Safer Bowery, LES Bike Lanes Clear Manhattan CB3 Committee

LES_bike_routes.jpgNew bike routes will provide safer connections on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, in an attempt to divert cyclists from Delancey Street. Image: NYCDOT

NYCDOT unveiled a slate of pedestrian and bicycle improvements to the transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 3 last night. Presenters asked for votes on two street safety projects: the construction of a planted center median on the Bowery between Canal and Division streets, and the addition of new curbside bike routes to improve connections to the Williamsburg Bridge.

Despite a few moments of crankiness from one member ("I can’t in good conscience vote for any more bicycle lanes"), the committee approved resolutions in favor of both measures.

The new bike routes on Suffolk, Stanton, and Rivington streets would complement improvements built last year, which extended the Williamsburg Bridge approach to Suffolk. Slated for implementation in May, the painted, curbside lanes are intended fill in key east-west connections north of where Delancey Street feeds into the bridge path.

The changes are important because Delancey remains extremely dangerous even as biking on the Williamsburg Bridge increases rapidly.

This January, 74-year-old Fuen Bai was killed by a school bus driver while riding in the no-man’s-land between the bridge and Allen Street. Every year, traffic injures dozens of pedestrians and cyclists on the corridor, according to CrashStat. Meanwhile, DOT bike counts indicate that cycling on the bridge has quadrupled since 2004. Despite all the people biking over the bridge, the tantalizing proximity of the Allen Street bike path, and the dismal safety record of Delancey Street, the new plan does not address Delancey itself.

DOT’s strategy is to divert Williamsburg Bridge bike traffic to calmer, safer side streets. "One of the issues is that people don’t know about the alternatives," Bicycle Program Coordinator Josh Benson told the audience last night. "When you get out there and try this route, it’s gonna make sense. It will change people’s behavior." DOT has no plans to add bike infrastructure to Delancey, he said.

Ian Dutton, a member of neighboring Community Board 2, noted at the meeting that a similar strategy on the other side of town has helped direct cyclists to side streets like Bleecker and Prince instead of the Houston Street traffic sewer. Still, he said, the proposal amounts to a tacit admission that Delancey Street is supposed to function like a highway.

Delancey Street "is obviously the most dangerous corridor in that part of the neighborhood," said Transportation Alternatives’ Wiley Norvell. "We can’t continue to skirt it in its entirely. It’s time to give it the attention it deserves."

The CB 3 committee also approved a plan to build a raised, planted median on the Bowery between the Manhattan Bridge and Division Street. The project would reallocate some space from moving and parking lanes to create safer pedestrian crossings on some of the most hellish blocks in Manhattan, where crossing distances currently exceed 80 feet.


  • I hate these types of plans. As one who just moved away from Bed-Stuy, I am all too tempted to read this with the word “Delancey St” replaced with “Bedford Ave,” and “Stanton St” replaced with “Kent Ave.”

    Why don’t they just stop beating around the bush and call these types of bike lanes “Separate but Equal Lanes”?

  • It was a mistake to configure the Manhattan entrance to the bike lane in the middle of the automobile lanes. Still, on the lemons-from-lemonade principle, I would like to see an Allen-St type lane along the center of Delancey that would go as far west as Lafayette Street.

  • The other major proposal that CB3’s transportation committee heard – and approved – in their marathon session last night was the SBS proposal for First and Second Aves., and then continuing south of Houston St.

    Taken altogether, this CB3 committee last night probably approved more lane-miles of bike facilities, much of it Class I, than any other community board committee has considered in one session – at least in recent memory. The linkages that will result will dramatically improve cycle connections throughout the east side. Kudos to the committee and DOT.

    For any DOT’ers reading this far down, we’ll really be watching for follow-up on my comments regarding Bowery, since the effect of portions of these changes is to funnel increasing cycle traffic to this unfriendly street.

  • Colin

    As a cyclist who regularly uses this corridor to get from the Williamsburg Bridge to Broadway and Prince, there really isn’t any better option street-wise than to use Delancy. There is no other west-bound street south of Houston that connects directly to points west of Bowery. Cyclists who are shunted onto Rivington will have to cross Sarah Roosevelt Park between Forsyth and Christie, which is unsafe for a myriad of reasons. Then, to get to the Prince St. bike lane, there is a dangerous dog-leg turn across Bowery which puts the cyclist in the position of having to make a left-hand turn across a divided 6-lane street (highway) with no turning lane. If that is the ‘alternative’ that Josh Benson mentions above, then it certainly doesn’t make sense to me! Unless those two points are addressed by the new plan (which is certainly not evident in the map above) then I would much rather continue to ride on Delancy, bike lane or not!

