DOT Proposes Striping Adjustments for Manhattan Bridge Bike Approach

For now, this is as good as it's going to get for cyclists who approach the Manhattan Bridge via Jay Street. Image: ##

To make biking between Brooklyn and Manhattan safer and more appealing, one thing that needs to be addressed is access to the Manhattan Bridge from downtown Brooklyn. With the high volume of traffic between the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and local streets, the area can be both dangerous and confusing, especially if you haven’t biked these streets before.

A new proposal from DOT [PDF] to improve bike access along Jay Street and connecting streets will offer minor improvements. The incremental steps received a unanimous 7-0 vote, with one abstention, from Brooklyn Community Board 2’s transportation committee last Tuesday evening.

Tillary Street, on the block between Adams and Jay Streets, saw 15 severe injuries (eight of which were pedestrians or cyclists), as well as one pedestrian fatality, from 2006 to 2010 — a higher injury rate than 90 percent of Brooklyn streets. That earned it a “high crash corridor” designation from DOT.

Although the long-term plan [PDF] for this block involves a two-way protected bike path on the north side of the street, similar to the existing configuration on Adams Street between the Brooklyn Bridge entrance and Cadman Plaza West, the proposal that received a supportive vote on Tuesday is less ambitious. It would stripe a five-foot wide bike lane on eastbound Tillary Street to complement the existing westbound striped lane. General travel lanes would be narrowed, but the eastbound side of the street would retain three moving lanes plus a left-turn lane.

On Jay Street itself, the existing southbound striped bike lane would be joined by a northbound counterpart, matching the configuration on Jay Street south of Tillary. This section of Jay Street currently has a lot of double-parking, and some bike advocates are concerned that the new bike lane would simply be occupied with parked cars. According to reader Ian Dutton, at Tuesday’s meeting committee chair Hemalee Patel noted that many of the cars parked on Jay Street use government placards, and that the existing parking set-up was not serving community needs. DOT staff said they would examine the curb regulations on Jay Street.

As Jay Street approaches Sands Street, northbound cyclists will continue to negotiate traffic entering Jay Street from a downhill ramp off the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. DOT’s proposal reconfigures the striping to lead cyclists across the ramp traffic, as opposed to leading them to merge with it. Northbound Jay Street will also have a new six-foot wide green bike lane as it approaches Sands Street. Space for the northbound lane will be created by eliminating the buffer for the southbound lane.

The DOT proposal also calls for shared lane markings and other small adjustments to help cyclists navigate blocks near the bridge on Prospect Street and on Sands Street between Pearl and Adams Streets.

“The stripes themselves on the street are going to be fairly minor,” Dutton said. Noting the unanimous vote, he said that it was a positive sign that the committee is aware of bike safety needs in the area and could be supportive of projects that go farther than this one.

The proposal is expected to be receive a vote at CB 2’s next full board meeting on May 8 before being implemented by DOT.

  • Peter

    Yikes, the prospect of crossing the bridge offramp without any form of traffic control or signals? Terrifying.

    Why not make the south side of Jay Street a two-way protected run to Tillary? Not ideal, but it has to be safer. Traffic heading east on Jay is pretty light, especially compared to what’s happening coming off the bridge.

  • J

    With no opposition to this proposal, you’d think DOT could be a little more bold and actually design something that, say, doesn’t involved cyclists crossing a major bridge exit ramp.

    I wonder where we could find an example of good design that allows cyclists to avoid crossing on & off ramps… oh yes, Sands St! It’s like, right around the corner. Guess who was commissioner for that project? Good old Iris Weinshall.
    Weinshall Manhattan Bridge approach: World-class.
    Sadik-Khan Manhattan Bridge approach: fair-to-middling

    Have we entered the twilight zone?

  • Great but why does the NYCDOT insist on excessively wide 11ft lanes? Bike advocates should push for widening the bike lanes. Even if you just shave off a foot from the center lane and half a foot from the outer lanes you suddenly have enough space for 7ft wide bike lanes which are better than 6ft bike lanes.

  • Daphna

    This would be a nice improvement. Right now it is nearly impossible to bike northbound on Jay Street to the Manhattan bridge. But they could have done better. There is no need to 11′ wide travel lanes. Those lanes could be 10′. Then with the extra 3′ from the appropriately narrow 10′ lanes, there could have at least been a small 1.5″ buffer on the side of each bike lane.

    I also like the suggestion from Peter to do something more bold. The DOT could have put a two-way protected lane on Jay Street similar to what is on Flushing.

