DOT Drops Buffer From Bronx Bike Lanes Under Vision Zero Safety Plan

Think buffered bike lanes are a stepping stone to protected paths? Not on Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, where DOT is proposing to remove buffers and add turn lanes. Image: DOT [PDF]
On Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, DOT is proposing to remove bike lane buffers and add turn lanes. Image: DOT [PDF]
DOT is downgrading buffered bike lanes as part of a street safety project on 1.3 miles of Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, a Vision Zero priority corridor. While the street appears to have enough room for protected bike lanes while maintaining the current motor vehicle lanes, DOT instead opted to narrow the bike lanes, remove the buffers, and devote space to a center median and left turn lanes.

The project [PDF] also redesigns two intersections to provide more space for pedestrians and slow down turning drivers. At Rev. James A. Polite Avenue, DOT is closing a “slip lane” that drivers use as a shortcut to avoid the traffic signal at 167th Street. The change will add three parking spaces. DOT is also installing painted curb extensions at Avenue St. John and Dawson Street.

Prospect Avenue (in purple) is a Vision Zero priority corridor. Image: DOT
Prospect Avenue (in purple) is a Vision Zero priority corridor. Image: DOT

The biggest changes, however, are for Prospect Avenue itself, where DOT is removing painted buffers from the street’s bike lanes to make room for a striped median and left-turn lanes. Concrete pedestrian islands will be installed at 152nd, 155th, 162nd, 165th, and Jennings streets.

In its presentation, DOT says that “existing buffered bike lanes encourage double parking” and that removing buffers “improves bike lane design” by making the lane “less susceptible to double parking.” Drivers also often use the bike lane to pass turning vehicles on the right, DOT said.

DOT has already made similar changes to a short section of Prospect Avenue, between Freeman Street and Boston Road, after a repaving project last summer.

Streetsblog asked DOT if it collected before-and-after data to see if removing bike lane buffers on Prospect Avenue has actually reduced double-parking. We also asked if the agency considered upgrading the buffered bike lanes to protected lanes, which could also have included pedestrian islands, instead of removing the buffers, but the agency did not reply to those questions.

From Jennings Street to E. 149th Street, there were 16 serious injuries, including 12 pedestrians and four motor vehicle occupants, between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT. During that period, one person, a motor vehicle occupant, died in a crash on Prospect Avenue. Six bicyclists were injured, none seriously.

Slightly more than half of pedestrian crashes involved a driver failing to yield, nearly 60 percent higher than the Bronx average, according to DOT. A third of all motor vehicle crashes were rear-end collisions, also higher than the borough-wide average.

At the Bronx Community Board 2 economic development committee meeting last Wednesday where DOT presented its changes, board members did not discuss the removal of the bike lane buffer or its impact on double parking, said committee chair Maria Torres.

“Really, there wasn’t any opposition,” Torres said. “I think everybody understood what they were going at with these changes, and it made sense.” The committee unanimously supported the plan, which now goes before the CB 2 full board on June 24. DOT says the project, which may or may not include a street resurfacing, will be implemented in August.

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