Jay Street Redesign Clears CB 2, With Some Design Details Left for Later

Image: DOT

Brooklyn Community Board 2 endorsed most of DOT’s plan for curbside protected bike lanes on Jay Street between Fulton Mall and Tillary Street at its monthly meeting last night. Two key design decisions at each end of the project have yet to be finalized, however, and will be presented to the transportation committee in May.

Chaotic Jay Street is a key link to the Manhattan Bridge, and cyclists account for 34 percent of vehicles on the street during peak hours. The DOT plan calls for curbside, parking protected bike lanes, though at seven feet wide, the lanes will be narrower than bikeway design guidelines recommend.

When DOT presented the plan to CB 2’s transportation committee last month, the committee declined to endorse a new crosswalk at the off-ramp from the Manhattan Bridge just north of Nassau Street, where a fence currently blocks pedestrians from crossing. Before taking a position, committee members wanted to know how DOT intends to control traffic coming off the bridge.

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 crossing at this Manhattan Bridge off-ramp is one detail that has yet to be finalized. Image: DOT

At the southern end of the project, DOT has yet to finalize the design between Fulton Mall and Schermerhorn Street, where Jay turns into Smith Street. DOT’s Sean Quinn previously told Streetsblog that a fully protected bike lane is unlikely on Smith Street, despite the fact that more people are injured at the intersection with Livingston than any other intersection in the project area, and a cyclist was killed at the intersection of Smith and Schermerhorn in 2013. Cyclists traveling south must jog left onto Schermerhorn before continuing onto the Hoyt Street bike lane.

While the plan passed last night with only one vote against it, a few board members grumbled about the continued expansion of the city’s bike network. “I’m wondering, are we ever going to be done with bike lanes?” board member Denise Peterson asked.

“If I could give you a very glib response,” transportation committee chair John Dew responded, “we will be done with bike lanes when every street has a bike lane.”

DOT said in March that the project is scheduled to be implemented in late summer.

  • Joe R.

    That’s exactly the point I’ve made about configurations like this. A curbside bike lane with a bus lane next to it works fine if bus stops are widely spaced and bus service is relatively infrequent. In that case, if a cyclist needs to yield to a few people boarding a bus it’s a relatively infrequent event. On Jay Street there will be literally streams of pedestrians boarding buses. If they need to wait for cyclists, they’ll miss their bus. If the cyclists need to wait for pedestrians, they may be delayed frequently and for a long time. Swapping the positions of the bus and bike lanes avoids the pedestrian-cyclist conflicts, but now buses are intruding into the bike lane to pass other buses. If this happens infrequently, it’s not a big deal. If it happens a lot, as I suspect it does on Jay Street, then the “swapped” configuration isn’t that much better. And you’ll need to lose the parking lane for the swapped configuration. I’m all for it given that private auto parking should be way down on the list of priorities in a place like Jay Street but the local “parking preservation board” would likely be against it.

    We need to take streets on a case-by-case basis. Given that Jay Street is typically used by cyclists to approach the bridge then either a center running bike lane or a viaduct is the best solution.

  • ahwr

    If you make the bike lane/buffer wide enough the buses can pass each other.

    That’s 20-22 feet for the bus/bike lane. And with 500+ bikes per hour at peak buses won’t be able to pass each other reliably. Even if that’s not an issue the road is 52 feet wide. You’re not just talking about getting rid of parking, you’re talking about making this a one way road for non general traffic. Is it just the hotel that has a garage, or are there other properties too? What do you plan on doing for deliveries? Have people park 500+ feet away? Garbage? At 2 am when a truck is in the bus lane unloading and a cyclist is riding without lights do you want the bus driver to move into that bike/bus passing lane? Still Completely ignoring that the crowds that fill the entire sidewalk will be negatively affected by buses passing in a curb adjacent lane? Jay street isn’t like a side street in your neighborhood. There’s not grass strip with trees or telephone poles as a barrier between pedestrians and the buses you want to run right next to the sidewalk.

