Eyes on the Street: A Safer Biking Connection to the Williamsburg Bridge

DOT has started work on protected bike lanes linking to the bridge's Brooklyn entrance.

The new two-way protected bike lane on South 4th Street, looking east from Roebling Street. Photo: David Meyer
The new two-way protected bike lane on South 4th Street, looking east from Roebling Street. Photo: David Meyer

DOT crews have made significant progress this week on a project to improve bike access to the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn [PDF].

Striping and plastic bollards for a two-way bike lane on South 4th Street are now in place. The bike upgrades create a safer connection between Borinquen Place and South 5th Place to the bridge path, improving access for thousands of people every day. The full project, which has yet to be completed, includes a safer eastbound bike connection under the BQE to Grand Street.

Cycling over the Williamsburg Bridge increased 80 percent from 2010 to 2015, and another large surge is expected once L train service across the East River goes out of commission for 15 months starting in April 2019.

The redesign also includes pedestrian improvements at the treacherous intersection of Borinquen, South 4th Street, and Havemeyer Street. The painted outline of a sidewalk extension on the southwest corner of the intersection has already created a shorter crossing for pedestrians.

Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer
South 4th Street west of Havemeyer before the redesign. Image: Google Street View
South 4th Street west of Borinquen Place before the redesign. Image: Google Street View

DOT is also adding short segments of protected bike lanes on South 5th Place and South 5th Street between Berry Street and the entrance to the bridge, as well as a protected connection under the BQE to Grand Street, all of which are expected to be installed in the coming weeks.

Next year, the agency plans to install a protected bike lane on Delancey Street on the Manhattan side of the bridge.

Photo: Max Sholl
South 4th Street facing east from South 5th Place. The bridge path entrance is out of frame to the right. Photo: Max Sholl
  • Simon Phearson

    It’s really quite frustrating to see this kind of fawning coverage, which in typical fashion conveniently overlooks one of the striking faults to this design, which is the way it requires eastbound cyclists to cross turning traffic as they come off of Borinquen onto South 4th. It’s another example of how DOT “bike-friendly” designs actually have extremely vulnerable seams that undermine any pretension that these things make cycling safer for inexperienced cyclists. Once again, I have to wonder whether anyone at this site actually bikes around this city with any regularity, or if they just know to celebrate green paint.

  • it requires eastbound cyclists to cross turning traffic as they come off of Borinquen onto South 4th.

    Do you mean “westbound”?

    Anyway, I am wondering how this will work going east, away from the bridge, from South 4th Street towards Borinquen Place. Are cyclists meant to do a kind of diagonal crossing from South 4th to the eastbound side of Borinquen?

    I haven’t seen this progress because I have shaken up my commute a bit, and have begun taking the Manhattan Bridge going home. Going into work, I started to avoid South 4th Street because the repaving was taking so long; so I have been approaching the bridge by turning off of westbound South 4th at Hooper Street, then turning right at Division Avenue to Bedford Avenue, then going north on Bedford and turning right at South 5th Street to approach the bridge from that direction. But today I will go home via the Williamsburg Bridge so I can see what this looks like.

  • If you are going on north on Bedford, why not just climb the path on the south side of the Bridge on the east side of Bedford? Saves time.

    For the eastbound cyclists you describe, I think the idea is to cross the Bridge access road (Borinquen) on the SW side of S4 St, to the south side, then ride on the sidewalk to the crossing onto the median triangle and then across Havemeyer to the median path on Borinquen to Grand St.

  • The bridge path from Bedford is for pedestrians, not bicycles.

    And that crossing manoevre from eastbound South 4th Street sounds pretty tortured. I will have to check it out this evening.

  • Nick Ober

    I don’t understand why the DOT continues to implement buffered bike lanes in places where they clearly have enough room to install a parking protected bike lane. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c78193274357113d1fef2e378586cbadc952bd50a87be9b2d5bd18f80cfdc38c.png

  • Simon Phearson

    Yes, I meant westbound. Cyclists heading west are to the right of a turning/through lane on Borinquen, and they’re supposed to cross over to the south side of South Fourth in order to get to the protected bike lane, which means they’ll have to pass by and filter through a line of drivers who may or may not be making their intentions clear.

  • Joe R.

    Easy answer is no “double parking lane”.

  • I see. That does sound awkward.

    I will see how it feels when I use it for the first time tomorrow morning.

  • OK, this isn’t good going east. Maybe they have more to do, but, right now, the new lane leaves eastbound cyclists looking into westbound side of Borinquen Place and also into Havemeyer Street, in both cases with traffic coming right at them. Every cyclist I saw went against traffic down one or the other of these streets. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a86574a7f15cc4c72a0378ab8ffd8cf2247c2c6fe41a3276e0d2e607a042431e.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/17e595207daaf1f971fa13206e58e63de75894598d9842600692cbf3b585ef72.jpg

    Unless there is another phase of this to come, a painted lane that somehow leads cyclists to eastbound Borinquen, then the eastbound portion of this lane on South 4th Street is pointless.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    Your images capture the work in-progress. If you zoom in on the bottom photo to the cyclist on the far right, that’s exactly where a new eastbound lane will be implemented, from the SIM barriers between the stanchions of the BQE to Marcy Av. There’s even a pedestrian crossing in a new crosswalk, but he has nowhere to go because other side isn’t done.

  • Ah. Thanks for the information. OK, let’s see how it is when that new part is put in.

  • Kristi Randall

    They are working on repainting the lines on So 4th street now. The new plan is terrible! The bikes come up S 4th street until Havemeyer on the right side, then CROSS over to the left lane at an intersection where 3 streets of cars are merging in to two and cross over each other! The bikes cross across the weird intersection from the right to the left lane.
    Why?? Why not keep the bikes on the right side until a few block up where the intersection is more normal. I have already see cars going through the light. I promise you more bikers will be hit. This is not a fix! It looks terrifying. I don’t ride a bike, but I see people hit there all the time.

  • Kristi Randall

    I agree the new plan is ridiculous!

  • I think you are referring Borinquen Place, not South 4th Street; that is the street whose westbound bike lane shifts after crossing Havermeyer Street from the right side (on Borinquen before Havermeyer) to the left side (on South 4th Street after Havermeyer).

    The route going west towards the bridge is just fine. Crossing to the left side of South 4th Street after Havermeyer actually works pretty well, because the markings are clear. I ride this every day, and I see it functioning as intended.

    But the bike route other way, eastbound, is still not complete. In fact, it’s a big mess. Above (according to the only the sensible sorting method of Oldest First) I posted a picture of where eastbound South 4th meets Havermeyer as it looked a month ago; and I still haven’t seen any improvement.

    Eastbound cyclists on South 4th are still caught in nowheresville when they get to Havermeyer. I sometimes see them as I am riding west towards the bridge; people who get to Havermeyer going east on South 4th Street end up going either the wrong way on Havermeyer (south) or the wrong way on Borinquen Place (east).

    By the way, the best thing about the recent improvements in that area has been the repaving of the bike lane on Borinquen Place as it crosses Marcy Avenue going west. The ground at that intersection had become brutal; but it is nice and smooth now.

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