Opposition Brewing to DOT’s Proposal for 9th Street Bike Lanes

Tonight, 6:30 pm at Old First Church on 7th Avenue and Carroll Street, the transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 6 hosts a blockbuster follow-up meeting to the "One-Way? No Way!" extravaganza of March 15.

While I haven’t managed to get a look at DOT’s proposal, we know a few things about it: It will include some pedestrian improvements at Grand
Army Plaza, new bike lanes for Red Hook and a new design for 9th Street.
The Grand Army Plaza changes, supposedly, include some of the
improvements that the community has been advocating via the Grand Army
Plaza Coalition
. The Red Hook bike lanes
sound pretty straightforward. As for 9th Street, DOT wants to do the following:

  • Install two bike lanes heading in each direction.

  • Stripe a median down the middle of the street with left-turn bays for cars at the intersections.

  • Eliminate one travel lane in each direction.

Not surprising — it’s Brooklyn, folks! — there is some opposition brewing to the 9th Street changes, the bike lanes in particular. Below is a discussion thread I found on the Brooklynian web site. Fans of MyBikeLane.com will have to wrap their heads around the idea that their bike lanes are actually blocking motorists ability to double-park. Is it only a matter of time before someone starts MyDoubleParkingSpot.com?:

Ninth Street Residents and Businesses

The Mar. 29, 2007 meeting of the Transportation Committee of Community
Board 6 will discuss adding a painted centerlane (similar to Prospect Park
SW) for left turns, AND bicycle lanes.

That will mean there will be only one lane for driving, and NO
ability to stop your car to drop off/pick up at anytime because you
will be blocking the bike lanes.

Please come out to the meeting to voice your opinion/opposition to these changes

Transportation Committee of

Community Board Six

Mar. 29, 2007

6:30 PM

Old First Reformed Church

729 Carroll Street

(Corner of 7th Avenue)

  • If there is insufficient curb space for drop-offs and pick-ups, it sounds like the curb is insufficiently-priced.

    So it would appear there is a group organizing to call for muni-meters on 9th St. with high enough prices to encourage regular turnover, so as to guarantee curb space for drop-offs. Or am I projecting a little too much advanced rational thought?

  • I constantly see cars stopping in bike lanes to drop off and pick up passengers. Yesterday, on my way to work, one of the biggest SUVs I have ever seen blocked the bike lane and forced me out into the traffic lane, while one of the two occupants got take-out coffee.

    Does anyone know what the law is? I suspect that cars can stop temporarily in bike lanes to pick up and let out passengers, just as cars can double-park temporarily to pick up and let out passengers.

  • mike

    They cannot stop in bike lanes.

  • not only can they not stop in bike lanes, but double parking is illegal whether there’s a bike lane or not.

  • Fascinated

    Yeah, but . . . what planet are you from? You need to pick up a kid from a playdate? You need to escort your grandmother from the curb to her apartment. Go ahead, park in the bike lane for a few moments: I’m on a bike. I’m pretty mobile. I’ll figure it out.

  • liz

    Right on, Ian D! Double parking is a symptom that curbspace is not being managed/priced properly.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Some strange planet where people pick up their kids and escort their grandmothers … on foot!

  • Fascinated

    Correct, of course, Angus. Better if we were all on foot, I agree. But the kid lives in Sunset Park, the grandmother is infirm . . . you get the picture. My point is really speaks more to the idea that cyclists (who generally are not strict VC-adherents in this city) should also share the road. It’s not the end of the world that the bike lane is blocked for a moment. (However, to the cop I saw on Sixth Ave. in Manhattan who had PARKED in the bike lane to give parking tickets, well. You have to admire the blissful lack of self-awareness.)
    As for this curbspace-pricing “controversy” — I imagine that the general public sees this as just nuts. Just saying.

  • I agree with Fascinated. Meters will not ensure that you have spaces to drop/pick up people. Not everyone can be on foot.

    It’s an excellent point that, if cyclists don’t adhere slavishly to the VC, why should cars? As a regular cyclist myself, I routinely go thru red lights if no traffic obstructs, and have been known to take a detour on the sidewalk if traffic is too bad and there’s no peds. I would hate to be ticketed for this. Just think how much slower your travel would be if you stopped at every stopsign and red light.

    So I have a relatively benign attitude towards double parkers (or U-turners). If it’s someone dropping off their kid or picking up grandma, I’d smile and detour; a humungous SUV with a large unwashed male picking up coffee…well, let’s just say I curse inwardly.

    Extremists on both sides of the issue just gum up the discussion.

  • I think chandru makes a great point.

    Part of what makes NYC streets "livable" in my opinion is that the rules are generally lax, there aren’t too many strict controls, and people are generally given the respect to make their own decisions in a way that makes sense to them.

    Examples: jaywalking, biking (in bike lanes and other places), turning left w/o waiting for a left turn arrow, and yes, double parking.

    I lived in California for several years, and one thing that drove me nuts was how strict all the traffic controls were – a special signal for every movement, super long wait times, overbuilt roads, and timid pedestrians. Ever tried to jaywalk in San Francisco? The net result was that I always felt like I was being treated like a child.

    The system we have in NYC may be a little crazy sometimes, but at least it’s human.

  • Eric

    Chandru’s right. We all need to be a little flexible. Physically separated bike lanes placed between the curb and parked cars, of course, would allow us all to avoid this problem. Of course, that physical barrier would have to be pretty high to keep some dude in a Hummer from being able to scale it.

  • This is actually a sane discussion.

    Chandru: I *do* go out of my way to respect the rules, though you’re right, there is some bend. On my bike, I slow to near-stop at red lights and stop signs, clearly giving way to cars and peds that have the right of way. It is very rare that I’d be on the sidewalk with peds present. But there are times when I ride up a one-way the wrong way – though in the case I ride very slowly, knowing that people aren’t expecting me.

    But every time I am cruising along in a bike lane and someone is parked in it, I have to swerve into traffic to avoid them. The result of that is that *I MIGHT DIE*. I take that pretty seriously. For that reason, and because there is little respect for that in places like 5th Ave. in Manhattan, I often just take up a whole car-lane rather than risk it by swerving multiple times on each block.

  • Which of course *should* be perfectly ok since that’s what lane-sharing is supposed to be about. In fact, if there were enough bikes, it would not seem to be the problem as when there’s one bike and a bunch of angry cars behind.

    We need more bikes on the road.

  • Brian

    Everywhere in NYC where there are already pre-existing bike lanes I often find that cars double park or often take up the lane at an intersection to turn. The opposition that is afraid of losing their coveted curb space are going to end up taking up the bike lanes when necessary. It’s just the way people drive here. Is their sole worry that they will get ticketed (because I doubt they will face any problems) or is there more of a reason? A sectioned off bike lane would be nice, but I feel like this is more necessary in parts of Manhattan then Brooklyn.

  • At the meeting, people expressed that their calculation is that they are going to break the law one way of the other (either by double-parking or by parking in the bike lane), but that they want the less expensive way to break the law.

    It was discussed at the meeting and repeated by DOT and TA staff that the fine for double-parking was less than that of blocking a bike lane, but the NYC Finance website says that it is $115 either way ( http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/html/parking/park_tickets_violations.shtml )

    DOT did point out that with their design, it will be possible (though perhaps not encouraged) to park in the 3′ bike lane buffer zone, leaving the 5′-wide bike lane passable, and traffic in the through-lane will be able to proceed by using the 4′-wide median. So unlike the current configuration, a double-parked car will not block a travel lane.


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