    An ‘ideal’ solution would probably involve more than a redesign of just Jay street. A reorganization of bus routes in downtown Brooklyn might facilitate making Jay one way for motor vehicles. Or improved bike facilities on Boerum and Flatbush might make them the bike routes to the Manhattan bridge.

  • Joe R.

    I’ve already mentioned several times neither a curbside bike lane nor my alternative make sense for Jay Street. Putting aside the lack of space you mentioned, there are too many buses passing each other. That would make the bike lane dicey at best.

    Yes, the best solution might involve some combination of the things you mentioned. When one relatively narrow street tries to be everything to everybody often what you end up with instead is a clusterf*ck of epic proportions. This is Jay Street in both its present configuration or the proposed one.

  • Joe R.

    I’ll grant that space prevents using roundabouts sometimes in places like NYC but overpasses, underpasses, or skyways all seem quite viable. In fact, given how congested and slow streets often are, they seem to offer more benefit in cities than they might in a place like Assen.

    The issue here is that the Dutch, as great as their cycling networks usually are, just have never had to deal with a NYC-type situation. Green waves and protected intersections might work fine in Dutch cities but compared to NYC those cities are really tiny. For example, you’re in farmland 3 miles from the Amsterdam city center. That means most local cycling trips in Amsterdam are short enough that delays from lights, or being forced to go only 20 km/hr by a green wave, don’t cause much overall increase in trip times. It also means cyclists going on longer trips are soon out of the city and typically freed entirely from the need to stop or slow down thanks to the design of Dutch bikeways outside of cities.

    Now take NYC. By its nature quite a few useful trips will somewhat longer than in the Netherlands. You might be going 5 to 15 miles each way getting to work. Or you might want to see friends who aren’t in your immediate area. NYC’s street grid with frequent intersections plus over 12,000 signalized intersections just isn’t amenable to making cycling trips safely or quickly. Often there isn’t room for protected bike lanes. Even when there is, poor or nonexistent signal timing results in either rampant red light running by cyclists or extremely slow trips with many exhausting starts and stops. Note also due to the complexity of our street system with arterials in all directions it’s often not possible to time signals at all, let alone for bike speeds. That basically leaves you with two alternatives. One, you have overpasses or underpasses to bypass major intersections. In practice this would be 2 to 4 per mile. Two, you just run the entire bikeway on a viaduct, or even a tunnel.

    Skyways become a problem because you then have a problem of retail moving to the skyway level which leaves a deserted and uninviting street.

    I think the biggest issue would be moving retail to the skyway level. Once that’s done it doesn’t much matter what happens at street level since pretty much all pedestrian traffic will want to be on the skyway. It’s never been great for street life to mix motor vehicles with other modes. Ideally if we had to design a city from scratch we would put the motor grid underground. Skyways are a less expensive alternative to that which can be retrofitted to existing cities.

  • Joe R.

    This is a problem in all of NYC. If you read NYC Streetsblog, you’ll see the noise community boards make whenever a street redesign might remove even a few parking spots. On a heavily used main thoroughfare like Jay Street it should be a no-brainer to get rid of the parking lanes. That’s 20 feet of space which could be put to far better use. Really, on most NYC arterials the parking lane should go. It could be repurposed into so many other things.

  • Joe R.

    Why wouldn’t you continue to see wheelchairs and mobility scooters on sidewalks with an adjacent bike lane? I tend to think their users will have much easier access going to the places they’re trying to reach on the sidewalk.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    people (can’t possibly! park 500′ away ?

    yes they can. The tiny minority of drivers in NYC finally need to recognize that their lazy behaviours no longer have priority over the majority of NYrs

  • Joe R.

    Having people park further away also negates one of the advantages of using private autos—namely door-to-door convenience. That’s a good thing to do if we want to discourage unnecessary car use. It’s not like there is any shortage of transit on Jay Street.

