Brooklyn CB Committees OK Un-protected 2-Way Bike Lane on Plaza Street

Image: NYC DOT (PDF)

NYC DOT presented plans last night for an un-protected two-way bike lane on Plaza Street, which would enhance a critical hub in the Brooklyn bike network by defining space for contraflow riding, but fall short of providing safe cycling infrastructure for all ages. The transportation committee of Community Board 6 voted in favor of the project as a first step toward implementing a fully protected bikeway, along the lines of what DOT first presented for Plaza Street in 2010. Update: The Community Board 8 transportation committee endorsed the plan unanimously, “requesting that DOT continue to look into further pedestrian safety and traffic calming measures,” said vice-chair Rob Witherwax.

The upgrade to the Plaza Street bike lane will help connect several important spokes in the Brooklyn bike network but won't provide physical protection.

Plaza Street currently has a one-way buffered lane; with other bike routes extending from Grand Army Plaza in every direction, the new contraflow lane will be a significant upgrade in terms of connecting gaps in the bike network.

Without physical protection, though, the project won’t pack the same punch as the nearby Prospect Park West bike lane, the gold standard for safe, all-ages cycling infrastructure in NYC. As more than one parent pointed out at the meeting, biking is an increasingly popular transportation option for kids and families getting to Prospect Park, and incursion by vehicle traffic and double parkers will limit the safety of the Plaza Street lane for young riders. The project, which doesn’t touch the number of parking spaces on Plaza Street, also won’t provide new walking connections to the Grand Army Plaza berms, which are currently sealed off to pedestrians by parked cars at several cross streets.

“I commend the Department of Transportation for putting forth this new design, which will greatly improve cycling connections around Grand Army Plaza, shaving several minutes off travel times by creating more direct access to adjacent bike lanes,” said Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors, who’s also a member of the CB 6 transportation committee. “Given the frequency with which impatient and, frankly, law-breaking drivers encroach on the existing Plaza Street bike lanes, however, I hope that DOT will continue to look at ways to better protect cyclists, including some sort of physical separation.”

The DOT presentation isn’t online as of this writing (update: now it’s online — check out the PDF), but here’s how the street would be laid out, starting from the berm-side:

  • The parking lane by the berms will stay where it is but will be a foot wider (nine feet), to provide more of a buffer from the bike lane.
  • The bi-directional bike lane will be eight feet wide, with the contraflow lane placed next to the parking lane.
  • The outside buffer will be three feet wide, with DOT looking to demarcate the buffer from the traffic lane with a yellow line. DOT’s Josh Benson said the agency would also look at using a double-yellow to add some extra sense of separation.
  • The traffic lane will be 11 feet wide.
  • The outer parking lane will be nine feet wide.

The project also includes new speed humps to calm traffic and discourage motorists from using Plaza Street as a cut-through route. The street already receives a relatively low traffic volume, though the blocks closest to Union Street do see queues form at certain times of day. The speed humps will go in between Lincoln Place and Berkeley Place and between Berkeley and Union.

Last night’s meeting was a standing-room only affair, with all points of view getting a thorough airing and then some. You can get blow-by-blow summaries of the Q&A session from @mikepstein and @BrooklynSpoke. I’m going to limit my recap to two moments.

  • Low point: A bike lane opponent heckled an 8-year-old girl who bikes to the park with her mom, after she got off to a slow start with her short speech. (The heckler was promptly tsked, at least.)
  • High point: A grey haired gentleman fluent in Brooklynese let loose with this excellent piece of rhetoric: “A century of attachment and domination by automobiles, and what has it done for us? We have an epidemic of obesity and asthma. The future of our city is that bike lane on Prospect Park West.” Unfortunately I had to leave the meeting early and wasn’t able to get his name. Update: The speaker in question was Matthew Weinstein.

We’ll share the full DOT presentation as soon as it’s available.

In related news, the CB 6 committee also approved the addition of on-street bike parking at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Park Place, by Gorilla Coffee. And the committee also voted in favor of bike lane additions on Third Street, connecting eastbound and westbound gaps between Carroll Gardens and Park Slope.