Experts: Fix the Grand Street Bike Lane or Just Scrap It and Start Over! 

A dumpster in the bike lane. Photo: Julianne Cuba.
A dumpster in the bike lane. Photo: Julianne Cuba.

The much-anticipated Grand Street bike lane, which was supposed to become a critical route for cyclists as part of the city’s expanding bike network, is in total chaos and puts bikers in more danger than it helps them.

Just a few months in, the so-called two-way protected North Brooklyn bike lane has already become such an utter fail that at this point it may be more productive for the Department of Transportation to find something else that actually works and protects riders, said Bike New York’s Jon Orcutt.

“DOT shouldn’t allow the Grand Street bike lane to continue as is for another day. It’s become a monument to dysfunction,” said Orcutt. “Either install better barriers or scrap it and find a more workable approach for safe cycling in the neighborhood.”

Streetsblog rode the much-reviled Grand Street bike lane from Rodney Street in Williamsburg to Morgan Avenue in Bushwick on Tuesday afternoon and had to stop nearly every few feet to slalom around trucks, cars, and Dumpsters — echoing the complaints of dozens of other cyclists who ride the crucial corridor daily.

“Considering how many cyclists have died this year — 14 of the 19 killed have been in Brooklyn — I’ve decided my life and quality of life are more important,” said Jessame Hannus, a cycling activist in Queens, who says she’s so fed up that she’s now going to find alternative routes — especially after 19 cyclists have been killed so far this year.

What went wrong?

The Grand Street bike lane has been a multi-agency fail from the get-go because of lack of protection, lack of enforcement, and poor communication between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the city’s Department of Transportation.

Last fall, DOT first started installing paired protected bike lanes on Grand Street between Morgan Avenue and Rodney Street — a busy two-way thoroughfare where three cyclists have been killed since 2016 — in order to beef up the area’s bike network ahead of the L train shutdown.

But the city never completed it, hitting pause in January when Gov. Cuomo announced that the L train would no longer fully shut down as originally planned. DOT scrambled to figure out what that meant for its own street-level L train plans, leaving the much-anticipated bike lane in a chaotic limbo for months, and nixing a dedicated westbound bus lane for the same street.

Eventually in April, Mayor de Blasio announced that the Grand Street bike lanes would be completed, despite the L train no longer shutting down. Cyclists applauded the city decision. But that was then.

The DOT says it has finally finished its work by filling in missing green paint, updating parking regulations, and installing markings between Bushwick Avenue and Metropolitan Avenue. But it’s not working.

What it’s like out there

Streetsblog biked the route this week to get the lay of the land. Things started going wrong almost as soon as we set out on the route — near Keap Street, one Mack truck driver parked in the bike lane told us he was hungry, and was only pulling over for a few minutes to grab food from a restaurant nearby.

His hunger is every cyclist’s danger.

The fact that the truck driver can park in the bike lane reveals the central flaw of the eastbound stretch; the only physical barrier keeping cyclists safe from traffic is a line of several floppy delineators that drivers can easily drive over or through so they can park on the green paint. We saw three in just a couple of minutes. 

A few blocks east, right before Graham Avenue, another woman was casually chatting through the passenger side window with the driver inside a car parked in the bike lane. She spotted us snapping a photo and yelled, “What are you gonna do, report it?”

Yes.

The license plate associated with that car has racked up 26 violations since 2015, including one each for going through a red light and speeding in a school zone, according to HowsMyDriving.

And a little further down Grand Street, directly after Graham Avenue, the bike lane is entirely blocked by a Dumpster (see photo at top of this post).

A woman talking to a driver parked in the bike lane. Photo: Julianne Cuba
A woman talking to a driver parked in the bike lane. Photo: Julianne Cuba

Besides the numerous delivery trucks, for-hire vehicles, and other cars impeding the so-called protected bike lane, we also spotted a few flexible delineators that had fallen down and several cracks — some of the fairly deep — making even more of a dangerous mess of it. 

