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Eyes on the Street: The Plant-Based Solution to Bike Lane Blockage

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership now has 56 planters maintaining the integrity of the Jay Street bike lane, up from 12 in early 2017. Photo: Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has sent in reinforcements to keep the Jay Street bike lanes clear of parked cars. Big, heavy, beautiful reinforcements full of foliage.

Running through the hotbed of placard corruption that is the downtown Brooklyn court complex, the Jay Street protected bike lanes require even more ceaseless vigilance than most bike lanes. Soon after the protected lanes were installed at the end of 2016, the city began using large planters to keep the bikeway clear and preserve lines of sight for pedestrians.

But some scofflaw parkers kept at it and moved the planters so they could steal street space for their cars -- spoiling the redesigned Jay Street for walking and biking. When the Partnership finds out -- often from posts on social media -- they send crews to put the planters back in place. "It's a bit of cat-and-mouse out there," said Belinda Cape, chief of staff for the Partnership.

This summer, the Partnership ramped up its plant-based initiative to "impede illegal parking and improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians" on Jay Street, said Director of Operations Ryan Grew.

The Partnership has an arrangement with DOT to acquire planters that the city retires from other sites, like when a temporary plaza is upgraded with permanent materials and the heavy planters are no longer needed to demarcate space. The organization now has 56 planters deployed on Jay Street, up from 12 in the spring of 2017, according to Grew.

In addition to more planters protecting the bike lane from traffic, the Partnership has set some up next to the curb on the west side of the street south of Fulton (where Jay becomes Smith Street). The planters there deter for-hire drivers from obstructing the bike lane, which used to be common...

Image: Google Maps via Shmuli Evers
Image: Google Maps via Shmuli Evers
Image: Google Maps via Shmuli Evers

As of this week, the block has more planter power (Shmuli Evers, who took this photo, says these pots have been planted since he snapped this shot):

Photo copyright Shmuli Evers, used with permission.

As construction on the New York City Transit building at 130 Livingston Street wraps up, the Partnership expects to work with DOT next year on upgrading the two-block stretch of southbound bike lane on Smith Street between Fulton and Schermerhorn, Grew said.

The ultimate goal is to build out the Jay Street redesign with permanent materials, so it works the way it's supposed to without constant vigilance. "The longer-term strategy is to show that the community really wants capital improvements and a better Jay Street," said Grew. The planters "begin to show people what a better Jay Street can look like."

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