Experts: Fix the Grand Street Bike Lane or Just Scrap It and Start Over!
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.
This truck driver tells me he’s hungry and is pulling over in this so-called protected bike lane on Grand Street to grab food. But he says he understands my concerns. pic.twitter.com/gnJvYoKZ2y
— Julianne Cuba (@Julcuba) August 27, 2019
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?”
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).
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.
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.