A pretty deep crack in the bike lane. Photo: Julianne Cuba.
A pretty deep crack in the bike lane. Photo: Julianne Cuba

 

The agency is still working on some touch ups, including replacing missing or broken delineators. It also says it’s looking to add additional protection to prevent vehicles from parking in the bike lane and is working with the NYPD to make sure the lane is clear. The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

  • Daphna

    There are plenty on concrete jersey barriers cluttering up the Hudson River Greenway bike path. Let’s move them and position them out the outside of the buffer of the Brooklyn Grand Street bike lane to make it protected.

  • Joe R.

    Looking at the last picture, why is it so hard for NYC to keep streets in good repair? If a crack like that was a rare exception, it would be one thing. Unfortunately, it seems to be the rule. Other places keep streets in good condition. This isn’t rocket science. Our streets are so bad maybe we should let NASA use them to practice for lunar landings.

  • thomas040

    ‘looking to add additional protection’…. how long of a look do they need to take? it’s pretty damn obvious that the entire stretch needs at least a plastic bolted down curb.Like these ones!

  • They could use those concrete blocks from the Hudson River Greenway.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e6c8463982cf55a2fd26bc0aea293e09ce4b0f05310f82d8edc6b7ba7a5b8e70.jpg

    Line the bike lane with these jammies. That’s keep the idiot drivers out.

  • see

    Ted Wright should be replaced. This is malpractice, both from an engineering and design standpoint as well as a political one.

  • dave “paco” abraham

    Other places don’t have 2 million vehicles driving through such a small space each year though, right? I think the use and abuse, as well as the full range of seasons, makes NYC roads especially terrible. That said, it ought to come with a much more efficient DOT that can anticipate the repairs needed so they’re not always in such terrible shape.

  • dave “paco” abraham

    Look much higher up the totem pole to City Hall when looking for the decision maker who needs to be replaced. If we had a mayor who understood what Vision Zero is and what kind of resources it actually needs I think Ted Wright et al would be able to design some real magic. I’d also point a much bigger figure at PD who prove time & time again that they do not take bike lane blocking seriously.

  • Joe R.

    That’s really the key—rebuild streets on a regular basis before they deteriorate that badly. Also, fix the underlying conditions causing these potholes when the street is repaired. There are places by where where the same potholes have existed for 40 years. There’s no excuse for that. Whenever the street is repaved the crews should be required to see why any potholes exist, and correct the condition.

  • GuestBx

    I don’t know if it’s just that. Look at the roads in Tokyo, Moscow, London, etc.

  • Vooch

    for a laugh go to the DOT website that grades your street surface quality – streets I‘d rank as D – show up as A

    LOL

  • Vooch

    Ted Wright is okay, it’s the bosses that are out of touch

  • Justinain World

    Workers and the driving public do not see bike lanes as “roadways” like bike riders do. Even if they technically are no one driving a car or truck (especially for work) is going to go out of their way to make sure they do not block a bike lane. They are seen as leisure items and not necessary. Think of a park… if a truck has to go in there to cut trees are they going to park where convenient? YES. Same goes for these bike lanes, which will be gone in 10 years just watch.

  • Sinclair Mendicant

    Ted has been quoted in an article with an install first, think about it later mentality. Equating infrastructure to like building chain retailer stores. He’s been quoted saying, “Just start building,” and “Instead of putting together these plans that look good on paper, instead of talking about it, start building it.”

    https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/essex/montclair/2019/03/15/could-montclair-have-its-own-bicycle-and-greenway-program/2378149002/

  • Wilfried84

    And right below in the feed is this article with this picture. My fear of concrete is that then you can’t escape the bike lane when it inevitably gets blocked anyway.
    https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/08/01/just-another-day-in-new-york-citys-perpetually-blocked-bike-lanes/

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    This is why these need physical separation from the roadway, not just paint.

  • Joe R.

    I doubt it. I just read that the next recession is going to be particularly bad for millennials, which is the demographic that is now reaching what is traditionally the age at which they spend the most on cars. The older generations are either dying off, or getting to the point where they’re unable to drive. This means if anything there will be less demand for car lanes on roads, not more, and probably a lot more demand for bike/bus lanes. By about 2030 the demographic will shift to the point drivers will be a minority in the electorate. especially in large cities.

