same time of day).

  • If they are thinking of putting a two-way bike lane on a one-way street, then putting it on South 5th Street going west of the bridge does not accomplish much. Riders coming off the bridge who want to go west can just take South 4th Street in that direction from South 5th Place (the little north-south street that connects to the bridge path entry).

    The problem is the other direction. A two-way bike lane on a one-way street is called for on South 4th Street going east of the bridge.

    South 4th Street east from South 5th Place is a two-way street for only a block, up until Roebling Street. It then becomes a one-way street facing west — against the direction of the eastbound rider. But many cyclists ignore this, and continue riding east along South 4th Street past Roebling Street. While this is a direct route to Borinquen Place / Grand Street, the constant and very obvious flouting of the law by bicyclists does serious harm to our public perception, and makes these very sorts of reforms more difficult by arousing community opposition to anything involving bicycles.

    A two-way bike lane on South 4th Street would solve this problem by providing a legal way to go east on South 4th Street from Roebling Street to the intersection of South 4th Street / Havermayer Street / Borinquen Place.

  • Jeff

    This is indeed part of the plan.

  • Oh! That is great to hear!

  • Simon Phearson

    If I’m understanding the diagrams correctly, this seems to channel riders heading west on Grand/Borinquen across a lane of turning traffic, in order to get to the two-way bike lane on South 4th. How is that not just asking for right hooks? I’d rather manage the (current) shimmy heading west on South 4th than I would trying to guess which drivers are turning and which are heading straight, as I cross directly in front of the path of any right-turning traffic.

    For me, this is little more than a gesture. The real problem on the westbound approach is the Grand/Borinquen zone. I fortunately don’t have to manage that on a daily basis; I’d do everything to avoid it if it were my primary artery.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Why doesn’t the proposed South 5th protected lane connect to Kent Ave?

  • I am there every day. (Well, not today. The reading of 20 degrees this morning made me wimp out. Please don’t tell anyone.)

    What I do is to join Borinquen Place earlier. When I am coming west on South 4th Street, I turn right at Keap Street to go north, and then turn left at South 2nd Street to go west. That hits Borinquen Place, and a wide left allows me to continue west under the BQE to the point where South 4th Street resumes.

  • Simon Phearson

    But then you’re joining Borinquen just when it really goes to shit, aren’t you? Grand itself is a bit chaotic, but it’s not too much for this Manhattan/Driggs rider. The last time I rode the connection, the protection on Borinquen was gone, the pavement was a mess, the paint was gone, and everyone was just doing whatever.

    My usual WB approach takes me down Driggs to South 5th. I only take Grand/Borinquen if I’m putting on additional miles, but every time I’ve tried it it’s freaked me out. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’d almost rather find my way down to Division and back up Bedford, if I’m out for extracurricular riding.

  • Vooch

    you could wear long pants, you know 🙂

  • It’s true that the protection has been removed from the Borinquen Place bike lane as you pass Rodney Street going west. I think this was due to last year’s snow and ice, which lingered in the bike lane for weeks after it had been cleared on the regular street.

    But joining Borniquen Place from South 2nd Street is not bad, because if you wait for the light where South 2nd joins Borniquen, you’ll have the light where Borinquen passes Rodney as well. You’ll get stopped at the light at Marcy Avenue; so that requires patience. The main problem there is the pavement, which is awful at that intersection.

    From that point, you’re under the BQE, and the biggest issue is parking in the now-faded bike lane. But, when that’s not occurring, then the long block between Marcy and Havemayer is pretty unremarkable. Then, as you pass Havemayer, you’re back on South 4th Street, and ready to turn left at South 5th Place.

  • My legs are the last things that get cold. That’s where the motor is! (But when I do ride in weather that cold, I do indeed wear long pants. I can comfortably wear shorts down to about 30 degrees.)

    The main problem is my hands; no matter how many layers of gloves I wear, they eventually get too cold in weather that is well below freezing. Several times have I ridden in weather colder than this mornings, once down to 9 degrees. And that was the only time that I really couldn’t have continued longer than the 75 or so minutes that my commute took, because my hands were hurting.

    For my chest and neck, I can pile on enough layers to preserve enough heat; but then it becomes too bulky and uncomforable.

    (I am straining to find justifications to make me not feel so bad for skipping today. I just really fear losing the discipline! I am not very disciplined by nature; so I cannot afford to let my good habits slip.)

  • J

    This seems like a mostly good and intuitive plan. If anything, this stuff should have happened years ago. I still don’t get why it takes 3 attempts over 10 years to get this stuff right.

  • Vooch

    Re gloves, have you ever tried those heat pack thingees skiers use ?

    Or the big plastic covers motorcross guys use ?

    I agree my fingers tend to get coldest – usually thumbs first. I think it’s because we press too hard on handle bars and it constrains the blood circulation.

  • qrt145

    I recently got “Bar Mitts” but found them to be too warm for NYC weather! As soon as it gets a few degrees above freezing (which was most days this winter), they start feeling too hot for my taste. I guess today they would have been great, but I worked from home for unrelated reasons.

  • I have tried the heat packs with the carbon. I didn’t find them effective.

    I am not sure what you mean by those plastic covers that motocross guys use; but I recently picked up some Big Jack brand lined gloves that I bought at a safety equipment store. They are gloves that are used by construction workers and other people who work outside. And I can put one or even two layers of thin gloves under them.

    I have also considered buying these RefrigiWear gloves; but so far I haven’t done so. Maybe for next winter.

  • Interesting. Are those the things I see on delivery guys’ scooters? They attach to the handlebars, right? Do you have to take your hands out of them to give hand signals or even to switch gears?

    I should add that the lined Big Jack gloves I recently bought are white, as are the RefrigiWear gloves I thought of buying. I also picked up another kind of Big Jack gloves, warm but not lined, but also white. And in the summer I wear white batting gloves. I want my hands to be as visible as possible, because I make extensive use of hand signals.

  • qrt145

    Yes. Delivery guys usually have what seems to be a Chinese brand, judging by the Chinese-looking characters which I can’t read. Maybe they sell them in Chinatown? The ones I got were from barmitts.com.

    Switching gears is not a problem with my grip shift. I can see how this would be a problem with downtube shifters like the ones I had on a bike some thirty years ago…

    Accessing the bell is definitely a problem, though. As for hand signals, getting the hands in and out of the “mitt” is easy enough, since it is fairly big, although I do worry about not being able to pull them out quickly enough in the event of a crash. Luckily I haven’t had to test that!

  • Vooch

    it’s what the delivery guys use to protect their hands from wind & rain – a big collar on each handle bar

  • Sabina

    You can make your own bar-mitt-type-things with ziplocks (gallon size) and pipe cleaner (to hold open where your hand goes in). They are cheap, no one is going to steal them, and you can push them “back” if your hands get too warm.

  • mattkime

    Yesterday is was 20°F outside and a I used my barmitts and a relatively thin wool glove. My hands were perfectly comfortable. My toes gave me some trouble but I think the answer to that is winter specific cycling shoes. or just plain old boots.

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