Wider Sidewalks & a Bicycle Park-and-Ride for Williamsburg

Streetsblog has gotten a hold of a draft of DOT’s plan to widen the sidewalk and install new bike racks at the Bedford Avenue L subway station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As diagrammed above, the plan calls for the elimination of five motor vehicle parking spaces on N. 7th Street at Bedford Avenue, alongside the subway station stairwell on the southeast corner (see the corner at the bottom of the diagram).

bike_stealing.jpgThe Bedford Avenue L is a popular park-and-ride spot for area bicycle commuters. With the bike racks on N. 7th between Bedford and Driggs often overloaded, it is common to see clumps of bicycles locked to street signs, subway railings and just about anything else.

Unfortunately, prior to this development, every so often park-and-ride cyclists would return home from work to find that their bikes were gone. As the New York Times reported last November, the bicycle thief was not who you’d think:

On Wednesday, 28-year-old graphic designer Miao Wang rode her
bicycle 12 blocks from her apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to the
Bedford Avenue L subway station. She locked up, boarded her train and
went to work. That evening, she emerged from subway to find that her
black Diamondback bicycle was gone. Ms. Wang’s
bicycle was one of nine confiscated in the latest police sweep of bikes
locked to railings, street signs and parking meters around the subway
station.

DOT will be issuing a press release shortly and we’ll have more information on this promising and, I believe, unprecedented development. Does anyone know of any other cases in New York City in which on-street car parking was removed and replaced with bicycle parking? 

Photo: Untitledname on Flickr

  • ddartley

    In the picture above, it’s hard to tell if the bike parking is actually on the street. I really hope it is.

  • P

    Looking at the drawing I don’t think the bike parking is on the street. If so they are taking _more_ than one lane of parking from cars. The bulbout likely is 8′ wide- one lane of parking. The bikes probably have to go there.

    In any case, it’s an exciting precedent and surely not the only application in the city. Bedford is an obvious starting point but there are probably dozens of similar opportunities- especially at outer borough stations where people must go some distance to the train.

    I’d be interested to see the potential for public bike racks to spur ridership to the trains. If we could get secured racks it would be even better.

  • crzwdjk

    The Queens IND stations seem like a perfect place to try secured bike parking, as they’re generally built with full mezzanines, which are currently mostly unused. San Francisco has it at a couple of BART stations, including Embarcadero.

  • P

    Excellent… Does anyone ride a bike in Queens?

  • The bike racks will not be on the street. DOT is putting the bike parking on the newly widened sidewalk. They will be releasing more detailed information about the plan shortly.

  • mfs

    Another problem at Bedford is bike sellers leaving all their bikes chained up to the city-installed racks closest to the subway station.

  • P

    I don’t know about that- what do the sellers do with the bikes? Are they just leaving them in a convenient spot until they’re bought.

    I wouldn’t be opposed to periodic ‘cleanouts’. Post notices for several weeks that any bike locked to a certain rack will be cut off…

  • da

    However it ultimately shapes up, this is a precedent of enormous importance for the city. Someday there will be a historic marker at this intersection:

    “On this site New York City took a first small step toward reclaiming its streets from a century of total domination by automobiles.”

  • Rock

    The NYPD could tag individual bikes instead of entire racks. The policy could be that any bike that remains tagged and unmoved for two or three weeks gets removed. This would help keep racks open for people actually in need of a parking spot.

  • ddartley

    I’m painfully disappointed the bike racks are not on the street.

    I suspect that that failure is due to the survival of a DOT- or Community Board-pervasive belief that bikes are not serious transportation devices and therefore belong parked on a sidewalk, like a newspaper rack or something.

    I think the racks’ presence on the street, in the former place of just a FEW car spaces, would have made a painless, but lasting and impression-carrying cultural statement.

    This is overall good news, but also a sadly missed opportunity.

  • Johnny Walker

    You don’t want cars parked in street? Fine.

    But bikes can clog sidewalks which are for people?
    Not fair to us pedestrians.

    Why not park your bikes in the street with the other wheeled vehicles. All wheels should be in the street, not sidewalks.

  • Zach

    re crzwdjk: Yeah, why haven’t they done that? Those stations are *huge* and accomodate a pretty small amount of foot traffic for that size. Letters to the MTA?

  • ddartley

    Not sure whom you’re addressing, Johnny Walker, but if you’re replying to me in comment #10, I assure you I agree with your #11 100%.

    In fact, I’ll clarify even further–REGARDLESS of whether any car spaces are eliminated, bike racks should be on the street, like car parking.

