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.

  • How does this reconcile with what they did on 8th Street in Manhattan, at all?

  • I’m beginning to wonder what’s going on at DoT. Is there some kind of concerted movement by the pre-Janette Sadik-Khan people to reassert control and put a stop to what some of them no doubt regard as the craziness of trying to encourage cycling? There is undoubtedly a big – and unacknowledged – policy shift under way.

  • Vision a few cyclists

    When it comes to bikes, Polly Trottenberg never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

  • Bahij

    Yeah we need a more open dialogue with DOT, and an explanation for all these recent downgrades. They’re alienating some of their strongest advocates.

  • J

    Well said. This is proving itself to be a DOT that truly ignores bicycling as a mode of transportation.

  • J

    We’re the #1 bicycle city in the US. Nothing more needs to be done, right?

  • People keep saying things like this but I wonder whether it’s still the right way to look at it. I don’t think a DoT that’s consistently removing bike lanes, downgrading good lanes into worse ones and failing to keep lanes painted necessarily regards cycling advocates as allies. I should think people who devise schemes like this regard cycling advocates as annoying scolds, without whom they could give up the pretense of trying to cater for bikes altogether.

  • AnoNYC

    This would have been a great stretch for parking protected lanes and pedestrian islands. What a waste.

  • JK

    How about a 6 foot bike lane? An SUV is 9.5 to10 feet from the curb to the edge of a fully opened door. That puts the end of the fully opened SUV door about a foot into the bike lane. That extra foot is really nice. Does 6 ft cause more double parking than 5 ft bike lanes? Can DOT share that data? (Why isn’t already on their website?)

  • Simon Phearson

    Well, we *are* kind of annoying scolds – but we’re also *right*. The city can’t accommodate widespread car use, the state is neglecting our mass transit system, and increasing cycling roadshare improves road safety, expands accessibility, and strengthens neighborhoods. Cycling can and does fill an important gap in our transportation infrastructure. How could anyone at the DOT fail to see that? Do they view themselves as primarily serving drivers?

  • JudenChino

    I’m moving to Santa Barbara.

  • We’re the number one bike city! Bicycling Magazine said so!!

  • “DOT says that “existing buffered bike lanes encourage double parking””

    Wait a second, is my memory faulty, or didnt the last 5 or so street projects include zero bike lanes and 13 foot parking lanes to allow for double parking?

    So let me guess, they put this design through, say “ah yes, theyre still double parking” and then the bike lanes are gone permanently by next year?

  • Zack Rules

    This is kind of sad because DOT could easily solve this by moving each bike lane to the curb, moving parking into the street, and eliminating a few parking spaces at intersections to accommodate left turn lanes.

  • J

    Exactly. DOT can’t even decide whether it wants to encourage or discourage double parking.

  • D’BlahZero

    LOL, “eliminating a few parking spaces”! This cowardly DOT wouldn’t dream of suggesting such a thing.

  • J

    This DOT is truly all over the place. On West End Ave in Manhattan, the street was redesigned specifically to accommodate double parking (no bike lanes)
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2014-08-12-west-end-ave-public_meeting.pdf

    On Lafayette St, the buffered bike lane was converted to a protected bike lane due to “frequent violations”
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2014-03-lafayette-st-fourth-ave-mn-cb2.pdf

    Now this project ditches the bike buffer because it “encourages double parking”.

    Is no one in charge at DOT?

  • Tyson White

    What’s the purpose of 11-foot travel lanes? Is it to accommodate drag racing?
    Also, median dividers encourage speeding.

  • Jonathan R

    Vision Zero.

    The VZ statements on the city’s website have never mentioned bicycles, have never mentioned bicycle lanes, have never mentioned that complete streets with bicycle lanes save lives. The DeBlasio DOT has committed to Vision Zero, and voilà! no more bicycle infrastructure.

  • I fully agree.

  • BBnet3000

    The answer is that the bike program needs a complete reboot. They are very timid and scattershot and it was only JSK’s fashionable heel pushing them in the right direction to begin with. Once that let off (the final 2 years of the Bloomberg administration until today) we have what you see now.

    Even their best infrastructure always suffered from a lot of reinventing the wheel and “not invented here syndrome” and has fallen short of even what NACTO has recommended and what is being implemented in other US cities. The only thing New York has taken from other US cities is the unfortunate trend of bidirectional protected lanes, which are a very poor and unsafe design except up against a natural boundary.

  • Joe R.

    This is DeBlasio’s commitment to Vision Zero—namely to decrease the number of bike fatalities by just discouraging riding, instead of putting in better facilities. If the interpretation of the ROW laws holds, and/or the NYPD starts ticketing pedestrians starting to cross when they don’t have a walk signal, he’ll be applying the same strategy to pedestrians. Hey look, zero pedestrian/cyclist fatalities! Perhaps he just misread the goal of Vision Zero as “let’s decrease the number of pedestrians and cyclists to zero”, not “let’s decrease the number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities to zero”.

  • Lisa

    bronx bike lanes dont even have paint left anymore

  • This is absolutely what is going on. Sadik-Khan was remarkable because she was so different from anything that that department had ever seen before. As de Blasio said in denunciation of her, she was a radical. And a radical is precisely what was needed in a status quo that was so backward.

    But Sadik-Khan is gone, as is the mayor who backed her. And gone also is the will to serve the needs of bicyclists.

  • Nothing to do with Trottenberg (or anyone else who would occupy the commissioner’s chair). Policy comes from the top; so all blame lies with de Blasio. Just as all credit for Sadik-Khan’s accomplishments ultimately goes to Bloomberg.

  • deathstardude

    They could of made the buffer a little bit smaller.

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