  • Agree with Colin. As someone who lives west of the Bowery, north of Houston, I’m not entirely clear how I should (legally) get to Stanton, much less from Stanton to the Willy B without a map. I’ve done the Clinton Rivington route coming back, but it always involves cutting through Sarah Roosevelt Park, as Colin says, plus a block of either riding against traffic or on the sidewalk just to get to Bowery.

    The only other option seems to be taking Clinton up to the dreaded Houston Street and then turning south on a heavily trafficked Bowery to reach Prince. Of course once you’ve done all that, why not just stay on Houston and skip the Prince Street bike lane entirely?

  • Mike

    Colin: What’s so unsafe about crossing Sarah Roosevelt Park? I do it all the time.

    Stacy: Try 2nd Ave to Chrystie to Stanton (through S.R. Park). I did it the other day and it was super smooth and low traffic.

    The turn from Bowery to Prince isn’t so terrible as long as you do it on a red light for Bowery traffic.

  • Mike

    p.s. see page 8 of — the pathways in SDR Park are being designated as open to bikes as part of this project.

  • MIke, 2nd Ave to Chrystie to Stanton is still a bit convoluted from the West Side because the Bleecker Street bike lane doesn’t go to Second Avenue. Cyclists have to turn north at Bowery, to Second Street and then turn south on Second Avenue. Sure it can be done but it’s certainly not an obvious route. And, the intersection of Houston, Christie and Second Avenue is just as bad as Delancey and Bowery.

    I’ve been thinking that Grand Street to Clinton, and then north on Clinton to Delancey might be a safe alternative. I’ve noticed cyclists approaching the Willy B from the south but I haven’t actually tried this route.

  • Edward
  • Mike

    Stacy, you could take E. 4th St to 2nd Ave.

    Yes, Grand to Clinton is a very viable alternative as well. It’s a little dicey crossing Chrystie but otherwise OK.

  • AlexB

    People bike to work for a variety of reasons. One of them is speed. I think this has been touched on by a number of other commenters, but Rivington and Stanton are just not very fast. I used to live in Williamsburg and would always use Delancey because the cars average about 20 mph and so did I and the lights were timed for this. I could get over to the Lafayette bike line five minutes faster than if I cut over to Rivington. Rivington is narrow, there are a lot of double parked cars, cars moving 5 mph, pedestrians in the middle of the street, etc.

  • Edward

    style over speed baby

  • Alex, what you say about Rivington and Stanton is true in my experience, but only during prime clubbing times. On most weeknights when commuters are out in force, Rivington and Stanton are a dream: very low traffic, parking only on one side, no pedestrians in the street, limited cross traffic (except on Essex).

  • david

    I live in the area. In general I don’t trust bike lanes (well I don’t trust cars ) I like the new one on Allen, I love the on on Forsyth st. I’m imagining they are eliminating parking on Rivington (1 side) to create these new lanes? I like riding south on Delancey on Broome to go west (against traffic at times) Fast and Safe don’t really go together.

    What I’d Like to see is a bike lane in the center medium of Delancy but I understand that would not work so well with all the turning of cars.

  • NattyB

    I live on Stanton so I guess this is nice. But Stanton isn’t one of those dangerous streets that needs a bike lane. It’s slow and easy as $hit.

    That said, they totally need, as others have said, an Allen Street style bike lane for Delancy from the WMB to Lafayette. They just dump all these bikers into the middle of a 10 lane highway.

    My commute takes me so that I can either cross Delancey, or go a few blocks out of the way, and go under the WMB. I almost always go the extra blocks so as to avoid crossing Delancy and going under the WMB because that $hit is dangerous as f-ck. I pray for you guys who have to take the WMB and ride on Delancy every day. Good luck with that.

  • Agreed, the proposed plan is seriously wrong.

  • Mike,
    Yes East Fourth Street is another option but Second Street actually has a bike lane. Either way, people tend to resist going north when their ultimate destination is south.

    That said, a protected bike route that runs the length of Delancey would seem to be the most obvious choice; not only for people who don’t live in the area but for residents who might want to do some of the same things that draws so many others to Delancey Street. Better yet, extend this route along Kenmare, to Lafayette Street where it can hook up with the Lafayette Street Bike Lane and it begins to look like a genuine bicycle network.

