Eyes on the Street: The 158th Street Connector

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The paint is down on what will be a short two-way bike lane on 158th Street in Washington Heights, part of a package of DOT improvements [PDF] to make biking and walking safer between the Hudson River Greenway and the recently reopened High Bridge linking Upper Manhattan to the Bronx. This segment runs between the Henry Hudson Parkway and Broadway.

A Washington Heights resident sent in the view looking west toward a Riverside Drive viaduct (a greenway ramp is on the other side of the viaduct). The finished bike lane will be separated from car traffic with flexible posts. A companion bike lane on 170th Street is also in progress.

While this particular segment may not be on the route, if you want to check out the state of these uptown bike improvements in a low-stress, all-ages setting, Kidical Mass will be riding from 137th to the High Bridge this Saturday at 10 a.m.

Here’s a look at this block before, courtesy of Google:

158_before

  • J

    This is great stuff. I’m a big fan of making low-stress bikeways that branch directly off of popular existing bike paths, like the Hudson River Greenway.

    I would argue that a lot of people are fine to bike on greenways, but are not comfortable on city streets, even when they have bike lanes. They will, however, be pretty comfortable using this. Since it connects to the existing safe bikeway, there is a built-it constituency of people who will use it regularly from the very outset, making it much much easier to get this built.

    It’s smart that DOT is doing this type of greenway extension, but there are still WAY too many examples of DOT creating high-stress bike lanes with limited appeal or creating low-stress paths that don’t connect to other low-stress facilities. Neither has a large appeal, because the utility is not immediately apparent to a large number of people. A great example of this type of mistake is the Spring Street bike lane, which completely fails to connect to the Hudson River Greenway AND fails to create a low-stress facility, both of which dramatically limit it’s appeal.

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2015/04/07/let-down-by-bike-lane-cb-member-asks-dot-to-put-safety-before-parking/

  • Joe R.

    Nice but can we get DOT on board not having speed humps intruding into bike lanes? This problem exists on the bike lane in my area on Underhill Avenue. The irony is that street was repaved, the bike lane was repainted, and then some idiots rebuilt the speed hump with it covering over half the bike lane. I’m forced to ride through a space about one foot wide to avoid the speed hump. Some other streets are even worse. There are a few where I have only a few inches to play with. If we want to make NYC more bike friendly then we need to avoid speed humps on bike lanes, and we need pass throughs for bikes on streets without bike lanes.

  • vnm

    Excellent! I’ve used this a couple of times to go in the uphill direction. It’s a million times better than before.

  • Reader

    This is a great development for the neighborhood, but I agree with your general point. That picture represents all kinds of failures of DOT to coordinate some of the most basic street safety upgrades, repair, and painting jobs around. A more forward-thinking commissioner would be looking for ways to make these processes more efficient.

  • Jeff

    Can I ask why you wouldn’t simply slow down and ride over the speed hump?

  • BrandonWC

    Exactly. One one hand, it feels ungrateful to complain. But on the other hand, pave first and THEN paint seems pretty basic. I noticed on the new Spring Street lane that (all questions about the design aside) they didn’t removed the old stop bars before painting in the new bike boxes so the markings are a mess, and it just looks sloppy.

  • Joe R.

    Because the jolt is annoying regardless of speed, and the speed hump can damage wheels, especially if the edge of it starts wearing away such that it looks like curb rather than a ramp.

    It’s also worth noting that slowing down is often the worst way to deal with street irregularities because the bike will tend to follow them more faithfully, often resulting in a rougher ride. I’ve gone over foot deep potholes at 25 mph which would have caused me to fall going any slower. Granted, I still got a nice jolt, but the wheel basically didn’t have a chance to fall very far while it was going over the pothole. Anyway, remember speed humps are designed to slow motor vehicles to roughly bicycle speed, say 20 mph or less. The design needed for that requires a relatively high and steep hump to overcome the suspension should the driver go over them too fast. A bike doesn’t have a suspension. As a result, speed humps end up being far more detrimental to bikes at virtually any speed. When the speed humps aren’t maintained properly, which is usual in NYC, they can be downright dangerous for bikes at any speed.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Joe,

    I Promise when I Finally convince Albany to dedicate the BQE to Exclusive use of cyclists there will be no speed humps

  • Reader

    On Bleecker St, DOT painted the bike symbols first AND THEN came back and did the paint. So instead of green all the way, you have these gaps where you have black pavement with a bike symbol on it. Just looks incompetent.

  • Kevin Love

    Incompetent construction of infrastructure. Others have commented on the speed bump. I would like to draw attention to the failure to have paint continuously through the driveways. This fails to clearly signal the right of way of cyclists, and is leading to an entirely predictable crash.

    Here’s a video about the three principles required for safety of cycle infra with intersecting driveways:

    https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/but-we-have-driveways/

  • BBnet3000

    They HAVE to put in the speed bump after. If it were painted green it would be an even bigger hazard than it already is on the bikeway.

  • Daniel

    Joe, I have no problem riding over the standard city speedhumps. I have bad knees and a currently have a sprained wrist, but I just stand on the pedals with bent knees and a loose grip on the handlebars. That’s if I’m going pretty fast. If I’m at 12 mph or less I just shift my weight onto the pedals but stay in the on the seat.

  • Jonathan R

    I believe you are fallaciously assuming that bicycle lanes create their own demand; that like roller coasters, people are drawn to roll back and forth on bicycle lanes.