  • @ddartley (& Johnny Walker):

    I don’t think you’re seeing what’s going to happen (at least as I understand it):

    5 parking spots are going to be removed, curbed off and raised to sidewalk level. With all of this extra space, racks will be installed for bike parking.

    Yes, it’s at the same elevation as the sidewalk, but the bikes will be parked on space reclaimed from car parking spots.

    Correct me if I’m wrong. We’d love to see some of these conversions in Greenwich Village & Soho.

  • Dart,

    I’ve got to say, I was kind of hoping the bike racks would be put right on the street as well.

    First off, the project would have been cheaper and faster and, in being cheap and fast, would have created a more easily replicable model.

    Second, I like the idea that the city is treating bicycles like regular vehicles that belong on the street with cars and trucks.

    I should have some more details on the design and the work that led to this particular implementation tomorrow.

  • suzy

    yup,, ian d’s got it. the sidewalk will be widened into the street, and the bike racks will be there, as per the drawing. there is no room for a bike rack on the existant sidewalk, as the sidewalk is narrowed by the entrance to the subway. cheers.

  • tps12

    Wait, locking to parking meters and street signs is wrong? WhereTF are you supposed to park?

  • Johnny Walker

    Ian & Suzy (14 and 16)

    If the sidewalk is widened from an excessively congested, narrow sidewalk shouldn’t the newly increased sidewalk be used to accommodate the large number of pedestrians and not for usurpation by people’s private vehicles?

    Side-walks are precisely that: for walking. Not for parking, either of 2- or 4-wheeled vehicles.

    When cyclists universally obey the law and stop riding on the sidewalk, they will get more sympathy. I guess so many ride illegally on the sidewalk, they feel they can park there too.

  • Johnny Walker,

    Can’t we all just get along?

    Seriously, it’s a sign of how extensively motor vehicles have been allowed to overtake our public spaces that it pits two natural allies, bicyclists and pedestrians, against each other.

  • Maria

    Johnny says:

    When cyclists universally obey the law and stop riding on the sidewalk, they will get more sympathy.

    I say: Give me a break, Johnny. Pedestrians jaywalk all the time and motorists are constantly running up onto sidewalks, killing people in crosswalks, spewing foul gasses into our air, blasting their car alarms, etc. etc. etc.

    Shall we not respect their needs and rights until they clean up their act as well?

  • mr. nonymous

    parking bicycles in the streetbed? brilliant. a great way to have your bike smashed up by passing cars.
    when you put them up on the curb, this won’t happen unless someone jumps the curb.
    think, folks.

  • ddartley

    tps12: Yes, we’re all COMPELLED to park on sidewalk fixtures. I do it all the time (***although, I always make sure to lock up on the street side, rather than the building side, to at least give peds a few more inches***). I just wish we didn’t have to. Like “Angry Johnny” (90s song) says, we OUGHT to be on the street. But, unfortunately, even when there are official parking fixtures, none other than the City itself INSTRUCTS us to park on the sidewalk!

    Johnny: I agree that cyclists should obey the law more. But even those who do ride on the sidewalk don’t feel entitled to park there because they ride there. They park there because the City, both overtly and tacitly, tells them to. Respectfully, I do think you should direct more of your anger elsewhere:

    Every single day of my life I see motorists take risks that could, with just one extra element of chance that the motorist could never control, kill people before my eyes. Every single day. And guess what? I’m just lucky in what I don’t see—they do kill people every day. Can you say any of that about cyclists, even those on the sidewalk?

  • mr. nonymous – you could protect the bikes with bollards, if parked in the street.

  • ddartley

    Hey, Mr. Nonymous, I was just thinking:

    if on-street parking is laid out like: car-car-car-BIKE RACK-car-car-car, there’s very little chance a passing car will smash up the bikes on that rack.

    Do you think it’s good that bike parking takes away pedestrian space? Yes, I know pedestrians and cyclists face a lot of other unfair conditions, but still, don’t you see the cultural drawbacks of sidewalk bike parking?

  • Mr. Nonymous,

    On-street bike parking works really well in cities all over the world. Why not give it a shot in NYC? The Bedford L build out is great but on-street bike parking would likely be much faster and less expensive to set up. Check out these examples:

    http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/07/montreal_709618.jpg

    http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/10/munich_bike_parking_7.jpg

    http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/11/IMG_0540_lane_inside_parkedcars.jpg

  • Plus, as AD pointed out the other day, Portland:
    http://bikeportland.org/2006/11/30/more-on-street-bike-parking-comes-to-north-portland/

    Talk about cheap & easy… 

  • Johnny Walker

    Hi #20
    Pedestrians jaywalking endanger only themselves. That is their choice.

