New Bike Lanes and Sharrows Lead to the Brooklyn Bridge

This new buffered bike lane begins at Petrosino Square at Lafayette Street and Spring Street and heads southbound all the way down to Duane Street on the way to the Brooklyn Bridge. Along the way you’ll find quite a few bike boxes and sharrows, new bike safety tools in the Department of Transportation street design tool box. (As Project for Public Spaces has pointed out, Petrosino Square could easily be enlarged and transformed into one of Lower Manhattan’s finest little public squares).

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Heading towards City Hall.

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In case you are wondering why there are no cars on the road, these
photos were snapped early Sunday morning while all the motorists where
still sleeping. 

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Instead of ending abruptly, the bike lane morphs into sharrows at Reade Street.

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The new sharrows lead cyclists right down the center of the busy intersection at Chambers Street and on to the bridge to Brooklyn.

Photos: Jason Varone

  • Ace

    I know this won’t be received well, but I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday afternoon. It was full of tourists meandering and taking in the glory that is the bridge and the views from the bridge.

    Most bicyclists seemed to realize how crowded it would be and stayed away. There were hundreds of people, most of them visitors to our city forced into half of the walkway. It was difficult to simply use the bridge as a pedestrian to get from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

    We need to return the walkway to pedestrians only. At least on weekends and during prime pedestrian hours.

  • I often wonder if it would be possible, engineering-wise, to build bike lanes directly atop the motor vehicle roadways on the Brooklyn Bridge. The Bridge’s roads already have this extensive network of steel beams covering them:

    http://photo.net/photo/pcd0451/brooklyn-bridge-100.4.jpg

    I’m sure it would be expensive and challenging in some way or another but it seems like it might be feasible.

    Come to think of it, if new paths were built over the roads, you’d probably want to turn them into the pedestrian walkways because the new paths would block the views on the current path down the middle.

  • Steve

    Thanks for the great photos, Jason. Looking forward to my next trip to downtown Brooklyn.

  • flp

    two things:

    1) why not improve cycling infrastructure to the BB coming from the west side greenway? it would be really easy to permanently remove car parking(i think they already do it part time) and paint in/install a bike lane on chambers street.

    2) ditto for the manhattan bridge. the grand sreet lane is nice but is not directly accessible to from the greenway and does not lead directly to the currently open bike lane.

  • flp

    … and 3) what about having a bike lane from beyond the court house going up lafayette before spring st.????

  • flp

    i mean centre st.

  • John Hunka

    Why hasn’t the DOT completed the bike lane on Centre Street? We’ve got a bike lane from the base of the bridge to Pearl Street, which suddenly disappears. Centre Street becomes a harrowing free-for-all from Pearl until the bike lane suddenly reappears at Spring Street. The gap in the Centre Street bike lane from Pearl to Spring endangers cyclists.

  • Vroomfondel

    flp,
    Reade St already has a fairly decent bike lane as well as a lot less traffic than Chambers. A bike lane on Chambers would be nice, but I think I’d still take Reade (or Duane for the way back).

    On a related note, what’s the best way to get from the East River Greenway to Brooklyn Bridge? I’ve tried it via Chinatown (lots of traffic) as well as via Beekman St and Park Row (not too bad, but it seems a bit indirect). Surely there’s a better way…?

  • anonymous

    The stretch of Centre from Pearl to Spring is indeed a harrowing free-for-all, because there are a lot of cars jammed into a small space. That may also be the reason it hasn’t gotten a bike lane yet. In the case of both the original (north of Spring) and new Lafayette Street lanes, it was merely a matter of taking underused road space and painting a bike lane. Here it’s going to be trickier, both in terms of engineering and politics.
    I think the next step for the DOT, by the way, should be to provide navigation signs for the bike lane network, as well as better signs to guide cyclists into bike lanes on streets where they are available. Chicago or London are good examples to look at here.

  • John Hunka

    Creating a bike lane on Centre Street from Pearl to Spring isn’t necessarily tricky. DOT created a bike lane on Grand Street by painting sharrows on the roadway and putting up “Shared Roadway” signs. It would be a simple matter for DOT to use similar devices to create a shared lane on Centre for the stretch in question.

  • Surprised nobody has mentioned that the existing bike lanes on Centre St. and Park Row near the bridge are actually completely unusable, because they are always 100% filled with parked squad cars and personal vehicles.

    When is someone going to do something about that? It’s the most egregious and consistent government parking violation that I’m aware of.

  • Baer

    They were putting up bike signs this morning on northbound center in front of the municipal building, while the whole lane was blocked with delivery trucks. Aaron, I believe the decking would run afoul of the bridge’s landmark status. I read somewhere that it actually limited additional signage , so I imagine it would apply to decking as well.

