UPDATE: DOT Says It Will Fix Screwed-Up Delancey and Allen Intersection

This bicyclist was forced into traffic because of an unsafe new design installed this week by DOT. Photos: Gersh Kuntzman
This bicyclist was forced into traffic because of an unsafe new design installed this week by DOT. Photos: Gersh Kuntzman

The intersection of Delancey and Allen streets is now officially a s#!tshow, thanks to the Department of Transportation, which promises more work will be done to ease cyclists’ concerns.

Members of the #bikenyc army noticed this week that workers had installed a raised safety island in the large intersection.

The apparent goal was to give cyclists a place to wait at the western terminus of the forthcoming two-way bike path from the Williamsburg Bridge on the south side of the Delancey Street median. Cyclists will eventually be able to go north or south on Allen Street from that island and, in theory, avoid conflicts with drivers or pedestrians.

Instead, the DOT has created an area in the middle of the intersection where eastbound drivers on Delancey Street wait when they hit the red light at Allen Street. Before, drivers typically waited on the west side of Allen Street before entering the intersection, lest they be “blocking the box.” Now, the raised island makes them feel comfortable sitting at the light in the middle of the intersection because they’re only blocking a bike lane, after all. And they’re not blocking the box. They are the box.

It’s a bit confusing to describe, but these pictures tell the whole story. Here’s what the intersection looked like before:

Delancey and Allen Before

Sure, sometimes drivers would block the box, but mostly, it was empty when the signal was green for northbound cars and cyclists. But now…

Delancey and Allen after

…cars waiting for the red light block the bike lane.

As a result, cyclists who have the green are forced into traffic, as this video shows:

Even when they’re not pushed into the traffic because of drivers blocking the new box, many cyclists don’t know what to make of the raised area — especially since there’s a bollard sitting in the middle of the supposed bike lane…

Bollard in the middle of the bike lane

Pedestrians are also adversely affected by all the drivers who are box-blocking. And many drivers can’t get through the intersection anymore.

I wouldn’t have believed that anyone working for the city Department of Transportation could install something so ineffective — but it’s even more galling because the new construction so willfully ignores the agency’s own presentation about what it planned to do on the site.

Last year, the DOT showed off the design at left to Community Board 3. Note the green box in the center of the intersection. That zone was clearly intended to provide a safe waiting area for cyclists, but did not apparently require a raised area. And the north and south bike lanes would skirt it.

The accompanying text merely said the agency would “add [a] protected bike box in the intersection” because such paint “facilitates safe bike movements.” It didn’t say anything about bollards or major infrastructure that would discourage cyclists while also emboldening drivers.

After the initial publication of this story, DOT spokesman Chris Browne offered a very full explanation. Here it is, in full:

Thanks for your inquiry about DOT’s new “bike island” at Delancey and Allen Streets, a new and innovative intersection design that will be key in our plans to address the upsurge in cycling over the Williamsburg Bridge during the L train tunnel shutdown next year. Your article’s focus on the north-south movement fails to effectively highlight how this design allows cyclists to safely and efficiently connect from the not-yet-complete two-way path on Delancey to existing infrastructure on Pike/Allen — avoiding an otherwise awkward and slow crossing that would have increased conflicts with vehicles and pedestrians.

While the island itself has just been finished this past week, the intersection is nowhere near complete.  We expect the following work to be wrapped up in the weeks ahead:

  • New signals installed on the island itself and adjustments to signs and signal timing to discourage turning vehicles from blocking the intersection
  • Installation of planned markings that clearly identify a path of safe travel for cyclists (between new bollards) while also discouraging riders from going around the island
  • Evaluation of curb slope

In short, more to come. Even after it is complete, the island will certainly require some time to adjust.   And while our original presentation showed paint and delineators, our engineers felt that a raised space with bollards would better protect cyclists at an intersection where two truck routes intersect and through which dozens of new MTA Select Bus Service buses will turn — as they carry thousands more displaced L riders each day starting next spring.

In the coming weeks, we ask patience from cyclists who now use the intersection, and urge them to exercise extra caution as we finish our work.  Next spring, DOT expects thousands of new, less experienced cyclists to join those veteran Lower East Side riders in the Delancey/Allen intersection each day — with perhaps more than a dozen cyclists stopped for turns on the island at any given time.  The safety of all of those cyclists remains paramount in our planning. 

That answer explains some of the things from my full video, which was made earlier in the day and is still worth enjoying:

  • JarekFA

    Here’s my lone experience with it: https://twitter.com/JarekFA/status/1054829562641702912

  • Elizabeth F

    Go over the curb and risk getting a ticket for “riding on the sidewalk?” My default would be to avoid the curb. Especially if it doesn’t have a ramp.

