DOT Plans Safer Walking and Biking Routes to Bronx River Greenway

DOT is proposing to add a two-way, jersey barrier-protected bikeway to a block of Bruckner Boulevard that's currently a high-speed asphalt free-for-all. Image: DOT

The Bronx River Greenway, threaded along the waterfront between expressways, railroad tracks and busy arterial avenues, is difficult to access for many of the surrounding South Bronx residents. A proposal from DOT [PDF] would improve park access while providing some order to the area’s streets.

“It’s hard for folks in the neighborhood to get to these parks,” said Joe Linton, greenway director for the Bronx River Alliance. “We’re going to need these on-street improvements.”

The plan has four components. The first will add a two-way barrier-protected bikeway along a block of Bruckner Boulevard, immediately adjacent to the Bruckner Expressway. It would connect a sidewalk near the southern end of Concrete Plant Park to north-south bike lanes on Bryant and Longfellow Avenues. The lane is carved out of the massive expanse of asphalt currently used for a 41-foot wide travel lane.

While this is a huge safety gain for a location that currently sees a lot of wrong-way cycling on a high-speed road, the lane connects to a pedestrian bridge across the Bruckner Expressway that has no ramps. Instead, bike riders have to carry their bikes up a sloping set of stairs.

“They can still do more to seamlessly connect it,” said Richard Gans, a volunteer on the Transportation Alternatives Bronx committee. “In general, we’re happy with the improvements that are proposed,” he added.

To the north, those improvements include adding green painted bike lanes to Edgewater Road, a frontage street immediately east and parallel to the Sheridan Expressway. Until phase two of Starlight Park is completed (a bureaucratic tangle currently stands in the way), Edgewater Road will be the best connection between Concrete Plant Park and Starlight Park’s first phase, which recently opened to the north. Even after phase two is open, this will remain the most direct route for many residents accessing the parks.

In addition to new bike lanes on Edgewater Road, Westchester Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard, intersections marked above are slated for safety improvements. Image: Google Maps

Westchester Avenue will receive striped bike lanes and shared lanes between Bryant Avenue and Bronx River Avenue; the dedicated lanes will give way to sharrows where stanchions from the elevated 6 train narrows the lane widths. The road will also receive striping to channelize traffic flow; currently, there is minimal striping to indicate where drivers should go.

Intersections will also get safety treatments. Edgewater Road and Westchester Avenue will receive a short two-way buffered bike lane to provide a connection between the greenway in Concrete Plant Park and the new bike lanes on Edgewater Road.

The intersection of Westchester Avenue and Whitlock Avenue, which currently has long crossings for passengers trying to access the elevated 6 train, will receive painted pedestrian islands and bulb-outs.

To the east, where Westchester Avenue crosses Bronx River Avenue, a slip lane from Close Avenue will be converted to pedestrian space. A corner of the intersection’s existing concrete island will be shaved off so that trucks currently using the slip lane will be able to turn from Close Avenue to Bronx River Avenue.

The proposals came about after a site visit DOT hosted last summer with the Bronx River Alliance. A video produced after the site visit shows the dangerous street conditions near the greenway. Nearby residential areas in Claremont received the city’s first Slow Zone treatment in 2011.

DOT presented the proposals to committees of Community Boards 2 and 9 in mid-January but has not yet received supportive votes from the full boards. CB 9′s public service committee chair William Rivera tells Streetsblog that he will bring up the proposal for a vote at the committee’s March 19 meeting, after which it could advance to the full board on March 21.

Streetsblog has inquiries in with DOT and CB 2 for more information. Implementation could begin as early as this spring, according to Linton, but DOT has not confirmed a timeline.