Momentum Builds For Safety Improvements on Broadway in West Harlem

DOT’s Broadway safety plan calls for a road diet between 135th Street and 153rd Street. Many neighborhood residents want the city to go farther and include bike lanes. Image: NYC DOT

West Harlem residents are rallying support for safety improvements on Broadway between 135th Street and 153rd Street ahead of a vote on a DOT redesign proposal at tonight’s Community Board 9 transportation committee meeting.

The plan, which DOT presented publicly in July, calls for a road diet on Broadway, going from three lanes in each direction to two, with extra-wide parking lanes and more pedestrian space around the medians known as the Broadway Malls.

About 60 West Harlem residents attended a town hall on the project last Tuesday hosted by Assembly Member Denny Farrell, and support for changing Broadway was strong. Farrell had opposed the project at the July meeting, but he seems to be coming around, expressing support for the changes with some reservations.

The town hall last Tuesday could mark a turning point, said Transportation Alternatives Upper Manhattan Organizer David Guerrero. “This town hall was tremendously in support of not only the plan, but of further measures,” such as bike lanes, Guerrero said.

Broadway currently runs three lanes in each direction, and its safety record is abysmal. Between 2009 and 2013, there were 455 injuries on this stretch in Upper Manhattan, mostly to motor vehicle occupants, according to DOT. This portion of Broadway was identified as a priority corridor in the agency’s Vision Zero action plan for Manhattan, particularly because of its high concentration of senior citizens. Of the five pedestrian fatalities on the corridor since 2007, four were seniors.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, TA volunteer Glenford “Gino” Jeffrey of West Harlem presented nearly 300 signatures from residents and 30 coalition letters from businesses who support the DOT proposal and the addition of a bike lane. “Now that we’re doing more outreach to people in those neighborhoods, and telling them what’s going on, they’ve come out to support us,” Jeffrey said.

Rose Seabrook also spoke in favor of the proposal at last week’s meeting, but she says it doesn’t go far enough. “Safety improvement on Broadway is really important,” she told Streetsblog. “However, it will be incomplete without dedicated bike lanes.”

For his part, Farrell said he now supports the plan, but remains concerned about left turn bays, which he believes will clog up traffic. “My concern as usual is creating bottle necks that create traffic jams,” he said. “The traffic patterns [will be] the same as they were in the past, but the streets [will] not.” But experience with other road diets shows that in addition to creating safer left turns, center turn lanes smooth traffic flow, since through traffic no longer has to weave around turning drivers.

While Farrell’s support is qualified, Guerrero said last week’s meeting demonstrated that strong support for traffic calming exists in the neighborhood, where 80 percent of residents do not own a car. It also showed that people want more from DOT than its typical road diet designs without bike infrastructure. “The whole process has shown DOT that if you include bolder ideas in your plans, more people will turn out in support of them,” Guerrero said.

Council Member Mark Levine, who represents the district, expressed strong support for the proposal. “It’s time to address this hazard on our community to prevent future tragedies,” he said. “I applaud DOT for conducting a transparent process and working together with the community to make it safer for everyone.”

Guerrero said he hopes the committee does not pass up on tonight’s opportunity to approve the proposal. “We’re going to try to do anything we can to get a vote out,” he said.

  • BBnet3000

    New double parking lanes to add to the bike map!

  • Bob

    extra-wide parking lane and no bike lane. similar to Riverside Dr.: why not take the extra step. Vision Zero once again not being implemented.

  • JK

    DOT’s no-bike lane “road diet” design is a big retreat from engineering streets for safe cycling and is the unfortunate norm in this part of Manhattan per Morningside Ave., Riverside Dr 125-130, W.116 Bway-RSD, RSD 99th-96th. This design puts cyclists in the door zone and uselessly transfers scarce space from travel lanes to the median — where it helps no one. Also, why is the speed limit on RSD reposted with new signs as 30mph. CM Levine either doesn’t care or is ineffectual compared to all powerful CB 9.

  • Critical critic

    How about eliminating left turns completely? Cars can achieve a left turn by making three right turns. Inconvenient, you say? So what?

    Then put protected bike lanes along the median, where cyclists won’t get “doored”.

  • c2check

    Is the extra “pedestrian space” along the center median involve curb extensions at the crossings?
    Is there not enough space on the median for pedestrians to wait as things are?

    Is it just a reconfiguration to better accommodate double parking—which is often illegal and dangerous and stupid and should not be accommodated?

  • Is this design even better at all? Seems like the lanes are wider, and more spread out (a painted buffer will probably optically widen a lane in comparison with a curb), yes there are fewer lanes, but that’s about the only benefit I see, everything else seems worse. No bike lanes, not even of the door zone variety. ZeroVision

  • What an idiotic design

  • ahwr

    This seems comparable to the treatments nearby on Adam Clayton blvd and on 4th avenue in brooklyn. Both saw significant reductions in injuries.

  • c2check

    Doesn’t mean it’s a nice or comfortable or desirable place to ride.

  • HamTech87

    What a mean-spirited design. Why do they hate people who ride bicycles?

