Safer Bowery, LES Bike Lanes Clear Manhattan CB3 Committee

LES_bike_routes.jpgNew bike routes will provide safer connections on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, in an attempt to divert cyclists from Delancey Street. Image: NYCDOT

NYCDOT unveiled a slate of pedestrian and bicycle improvements to the transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 3 last night. Presenters asked for votes on two street safety projects: the construction of a planted center median on the Bowery between Canal and Division streets, and the addition of new curbside bike routes to improve connections to the Williamsburg Bridge.

Despite a few moments of crankiness from one member ("I can’t in good conscience vote for any more bicycle lanes"), the committee approved resolutions in favor of both measures.

The new bike routes on Suffolk, Stanton, and Rivington streets would complement improvements built last year, which extended the Williamsburg Bridge approach to Suffolk. Slated for implementation in May, the painted, curbside lanes are intended fill in key east-west connections north of where Delancey Street feeds into the bridge path.

The changes are important because Delancey remains extremely dangerous even as biking on the Williamsburg Bridge increases rapidly.

This January, 74-year-old Fuen Bai was killed by a school bus driver while riding in the no-man's-land between the bridge and Allen Street. Every year, traffic injures dozens of pedestrians and cyclists on the corridor, according to CrashStat. Meanwhile, DOT bike counts indicate that cycling on the bridge has quadrupled since 2004. Despite all the people biking over the bridge, the tantalizing proximity of the Allen Street bike path, and the dismal safety record of Delancey Street, the new plan does not address Delancey itself.

DOT's strategy is to divert Williamsburg Bridge bike traffic to calmer, safer side streets. "One of the issues is that people don’t know about the alternatives," Bicycle Program Coordinator Josh Benson told the audience last night. "When you get out there and try this route, it’s gonna make sense. It will change people’s behavior." DOT has no plans to add bike infrastructure to Delancey, he said.

Ian Dutton, a member of neighboring Community Board 2, noted at the meeting that a similar strategy on the other side of town has helped direct cyclists to side streets like Bleecker and Prince instead of the Houston Street traffic sewer. Still, he said, the proposal amounts to a tacit admission that Delancey Street is supposed to function like a highway.

Delancey Street "is obviously the most dangerous corridor in that part of the neighborhood," said Transportation Alternatives' Wiley Norvell. "We can’t continue to skirt it in its entirely. It’s time to give it the attention it deserves."

The CB 3 committee also approved a plan to build a raised, planted median on the Bowery between the Manhattan Bridge and Division Street. The project would reallocate some space from moving and parking lanes to create safer pedestrian crossings on some of the most hellish blocks in Manhattan, where crossing distances currently exceed 80 feet.

bowery_median.jpg