Jay Street Protected Bike Lane Plan Clears Brooklyn CB 2 Committee

Image: DOT
Image: DOT

Last night, DOT presented its proposal for a protected bike lane on Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn to the Community Board 2 transportation committee [PDF].

Jay Street is the main approach for the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge bike path. During a 12-hour weekday period, DOT counted 2,400 cyclists on Jay Street, with bikes accounting for 34 percent of vehicles during rush hour.

The project will replace painted lanes between Sands Street and Fulton Street with curbside parking-protected bike lanes. The new design will save cyclists from having to dodge between double-parked cars and moving traffic. It’s going to be a tight squeeze, though: The proposed five-foot bike lanes and two-foot painted buffer are narrower than typical protected bike lanes in the city. Buffers are usually three feet wide so cyclists don’t ride where they might get doored. Bus drivers will merge across the bike lane to access bus stops.

Many design details are still in development, including the Smith Street segment between Fulton Mall and Schermerhorn Street, the intersection with Tillary Street, and the area around the Manhattan Bridge. DOT Bicycle Program Director Hayes Lord said the department will come back to CB 2 at a later date, likely in May, to review the final details of the proposal.

Just past Nassau Street, where northbound cyclists must cross the path of drivers exiting the Manhattan Bridge, DOT wants to create a marked pedestrian/bike crossing that could be signalized, but the traffic control plan has not been finalized. Where Jay Street approaches Sands Street, DOT will create a new access point for cyclists through the fence that separates the bike lane from the bridge, so people on bikes can steer clear of right-turning motorists.

The committee declined to support the proposal for a new pedestrian crosswalk at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge pedestrian path until DOT finalizes car traffic controls at the location. Image: DOT
The committee declined to support the proposal for a new pedestrian crosswalk at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge pedestrian path until DOT finalizes car traffic controls at the location. Image: DOT

On Smith Street south of Fulton, turn lanes at the intersections with Livingston and Schermerhorn and a block-long bus layover area on the east side of the street make the design choices tougher. The intersection with Livingston Street, where 63 people were injured between 2010 and 2014, is the most dangerous on the corridor. But a fully protected lane is not likely south of Fulton, according to DOT’s Sean Quinn. The intersection with Schermerhorn, where a cyclist was killed by a truck in 2013, will also probably not undergo a significant redesign, Quinn said.

Hanging over the whole project is the rampant parking placard abuse that plagues Jay Street. The design is in many respects an attempt to circumvent the problems that placard abuse causes.

Much of the “parking lane” on Jay Street south of Tillary is actually a no-standing zone that city employees with placards take advantage of. Committee member Sid Meyer worried that if placard-carrying government employees are already parking illegally along the curb, they may just as soon park in the bike lane. “The problem is even when it says ‘no standing,’ as we know now, the court officers and the police use those lanes,” he said. “If we’re going to go in with our blinders on saying, ‘Hopefully it will be enforced,’ it’s a recipe for disaster.”

DOT doesn’t have the power to stop placard abuse — that’s up to Mayor de Blasio, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, and NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau. But Council Member Stephen Levin promised to work with the “powers-that-be” to fight illegal parking in downtown Brooklyn.

At bus stops such as the extended layover zone in front of the Myrtle Promenade, the protected bike lane will gave way to a shared bus-bike lane. Image: DOT
At bus stops like this layover zone in front of the Myrtle Promenade, bus drivers will merge across the bike lane. Image: DOT

The committee ultimately voted to endorse the DOT plan in two separate resolutions, one addressing the segment between Fulton and Tillary and the other addressing the segment north of Tillary.

The committee wants DOT to come back and present again after it has determined traffic controls for that crosswalk and finalized the design for Jay Street south of Fulton.

Speaking with Streetsblog after the meeting, Lord said DOT will likely have the final design finished by May and that the project will be implemented in late summer.

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