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Bicycle Infrastructure

The Sands Street Shuffle

1:34 PM EDT on August 10, 2009

sands_street_entrance.jpgAn evening commuter enters the Sands Street bike path at Jay Street, after descending from the Manhattan Bridge.

Last month, the long-awaited Sands Street bike path officially opened, giving cyclists a much safer connection to the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge. From what I can tell so far, everyone loves the new protected space between Jay and Gold, which separates bike traffic from all the trucks and cars accelerating onto the BQE. If you bike over the bridge from Fort Greene or points east and south, it's a huge improvement. And once the Carlton Avenue Bridge reopens, this path should be an attractive approach to an even bigger swath of Brooklyn bike commuters.

We've received a few emails from readers who think the path would be safer with a few not-so-dramatic changes, and it will be interesting to see if DOT tweaks the Sands Street approach to address these concerns. One trouble spot: At the intersection where the Sands Street path meets the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge, cyclists have to cross against southbound traffic on Jay Street and eastbound traffic on Sands. Many are doing it in one fell swoop, making a diagonal movement that can be pretty dangerous.

Here's my attempt at a triptych showing what this looks like as a cyclist exits the bridge. The curb cut you see in the third frame is the entrance to the Sands Street protected path:

sands_street_triptych.jpg

Some readers might get on the cyclist's case here for crossing against one of the lights, but I think this behavior is going to be pretty common as long as cyclists are asked to wait through two signal phases and make two separate crossings.

Here's a short video clip where you can see a few other ways people are handling this condition (apologies for the amateurish camera-work). 


One step that might encourage safer crossings would be to add an exclusive bike/pedestrian phase at this intersection. Another would be to cut a hole in that black fence on the bridge side of the street and install a direct crosswalk, giving cyclists a straight shot between the two paths. We have a query in with DOT to see if some tweaks might be on the table.

Another question is whether the block between Gold and Navy Street is adequately protected and delineated as space for bike traffic.

sands_gold.jpgPhoto: brooklynbybike/Flickr.

The bike lanes here are raised slightly above the level of car traffic and set off with a painted buffer. A fence was originally planned to separate bike traffic, but that would have formed a block-long barrier for pedestrians between sections of Farragut Houses. One proposed alternative -- bollards -- hasn't made it into the built project. I'd say the jury is still out on this one, but a coat of green paint might provide some additional reassurance for cyclists.

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