    On the other hand, bicyclists operating on sidewalks endanger all of us.

    Fact is, I have been hit twice by aggressive cyslists, never by a motorist, and there are a lot more motorists. Both times the cyclists blamed me or cursed, and I wouldn’t even think of asking for their I.D. and insurance, since I only have one set of teeth.

    Motorists at least are OBLIGATED to produce ID and insurance after an accident, something aberrant bikers have refused to do and are not obligated.

    Let’s face it. We are all humans: pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. We all behave similarly. Good and bad in each category.

    This blog was whether the widening of a congested sidewalk should accommodate cyclists or pedestrians.

    Since I am not allowed to place my private property on public sidewalks without paying, neither should cyclists be allowed to park their personal property on public space without paying. At least motorists pay for metered parking and road taxes.

    What funds do cyclists propose to contribute for use of public parking-space and paved roads (and sidewalks!)which they use? Even subway riders must pay for the privilege.

    Do cyclists believe they are the only ones exempt from paying for some of the facilities that they use?

    In all fairness, shouln’t cyclists also be required to produce ID and insurance if they are using the streets? People have been killed by cyclists, rare, but it happens and many are injured. These aggrieved people have no legal recourse or financial redress.

    Being treated equally means treating others equally.

    Licensing, insurance and some payment for use of public streets should apply to everyone who uses them.

    Some thoughts…

  • Maria

    Johnny,

    A few responses:

    1. Aggressive and clueless pedestrians endanger cyclists all the time. That might even be why you got cursed at. One of the worst things that can happen to a cyclist is being forced to quickly veer to one side to avoid hitting a ped stepping out into the street against the light. If there’s a truck back there, the cyclist is dead. It’s happened to me lots of times. That’s why I ride slowly now. Peds just aren’t aware of what creates danger for cyclists.

    2. Cyclists are often forced to produce ID and written summonses — and not just after crashes or incidents. But randomly after being stopped for no particularly good reason by the NYPD. Not sure where you’re getting that from.

    3. I know that many cyclists would be willing to pay for secure, sheltered parking. Bring it on. But, in general, cycling offers so many significant macro benefits to the city as a whole, there is no reason to levy fees on people using bikes. A smart city wants to encourage bicycling.

  • someguy

    Johnny Walker, those are some nice arguments but I don’t think you know the full picture.

    1. Bike danger: Can you tell me how many injuries and fatalities are caused by bicyclists every year? I don’t know off-hand either, but I feel very confident saying it’s a tiny fraction of those caused by automobiles. I agree that bikers should be more respectful and responsible (and I personally feel that would happen if the infrastructure and enforcement better accommodated them), but the simple fact is that 2000+ lb metal projectiles (i.e. automobiles) are capable of far, far greater damage than bikes.

    2. Public property on private sidewalks: Sidewalk cafes. Garbage cans. Newspaper boxes.

    3. Taxes and paying for facilities: Much, if not most, of our road infrastructure in New York State (which *includes* sidewalks) is funded not by gasoline taxes or other driver-related fees, but by general taxes such as sales, property and income. So, actually, bikers (and pedestrians) do help pay for the roads and sidewalks. In fact, they probably pay a disproportionately large share based on how much space they get for their buck (a small slice) and how much damage they inflict on the road/sidewalk requiring maintenance (pretty much nil).

    The plain facts are that automobiles cause the vast majority of injuries and fatalities, automobiles impose the vast majority of wear and tear on our road facilities necessitating constant, costly upkeep, and given all the additional costs of automobile use of roads — emergency response, hospital visits, police enforcement, noise, air pollution & CO2 exhaust, and, oh yeah, oil dependence – I feel confident saying that automobiles are, all things considered, subsidized by us walkers and bikers, NOT the other way around.

  • ddartley

    Johnny, you do bring up some good points in #27, and while I imagine I’m not much “on your side,” they are good things to think about.

    But they do inspire a rebuttal (which I’ll keep short, cause I’m sure others are about to join in): talking about shared costs, bikes cause astoundingly less death, destruction, and illness than cars. They are, truly, better for the world than cars. (I know, you said this is about bikes/peds—bear with me.) They also wear and tear roads and markings remarkably less than motor vehicles. All those forms of damage are paid for by ALL taxpayers, regardless of their transportation choices (not just motorists). If one day cyclists have to pay specifically for their use of public space, it should fairly cost them a hell of a lot less than what motorists pay. Despite your specific legitimate concerns, NYC cyclists are victims of serious governmental fiscal inequity. (And so are pedestrians.)

