Overruling Bronx CB 8, DOT Advances Protected Bike Lanes Along Van Cortlandt Park

Council Member Andy Cohen supported the redesign of Broadway in Riverdale, citing the imperative to reduce the death toll on a high-speed street that's claimed too many lives.

The DOT redesign will shorten crossing distances and make room for a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT
The DOT redesign will shorten crossing distances and make room for a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT

DOT plans to move forward with a redesign of Broadway alongside Van Cortlandt Park next month. The project calls for concrete pedestrian islands and a two-way protected bike lane along the park border. Council Member Andrew Cohen requested a safety overhaul of Broadway in 2015, and DOT says it will be installed despite opposition from Bronx Community Board 8.

In a letter sent last week, DOT Bronx Borough Commissioner Nivardo Lopez informed CB 8 Chair Rosemary Ginty that the danger of Broadway’s current wide, high-speed layout makes the redesign imperative [PDF].

“After full consideration of your resolution, feedback received through our outreach process, and our engineering analysis, we have determined that the proposed safety improvement project is the best way to address all the safety issues along the corridor,” Lopez wrote.

Broadway north of 242nd Street feels like a highway, and people have to cross it to get to the park, which is one of the city’s largest. DOT clocked about 80 percent of drivers exceeding the speed limit on this part of Broadway. Lives are at stake: From 2010 to 2014, 12 people — including 10 pedestrians — were killed or severely injured in crashes on Broadway between 242nd Street and the Westchester County border.

The street doesn’t work for transit riders on the eight city and county bus routes that ply Broadway either. Not only do people have to dodge high-speed traffic to reach the bus stops, but the excessively wide dimensions invite illegal parking that interferes with bus movements and blocks curb access.

DOT’s redesign addresses those concerns. The parking lanes will be narrowed from 13 feet to eight feet. At eight bus stops, the parking lane will give way to concrete bus boarding islands. Crossing distances will be reduced 30 percent at those locations, and the narrower parking lanes will open up space for the two-way protected bike lane along the park.

There's no reason for Broadway next to Van Cortlandt Park to be so wide. Image: Google Maps
There’s no reason for Broadway next to Van Cortlandt Park to be so wide. Image: Google Maps

Despite the terrible conditions for pedestrian safety on Broadway, agency reps who presented the plan to CB 8 last spring got a rough reception. After two months of meetings, the board eventually passed a resolution that simply ticked off every complaint they received about the redesign, no matter how outlandish, and called on DOT to install painted, unprotected lanes instead.

Cohen told Streetsblog last year that the while the city should listen to community feedback, the ultimate decision has to be based on what’s best for public safety.

“I think that the street is too fast, is too wide, and has got a lot of unsafe crossings and design,” Cohen said at the time. “I asked the DOT to come up with a safety plan, and this is what they produced.”

DOT will return to CB 8 next week to take questions about the project. While the redesign is moving forward, if you walk or bike on Broadway it can’t hurt to show up to voice your support. The transportation committee meets Tuesday, March 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Downey’s Bar and Grill, located at 5790 Mosholu Avenue.

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Up until a few years ago, when neighborhood residents approached DOT about redesigning a street for greater safety, they expected to get shot down by the agency’s top engineers. In 2004, one former DOT official summed up the department’s attitude as, “We will do pedestrian safety, but only when it doesn’t come at the expense of the […]