    At any rate, I am glad the Transportation Committee of Brooklyn Community Board 2 approved this. I hope the full Board approves it on May 8th. I hope it gets installed in 2013 while Bloomberg is still in office. I think we must grab for all infrastructure improvements that the DOT is offering and get them installed while Bloomberg is still in office.

  • I’ve given up using the useless bike lane on Jay St. There is absolutely zero enforcement so it’s constantly blocked by cars — often police cruisers. The traffic around there is deadly and there are hoards of people crossing the street against the light. Sorry, but this won’t help a bit unless they install protected lanes. I use Clinton to get up the bridges in Brooklyn now. It adds time to my ride, but is infinitely safer and well worth it.

  • Severely Disappointing. One of the more lackluster projects I’ve seen presented in a long time. This feels like a dusted off version of plans conceived before the DOT toolkit had anything more than paint in it. A tractor trailer coming off a downhill ramp on a curve is not going to easily slow down, or even expect to see cyclists crossing their lane. Will there at least be signage for drivers on that ramp to alert them of the mixing zone? If not… this project is pretty worthless. Its crash data only uses numbers through 2010, yet cycling has boomed since and the number of near collisions on a daily basis is terrifying. Take 5 minutes of rush hour video and you’ll see extremely scary conditions that I can’t see being alleviated by this design.

    Also, it still does nothing to address the lack of pedestrian approaches to the pedestrian pathway on the bridge a problem DOT has known about for years. C’mon, you can do so much better!

  • Ben Kintisch

    Agreed with Mr. Paco. What he said.

  • Hilda

    I avoid Jay Street at all cost. Instead of going up Jay, I almost always go up Adams, and take the small path parallel to the Brooklyn Bridge and then come out perpendicular to the entrance to the bike lane.

    This lane, entire street actually, is completely potholed, and is typically used by people that drive into the city and either park on the street, or in the lot at the corner. It is much calmer than Jay, but is it ever going to have the potholes filled?

    I come up Smith, and turn left onto Schemerhorn, rather than staying on Smith-Jay Street, to get to Adams.

  • There’s enough space for a narrow bi directional bike path. I believe NACTO says a 3ft minimum is required for buffers so if we maintain my proposal from my previous comment then bikes have 14 feet of space to work– minus the 3 ft for the buffer and then you have 11ft to accommodate a bidirectional bike path. So the layout would be like this | S Turning lane 10.5ft | S Travel lane 10ft | N Travel lane 10.5ft | 3ft buffer | 11ft bidirectional bike path.

  • In reality those travel lanes could all be 10ft wide so there could potentially be a 12ft wide bidrectional bike path if you add an extra foot by narrowing the two 10.5ft wide lanes.

  • moocow

    I can’t remember why the two direction path on the west side of Jay couldn’t be done, it was asked about and the DoT guys knew it was better, for some reason it wasn’t feasible yet. The length of Jay street is to be repaved from Sands to Fulton, it seems like now would be a great time to repaint a two way path.
    The Chair also said in relation to the parking on Jay, that it should not be used for commuter parking, considering the curbside space demands.

  • The two way path on the west side doesn’t work perhaps because south of Tillary, the north bound lane is on the East side of the street. This would force riders to cut diagonally across Tillary/Jay which is a massive and dangerous intersection.

    However, you could push it up a block to cathedral place, or chapel place, and since there’s so little traffic north of tillary it may not be all too different from the crossing to Flushing avenue’s two way protected path that only begins at Washington Avenue. Or…. keep it at Tillary/Jay and give that area the Barnes dance it deserves which is a benefit to all peds too.

    I also don’t see why they couldn’t close the bridge’s ramp exit and instead use the rarely used Concord Street exit instead that would signalize exiting trucks and cars and bring them perpendicular to Jay street. It adds .2 miles to the turn which is plenty of room for traffic to spread out and not get backed up while some get stuck at a light. Happy to add 1 minute to everyone’s trips if it saves many lives.

  • Anonymous

    Also – on Sands Street, this is the best the DOT can do?! 58′ of pavement, no markings, and they give us a 28′ foot travel lane with sharrows? It’s like they’re not even trying anymore.

  • moocow

    They gave a reason and that may have been it, (Eric or Ian can you remember?) but I agree with your reasoning, we could get around those problems and still have the much safer 2 way protected lane. If there ever was a place in the city, THAT’S THE PLACE. I rode the stretch today, the pot holes are show stoppers for someone who has a momentary distraction, and there are many stimuli to legitimately distract a cyclist there.

    And to be a stuck record:

    84 Precinct, you are not doing your job, make Jay St safer by simply enforcing some traffic laws, any of them….


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