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DOT Passes on Protected Bike Lanes for Tribeca, Gets CB Committee Support

1:59 PM EDT on July 12, 2013

With the exception of the Hudson River Greenway, routes between Tribeca and Greenwich Village can hardly be described as bike-friendly. Cyclists must compete with gridlock near Canal Street and the Holland Tunnel, while wide north-south arteries like Varick Street and Sixth Avenue are daunting roads. DOT is proposing a mix of upgrades between Warren Street and Washington Square, including buffered bike lanes and shared lanes -- but nothing that would physically protect cyclists from the often-heavy traffic in this area. The plan received a 6-5 supportive vote from Community Board 1's Tribeca committee Wednesday night.

The route winds its way through the Village, Soho, and Tribeca [PDF]. Starting from the north, Washington Square would receive curbside green bike lanes on its east and south sides, and shared lane markings on the two-way section of Washington Square North.

West Broadway and LaGuardia Place would receive shared lane markings from Sixth Avenue to W. Third Street. Where LaGuardia Place widens slightly for one block between W. Third and Washington Square South, DOT is proposing bike lanes.

Cyclists on West Broadway looking to continue southbound would be directed to Varick via Broome Street, which would receive a green striped bike lane along the southern curb. However, for the block between Thompson Street and Sixth Avenue, DOT is proposing to add on-street parking along the south side of the street and install sharrows instead of a lane. From Sixth Avenue to Varick Street, Broome Street widens; the street would have curbside parking on both sides and an adjacent bike lane.

The agency is proposing even less for Varick Street, which is often full of traffic bound for the Holland Tunnel and Canal Street. Varick would receive shared lane markings in the leftmost lane from Watts Street to Beach Street, and for the single block between Broome and Watts, Varick would only receive bike route signage.

DOT proposed routing cyclists onto the sidewalk on the east side of Varick at Albert Capsouto Park, to avoid one block of rough cobblestone surface between Canal and Laight Streets. The sidewalk, which is not heavily used, would receive stencils like the ones through City Hall Park, but CB 1 committee members strongly objected to the concept. The resolution supporting the proposal included a request that DOT examine alternatives to the sidewalk route at Albert Capsouto Park, which DOT says it will reconsider.

Below Canal, DOT is proposing buffered bike lanes. Southbound, a left-side buffered lane is planned for West Broadway from Beach Street to Warren Street, while northbound Church Street and Sixth Avenue would receive a right-side buffered lane from Warren Street to White Street.

DOT says these sections of Church Street and Sixth Avenue, which would have three motor vehicle lanes both before and after reconfiguration, are 60 feet wide. This is the same width and lane count as Columbus Avenue, which has a protected bike lane that's set to expand this year. Streetsblog asked DOT why it did not propose a protected lane for cyclists in Tribeca. We'll let you know if we hear anything back.

Update: DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera says the agency did consider a protected bike lane on Church Avenue, but rejected it because local buses stop on the right-hand side of the street. A lane on the left side was also rejected because it would have required cyclists to cross multiple lanes to connect with the northbound route on West Broadway, and would have also interfered with a curbside bus-only rush hour lane. "Traffic volumes here are much higher than on Columbus Avenue with exponentially more bus traffic," Mosquera said via e-mail. "The resulting traffic impacts would make the street as unpleasant for cyclists as it would be for drivers."

The issue now moves to CB 1's full board, which meets July 30. Given the close vote, protected lanes may have been a street safety step too far for the committee to consider. Charles Komanoff, who attended the CB 2 meeting, described many of the committee members as "reactionary," adding that he wasn't sure the resolution would have passed without the proviso opposing the one-block sidewalk route.

CB 2's transportation committee, which covers the area north of Canal, also had the project on its agenda Wednesday night. Streetsblog has a request in with the community board about whether a resolution was passed on Wednesday, but has not received a response.

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