  • ahwr

    I was referring to delivery trucks.

  • ahwr

    You’re skipping option 3. Design bike networks first for local travel. Many non human powered trips are short – 32.8% of auto trips beginning in NYC are 1 and <3 miles; 7.4% of transit trips are 1 and < 3 miles. Some of these would be easier to substitute with bikes than others. But many would be feasible. Second, where designing for local travel doesn't already give good routes to subway and LIRR/MNR stations, add them, and bike parking at stations. Now you have a good system for short and long distance travel. There are gaps in the rail network, triboro X and other projects can help. There's a place for long distance bike travel. I just got in a good 40 mile ride the other day. It was a lot of fun. There are plenty of gaps in the route that I would love to see filled. But it would be a much better use of the city's time to focus instead on the quarter mile to the grocery store. Or the one and a half miles to the other grocery store I like better. Or a quarter mile to the park I like to hang out at. A local network to serve those short trips will serve far more people than your far more expensive bikaducts. And will make your bikaducts/elevated parks for more useful if they are ever built.

  • Joe R.

    You’re kind of missing the point. The same network which serves longer trips also makes shorter ones faster. On one of your hypothetical short 3 mile bike trips you might do the first and last 1/4 mile on local streets and the other 2.5 mile on a bike viaduct. If we assume a 6 mph on local streets (about average for a law-abiding cyclist in average shape in NYC), then the trip takes 30 minutes without the “express” alternative. With it we can assume an average speed equal to maybe 12 mph for the portion of the trip on the bike viaduct. So that’s 12.5 minutes for those 2.5 miles, and 5 minutes for the remaining 1/2 mile on local streets. Total trip time drops from 30 minutes to 17.5, a 42% reduction. Or in terms of time, you save 25 minutes on the round trip. That’s a substantial amount of time savings on a short trip. Just like a highway, the bike viaduct serves long trips and trips of just one or two exits.

    There’s a place for long distance bike travel. I just got in a good 40 mile ride the other day. It was a lot of fun. There are plenty of gaps in the route that I would love to see filled.

    Congratulations! There’s something epic about long bike trips. It’s been a few years since I rode 40 miles in one stretch but I enjoy doing it when the time permits.

    A local network to serve those short trips will serve far more people than your far more expensive bikaducts. And will make your bikaducts/elevated parks for more useful if they are ever built.

    I never said otherwise. Of course you’ll need a good local network for the proverbial last mile, half mile, etc. And it needs to be built before we even consider building bike viaducts. That said, a 100% street level network works fine in smallish cities but NYC (and a lot of similar Asian cities) are an order of magnitude larger. They also seem to have a higher average density. Here we really need the bike equivalent of highways. If we can build them at grade level then I’m all for it. We save a ton of money. If not, then we go above or below grade. It’s also worth noting these express routes are probably even more useful in the adjoining NYC suburbs. We can have them radiating out from Manhattan, perhaps going all the way to Suffolk county, NJ, CT, upstate, and so forth. If they can reduce car use in the suburbs (and the outer parts of NYC), then NYC gets a lot less spillover of auto traffic from these areas.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Hand cart is a wonderful thing

    cargi bikes are even better

  • Rode around here a bunch on Friday. A few very quick thoughts to follow-up on below.

    1) Reducing the number of cars in Manhattan is critical. Manhattan below about 76th needs to become a congestion zone with perhaps a $6 charge for each entry. About 95% of the motor traffic problems on Jay is traffic coming off Manhattan Br or getting on Brooklyn Br so a congestion zone would help here (and throughout other boroughs). Politically possible?

    2) Center running bikeway on Sand is OK but exceptionally dangerous at junctions. Making a right turn out of it is scary. Dumping cyclists from a center lane in to the Jay/Sands junction would be suicide. Plus it does just the opposite of calming traffic and making neighborhoods more pleasant.