    Finally, I don’t legitimately have a problem if you complain to City gov about cyclists riding on sidewalks. A lot of the engaged cycling community won’t either. But if you do complain, I hope the fairness issues that the cyclists above have discussed inform (and narrow) your complaint.

  • bk

    pedestrians should pay to use the sidewalk space as well, eh, genius?

  • It always amazes me that many pedestrians in this city dislike bikes more than cars, despite the fact that they are forced to breath in car exhaust and risk death nearly every day from people driving in this city which is so suited for *NOT* driving. Tell me …. how many peds were killed or injured by cars this year? How many were killed or injured by cyclists?

    I suspect it comes from the fact that near brushes w/ death due to automobiles are so commonplace that people don’t even think about them anymore. However, the near close call w/ a cyclist is a much rarer occurrence (and a much less risky one at that). Granted, there are dangerous cyclists, but the vast majority of cyclist commuters I see out there do NOT bike on the sidewalk and are fairly respectful to pedestrians. The risky cyclists (wrong way biking, sidewalk cycling) tend to be underpaid food delivery guys just trying to make a buck. I cycle most every day, and I can say that 99% of the close calls I have w/ pedestrians are due to them darting out into the street from between two parked cars.

    As to the “right” to use our streets. Well, I pay my fair share of taxes. I don’t buy gasoline, but I was not under the impression you had to do so in order to use public property.

  • Greg,

    I’ve got a theory about pedestrian animosity towards cyclists.

    I think there’s a startle factor with bikes. Unlike cars, bicycles are essentially silent. And because of that, I think we sometimes scare peds more than cars do.

    I’ve noticed that sometimes I’ll be turning into an intersection on my bike and I’ll really startle the pedestrian in the crosswalk. Even though I’m nowhere close to hitting the person and am being very safe and careful, a ped will sometimes be surprised when I cruise through the x-walk ten feet in front of them. A couple of times I’ve had peds react angrily to me just b/c they were startled by the bike and even though they were not at all in danger by my passing.

    Maybe Prius drivers have the same experience when the quiet electric motor is running.

  • I also think it has to do w/ the fact that we are actually out there face to face. A cyclist is more “personal”. You can see the person, whereas a car driver is hidden behind tinted windows and steel.

    It is curious though. I would bet some psychologist or sociologist could come up w/ a good answer to this.

  • rescueblues

    Everything is fine but they should move the bike racks down the block to the Driggs entrance where there is less pedestrian traffic.

  • Johnny Walker

    Accident comparisons bikes Vs Car is an unfair and illogical request.
    There is no record-keeping for pedestrian/bicycle accidents, so asking me for non-exisent information in order to prove my point is a logical fallacy and doesn’t address my contention that I know as many people hit by bikes as hit by cars.
    AND, There Are a Lot More Cars Than Bikes.
    So, I would guess it is about equal.

    As for Maria who rants about pedestrians: unless you are in a wheelchair, Maria, we are all pedestrians. If you are angry at pedestrians for walking then you are basically angry at people for walking.

    “2. Public property on private sidewalks: Sidewalk cafes. Garbage cans. Newspaper boxes”
    -Sidwalk Cafes pay about $5000 for that privilege, and generate sales and employment
    taxes. Bicycles get a free ride
    -Garbage cans. The authorites mandate we all put garbage cans out, so they can be removed. Trash removal is not only an order, it is a public health concern.
    -newsracks, Sorry, but the Frist Amendment trumps your right to use printed matter as justification for free parking of your property on public sidewalks.

    One poster (#31) actually suggested cyclists have as much right to be on sidewalks than pedestrians. My Lord!

    Many people here cite opinions as facts.

    The clear truth is that motorists pay $1000s every year in Govt. fees, gasoline taxes, tolls (cyclists ride free over the bridges) and thousands more on insurance.

    Cyclists get to use these roads and bridges for free. I am not advocating auto use, just everyone should pay for use of the streets, since streets are not for the average citizen, only those who can afford a car or bike.

    Most of us must rely on the MTA (for which we pay).

    So, my questions:
    -Shouldn’t cyclists be required to have a license and insurance, in case of accidents? Yes or no.
    -Shouldn’t cyclists pay a small bit for their use of roads built for vehicles (whether 2 0r 4 wheels).
    Motorists do.
    Mass Transit riders do.
    Why are cyclists exempt?

