Dreaming Up a PeopleWay for 14th Street

Check out the winner of the "L-ternative" contest from Transportation Alternatives and Gothamist.

The winner of the "L-ternative" competition proposes bus lanes, a two-way protected bike lane, and wider sidewalk zones for 14th Street. Image: Cricket Day/Chris Robbins/Becca Groban/Kellen Parker
The winner of the "L-ternative" competition proposes bus lanes, a two-way protected bike lane, and wider sidewalk zones for 14th Street. Image: Cricket Day/Chris Robbins/Becca Groban/Kellen Parker

While we’re waiting to get a look at DOT and the MTA’s forthcoming plans for the L train shutdown, Gothamist and Transportation Alternatives put on “L-ternative Visions” — a design competition to envision 14th Street “as a people-first transit corridor.”

On Wednesday the winner was revealed: “14TH ST.OPS” a bus- and bikeway with expanded sidewalk space, courtesy of a team that includes landscape architect Cricket Day and Village Voice city editor Christopher Robbins [PDF].

Their plan calls for a six-stop shuttle bus operating on dedicated lanes on 14th Street and a median-aligned two-way protected bikeway. Sidewalk expansions built with low-cost materials would provide space for activity out of the way of pedestrian traffic.

While the center-running bike lanes would position cyclists in between faster-moving buses, the advantage is that bike traffic would not conflict with the bus boarding process. “With our configuration, buses and pedestrians have direct connections without blocking any cyclist traffic,” said Day.

The competition didn’t ask for entries to think beyond 14th Street, but the plan also sketches out a bus service between Williamsburg and Union Square via the Williamsburg Bridge, Delancey Street, and Lafayette Street.

lternative-14thst.ops station map

The bus- and bike-only Lafayette Street/Fourth Avenue would connect to 14th Street via the redesigned southeast corner of Union Square. Broadway would no longer be a through-route for motor vehicle traffic, opening up space for two pedestrian zones: one linking Union Square to the triangle by Fourth Avenue, and one on the block of Broadway south of 14th.

Image: Cricket Day
Cricket Day/Chris Robbins/Becca Groban/Kellen Parker

To accommodate the increased cycling demand, the team also proposes converting the ground-levels of eight privately-owned parking garages on the corridor into Citi Bike “superstations.”


  • Derek Magee

    Awesome! I was very impressed with all the finalists for the “L-ternative Visions” – hopefully DOT and MTA are able to meet the high bar that was set by these proposals.

  • Vooch

    Yes – I say let’s follow the JSK -Bloomberg methodology and simply try it for 6 months. Assess. Then adjust – improve accordingly

    it’s mostly just paint

    Test this asap

  • Kevin Love

    This is an excellent design that is a huge step up over what exists now. I have only one criticism: It would be better to have bike lanes on either side of the street, with the 12′ “reclaimed pedestrian space” transformed into two six-foot floating bus stop safety islands on either side of the street. This is the standard Dutch treatment for such high volume streets. See the video at:


    The way it is currently shown, cyclists are very scarily riding right next to buses. Yikes!

  • sbauman

    Here’s one technical problem with the design.

    The curb-to-curb distance on Union Square East, just below 15th St – at the top of the triangle, is 70 feet. Subtract 10 feet for the through uptown bus lane and the distance is closer to 60 ft. This becomes the diameter of the Brooklyn Shuttle Roundabout as shown in the Union Square Transfer diagram. This implies that the Brooklyn Shuttle Buses must have a turning radius of 30 feet or less.

    The technical problem is that 40 ft and 60 ft buses have turning radii of 40 and 44 feet, respectively. The buses would not be able to navigate the roundabout without interfering with the through bus lane. The buses would not be able to navigate the roundabout even if they interfered with the through bus lane.

  • Larry Shaeffer

    most roundabouts come with a raised (outside edge 2″-3″) truck apron on the middle island that allows the rear wheels of larger vehicles hop on it as they negotiate the roundabout. This shortens the turning radii

  • Eric Schneider

    Trying not to be bitter about this, given that my entry didn’t make the cut, but here goes:

    1) Completely unambitious – the streetscape isn’t really improved at all, besides at union square. No one likes to sit right next to zooming metro buses, and the open areas are not large enough to create any real centers of activity. It’ll just be a repeat of the recent pedestrian zones along broadway, which are underutilized because they have no coherence.

    2) It is unrealistic to ban cars completely from 14th Street. The blocks are too long to allow commercial access to all buildings.

    3) As another commenter wrote, no one who actually rides a bike in the city likes to bike anywhere near metro buses. They’re incredibly dangerous, and you’re right next to the tailpipe and engine block. Any new dedicated bike path needs to be protected and spatious, to justify the expense of building it – not located right next to a bus lane.

    4) The entire scheme hinges upon people deep in BK taking TWO buses just to get to the west side, and requires all buses to cross the W’Burg bridge. Has anyone on the design team actually driven across that bridge during the day? It’s permanent gridlock.

    5) Given that the design proposes that ALL former L train riders use these bus routes: with the volume of commuters who would be exiting the USQ bus terminus, the buses would be permanently backed up across 14th Street. This happens every time the MTA temporarily replaces a train line with shuttle buses.

    This contest was a way of exploring ideas for how to solve a major problem. I wish the jury had selected some designs that demonstrated real courage and imagination.