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.

  • AnoNYC

    Is this the city’s first both curbside parking protected bike lane on a two-way street?

    They are usually two-way protected bicycle lanes on either side in my experience.

  • J

    Yep. Even Newark has had this design for several years now.

    https://goo.gl/maps/ShmmkTrZRm82

  • J

    THe bus stops are abysmal. Surely NYC can do better with all that space. Also, De Balsio admin needs to actually deal with NYPD corruption. Sadly, when DOT starts formalizing illegal practices with its street designs, that’s when you know the city has thrown in the towel on actually combating corruption. I see more abuse and more distruct in the future.

  • c2check

    Boarding islands, people!

  • William Farrell

    This would be great, but the asphalt would have to be raised to curb grade for ADA access. That or install pedestrian ramps, but I think the former would be a bit nicer.

  • BBnet3000

    This is a bad design, and I’m very sad to see reflexive boosterism about it. It’s going to be an inconvenient and slow cattle chute at best, and a completely blocked mess at worst. It’s not going to be very comfortable and it’s very far from 8-80 infrastructure. This route is too important to have this be the design for the foreseeable future if we hope to grow cycling in this city.

    1. Far too narrow for the current volume of cycling
    2. The first “protected” bike lane that car doors will swing into. The NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide is rolling in its grave.
    3. It disappears at driveways and other minor junctions. This is where a well marked green bikeway is most necessary, and used in other cities, but in this design it disappears.
    4. It does nothing about having to thread between trucks at the bridge off ramp.
    5. The article repeats the pablum about “merging” with buses at the bus stop. You don’t merge with a vehicle that is stopped. This design will have buses blocking the lane and people going around the outside of them (read: having to dart out into traffic) to continue on. This is also a first for a “protected” bike lane.

  • William Farrell

    This plan is definitely a great improvement over the status quo, but I feel like we can do a lot better with that bus stop at the Myrtle Promenade. You could easily make it so that people on bikes and buses didn’t have to cross paths by keeping the bikes to the right of the bus, raising the asphalt of the bike lane to curb grade, then having a curb grade concrete section for bus boarding and queuing. I asked Lord about this after the meeting and he was saying something about there not being enough space, but looking at this image (above) again, I can’t see how that would be the case. You could even curve the curbside bike lane in where the bus slip is now (similar to the recent Chrystie design where the lane curves around those curb extension), and the bus would have the entire currently proposed buffer and bike lane space to idle if need be.

    At any rate, this bus stop will in all likelihood be overrun by placard corruption.

  • MtotheI

    I guess unlike some people, I think this plan is great for cycling along the majority of Jay Street. I have a lot of concern about how the bike lane is dealt with at the BQE off-ramp. I don’t understand why bicyclists get a stop sign and stop bar there. I guess that is how it is now, I usually go north to the bridge on Navy/Sands. But, shouldn’t peds and cyclists get priority and shouldn’t there be a yield sign for drivers at that crossing? It’s unsignalized so I can’t understand why DOT would give drivers the priority over through bike and ped traffic. And, at rush hour, you could be stopped there for a while waiting for all the cars to go through.

  • BBnet3000

    The bottom of the photo is a ramp to get across the bike lane. Putting cycling at sidewalk level on Jay Street would be a disaster.

  • ahwr

    There are a lot of buses, multiple routes, and the southern most bus stop on Jay probably sees more people getting on and off than bike down the road. How well do boarding islands work when volumes of transit passengers and cyclists are high? Is it a design that scales up well?

  • Geck

    Right. Either the buses cross the bike lane or passengers getting on and off the buses do. Not sure which is better/worse, but there is no easy solution.

  • BBnet3000

  • J

    Mark my words: every single location where it is physically possible for cars to park in the bike lane will have cars parked there.

  • Buses are worse by far.

  • Daniel

    The DOT engineers have to know about this design. It’s the standard design for handling busy bus stops on bike lanes around the world. I can think of two possible reasons they didn’t propose it. 1/ It is not in the DOT design manual. 2/ It requires capital funds and a contractor to implement. — My guess from dealing with our DOT is that it is a bit of both. But if it is mostly #1, then this is really about getting better leadership installed at the top of NYC DOT. If it is mostly #2, then we can push for the proper engineering of this stop as a followup project.

  • Larry Shaeffer

    this crosswalk needs to be protected with vertical deflection via a raised crosswalk or speed hump (upstream of the crossing). This deflection will lower approach speeds which raises motorist yield compliance

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    In my opinion, I cannot make definitive judgement on the proposal because the DOT’s PowerPoint is lackluster and vague. Too many questions left unanswered (i.e.: what happens at the Manhattan Br ramp, what happens at Tillary, bus mixing area vs separation, more physical protection near the bridge) and there are tons of room for improvement. I think we need to take the best ideas, materialize it into a better, cohesive presentation and present that to the community to judge. I’m sure the DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner would hear feedback…

  • BrandonWC

    A lot of people felt the same way at the CB2 meeting and were given essentially zero opportunity to express their concerns either to the committee or DOT.
    https://twitter.com/KristenTransAlt/status/709882291582017536

    https://twitter.com/KristenTransAlt/status/709882533803106304

  • BBnet3000

    I have to admit, I was critical of the plan the Brooklyn Activist Committee came up with last year but compared to this it seems downright Dutch. I’ve also become a lot more convinced of the merits of a center-running lane on Jay Street due to its unique conditions. Those conditions do not, however, justify this plan proposed to CB2.