  • ms nomer

    The community board is encouraging more people to use the Driggs entrance at Bedford Avenue station. At the CB’s request, the Driggs entrance is now open 24/7 and there’s a plan for an exit-only turnstile to make it more convenient for people to get out there instead of Bedford. More bike racks are planned for Driggs and elsewhere in Northside Williamsburg to make it easier for commuters to lock up their bikes and hop on the train.

  • Maria

    Johnny,

    There is plenty of detailed record keeping for ped and bike crashes and casualties.

    I’m not going to dig it up right now but I recently saw a stat cited by Charles Komanoff showing over the last 15 years or so cyclist crashes have killed 10 pedestrians or thereabouts. In that same time, thousands of pedestrians (and cyclists and other motorists) were killed in car crashes.

  • I think another factor at work in the whole “bikes are so much more dangerous than cars” misperception is that cars, even in this largely car-free city, are regarded as something like a force of nature or an unstoppable entity. So when people have to pick something to be angry with, they subconsciously choose a less dangerous substitute that they feel more comfortable getting upset about.

  • someguy

    Johnny,
    License and insurance for bikers? Sure, but the costs would be miniscule if they reflected true cost. The average damage and injury of a bike crash is a fraction of that for a car, that should be obvious.
    Cyclists paying for their use of the road: I already addressed this. Multiple taxes pay for road infrastructure, taxes paid by all citizens, whether they own a car or not. And, again, bikes impose little to no wear and tear on the facilities, which, after all, is what we’re paying for – their maintenance. So as I said, bikers probably already pay more than their fair share for using roads through normal sales/income/property taxes!

    Is there something here you disagree with?

  • hey Johnny,
    We do pay for roads and infrastructure. Its called taxes. What do you want? That we pay tolls too? Well, I might as well drive my car and pollute your air if its going to cost me to ride.

    By the way, if you would like some facts to go along with your opinions. Here is the link to the crash stats involving pedestrians and bicycles:
    http://www.transalt.org/crashmaps/index.html

  • Johnny, last I saw, cars did not pay tolls on the east river bridges. Thus, I am paying the same tolls to bike over those bridges as the cars are. If I were to guess, I would imagine that I am also contributing less to traffic congestion, quality of life, air pollution, and safety issues as a cyclist vs those drivers.

    Your arguments are flawed.

  • Rock

    Johnny advocates taxes and insurance for bikers that reflects that of cars. If we implement that, I vote that car owners pay an additional tax that would help subsidize health care– one in six New Yorkers have asthma, a far greater rate than the national average. Something tells me that is not from the bikes.

  • Steve

    A wonderful, lively debate on Streetsblog! The one point that hasn’t been made yet (unless I missed it) in response to the notion that motorists are “paying their way, why shouldn’t bicyclists do so as well,” is that motorists are getting for their tax and toll dollars is much more than what bicyclists get. In particular, motorists receive the benefit of free or subsidized/metered curbside parking, which is worth $400-$700/month per space depending upon neighborhood. Show me the driver who’s paying that much money in taxes or tolls. In fact, $400-$700/month is an artificially low estimate of the value of parkings spaces, because if the city stopped providing free ones, the cost of a space likely would increase.

  • nobody

    Here‘s an example of on-street, protected bike parking

  • lush

    Here are some relevant figures from the city’s recent report on Bicycle Fatalities and Serious Injuries

    Between 1996 and 2005, 207 bicyclists died in crashes with motor vehicles.

    From 1996 though 2005, 11 pedestrians died as a result of crashes with bicyclists.

    Multiple data sources were used to identify as many bike related fatalities as possible.

  • ddartley

    And cars, not bikes, wiped the paint off the pedestrian crosswalk outside my building in three weeks. Johnny.

  • ddartley

    Everyone please check out the video posted by Nobody in #45.

  • Clarence

    Ha Ha! You guys actually found my YouTube video snippet I posted up before I could get Aaron to post it (hopefully today)

    YUP HERE: http://youtube.com/watch?v=mLFqriNaqgI

    It’s from the half hour film I did this Fall on Portland, OR which I hope to start showing around in its entire-ty. It will blow your minds what they are doing out there….

    ALSO: With all the discussion going on about Chicago, another small clip from that same Portland film of crosswalk enforcement actions they do: http://www.nycsr.org/nyc/video-view.php?id=45

  • Timely video (as always), Clarence!

    But I find the distinction of whether the bikes are parked at the same elevation as the cars, or on a platform 4″ higher, to be totally academic. Either way, it is a gain for both cyclists and pedestrians when space is reclaimed from parking, so that the bikes can be accomodated while removing them from the ped’s realm.

    Can everyone agree on that?

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