    It’s my opinion that people use bicycle lanes to get places. As it happens, 158th St is the only no-stairs entrance onto the Greenway between West 181st Street and West 135th St. So if you are going downtown from anywhere in Manhattan between the GWB and West 155th St, you will probably be using this street already.

    Plus, there are only about a dozen houses on this stretch of West 158th, so the number of people who now live basically on the greenway has not greatly increased. Everyone else still has to navigate through the unpleasant gantlet of Broadway or Riverside Drive traffic to get to the greenway.

    That being said, this stretch has been pretty dicey and I am glad it will be easier to ride on now. But then, I have already been using it, so I am not the marginal person on a bicycle you are discussing.

  • J

    I believe that a lot of people use the Hudson River Greenway for bicycle recreation, judging by the huge uptick in use on the weekends by people who are dressed in sporty clothes. I was trying to say that by making it easier to access the greenway by bike from dense neighborhoods, it will get extend the recreation network to more areas and more people. The easier it is to get and from the Greenway in a variety of locations, the easier it is for people to realize that they can use it for transportation too.

  • stairbob

    Also, if you leave too much unbumped room in the bike lane, motorists will swerve to the right, imperiling any cyclists present.

  • BBnet3000

    Not if they have to swerve over plastic posts/armadillos/a curb.

  • Jeff

    Yup, I witnessed this going up Park Ave in the Bronx just past weekend.

  • Jonathan R

    Certainly I am all for recreation, and I agree with you 100% that getting people onto saddles for recreation is a necessary first step for getting people onto saddles for transportation and whatever else (moving house, weddings, etc).

    One issue with planning for recreational use versus transportation-artery use however is that recreational users don’t have to leave the artery at either end. I think there are plenty of people who ride all the way uptown to the Little Red Lighthouse, take a picture, and turn back, without ever leaving Fort Washington Park or going on the streets. I bet there are a fair number of folks also who drive to the greenway for recreational purposes, which is perhaps not sustainable for transportational bicycling.

  • Joe R.

    A huge part of the problem is many speed humps in my area are literally breaking apart, and at night I can’t tell if the edge is a sharp rise or not because of the poor depth perception those lousy HPS streetlights give. I know someone who cracked a frame in half riding over a bad speed hump. They weren’t even going that fast, either. I’ve seen my fair share of newly installed speed humps which were uneven enough that going over them on a bike was inadvisable.

    In a perfect world where all speed humps were properly made, maintained, and the streetlights were decent then all you say might be true.

  • J

    Agreed, an my point is that if you can extend that “Greenway experience” into the neighborhoods where those people live and work, they are likely to show support for those extensions before they’re built, use them frequently once they are built, and move closer to using them for transportation.

  • Daniel

    The google maps don’t really work to show the humps. It looks like google flattens them in the rendering. But I have run over a humps that has been poorly reconstructed after utility trenching. That was jarring experience.

    In the 158th St case they should have ended the speed hump before the bike lane and put in bollards to prevent cars from swerving into the bicycle lane there. But there are other cases where that isn’t possible and then I would still rather have a hump in the bike lane than no hump at all. Putting the edge of the speed hump inside the bike lane as in all the pictured cases appears to violate the standards the DOT holds utilities to when making curb cuts. It’s a hazard, especially when that edge starts to decay.

  • neroden

    Good way to reuse the excess space in an excessively wide street. Sloppy implementation, though.

  • Shelly Gibson

    Terrible implementation. Downright dangerous. This is a highway entrance ramp! Firetrucks can’t fit on this road to get to accidents now! Cars have been pushed to the curb on the south side and our sidewalk is extremely narrow. Accidents are already happening. Can’t even get out of a cab without stopping traffic in both directions. This bike lane if WAY to wide. Use the HUGE sidewalk on the north side of the street…the side very few even walk on. The south side of the street is heavily traveled and the cars are now knocking at the knuckles of the pedestrians. Really…this is a horrible idea. ONE bike lane – and make use of the north sidewalk space!!!

  • Shelly Gibson

    I live on this road. The first night I moved in someone got hit because of speeding cars from the highway. This is a highway entrance ramp! There needs to be speed bumps…and there needs to be more space for the cars and the emergency vehicles. This bike lane needs to be narrowed IMMEDIATELY. A U Haul just hit the scaffolding on the building next door…and he was ON THE ROAD. The cars are practically skimming the knuckles of the many pedestrians that use the south side of the street. I ride a bike…and on this street…these lanes are absurdly implemented.

  • Shelly Gibson

    The street is far from excessively wide. It is the main traffic vein for the firefighters and other first responders on their way to daily accidents on the HH Pkwy. They can not fit their firetrucks on this road now that there are bike lanes…they told me this in person. Their trucks were knocking down the plastic poles. The latest accident (there have been several that I have witnessed since these lanes were painted) was my taxi getting rear-ended only seconds after I exited and shut my door. There is now ZERO space for the large amount of highway traffic on this road because there are TWO lanes for bikes which rarely use this street. I open my gate to my house and it is only inches away from speeding cars that have been forced to drive with their tires on inch or two away from the curb. Bike lanes are important (I use them), but these particular ones need to be relocated to a street that is not a highway entrance ramp. Someone is going to get hurt and it will be a tragedy. Wondering if the double wide sidewalks on the other side of the street can be used? No one lives on that side of the street.

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