De Blasio Announces Grand Street Bike Lanes Will Stay, Ending L-Train Uncertainty

The future of the bike lanes had been uncertain since the day Governor Cuomo canceled the L-train shutdown.

A truck delivering to The Sandwich Shop blocking the eastbound bike lane on Tuesday morning. Photo: David Meyer
A truck delivering to The Sandwich Shop blocking the eastbound bike lane on Tuesday morning. Photo: David Meyer

The protected bike lanes on Brooklyn’s Grand Street — an L-train shutdown mitigation measure whose status went into limbo after Gov. Cuomo altered the repair schedule to nights and weekends only — are staying put, mostly.

DOT will retain the westbound parking-protected bike lane and eastbound buffered bike lane between the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Waterbury Street, City Hall said Wednesday as part of a sweeping announcement that included car restrictions on 14th Street in Manhattan.

The news culminates three years of advocacy by Council Member Antonio Reynoso and North Brooklyn safe streets activists, who began push for a redesign after a hit-and-run driver killed Matthew von Ohlen in July, 2016. Drivers have killed four people on Grand Street since 2010.

DOT's L shutdown design for Grand Street included a dedicated westbound direction. It's unclear whether the permanent bike lane will maintain the same specs. Image: DOT
DOT’s L shutdown design for Grand Street included a dedicated westbound direction. It’s unclear whether the permanent bike lane will maintain the same specs. Image: DOT

“I’ve been in close dialogue with the department and continuously pressured the agency to move ahead with plans for the Grand Street redesign,” Reynoso said in a statement. “I am relieved to see that our efforts have been fruitful and our community will finally get what it needs: a permanent bike lane that is designed with the safety of cyclists in mind.”

Partly as a result of the L train shutdown’s shock last-minute cancellation in January, the roll out on Grand Street has been a disaster.

The buffered lane is only protected by plastic delineators — and drivers often turn it into a de-facto parking or drop-off lane. The westbound parking-protected lane is better, but is intermittent at best; every block or so has a line of parked cars totally obstructing the path of people who chose to get around by bike instead of by emission-belching car.

A typical cross-section on Grand Street. The cars on the right are parked in the curbside bike lane. Photo: David Meyer
A typical cross-section on Grand Street. The cars on the right are parked in the curbside bike lane. Photo: David Meyer

“It’s kind of pointless. You have to weave in and out,” said cyclist Emily Van Raay as she waited for a light at Union Avenue.

Local shop owners and managers have also been frustrated by the loss of parking along the south curb. The local Business Improvement District called on the city to go back to the drawing board.

“It’s hard because you want to run in a minute, you can’t park, you’ll get a ticket,” said Albert Sosa, who works at Rickie’s Wines and Liquors at Grand Street and Bushwick Avenue. “Parking is very limited here.”

Merchants often overestimate the percentage of their constituents coming by car. A 2011 study in Vancouver found that small business owners thought double the amount of customers came by car than actually did. And NYC DOT’s own studies found that removing parking in favor of bike lanes actually helped increase retail foot-traffic.

Nonetheless, the new plan also attempts to address businesses’ parking concerns by supplementing spots repurposed by the redesign with new delivery zones and metered parking on intersecting side streets, according to City Hall’s press release. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told reporters to project would be finished as fast as possible.

Activists are continually amazed why so much of the Department of Transportation’s efforts are directed towards appeasing the demands of drivers.

“In a neighborhood where two-thirds of people do not own cars, I’m skeptical of the claim that a loss of customer parking would have an impact on business,” said TransAlt North Brooklyn activist Philip Leff. “A lot of the business owners drive. They’re the ones that are taking advantage of the parking.”

DOT’s original L shutdown design for Grand Street included a dedicated westbound bus lane, which is not likely to be retained now that the shutdown is canceled. The permanent bike lane will maintain the same widths as originally proposed, but the city will modify the design between Waterbury Street and Vandervoort Avenue to accommodate the needs of industrial businesses along that stretch.

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