  • Mike

    Stacy, don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see an Allen-style path on Delancey. But let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good here. Suffolk Street is a terrific way to approach the bridge, and the connections on Stanton and Rivington improve things for a whole lot of people coming from and going to a whole lot of places. Sure, they may not be helpful if you happen to be coming from the west side of Broadway between 2nd and 4th streets, but I think they will be an improvement for a large fraction of bridge users. Should we keep advocating for a Delancey Street median cycle track? Hell yes! But that’s not happening this year, and may not happen at all without significant reductions in bridge traffic caused by tolls or congestion pricing.

  • Mike, you can try to minimize my point by saying these changes “may not be helpful if you happen to be coming from the west side of Broadway between 2nd and 4th streets,” (actually there is no Broadway between 2nd and 4th Streets) but my point is, these changes aren’t easily or obviously accessible from the Bleecker Street bike lane which is an extension of the Ninth Avenue Bike lane and a major leg in Manhattan’s bicycle Network. These changes don’t really seem to lead anywhere other than the WIlly-B and do little to improve the overall safety on Delancey Street.

    Sure Suffolk Street could be a terrific way to approach the bridge if it connected to something like a Houston Street bike lane.

  • “these changes aren’t easily or obviously accessible from the Bleecker Street bike lane…”

    Stacy, Bleecker Street eastbound ends at Bowery. There is good signage pointing eastbound cyclists to dogleg a half-block north on Bowery and continue east on East 2nd St. At Second Avenue, there is a bike lane on the right side of the street as well as the left side, so that downtown-turning cyclists don’t have to cross Second Avenue.

    At the intersection of Second Avenue and Houston, cyclists in that right-hand lane can continue straight across onto Chrystie Street. From there, they can go downtown to Canal Street for the Manhattan Bridge or to Grand Street for the Williamsburg Bridge. With this new plan, they will be able to make a left turn onto Stanton as well, then follow to Suffolk and onto the bridge approach.

    Originating at the Willy-B, going west, take Clinton to Rivington. Then there’s a half-block northbound on Bowery with no lane to Prince Street (with lane). Prince Street gets you to the uptown lane on Lafayette St (which goes as far as 13th St) or to the uptown lane on Hudson St (which runs into the Eighth Avenue lane, and goes either to Christopher Street’s westbound bike lane to the Greenway, or all the way to West 57th St.

  • My point exactly. Neither easy nor obvious.

  • Mitch

    Cyclists shouldn’t settle for anything less than continuing straight down Delancey St off of the bridge and I don’t think they will either, no matter how many bikes lanes are painted on adjacent streets. Cyclists have been left to their own devices to get off the Williamsburg Bridge for years, coming along now and putting down a strip of green paint on Rivington Street or whatever won’t change much. This is a crossing that is crying out for a bolder solution.

  • With all of the talk going on about the Manhattan-side, I have to wonder: Am I the only person crossing the bridge to Brooklyn with the intention of continuing East on Grand St? Ever think of how that whole E 4th St – Havemeyer St Intersection of Death could be ameliorated with roughly two blocks of a contraflow lane?

    Why is there so much resistance to contraflow lanes? I feel like we go about the whole bike infrastructure thing the exact opposite of how true world-class cycling cities do so. In our European counterpart cities, it is possible to ride a bicycle in both directions on 99% of the thoroughfares, and automobiles are only allowed to use a subset of the infrastructure. Here, we seem to take the position of making sure all of the infrastructure caters to autos, but only a subset of it can cater to bicycles.

    I guess this wraps back around to the whole Delancey St issue. In a true world-class cycling city, streets like Stanton and Rivington would not have auto traffic at all, and safe accommodations for bikes and autos would be made on Delancey. Not here. Delancey does not accommodate bikes at all, and Rivington and Stanton try to accommodate both side-by-side.

    What the hell happened to this country? We used to be the most innovative people in the world! Now we just half-ass good ideas from other countries from thirty years ago!

  • david

    So is the plan to remove parking on Rivington and Stanton to have a bike lane?

    Delancey is such a major traffic route for cars, I’m not sure how they would add bike lanes to it. Houston should have a lane at least east of bowery, plenty of real estate there.

  • Woody

    The illustration above of the re-striped Bowery shows three lanes of traffic heading uptown and two lanes heading downtown. Why is that? And why not cut back to two lanes each way?

    Take away the 11-foot space of one uptown lane. Add about three feet to the sidewalks on each side, and add four feet to the planted median.

    Nobody dares to talk about widening sidewalks or what?


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