  • Dr. Bones

    Place a raised cement rectangle filled with random bollards over the intersection of two bike lanes in the middle of traffic. Why? Options: A. Sheer stupidity and design incompetence. B. Some kind of mix-up, i.e. they did the right job in the wrong place. A slightly different version of incompetence and stupidity. C. Bike lane trolling taken to a whole new level.

  • Brian Howald

    This would all be solved with no signals visible to those who stop in the middle of the intersection.

  • While we’re on the subject, can DOT fix this approach to the Williamsburg Bridge? This little “ramp” at the entrance is too steep. More like a curb than a ramp anyway. It’s real jolt and wouldn’t pass muster in a real bike city.

    As the L train shutdown looms, the city should be looking at every opportunity it can to improve the riding experience. Instead we get bike infrastructure that appears to be engineered and installed by people who never ride bikes.


  • unanimous

    Cycle of rage?! What is going on here? Wouldn’t a more effective use of the blogishere be talking about how bad the intersection of Bowery is, how crappy it is at Houston, or some other issue worth my time. This is a good way to get the mayor to cut innovative projects. Boooooo! And where are my Upper East Side lanes?

  • vnm

    This is just another reason why tearing down all the tenements on the east side of Allen Street back in the 1930s was an unbelievably bad idea (in hindsight). Not only did it create a way-too-wide motordom free-for-all that we’re still trying to design our way out of 85-90 years later, think of all the lost housing!

  • Adam Nelson

    Shouldn’t the drivers I don’t know… not stop in the bike lane?

  • Joe R.

    Not to mention the sharp turn at the end of the long descent into Manhattan is about as brain-dead as it gets. Common sense tells you cyclists will be coming down at high speeds. They should have a straight run-off of a few blocks after the descent levels out to let them coast down to “normal” speeds. That stupidity they have is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Only a matter of time before a cyclist crashes into that fence at 30+ mph.

  • It’s abundantly clear by simply looking at the pavement markings what the DOT changed: the Delancey two-way bike lane will extend two ways all the way to Allen, when the original plan was for the westbound side to go only as far as Orchard. It’s clear this raised pavement is intended to be a “mixing zone” for where two two-way bike lanes meet.

    This is a good thing, complicated by the stupidity of box-blocking drivers and likely some incomplete work to rework markings around the bollards. Not sure how we engineer our way out of this, but the DOT will have to, because lord knows it won’t be enforced.

  • AnoNYC

    How much of the Delancy St bike and bus treatments are complete? And bus treatments on Allen St?

  • AnoNYC

    We need cameras to enforce fines on drivers who block the box. The city needs to install a nice big sign stating: “Block box = FINE Camera enforced.”

  • This is just plain odd and baffling. The bollards #1.

  • BrandonWC

    We’d need the state to authorize that.

  • BrandonWC

    On Delancey, lines for east-bound bike lane between Chrystie and Allen are painted. Still needs signage and green paint. Two-way barrier protected lane goes from Allen to Ludlow. Some signals facing east have been installed. Nothing east of Lundow yet. Looks like there is going to be some signals installed on the Allen/Delancey island. No bus treatments yet.

  • BrandonWC

    On my way to work a few weeks ago while the excavation was taking place, I heard some of the workers discussing how it wasn’t *that* far off.

  • “In short, more to come.”

    What if you’re commuting on this street now, before more comes?

    “we ask patience from cyclists who now use the intersection, and urge them to exercise extra caution as we finish our work.”

    It’s on DOT to provide safe passage for cyclists! It’s not on cyclists to somehow figure out how to navigate it. Ugh.

  • Orcutt

    Sorry, saying there should be curbs in the path of bike lanes because lots of newbie cyclists are coming is just plain stupid. No one has had a problem along the Allen Street bike path for 8-ish years, until now

  • Gersh Kuntzman


  • Gersh Kuntzman

    Give me time!

  • Jacob

    “please be patient while we force you into heavy truck traffic.”

  • AnoNYC

    Yup, but we better get moving on it.

  • anononono

    Wait this screaming headline was about a project that was only half done? I know you’re new here Gersh, but come on!

  • MFS

    DOT needs to fix this, but I generally agree that the tone of this post is several degrees above the actual level of urgency. This tabloid-inspired approach is not going to serve Streetsblog well. Maybe it gets results in the short run, but definitely over the long run if this is how SB approaches every issue, DOT will learn that this is noise and will ignore whatever signal is contained therein.

  • Samuelitooooo

    There are supposed to be bus treatments? Link please? I wanna see for myself

  • BrandonWC


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