  • Steve

    Dan, I nearly split my side laughing when the City issued a glossy color report on traffic congestion a few months back, the cover of which was adorned with cars parked bumper-to-bumper in that stretch of Centre Street next to city Hall! It truly is the most abused bike lane in all of NYC.

  • momos

    Dan, you hit the nail on the head.

    One solution might be to swap the location of the bike lane and parking lane. The street space currently used as a “buffer” (which doesn’t work — drivers park and drive on it all the time) could be used for a small, low curb demarcating the bike lane from the parking lane.

    This design wouldn’t be a full-on bike track but would move the bikes in closer to the sidewalk and make it more difficult for parking cars to obstruct the path.

    It’s a simple idea that basically only requires a paint job. The distribution of street space would remain unchanged.

  • flp

    vroomfondel,

    yes, THE direct route is chambers street.

    that is the issue i was addressing…. a DIRECT route FROM the greenway TO BB not the opposite. sure, the reade street lane is a nice addition, but it goes in the wrong direction for the purpose i am addressing. sure, duane works, but the trouble with that (and reade for that matter) is that it does not lead directly to the greenway due to the BMCC campus.

    this leads us back to chambers street. yes, chambers has a fair bit of traffic, but when no cars are parked or standing it is a pretty good through street. with a bike lane it would be GREAT! there are no reasons to redirect bikes to side streets. this scenario reminds me of the highly contested houston street bike lane debate. that said, i must say that i am all for a bike lane on houston!

  • flp

    excuse me, vroomfondel, i see you were talking about the EAST river greenway. i am a bit WEST centric. anyway……..

    yeah, i sure can see the mess getting from the east side greenway to the BB.

  • rlb

    (the decking would run afoul of the bridge’s landmark status)

    Depending on the time of day and the direction of greater traffic, maybe they could make either a Manhattan or Brooklyn bound lane a two way bike lane?

  • mf

    They really should have posted 15 mph speed limits for cars where they have the Sharrows. As it is now, the merge is pretty dangerous.

  • I agree with Ace (#1) that the bike/ped situation on the B Bridge isn’t good. I was one of those bikers riding over the bridge on Sunday — it was really crowded, and I spent most of the time worrying that I was going to hit a wayward tourist.

    I love riding over the bridge, but every time I do I’m amazed that I didn’t kill anyone. You can’t blame people for not realizing they’re straying over the line, or for being terrified when a bike whizzes by.

  • Hilary

    Since 9/11 they have effectively eliminated a lane on the bridge by positioning a police car on the Brooklyn Bridge. That’s a pretty long pilot to see if we could live with one less lane! Why not turn it over to bikes, and let the pedestrians have their own?

  • blap

    hey that is a great slogan….

    “one less lane”

    or

    “one less lane… for cars”

  • Jonathan

    Hilary, there are still three full traffic lanes in either direction on the Brooklyn Bridge. I doubt I’m revealing any grand homeland-security secrets by pointing out that the police usually park in the median between the Centre St entrance and the merging loop on the Brooklyn-bound side, and off to the right on the Manhattan-bound side.

    Yours is, however, a pretty good argument, I believe, for making a bike lane on the Verrazano, where continual construction takes one lower-level lane out of service (right now it’s on the Brooklyn-bound side). When construction is finished, one lane could be dedicated to HPV traffic during off-hours, with a shuttle bus during rush hours, like they used to do on the Queensboro Bridge. I would definitely like to see that as a trial program.

  • mork

    Hey people. If you’re riding on the BB, you just have to go slow and be mindful of others. If you expect to go up there in the evening rush hour and expect to go all gangbusters, well, then you’re just being a jerk.

    Also, re: landmark status. Why don’t they return it to its original streetcar-laden layout? That would be the most historically correct, and it would increase the capacity.

    (The peak year for Brooklyn Bridge crossings was 1907! See http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/preservation/tspfig5.cfm )

  • Hilary

    Jonathan – I’m quite sure that the police are often parked on the bridge, forcing a merge from 3 to two lanes.

  • Jonathan

    Hilary, Funny! I have driven across the bridge fairly frequently since 2001, both during rush hours and at off-peak times, and I’ve never seen the cops blocking an entire lane of traffic and forcing the three lanes in either direction to merge down to two. But I’ll take your word for it as perhaps your comments will discourage other people from driving that route.

  • Dave H.

    Does anyone have a study other than the 2004 SF study about the value of sharrows (i.e. effects on motorist and cyclist behavior)? Our local DOT-equivalent is claiming SF is too far away and “culturally different” for the data to be relevant. I am hoping someone can point me to one conducted in NY (but anywhere is fine).