  • greenlake101

    This is just begging for a bike lane. Why is the DOT repeatedly holding back?

  • BBnet3000

    Daylighting or bulbouts on ACP might have prevented this: http://www.streetsblog.org/2015/05/07/driver-flying-through-harlem-school-zone-kills-child-tabs-blame-victim/

    Don’t be placated by “it used to be worse”. How much better could it be?

  • BBnet3000

    I’m more concerned that they think the current number of people riding are all the people who will ever ride. Their actions start to make a lot more sense seen in that context.

  • Joe R.

    Designs like this are easier to understand when you think about where bicycles fall in the food chain. For lack of a better analogy, they’re the cockroaches of street users. Nobody wants them. When someone sees them, they take any necessary measures to get rid of them. Designs like this are to bikes what a bright light is to cockroaches.

  • If “safety improvements” like these are the best DOT can do, we must hold Polly Trottenberg and her boss Bill de Blasio directly responsible for the continuing slaughter on our streets.

  • MR

    This stretch of Broadway is prime for future developments as it is lined with a number of 1 and 2 story commercial buildings. I would wonder about the effects on traffic and buses with this redesign when you add in future construction projects that will bring more people to this stretch. Personally I would prefer banning left turns.

  • ahwr

    “Don’t be placated by “it used to be worse”. How much better could it be?”

    It’s not perfect.

    “Is this design even better at all?”
    “What an idiotic design”
    “What a mean-spirited design”

    But it is a much better design than what’s there now, and the negativism in the comments here seems a bit over the top.

  • Andrew

    Sounds like pedestrian safety is going to become an even higher priority than it is today.

  • BBnet3000

    My point here is that they sacrifice something for nothing. I’d love to hear an actual explanation from the source as to why there are no bulbouts in this proposal, the proposed design for Atlantic in Brooklyn, or on the built-out Adam Clayton Powell and 4th Avenue in Brooklyn.

    Did a CB object? As far as I know of the designers just chose to omit them. No political wrangling involved, this was not a compromise, it was just doing it half way from the start, and failing to shorten crossing distances as much as possible, failing to daylight the corners, and failing to change turning geometry. You see this with lots of designs in this city.

    The design is not as good as it could be. Not could be in a perfect world, but could be in the circumstances under which it is being proposed. I’d like to know why.

  • MR

    Yes, which why banning turns makes more sense to me. However, the premise of this idea is that 2 lanes can handle the current traffic load might not hold true 5 years from now…as a busy bus coridor I do worry about the potential slow down and what happens when a lane gets blocked and Broadway gets choked to a single lane. I would also add that this redesign is basically accommodating double parking on a main artery, which is ridiculous and a nuisance in upper Manhattan. It is essentially telling drivers that there lazy habits of blocking traffic to stop at their convenience is just fine…seems to be the wrong message to be sending.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    If you are worried about congestion, then the last thing you want is to encourage private car use.

  • ahwr

    I do worry about the potential slow down and what happens when a lane gets blocked and Broadway gets choked to a single lane

    That happens now.

    http://i.imgur.com/TZ7pk5g.jpg

  • Alexander Vucelic

    true – their screens counts suggests low growth in riders which is obvious why.
    The locations of Screenline counts are at capacity. Anyone believe existing Brooklyn bridge bike path can handle more riders ? However, as TA demonstrated this year on 5/6th, riders are now 10%+ of CBD roadway traffic even where there are no bike lanes. Citibike expansion has shown massuve latent demand for cycling. Even long term cyclists recognizes on his own travels the number of cyckists continues to increase at double digit rates..

  • ahwr

    The locations of Screenline counts are at capacity

    Manhattan bridge in 2013 saw 422 cyclists 8-9am inbound. Is that the hourly capacity of the path?

    However, as TA demonstrated this year on 5/6th, riders are now 10%+ of CBD roadway traffic

    Vehicles, maybe. But not people.

  • Miles Bader

    uselessly transfers scarce space from travel lanes to the median

    Not only useless, but actively harmful… Wider lanes tend to make people drive faster (as well as encouraging double-parking as others have noted)….

    The question is why they chose this particular plan, because it appears completely nonsensical: having already taken the political risk of reducing the number of lanes, why on earth didn’t they use that opportunity to do something useful with the space—bike lane, wider sidewalks—instead of simply trading off one problem (many lanes) for another (wider lanes)…?!

  • Alexander Vucelic

    today’s peak on Manhattan Bridge is likely 20% greater than 2013;

    ~500 bikes/hour

    Yes, That starts approaching peak capacity for a 5′ wide bike path given current rider culture and the unique obstacles of the Manhattan Bridge. Theoretical peak capacity might be 750/hour for this path.

    Note a 12′ car lane in CBD starts gets gridlocked at 250 cars/hour.

    Sidewalks should be wider on nearly every CBD avenue.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Imagine what JSK solution would be with 20′ of roadway to reassign

    1) Protected Bike Lanes in both directions
    2) SMARTmeter for street parking to help local merchants
    3) Pedestrian bulb-outs
    4) Traffic Signals timed at 25MPH
    5) Daylighting at Street Corners
    6) Increased loading-unloading zones for deliveries
    7) and more

    instead of a complete street, Trottenberg’s DOT redesigns the roadway to encourage higher speeds AND dangerous double parking.

