DOT Plans Median Bike Lanes on Eastern Section of Atlantic Avenue

The DOT plan calls for raised center-running bike lanes along the median of Atlantic Avenue. Image: DOT
The DOT plan calls for raised center-running bike lanes along the median of Atlantic Avenue. Image: DOT

Raised median bike lanes are slated for a stretch of Atlantic Avenue crossing the Brooklyn-Queens border, in a project NYC DOT presented last week to Queens Community Board 9 [PDF].

Atlantic Avenue is one of four major streets slated for design overhauls in the de Blasio administration’s $250 million “Vision Zero Great Streets” initiative. The project is proceeding in phases on different sections of Atlantic, which extends more than ten miles from end to end.

The first phase, between Georgia Avenue and Conduit Boulevard, which broke ground last year, did not impress. It maintained three motor vehicle lanes in both directions, adding left turn bays and expanding existing medians further into intersections.

In a 2016 report [PDF], Transportation Alternatives said the project would make only a “marginal impact,” noting that the “interventions are designed to protect pedestrians from dangerous drivers, instead of implementing changes that would fundamentally alter dangerous driving behavior, such as protected bike lanes, widened sidewalks and medians, decreased traffic lane width and other complete street innovations.”

Phase two covers the mile between Conduit Boulevard and Rockaway Boulevard. Since 2010, five people have been killed and 34 severely injured in traffic crashes on these blocks. More than 600 other people, mostly car occupants, suffered less severe injuries.

DOT’s design is a step up and includes some of the features TransAlt called for. The biggest difference: DOT is replacing the central car lanes with raised bike lanes. The layout is similar to Allen Street in Manhattan, though the median is not as wide:

Image: DOT
Image: DOT

Like the first phase, this project will expand medians to protect pedestrians in crosswalks, and left turn lanes will be added at eight intersections. Left turns will be banned at Eldert Lane. DOT is also studying a new signalized crossing at Lincoln Avenue and Grant Avenue, as well as ways to improve pedestrian access across Atlantic Avenue near City Line Park.

Council Member Rafael Espinal, who represents the Brooklyn side of the project area, supports the redesign.

DOT presented the project to Queens Community Board 9 last week. Some members couldn’t imagine Atlantic Avenue with bike lanes, according to the Queens Chronicle. “It’s a great idea but I don’t think it’s a good idea to put it there. It’s too dangerous,” board member Maharani Singh said.

The redesign will clearly make it safer to bike on a street that’s currently too intimidating for most people to give it a try, and this design could set an important precedent for other sections of Atlantic Avenue. But the lack of any physical barriers in the city’s rendering looks like a weakness. Raised bike lanes with mountable curbs are still vulnerable to motorist incursions.

The city is moving forward with the project, according to the Chronicle, with construction slated to begin in late 2019.

  • Jeff

    I wonder why Atlantic gets mountable-curb median-adjacent bike lanes, whereas 4th ave gets curbside parking protected bike lanes, when in both cases it’s a matter of reducing three motor lanes to two? These median-adjacent protected lanes are my favorite design by far (Queens Blvd and Allen St pre-capital-buildout, for example, and of course Sands St, which this is probably most similar to). I’m all for parking-protected curbside bike lanes due to their proven safety record and because they make cycling more accessible, but I, personally, don’t particularly enjoy riding in them.

  • van_vlissingen

    Will they be extending this treatment into the Phase I area? Eastwards towards Downtown Jamaica? Or is this going to be a little orphan protected bike lane all by its lonesome stradling the Brooklyn Queens border but not connected to anything?

  • mfs

    I’m trying to visualize what that might feel like biking on Atlantic and it seems like it might be terrifying. you have to cross 2-3 lanes of high speed traffic to get on or off the lane. the barrier is a 3-5 foot buffer and a mountable curb, not even quick curb or posts.

    yes, this is safer than a typical on-street lane, but not perceptually. this isn’t 8-80 infrastructure the way the 4th ave lane will feel.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    It’s weird that they make the bike lane ridiculously narrow where there is a turn lane, despite there being a buffer at the curbside. Why not add that space to the bike lane? These sections on Allen feel very prone to falling off the steep curb between the bike lane and the turn lane. I’ve always wondered if that is what happened here:

  • c2check

    Presumably they’re not comfortable with the amount of leftward shift that would require vehicles to make across the interseciton

  • Casey O’Neill

    The mountable curb guarantees that the police will park in that lane. 100% guaranteed. This could be a million times safer with the practical inclusion of some Jersey barriers. Still not as nice to ride as a lane that they have in the middle of the median.

  • Wilfried84

    I don’t like on the median bike lanes, if they’re anything like Ocean Parkway. Drivers have a green light to turn at the same time cyclists have a green light to go straight ahead. Drivers don’t look for bikes coming off the median, I would rather take Bedford, which has regular old intersections. and bikers have to look back and to the side to see what might be approaching. And if car crossing the intersection misses the light half way across, they end up blocking the bike lane.

  • Casey O’Neill

    I commute down Bedford and it is terrible. The bike lane is constantly blocked. A lane in the middle median is not the same as Ocean or Eastern Parkway. I agree that those aren’t great. I’m talking about a lane in the center of the street on a median.

  • mfs

    FWIW, paris has what I believe Casey is talking about – traffic separated lanes *on* the median – on many boulevards. they are a little narrow but they feel extremely safe and meet the 8-80 test.

  • AnoNYC

    Mountable curb style bike lanes = useless in NYC.

    Flex posts work way better and cheaper.

    With two general traffic lanes on each side, there shouldn’t be a reason to infiltrate the bike lanes.

  • HamTech87

    What if they were curbed lanes?

  • AnoNYC

    Curbed works but it is more expensive. Drivers do tend to keep out of the flex post separated bike lanes.

    In the long run the city could use an elevated curb, but right now it would be cheaper to use flex posts than an expensive and useless mountable curb.

  • kevd

    though they can be pretty slow

  • dave “paco” abraham

    I’ve driven a car on this stretch of Atlantic a few hundred times and I’ve biked some of it just once. The latter was terrifying. Big kudos to DOT for introducing this and to Councilmember Espinal for supporting this. Not yet perfect but still a huge leap forward. It should be coupled with some connections so that it isn’t an unreachable oasis and it would certainly benefit from a few flexiposts that would send some message to drivers without deterring emergency vehicles from using it (only during emergency of course!)

    And to those wondering why not a curbside lane, it might be because Atlantic’s curbside splits off to the South Conduit highway and if bikes were in that side they’d have to do a 50mph merge across lanes to get back to the median.

  • snrvlakk

    The flex posts work well on Queens Blvd. Cars enter the bike lane only when there is some serious problem in the car lanes (e.g. an ambulance blocking traffic flow, or a big construction truck obstructing it), and then everybody works together to keep everybody moving.


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