    In the past whenever there have been radical shifts in how people do things, one common reaction is denial, basically saying it’s a passing fad. Some people said that about the automobile in the early 1900s. People were saying it about LEDs replacing all other lighting in the early 2000s when I told them it would. Same thing with flat screens replacing CRTs. That happened in probably under a decade. And now SSDs are making regular spinning hard drives obsolete. People like you are saying bikes and public transit are another passing fad. You couldn’t be more wrong. People can afford cars less and less. Everything I see on the horizon is only going to make this more true. It may well be in 10 years there are a number of streets with no car lanes, just lanes for bikes, buses, delivery vehicles, and emergency vehicles.

  • Justinain World

    We’ll see. You seem to be thinking in a silo however. You need to think like a person who does not see NYC as a great place, or like the workers I describe. I want you to tell me how a palette of food will be delivered if there are no cars? Drone? Also, think of who drives trucks currently… do you want them flying things? Sorry but this IS a fad and will end much sooner than you predict. Lastly, until each and every rider follows the same subset of standards, it will continue to be a free-for-all like it is now.

  • Joe R.

    Why are you conflating cars and delivery trucks? Did I say anywhere the demand for deliveries will be down in the future? No, I didn’t. I said the ability to own an private automobile, as well as the desire to own one, will be greatly diminished. Why do people act like cars are the primary delivery vehicles? They’re not.

    And actually drone delivery for small packages will be a thing in the not too distant future. It won’t replace trucks carrying heavy loads, but it could still potentially take a lot of vehicles off the roads.

    “Lastly, until each and every rider follows the same subset of standards, it will continue to be a free-for-all like it is now.”

    I don’t understand what you mean here. It’s like saying people walking don’t follow the same standards, which they don’t. So what? I’d like to see more people using lights at night, but that’s the only “standard” that I consider important. As far as I know, no standards for cyclists exist, at least not ones which make any sense. The primary goal when riding is to not collide with people, other bikes, or motor vehicles. Cyclists do a reasonably good job of this already without whatever standards you would like to see.

    “Free-for-all” is a weasel word. It’s used to describe a situation which on the surface might seem disorderly to you, but one which in fact works. Pedestrians on sidewalks often seem disorderly, but they rarely collide.

    “Sorry but this IS a fad and will end much sooner than you predict.”

    Because you want it to? This isn’t a NYC only movement, in which case I might say you have a good chance of being right. It’s an international movement where the US is about 20 years behind most of Europe. It may be a bumpy ride, perhaps we’ll have a bike lane removed here or there, but in the long run bikes, e-bikes, and scooters aren’t going anywhere. I lot of motorists wish it were otherwise, but it’s not.

  • Joke’s on you, because with the amount people think bike lanes aren’t real transportation New York will be gone in 10 years. Just watch.

  • Imagine how much easier and safer it would be for delivery trucks to make it around the city if there weren’t so many private cars! They have things like grocery stores and restaurants in places where they don’t let SOVs roam and park all over the place. It’s a straw-man argument to assume that advocates want zero motor vehicles. We want a smart and sensible amount for a busy city.

  • NYCyclist

    I found an article from 2001 that goes into great detail discussing the many reasons why our streets are inferior. It’s only gotten worse since then.

    http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,159579,00.html

    Why has the world’s highway Goliath become the superpower of potholes? A major reason is that in its haste, America built on the cheap. Across the nation, state and local governments have tended to award competitive contracts to the lowest bidder, often meaning they got the shoddiest materials and the sloppiest work. In addition, the Federal Government has encouraged neglect by subsidizing new construction or major restructuring at 90 cents to the dollar but awarding no subsidies for maintenance work. One expert likens it to not reimbursing drivers for the cost of changing oil in their cars while paying 90% of the price of a valve job. “The attitude was the faster it crumbles, the faster we’ll get brand-new,” says New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a stalwart highway watcher. Moreover, maintenance is unglamorous. “Nobody ever had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for fixing cracks,” notes Moynihan.

    In Europe, by contrast, maintenance and repair work begin before damage is even visible. During a 1990 study trip to Europe, a group of U.S. civilian and government experts was amazed to see maintenance work under way on highways considered to be in superb condition by American standards.

  • William Lawson

    Do you get a kick of being on the wrong side of history or something? The bike lanes aren’t going anywhere, regardless of the stab-in-the-dark prophecies of NIMBY boomers who don’t and never will get why people cycle.

