Streetfilms Shorties: Fix the Dysfunctional Chrystie Street Bike Lane

Back in February, Manhattan Community Board 3 asked DOT to study a protected bike lane for Chrystie Street. Head over there during any rush hour and it’s easy to see why: There are tons of people biking to and from the Manhattan Bridge, but the painted bike lanes on Chrystie are constantly blocked by double-parked cars and buses. Even when you’re not weaving in and out of motor vehicle traffic, you have to keep your eyes peeled for illegal U-turns and drivers crossing the southbound bike lane as they exit garages.

The agency said it would study bike lane upgrades for Chrystie, but gave no timetable. That was in March. Apparently, someone got tired of waiting and set up orange cones on one long block in the beginning of October to keep the bike lane clear. That was all it took to provide a little more security for people biking northbound on Chrystie, and in this short Streetfilm, Clarence makes the case for some simple changes to permanently improve safety on one of the city’s most important bike routes.

  • J

    No Brainer. Maybe if the city developed a bike plan, this type of thing would be addressed when projects are built, instead of years later.

  • Mike

    Absolutely needs doing. The southbound afternoon commute is even scarier than the northbound morning one shown in the film. It amazes me that there are no good ways to get to Manhattan Bridge by bike on the Manhattan side.

  • Matthias

    This is why I use the Brooklyn Bridge even though the bike path is hell–the access is better on both ends.

  • The pavement on the west side (southbound) of Chyrstie is more like a mogul course. It’s a deathtrap. At Delancey, there are bumps that could send you airborne if you went fast enough. Closer to the bridge, the lane slopes down so much that you’re better off taking the lane, even if this does put you in front of a lot of impatient drivers. (Good luck, less confident cyclists!)

    We begged and pleaded with DOT to restripe Chrystie for a long time, but they left the physical street an absolute mess. And now, once again, remilling/repaving season is coming to a close with no progress and no help for the thousands of New Yorkers who rely on this corridor for their commutes. None of this is news to anyone at DOT, and that’s what makes it almost criminal!

  • chelsea rogers.

    That the DOT hasn’t taken action on this yet is atrocious.

  • mattkime

    why is double parking such a problem here? is there a particular reason? seems worse than other locations

  • It’s no better or worse than anywhere I’ve experienced, but it may seem that way to cyclists since you have the peace and quiet of the bridge and are then spit out onto this mess.

  • BBnet3000

    How can we call this lane dysfunctional while celebrating similar lanes built in similar circumstances? When bike advocacy only looks at the politics and ignores design it becomes blind boosterism.

  • I wonder what it would take/what the consequences would be for someone, other than DOT to come in and overnight paint either a bike lane further out (giving 2 parking lanes, as a nod to the informal acceptance of the illegal practice) OR simply painting the bike lane next to the curb and bringing the parked cars out. How long would it take DOT to reverse it.

  • William Farrell

    Unless you’re coming from the Wall St area- there is literally no legal way to get to the bridge without going all the way around city hall or walking your bike along the sidewalk.

  • The problems with this lane have to do primarily with the lack of enforcement and also with the condition of the road, not with the lane’s design.

    Of course a protected two-way lane would be preferable. But the current lane would work perfectly well if the existing rules were enforced.

  • BBnet3000

    The ridiculousness of having sharrows for the first stretch of northbound Chrystie with high speed, high volume traffic from the bridge cannot be overstated. We shouldn’t just be fixing it, we should ask why it was ever that way to begin with when they built the 2-way protected path on Canal, which of course doesn’t let you continue on westbound Canal either.

  • If I used the Brooklyn Bridge instead, I’d have to spend more time on busy streets, some just as bad as Chyrstie.

    I really dislike the “just use some other street” advice. That may work for confident, knowledgeable cyclists, but for the sake of slower riders or people new to NYC we ought to be making evey street – especially near major entrance points to Manhattan – safer!

  • From the Wall Street area you’d go up Church Street to Chambers Street, and make a right there and go to Centre Street. At Centre you’d have to make another right while staying in the left lane so that you can get onto the bridge’s bike lane, whose entry is on your left.

  • BBnet3000

    Chrystie is way above the auto volumes where a regular “Class II” bike lane is an appropriate design at least between Houston and Grand.

  • William Farrell

    That’s what I meant by “going around City Hall,” which is a detour that would double the distance of that portion of my trip, even assuming that you use the Warren St shared path rather than going on Chambers on Centre.

  • While imagining this kind of thing is inspiring, someone actually doing it really wouldn’t help.

    The most likely consequences would be arrest of those who were attempting this.

    If the painters somehow finished the job, the consequences would be public accustions of “terrorist” activity, and an increased police presence designed to torment us rather than to protect us.

    And the DOT would get rid of unauthorised paint on that scale in a matter of hours.

  • vnm

    Correct. It’s a nice thought experiment, but the only practical solution is working through the DOT.

  • mattkime

    Yeah, i think this was attempted when a bike lane was removed in south williamsburg. not successful.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    take the lane; in the exact center of the lane.

    Cyclist traffic is at such a volume here, that a few weeks of thousands of cyclists daily riding in the center of the left lane… believe you me; NYPD/DOT would soon solve this.

  • It is dysfunctional because of the sheer numbers of cyclists trying to use that lane. Yes other lanes are periodically blocked by cars, this one is always, always. It’s an off-ramp for cyclists from the bridge, if they were to just make this lane better for the four or five blocks, by then cyclists keep breaking off, then things are less dense.

  • vnm

    I don’t know how much enthusiasm there has been on this website for painted on lanes. In some cases, people gather more information as time goes on and change an opinion. For example, they may find out that what seemed like a good solution is actually inadequate, given that they learn after a while how many drivers park in the lane.

  • BBnet3000

    There’s nothing to learn that the Dutch didn’t learn decades ago. The rest could charitably be called reinventing the wheel, but really it’s amateur hour.

    There are Class II lanes in New York that function great. There are even some that function poorly but could function better with some enforcement. There are many that function very poorly.

    None of these results are random, none of them require trial and error, experience, or local knowledge. They are predictable based on traffic volumes, parking turnover and some other factors. They’re all in the CROW standards, which other US cities, particularly Portland have looked at and incorporated to some extent into their cycling design.

    Even NACTO makes references to these factors, though without actually setting any thresholds (its a “design guide” put together by planning grad students rather than a design manual put together by traffic engineers like the Dutch version).

  • Dave E.

    Would be great if there were bi-directional bike lanes from Houston Street to the bridge on the east side of the street. That way, people wouldn’t have to make that weird & dangerous shift from the left side of 2nd ave to the right side to cross Houston St.

  • J

    It stems from an utter lack of leadership both at DOT and City Hall.


DOT to Present Manhattan Bridge Plans to CB 3 Tonight

From Transportation Alternatives:  Tonight the DOT will be presenting their plans for improved Manhattan Bridge bike access via the Chrystie Street bike lane to Community Board 3. This plan is going to involve the removal of parking along Chrystie Street, so it is anticipated that there will be resistance at the Community Board level. It […]
Chrystie and Grand, 6 p.m. Photo: Ben Fried

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