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.

  • jeremy

    Can someone tell me why they didn’t make a 2 way parking protected bike lane on one side of the street? It would eliminate the need for 2 buffers and would keep car parking on both sides

  • Tooscrapps

    I would guess signals because of signals or the “No Turn” restrictions it would require.

  • jeremy

    Or else they should have made Grand st west bound only and Metropolitan east bound only from Morgan to the BQE

  • Tooscrapps

    Even one way streets with a bi-directional PBL generally require bike signals for contra-flow or turn restrictions.

  • Rider

    Grand Street needs a real concrete buffer of some sort to keep drivers out of the bike lane. Anything less and DOT is just kidding itself. Other cities can figure this out so why won’t Trottenberg let the bike planners do the best job possible?

  • Jacob

    It’s amazing. When safe bicycle infrastructure is the starting point, deliveries and adequate parking can be accommodated, via loading zones and new metered spaces. The problem is that DOT usually starts from the premise that free/cheap parking can’t ever be eliminated, and the compromise is always made by making the bike lanes suck.

  • Jacob

    It’s not great design. You get wacky conflicts, where turning drivers have to watch for a simultaneous gap in a lots of different movements in different directions at the same time:
    1) opposite way cars
    2) same way cyclists
    3) opposite way cyclists
    4) same way pedestrians
    5) opposite way pedestrians

    It’s really hard to monitor all those at the same time, and so people end up making more mistakes, leading to more crashes. So it’s worse design, even though it’s politically easier to implement. You can make a good argument, though, that this design is better than no protected lanes at all.

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    why is there still one street not finished?

  • You are right about what that street needs. But it is not Trottenberg’s call. She can go only so far as her boss will allow her to go.

    Sadik-Khan was so effective in that job because Bloomberg backed her strongly against vitriolic criticism from all corners — including from then-Public Advocate de Blasio. The current mayor has no such backbone.

  • Daphna

    There is little turnover of spots even when there is parking on a curb because it’s free or underpriced, and many people feel entitled to park for free with impunity even when a street is metered due to real and fake parking placard abuse. The idea that prior to this design there were available curbside spots where someone could pull over and run an errand is a myth. Since curbside spaces were rarely available before the re-design, drivers solved their short term parking needs by double-parking in the bike lane. With the new configuration, they can not solve their short term parking needs with this illegal behavior as easily.

    The real problem with parking comes down to not enough streets being metered, not a high enough charge for the meter, and inconsistent enforcement of those who do not pay for the meter. The curbside or floating parking should be for short term use, but throughout NYC people feel entitled to use the curbside parking for long term car storage.

  • thomas040

    Will they make it an actual in all reality protected lane, or are they going to stick with the ‘pretend protection’ that is bollards?

  • WodOffPooH

    Maybe we should also restrict bike riders that are terrible. Nyc is not a city for bad riders that put themselves in silly situations and cross the street using crosswalks like they’re pedestrians and not vehicles. City bike riders I’m looking at you.

  • kevd

    Maybe we should also restrict car drivers that are terrible. Nyc is not a city for bad drivers that put others in silly situations and speed and run lights and double park and attempt to bully crossing pedestrian by honking. NYC drivers I’m looking at you.

    Maybe we should also restrict pedestrians that are terrible. Nyc is not a city for pedestrians that endanger others and step into bike lanes without looking and try to cross mid block with out looking. NYC pedestrians I’m looking at you.

  • Wilfried84

    This is easily close to the worst “protected” bike I’ve tried to ride in. Every single block of it is blocked. Since I’m OK with taking the lane, weaving in and out is worse than no bike lane.

  • AMH

    I’m not very familiar with this street, but the photos don’t match the “existing” diagram at all.

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