Eyes on the Street: Bike Contraflow Over the Gowanus

Union Street looking west at Nevins. The contraflow bike lane is separated from eastbound car traffic by a dashed double-yellow line. Photo: Keith Williams

Reader Keith Williams, who blogs at The Weekly Nabe, recently got a few shots of the brand new contraflow bike lane in progress on Union Street. This project will add a sorely needed westbound bike connection across the Gowanus Canal — part of a route that jogs from Degraw, down to Union, then back up to Sackett [PDF].

The contraflow lane on Union is notable for a few reasons.

One, it came out of Council Member Brad Lander’s 2012 participatory budgeting process. In the end it wasn’t paid for with Lander’s discretionary funds (other projects got more votes), but because Lander put out the call for ideas, it got NYC DOT’s attention. So, chalk one up for community-based planning.

Two, I believe this is a first for NYC — a contraflow bike lane separated from opposing traffic with a dashed double-yellow stripe. Other contraflow lanes, like the one on Union Square North, have more separation from traffic, but there’s not always enough room for that. Bike lanes like the new one on Union work in other cities and promise to make the city’s bike design toolkit more flexible.

Adding more contraflow lanes could help fill in some missing links in the bike network. A few years ago, for instance, Brooklyn Community Board 2 member Mike Epstein proposed a short contraflow segment to help bridge gaps in the bike network at the confluence of Flatbush, Third Avenue, and Lafayette Avenue.

You can catch more photos of the Union Street project at the Weekly Nabe.

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