  • William Lawson

    Yeah it’s not as if other cities throughout the world have solved or gone great ways to solving these problems quite marvelously.

  • Justinain World

    god you are sad… no one cares enough to even read your long ass crap. go watch another episode of “million little pieces”… fairy… the fact you don’t know what I meant about the same standards says everything. Everytry to wait at a light on a bike? All the losers scream at you. Most people think bike riders are losers. And you proved my point.

  • Justinain World

    ask a bus driver or someone who uses a vehicle for something worthwhile and after they call you gay tell me what they say….

  • Justinain World

    Do you get a kick out of having literally no life to speak of that anyone can discover?

  • Justinain World

    Those cities are not overrun by entitled people or portions of minority cultures with a chip on their shoulder and whom half do not speak the native language of the land. And yes I said native. Indians had their chance and blew it… Oh I said blew, did you get a stiffy?

  • Crooked Hillary

    Money doesn’t grow on trees.

  • Concrete barriers that are set up correctly — i.e.: with no gap for the entire length of the block — would not allow any car or truck to enter the bike lane in the manner that the UPS truck in that picture has done.

  • Joe R.

    The same attitude exists for building housing here in the US. Contractors slap up housing tracts using the cheapest materials and building methods going. A lot of these new homes have severe issues even when they’re 20 years old. Here is the US we’ll say a person is living in an “old” home if it’s maybe 50 or 60 years old. 100 years old is considered ancient. In Europe it’s not uncommon to live in buildings which are a few centuries old. Things are built to last, and maintenance is done long before there are visible signs of decay.

    Maybe it’s a good thing the US doesn’t have high-speed rail. Tracks have to be maintained to very high standards when you run trains at 200 mph. I honestly think we’re incapable of doing that here.

  • Exactly. The delivery of goods and the hauling of heavy gear and tools are amongst the few legitimate and desirable uses of motor vehicles.

  • Joe R.

    Bollards which prevent anything the size of a car from entering where there are gaps in the barrier nicely solve that potential problem.

    We also need bollards protecting sidewalks from both errant drivers and people who park on sidewalks. The sidewalks near police stations and car dealerships especially should be lined with bollards.

  • Knut Torkelson

    Holy shit are you in 3rd grade?

  • Knut Torkelson

    We don’t need magic. We need to just copy what other cities have been doing for decades now. Anyone proposing a shit lane like this in Amsterdam or Copenhagen would be laughed out of the room. Anyone who’s biked on this street for even a day could tell you those plastic bollards weren’t gonna stop anything.

  • Joe R.

    You’re being too charitable. My guess is kindergarten and using a speech to text app to post here.

  • Rhea Mccoy

    Get paid around $16000 a week. Becoming an affiliate is one of the hottest career moves of this decade. Individuals are learning how to utilize the internet as their tool by making money off of sites, a job that doesn’t even require leaving the home. Basically, an affiliate owns a website and refers visitors to other sites, known as”merchants.” Whenever these visitors make purchases, another websites pay the affiliate a commission, that is set by internet monitoring devices that keep track of internet customers’ purchases. Becoming an affiliate is a superb way to generate money, but it will require work. But if you set in time and effort, you can make money from the comfort of your own home. Simply take a look at this amazing opportunity for more >>>>>>>>>>>> argandabscissa.arrangiert.de

  • Justinain World

    your sure are. What a fool you sound like.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

DOT Hints at Upcoming Bike Projects in North Brooklyn

|
Last night DOT outlined some of the bike projects it’s planning for Williamsburg and Bushwick in the near future, including bike lanes on Meeker Avenue and improved southbound bike connections from the Williamsburg Bridge. While it didn’t come up at the meeting, the looming L train shutdown lends some extra urgency to bike network improvements in this […]

The Case for a Two-Way Protected Bike Lane on Plaza Street

|
Cross-posted from Brooklyn Spoke. In April 2010, DOT proposed an overhaul of the chaotic and dangerous Grand Army Plaza to include two-way protected bike lanes on Plaza Street East and West. (Plaza Street is not the high-speed roadway around the arch and fountain, but rather the less trafficked outer roadways, which already have one-way buffered […]