Eyes on the Street: A Flower-Protected Chrystie Street Bike Lane

Bike commuters on Chrystie Street found a pleasant surprise this morning. The street’s northbound bike lane, a busy connector from the Manhattan Bridge that’s usually a favorite of illegally-parked drivers, had received an upgrade: Someone added orange traffic cones, decorated with the occasional sunflower, to keep cars out of the bike lane.

Earlier this year, DOT agreed to study upgrades to the Chrystie Street bike lanes after Community Board 3 and a united front of local elected officials asked for fixes. CB 3 is still waiting for DOT to come back with a plan.

This morning’s pop-up protected bike lane was the work of the “Transformation Dept.” Photos were first posted under the @NYC_DOTr handle on Twitter. The project, covering two blocks between Grand and Delancey streets, had a budget of $516 to purchase 25 cones and about a dozen flowers. It took four people less than 20 minutes to install, said a Transformation Dept. representative who asked to remain anonymous.

“Drivers frequently park or idle in this part of the bike lane, even though no parking or standing is allowed at any time,” the group said in an email. “While we appreciate DOT’s recent repainting of large segments of Chyrstie Street, they are still failing to provide the kind of safe and low-stress riding experience New Yorkers deserve.”

This isn’t New York’s first guerrilla protected bike lane. In 2012, Ian Dutton moved some leftover ConEd cones to keep drivers out of a short stretch of the Bergen Street bike lane. The 78th Precinct soon embraced the idea, adding metal barriers. Last year, DOT made it official by adding flexible bollards.

Last month, a Boston cyclist used cones and flowers to keep cars out of a bike lane where a truck driver killed a cyclist. As with Chrystie Street, city government in Boston had been planning its own safety upgrades, but the quick-thinking cyclists were able to put in a temporary measure before the city’s bureaucracy could act.

Cyclists cheered this morning’s quick fixes. Transportation Alternatives volunteer and frequent Chrystie Street rider Dave “Paco” Abraham, who has led the charge for a safer Chrystie, said in an email that he didn’t know who was behind the the orange cones, but he liked it.

“It’s a godsend,” Abraham said. “While we wait for DOT to figure out long-term permanent design fixes that will enhance safety, there is no reason short-term measures like this should not be pursued.”

“We may check in on the cones and flowers this week, but we also encourage anyone riding on Chrystie Street to re-position cones that may have moved since this morning’s installation,” the Transformation Dept. said. “If someone wants to buy new flowers, go for it!”

Story updated at 12:40 p.m. with information from the “Transformation Dept.” activists behind the pop-up installation.