DOT Proposes Striping Adjustments for Manhattan Bridge Bike Approach

For now, this is as good as it's going to get for cyclists who approach the Manhattan Bridge via Jay Street. Image: DOT

To make biking between Brooklyn and Manhattan safer and more appealing, one thing that needs to be addressed is access to the Manhattan Bridge from downtown Brooklyn. With the high volume of traffic between the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and local streets, the area can be both dangerous and confusing, especially if you haven’t biked these streets before.

A new proposal from DOT [PDF] to improve bike access along Jay Street and connecting streets will offer minor improvements. The incremental steps received a unanimous 7-0 vote, with one abstention, from Brooklyn Community Board 2′s transportation committee last Tuesday evening.

Tillary Street, on the block between Adams and Jay Streets, saw 15 severe injuries (eight of which were pedestrians or cyclists), as well as one pedestrian fatality, from 2006 to 2010 — a higher injury rate than 90 percent of Brooklyn streets. That earned it a ”high crash corridor” designation from DOT.

Although the long-term plan [PDF] for this block involves a two-way protected bike path on the north side of the street, similar to the existing configuration on Adams Street between the Brooklyn Bridge entrance and Cadman Plaza West, the proposal that received a supportive vote on Tuesday is less ambitious. It would stripe a five-foot wide bike lane on eastbound Tillary Street to complement the existing westbound striped lane. General travel lanes would be narrowed, but the eastbound side of the street would retain three moving lanes plus a left-turn lane.

On Jay Street itself, the existing southbound striped bike lane would be joined by a northbound counterpart, matching the configuration on Jay Street south of Tillary. This section of Jay Street currently has a lot of double-parking, and some bike advocates are concerned that the new bike lane would simply be occupied with parked cars. According to reader Ian Dutton, at Tuesday’s meeting committee chair Hemalee Patel noted that many of the cars parked on Jay Street use government placards, and that the existing parking set-up was not serving community needs. DOT staff said they would examine the curb regulations on Jay Street.

As Jay Street approaches Sands Street, northbound cyclists will continue to negotiate traffic entering Jay Street from a downhill ramp off the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. DOT’s proposal reconfigures the striping to lead cyclists across the ramp traffic, as opposed to leading them to merge with it. Northbound Jay Street will also have a new six-foot wide green bike lane as it approaches Sands Street. Space for the northbound lane will be created by eliminating the buffer for the southbound lane.

The DOT proposal also calls for shared lane markings and other small adjustments to help cyclists navigate blocks near the bridge on Prospect Street and on Sands Street between Pearl and Adams Streets.

“The stripes themselves on the street are going to be fairly minor,” Dutton said. Noting the unanimous vote, he said that it was a positive sign that the committee is aware of bike safety needs in the area and could be supportive of projects that go farther than this one.

The proposal is expected to be receive a vote at CB 2′s next full board meeting on May 8 before being implemented by DOT.