  • BrandonWC

    I don’t see how DOT can say with a straight face that there is no room for a boarding island where Jay St widens to about 62′ at Metrotech/Myrtle. The current plan, in addition to creating conflicts between buses and bikes, fritters away 8′ on a useless painted buffer. Keeping the south-bound side of the design the same, it’s trivial to tweak the design to allow for a boarding island.

  • BrandonWC
  • BrandonWC

    Boom! Plan for a center-running lane which could be implemented as an operational project. 11′ two-way bike lane is wide enough for DSNY to sweep/plow. 18″ bollards keep out cars. I think 19′ should be wide enough for cars to pass buses at bus stops (a bit of a squeeze, but it should work). Very few problems with turning conflicts since from Livingston to Tillary there is only one legal left turn (north-bound Jay onto Johnson).

  • BBnet3000

    How do we get them to notice this design, which they should have seen when it was first on Streetsblog?

  • ahwr

    There are six different bus routes on Jay. Not allowing for buses to pass buses would cause problems. The sidewalk is already pretty narrow in some spots, it wouldn’t be realistic to take space from there to widen the street.

  • BrandonWC

    By my count, there are just 4 bus routes in each direction. The B57, B62, and B67 run both ways, the B54 only runs north, and the B26 only runs south. Four bus routes run each way on Fulton Mall without being able to pass each other so I don’t think that would be impossible. Also north-bound buses could pass each other at Metrotech where the roadway widens by 10′.

  • Andrew

    Agreed.

    I wonder if the commenters who are proposing this design are assuming that bus riders (pedestrians walking to or from the boarding island) will yield to cyclists or that cyclists will yield to bus riders. These bus stops in my experience are quite busy, with many people transferring to and from the subway, which has entrances on both sides of Jay. One way to make a bike lane enemy out of a neutral transit rider is to make sure that he misses a subway-to-bus connection because he had to wait for a cyclist to pass as he was running for the bus.

  • Andrew

    Looks like a significant majority of light rail riders are crossing the street after they get off the train. The bike lane only conflicts with the few not crossing the street.

    If a significant majority of the bus riders crossed Jay Street after getting off the bus, this design might work well there, too.

  • BBnet3000

    It works in every bike-friendly country in the world, though notably they tend to have transit malls at the highest ridership stops.

    Regardless, I think if they’re refusing to remove parking they should switch to the center running lane proposed by Streetsplan Collaborative and Transportation Alternatives in November. More on that with tomorrow’s news.

  • Joe R.

    There is an easy solution. Curbside bus lane than barrier-protected bike lane to the left of it. Buses and bikes never need to cross paths. Neither do bikes and bus passengers. You could, indeed should, still have the bus layover zones so buses can pass each other.

  • Andrew

    I have no objection to a center bike lane myself, although I’m not a cyclist. They would complicate turns, though (left turns for motorists and right turns for cyclists).

  • ahwr

    The street is 52 feet wide. Sidewalks are too narrow already. The wider section by Myrtle promenade shown above is 500+ feet from the busiest stop. How narrow is the bike way if you make room on either side for buses to pass each other?

  • Joe R.

    Then you’re back to either a center-running bike lane. Honestly, this street doesn’t seem like a great candidate for a bike lane at all. Given the bus traffic, maybe we should just make it a bus-only street, widen the sidewalks, and be done with it.

  • ahwr

    What alternate route would you propose for cyclists heading to the Manhattan bridge? Keep in mind you want something that would be preferable – for essentially all cyclists – to riding on a bus only jay street/pedestrian only jay street sidewalk.

  • BBnet3000

    Almost all the streets along this stretch are one-way feeding into Jay, from both directions. Also, a huge number of people are taking this all the way to the bridge rather than turning off. There really are some unique conditions right here supporting a center running lane.

  • Joe R.

    Ugh, it looks like Jay Street is the only viable through route to the bridge. This might be an instance where one of my bike viaducts really makes sense. No room on the street for a bike lane plus everything else which needs to be there without having loads of conflicts. Even better, the viaduct can connect right to the Manhattan Bridge bike path.

  • Robert Perris

    I know that it is popular in the cycling community to attribute the behavior and attitudes of some community boards to all boards. I think a similar error is occurring here.

  • BrandonWC

    @robertperris:disqus, I’m not sure exactly what you’re getting at here.

    To be clear, when Kristen was quoting “CB2” on twitter and saying “CB2” ordered DOT not to respond to public comments, she was referring to the statement and actions of committee chair John Dew. (I appreciated you calling me yesterday to apologize for his behavior.) However, the fact remains that members of the public were given very little opportunity to comment on the plan and told that the meeting was not a public hearing, even though Local Law 61 of 2011 requires DOT to present bike lane plans “at a public hearing held by such affected community board.”

  • Frank Kotter

    After just spending a week in Amsterdam, I can tell you that it works just fine there.

    Caveats:
    -There are also mopeds on the bike lanes there so pedestrians are more aware of the bike lane as it represents a true mortal threat.

    -pedestrians (other than tourists) always look over their left shoulder before crossing a bike lane.

    -Most bicycle traffic operates at a slower speed due to congestion and style of most common bicycle and no one wears a helmet (probably shouldn’t even mention this…)

    -it very rarely freezes in Amsterdam and there is no problem with snow

    Would it work in NYC? Depends what your benchmark is.

  • Anybody have any updates on this project? That section of Jay get’s busier with every degree the mercury climbs and is an absolute nightmare for cyclists.

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