  • bob bob

    i’m seeing many good points about separating the bike lane and the pedestrian walkway. but i am still very skeptical that it will help. i frequently use the manhattan bridge, and both, pedestrians and bikers, seem to have problem respecting each others designated lanes (bikes- north side, pedestrians-south). i don’t know if it’s because of them not knowing which one they belong on, or do they just ignore it because it’s closer and more convenient for them.
    either way i use the manhattan bridge as both pedestrian and a biker, both into and out of manhattan, and i would love if people could respect each other’s space.
    we need to work together, and not get in each others way especially where there is a great infrastructure provided for us.

  • anon

    Jonathan — I can confirm what Hillary says, the cops have regularly taken it down to two lanes in the Brooklyn bound direction. Not so sure how much they have done it recently, but it was a near nightly occurence a couple of years ago. That being said, I don’t think closing a lane is a workable alternative.

    As bob bob points out, the Manhattan bridge is really a much better alternative, as it is a lot less crowded and, even if pedestrians end up on the north side, they typically aren’t taking pictures, gawking, etc. so are easier to navigate aroound

  • flp

    as far as bridge crossings are concerned, my experience suggests that it would be helpful to have far more signage (on ground painted or otherwise) to remind folks who belongs where. i really think this would help especially on the BB as the one time visitors are pretty damn clueless! of course, cyclists crossing the BB should expect a less than smooth crossing. if ya wanna whiz… take manhattan!

  • Hilary

    Both the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge are major crossings that must be made to accommodate pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles. If the congestion of pedestrians and bicycles are causing conflicts (and impeding moblility) on the Brooklyn Bridge, and there is evidently spare capacity for vehicles, it is time to look at shifting a lane. Optimizing mobility is key. Are there figures for the number of people occupying the bridge vs. those in vehicles at a given time?

  • a.v.

    I both ride and drive over the Brooklyn bridge frequently and think it’s quite workable for everyone as is. I have not seen cops blocking traffic lanes in recent months as they did regularly a few years ago. I find that 98 percent of the pedestrians stay to their side, and as long as bikers who use the path are reasonable courteous, everyone keeps moving even during nice evenings. It’s a busy urban pathway — if everyone shares then everyone can enjoy.

    BTW, I hear construction on the approach ramps will begin soon. I suspect that will slow things down for the vehicles for several years.

  • Jonathan

    I just walked over the Brooklyn Bridge this afternoon and saw a scant 14 cyclists during my 10-minute stroll. Everyone was well behaved. On the roadway there was one Brooklyn-bound lane blocked off by DOT vehicles.

    Maybe on sunny weekend days the police can put up signs at the entrances to remind cyclists to go slowly and watch for pedestrians. That to me seems like a sensible, inexpensive way to help as many people as possible enjoy New York City’s best tourist attraction.

    On the subject of the peak year for Brooklyn Bridge crossings, bear in mind that 1907 was the year before the first subway to Brooklyn opened. Since then, they’ve built five subway tunnels between Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, which, unlike the old Brooklyn Bridge streetcars, offer through connections to distant parts of NYC. I presume that the aggregate number of subway passengers on those five tunnels is at least three times the 1907 totals for Brooklyn Bridge crossings.

  • Carl

    What’s missing from the above comments in regards to the bike lane/buffer on Park Row adjacent to City Hall is how dangerous it actually is to approach the Brooklyn Bridge entrance from the south on a bike. When riding up one has to squeeze between oncoming traffic (largely comprised of city buses) and parked cars with an additional danger of pedestrians walking on to the street to cross. Every day when I ride from the financial district to the BK Bridge entrance I fear for my life while riding on that short stretch.

  • http://picasaweb.google.com/data/feed/base/user/Bill.Orme?kind=album&alt=rss&hl=en_US

    For anyone wanting empirical proof, the above Picasa Public Gallery Link cointains an artless but pertinent collection of photos taken on random dates over the past year of the many varied official NYC vehicles blocking the Centre St. bike path between City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge. Aside from forcing the hundreds of bike riders using this route every day into the hazardous two-lane street with city buses and two-way Bridge traffic,this egregious, flagrant appropriation of a public bike path for free all-day parking by City Hall and Board of Ed functionaries makes a mockery of the Bloomberg Administration’s proclaimed commitments to 1) the promotion of biking as a safe urban transportation option and 2) ending of the notorious abuse of non-essentail parking privileges by city employees.

  • Steve

    Bill,

    I had a problem with the link; it wanted me to save a file. Can you check it out and re-send? Thanks.

  • Here’s an easier link:
    htttp://picasaweb.google.com/Bill.Orme

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