Eyes on the Street: Bike Lane Stripes on Washington Avenue

The view south on Washington Avenue at Prospect Place. Photos: Ben Fried

It looks like DOT is exercising its option to stripe a bike lane on Washington Avenue, imposing some order on street markings from Eastern Parkway to Atlantic Avenue. Previously it wasn’t really clear whether this part of Washington was one traffic lane or two traffic lanes in each direction, leading to a lot of double-parking, dodging, weaving and speeding. Now it’s official: Washington Avenue is one lane in each direction with left-turn bays and a marked bike route (some of which is sharrows). I could be wrong, but this bike lane might be NYC’s first new route in 2011, which is shaping up to be a slower year for bike network expansion compared to the previous three years.

The bike route was described as “optional” in DOT’s presentation on the project, which Brooklyn Community Board 8 approved in April. The safety improvements on Washington include new pedestrian infrastructure for the five-point intersections at Atlantic Avenue and at Park Place. Local residents, led by architect Jeff Sherman, had gathered hundreds of signatures asking for pedestrian improvements at Atlantic.

The expanded sidewalks at the intersection of Washington, Park, and Grand Avenue will, one hopes, permanently discourage police from depositing their vehicles in the pedestrian right of way. (Full disclosure: I cross this intersection just about every day.) Crews have been carving up the asphalt there for the past two days, holding the sidewalk parkers at bay for the time being, at least at the corner marked off with construction barrels.

  • Anonymous

    Following up on the Adams Street post of last week, preliminary markers have been laid out for a class two bike lane next to the right hand parking lane with moving traffic in the left most lane of the service road. Still a risk of double parking in the bike lane or cars stopping along the left curb forcing moving traffic into the bike lane, but overall it has got to be a big improvement over the totally unenforced previous configuration.

  • J

    I have to say that it appears that DOT has eliminated nearly all bike projects from the schedule this year. Washington Ave and 1st/2nd Aves are the two exceptions. The Lafayette lane was scuttled, the Grand Army Plaza lanes were postponed until sometime in the future, the Macombs Dam Road project left space for bike lanes but didn’t stripe them, the 1st/2nd ave lanes in East Harlem aren’t happening, and Columbus Ave isn’t being extended. It appears that this must have been a directive from higher up. Anyone have an inside scoop?

  • Chris

    Why didn’t they put the bike lanes curbside and make the parking lane floating?

  • J

    I dont think the street is wide enough for a cycle track.You basically need 3 extra feet of space on each side to put in a cycle track as opposed to a regular bike lane. Also, it takes much more political capital to put in a cycle track, since you have to remove parking at intersections where cars turn across the bike lane. This is a good start, though.

    Begin nerdy design talk: There is currently about a 50 foot curb-curb space. There needs to be two 8-foot parking lanes (16feet) + two 11-foot travel lanes (22 feet), which leaves 12 feet left over. Cycle tracks require a minimum of eight feet of space while regular bike lanes require only 5 feet of space. To put in two cycle tracks, you’d need at least 2 extra feet of total space. There are other concerns as well, such as car capacity, which the current proposal handles via turn lanes, where needed. In these areas, the bike lane drops to sharrows. At this point, I don’t think DOT is willing to put in a project that causes significant congestion for cars. They are willing to make things slightly worse for cars, but not much.

  • J

    I hope they put in bollards on the sidewalk adjacent to the police station. Since the police are unwilling to follow the law against parking on the sidewalk, they must be physically prevented from doing so.

  • dporpentine

    After seeing this story, I took Washington home instead of Vanderbilt. What an improvement! Biking up it was faster and it felt a lot safer. Sane drivers should like it better too, since they don’t have to worry about the crank who’s driving a few inches away from them in the pseudo-second lane and who’ll need to shove their way in when the lane gets too tight.

    But for some reason drivers forget all their problems with other drivers the moment a bike enters the picture–so I suppose we should get ready for Tales of Pedestrian Slaughter and the Horrors of Looking Both Ways.

  • Anonymous

    Not a promising first day with new paint on Adams Street. Too many police vehicles to count parked in no standing zone forcing moving traffic into newly striped bike lane. AAAAAAAAARRRGGGG.

  • Anonymous

    I still cannot figure out how one is meant to get around GAP from Vanderbilt to the PPW lane.  The other way seems possible via the little cycle track across from the park entrance, but southbound is a mess that involves playing frogger across multiple lanes of high speed cris-crossing traffic at the south end of the circle.  I can only imagine how many more people would use the lanes if they were actually connected.

  • Anonymous

    I usually cross from the Plaza Street bike lane to the right hand side of East-bound Union Street when they both have a red signal (watching for cars coming onto Union from GAP) and then cross PPW to the bike lane at the stop sign for right turning vehicles. Though not strictly legal, it seem the safest way to go. The alternative is to stay left and cross to the left side of the lanes leading to PPW, then wait on the zebra stripes for the green light onto PPW and cross to  the left of traffic heading onto the PPW. I think the new design will make this second option official with a bike lane extension.

  • @station44025:disqus Yeah it’s a mess. Basically the only safe thing to do is to go against traffic on Plaza St E and enter the park through where you’re supposed to exit. 

  • Ryan

    Glad to see they’re not slowing down…we’ll see what backlash this brings.

  • Eliz

    I was really excited about this when I saw the lanes a couple days ago (I live at Washington Ave. and Pacific and am an avid cyclist).  However, today around 5pm I realized that this is an extremely dangerous situation and more than likely someone is going to get killed or injured going south on Washington.  Traffic coming south from Atlantic Ave. is in two lanes and at around Dean they realize they have to funnel down into one lane. This causes backups all the way back to Atlantic.  The results are threefold:

    1. Drivers just drive in the bike lane as if it isn’t there.

    2. Drivers try to pull quick passing moves in the bike lane. This happened to me and I had to yell milliseconds before I was about to be pinned against a parked car. Thankfully the driver heard me and stopped.

    3. It increases driver aggression toward bicyclists and the bike lane movement, even subconsciously.  Drivers are sitting in traffic at this merge and see bicyclists whizzing by, thereby placing their frustation on the bike lane’s presence, and thereby bicyclists. The merge needs to happen before the lane starts.

    I know there is traffic calming construction going on at Atlantic and Washington to ease the crossing situation, and I hope that the lanes will be brought down to one BEFORE Bergen or Dean as it stands now. 

    As for bicyclists going south on Washington, BE CAREFUL! 

  • Info

    Nothing will improve until the DOT and Bloomberg does something about the lawless scumbags that are the NYPD. The NYC bike program will be an utter failure without propper adhereance and enforcement.

  • Info

    Nothing will improve until the DOT and Bloomberg does something about the lawless scumbags that are the NYPD. The NYC bike program will be an utter failure without propper adhereance and enforcement.

  • eliz

    Good news! I called 311 a week or so back and they actually got the DOT to adjust the street paint so Washington Ave. stays one lane from Atlantic to Dean. They moved the middle yellow lines and designated parking areas. In the northbound lane, they also painted lines to show the divergence into two lanes. Can’t believe it worked!


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