    3) Protected bikeway on northbound side next to walkway won’t be a problem. Southbound is problematic for traffic coming off Manhattan Br. I think the bikeway can veer east a bit and go under the bridge exit. There are other similar opportunities in this area. The key is to figure out where people going through here need to go and provide routes for them through or around the entire area (Manhattan/Jay/Sands/BQE) not just looking at this small bit of Jay

    4) Running the bikeway behind the bus stops won’t be a problem if Friday was any indication. I didn’t see anything here that was an exception to what I’ve seen hundreds of times in The Netherlands.

  • BootsandMary Whitlock

    Maybe we can increase the number of riders by legalizing e-bikes. Then us lazy riders could join the frey:) Most are peddle assist so we can stretch our muscles some times:) Ebike riders increase = car traffic decrease.

  • Joe R.

    If large enough numbers of people just started riding e-bikes the police wouldn’t have enough manpower to do anything about it. Ideally they should be legalized but until they are I think people should just start using them anyway. NYC did the typical throw out the baby with the bathwater stuff it always does here. A few riders on e-bikes ride dangerously so make them illegal. There’s some crime in parks at night so just close them. Lock up spray paint to end graffiti. Always the same idiotic thinking. It never seems to occur to them people who cause problems by definition don’t care about laws, so they’ll just ignore any law banning something. In the meantime, the 99% who constitute the law-abiding citizens are denied the right to do something. At the same time the law typically fails to prevent whatever it was ostensibly passed to prevent. It aggravates me, but then I try to remember most of the people who serve as elected officials in this city are pretty much unemployable in any other field. To expect logical thinking from them is an oxymoron.

  • Vooch

    “..I but then I try to remember most of the people who serve as elected officials in this city are pretty much unemployable in any other field…”

    you won the internet again today Joe and it’s not even 9am

  • BootsandMary Whitlock

    Vooch you said it right…. Joe for city council president!! I’m sure they’ll make an exception to your being overqualified Joe.. just run.. I’ll vote for ya!!

  • Jonathan R

    Glad to see you are seeing our streets in person.

    With no. 3, please bear in mind there is already a bike lane along Adams St between Willoughby and Sands, one block west of Jay Street.

    Coming from Park Slope west of 7th Ave, it’s most direct to cross the Gowanus and take Smith Street to Jay St to Manhattan Bridge. There’s no way to get to the Manhattan Bridge further east of Jay without crossing Flatbush Ave, which, as a major arterial, takes extra time to cross, making it inefficient to go that way.

    Coming from east of 7th Ave, people on bikes can take PPW to Vanderbilt or 7th Ave to Carlton. Both Vanderbilt and Carlton intersect with Flushing Ave which leads to Navy St and the Sands St bike lane. That’s a reasonable way to go and avoids Jay Street entirely.

    I am very glad to hear your thoughts on the Sands St bikeway; I had never considered it in the context of traffic calming and neighborhood improvement before, and I believe that your insight has a lot to offer.

  • Joe R.

    I appreciate the show of support but I’m probably too honest to even consider running for anything. I’m the type of person who will tell people what needs to be done, not what they want to hear. I would seriously consider taking a hypothetical “benevolent dictator” position for a few years to straighten things out. My very first act would be to take every nonsensical law off the books. My second would be to cut the budgets for the NYPD and DOE in half. After that I’d ban private autos in Manhattan (and from the denser parts of the outer boroughs), expand the subway, build more bike infrastructure (both local and non-stop bike highways). With the money saved by cutting the NYPD and DOE budgets, there would be plenty of funding for that. And I’d roll back the retroactive pension increases Larry Littlefield often talks about.

    I think a few years of stuff like this would get NYC on the right track. I’d probably put a series of institutions into effect before leaving to ensure the changes I made couldn’t be easily reversed once we returned to a system of elected officials.


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