  • Jonathan ER

    I think you have forgotten that the late Bloomberg-era DOT principally considered streets not as places of danger, but as public spaces where people could assemble.

  • BBnet3000

    New development will generate as much auto traffic as we encourage it to.

  • Matthias

    Considering that double-parking and left turns already effectively make the street 1-2 lanes in each direction, this design should reduce dangerous lane changes. I suppose the wide median reduces the need for left-turn lanes (added to 7th Av) somewhat. At least pedestrians should be able to step off the median without being immediately wiped out. I’d really like to see more visionary designs though.

  • MR

    New development will bring more traffic regardless ….there is a reason why this is not being proposed through the upper westside on Broadway, because there is a greater traffic load there and two lanes would not be able to handle it. While it is true that today, the traffic load might be accommodated by two lanes in this area, it won’t be long before it is overwhelmed, especially with Columbia building a 20 building campus just south of this area.

  • ahwr

    400-800 vehicles per consistent auto through lane. With NYMTC given average occupancy of 1.5 that’s 600-1200 people excluding buses.

    Williamsburg bridge had 600+ in that count. Queensboro had 350. Hudson river greenway had 400. Do those reflect the capacity of each path? Are you saying that every morning the bike lanes have back ups stretching out into Brooklyn and Queens and northern Manhattan because not everyone can get through, because it’s at capacity? A while back, I think on streetsblog or possibly twitter, someone posted a count of bikes going over the Williamsburg or Manhattan bridge. Fastest 100 bike count, or most bikes in five minutes or something like that. Extrapolate out to an hour and it gave a potential capacity of a few thousand if I remember right. You can argue that the screenline is missing where growth is, or the facilities on either side of the bridge paths (or this stretch of Broadway as BBnet3000 was pointing out) aren’t good enough to attract cyclists, but to say the bridge paths are at capacity is just silly. Yea, I know biking can be more when paths have fewer people using them. And the flip side to there being enough cyclists to justify more bicycle accommodations is that those paths and lanes will be used more than they used to be. The amount of space dedicated to autos is unjustified. Being (possibly) slightly more space efficient than that so cyclists don’t have to deal with crowding is ridiculous. The paths are nowhere near capacity.

  • BBnet3000

    Please stop concern trolling and start riding the subway.

  • Andrew

    there is a reason why this is not being proposed through the upper westside on Broadway, because there is a greater traffic load there and two lanes would not be able to handle it.

    Isn’t this proposal roughly similar to the recent design of Broadway for several blocks north and south of the 96th Street station?

  • MR

    I ride both the subway and the M4 bus, no car…that stretch of Broadway has 20 buses an hour between the M4 and M5…take a moment to realize public transit is not relegated to the needs of subway riders.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    go do a traffic count on 5Th or 6th avenue at rush hour and tell me that a motor lane can handle 400-800 cars per hour. That number is woefully wrong.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    correct – The goal was to treat streets as valuable public space

  • ahwr

    Don’t walk down 5/6 during rush. When I used to walk down Park during rush hour I would see four northbound lanes. The curb lane has no standing 4-7, but good luck with that. Plenty of stopped cars, it’s not a continuous lane. Left lane is backed up with turning cars, few get through. So that leaves two through lanes. 5-6 there are 1296 cars at 60th, mostly handled in those two lanes, about 600 each.

    When a surface street lane only moves 250 vehicles an hour it’s because there is a bottleneck somewhere. Maybe lanes merge up ahead. Or maybe there is very limited time in the signal cycle given to movement in that lane. Like turning off 5th and 6th through very busy crosswalks.

    In some cases it means you can rightsize the rest of the road to match the bottleneck, use the space for something else. Loading zones, pedestrian plazas, sidewalk extensions, etc… DOT has done bike lanes with that extra space, but that of course leads to cyclists complaining that it’s just a short stretch and it dumps them back into traffic in a bad spot because they didn’t understand DOT was only using extra space they could reappropriate without impacting anybody, drivers included. In their doc on broadway 135-153 DOT justified the lane reduction in part on the ability of a traffic lane to handle 700 vehicles per hour.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    LOL

    your thinking Is Fifty years behind the Times !

  • ahwr

    How so? I’m not saying expand roads to eliminate bottlenecks. I’m saying shrink the rest of the road to match them.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    apologize – my mistake

  • rao

    This is really a simple fix. Ban left turns at all intersections, shave a few feet off those double-parking lanes, and put bike lanes in the middle. It would do wonders for pedestrian, bicycle, and motorist safety!

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Victory! CB9 voted in favor of @NYC_DOT ‘s plan for safety improvements for Broadway that will save lives @transalt pic.twitter.com/YCTgid6eOc — David Guerrero (@Daverro) December 18, 2015 Manhattan Community Board 9 voted last night to approve DOT’s plan for safety improvements along Broadway in West Harlem. The road diet will slim Broadway between 135th Street […]