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Cuomo Announces $67M for Bike/Ped Projects, Including Pulaski Bridge

Image: NYC DOT

[Editor's note: Streetsblog will not be publishing Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.]

Via the Tri-State Transportation Campaign: Earlier this week Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $67 million in funding for walking and biking infrastructure statewide, after advocates had pressed the state to follow through on the recently passed complete streets law with actual resources. These are federal funds that will be distributed by the state DOT.

One of the local projects that will receive funding is the protected two-way bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge, which will double the amount of space for walking and biking on this increasingly well-used connection between Queens and Brooklyn. The state contribution is $2.5 million, with the remaining $625,000 provided by the city.

NYC DOT revealed the design for the bikeway in December, and Assembly Member Joe Lentol, who has fought for the project since 2012, sent out a press release today with the news that Brooklyn Community Board 1 voted in favor of the plan earlier this week. Lentol says work on the project should begin once the weather warms up and construction season resumes. Here’s his full release:

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Levin to DOT: Deadly McGuinness Blvd Needs Traffic Calming, Speed Cams

McGuinness Boulevard at Nassau Avenue, where Nicole Detweiler died a week ago and Solange Raulston died in 2009. Photo: Google Maps

McGuinness Boulevard at Nassau Avenue, where Nicole Detweiler was killed a week ago and where Solange Raulston was killed in 2009. Photo: Google Maps

A week after Nicole Detweiler was killed while walking on McGuinness Boulevard — at least the third person to be struck and killed on the street in the last five years — Council Member Steve Levin sent a letter to incoming Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg asking her to prioritize traffic calming and and speed cameras on the busy multi-lane road cutting through Greenpoint [PDF]:

Speed cameras from the recently approved pilot program should be installed at PS 34, which is just off of McGuinness Boulevard, and would reduce speeds and increase safety. I also request the implementation of a neighborhood slow zone in the area surrounding PS 34, left-hand turn signals, countdown clocks at crosswalks, and other traffic calming elements.

Council Member Steve Levin. Photo: NYC Council

Council Member Steve Levin. Photo: NYC Council

A state law passed last year allows the city to install up to 20 speed cameras within school zones, which extend a quarter-mile from public and private schools. The city began operating speed cameras last September, issuing drivers $50 tickets for speeding at least 10 mph above the limit during school hours. The cameras are movable, so the city can deploy them in any eligible area where speeding is a problem. Because Albany allowed only 20 cameras, the locations are not disclosed in an effort to maximize the deterrent effect.

An analysis by WNYC last year showed that school zones cover two-thirds of city streets, including 82 percent of all streets in Brooklyn. In addition to PS 34, cited by Levin, other nearby schools include PS 31, PS 110, JHS 126, Brooklyn Automotive High School, Believe Southside Charter School, Believe Northside Charter School and Frances Perkins Academy.

WNYC’s school zone map indicates a nearly mile-long stretch of McGuinness Boulevard, from Greenpoint Avenue to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, is included within a school zone and thus qualifies for speed cameras.

Levin’s letter comes in response to the death of Detweiler, 28, who was hit by a BMW driver and a truck driver at the intersection of McGuinness and Nassau Avenue. The truck driver, 35-year-old Roberto Amador, was arrested for driving with a suspended license. Amador had been arrested just one week earlier for driving with a suspended license on the Upper West Side, according to DNAinfo.

The death rate on McGuinness Boulevard is horrific. In December 2009, cyclist Solange Raulston, 33, was struck and killed by the driver of a flatbed truck at McGuinness and Nassau Avenue, the same intersection where Detweiler was killed. In April 2010, 28-year-old Williamsburg resident Neil Chamberlain was killed by a hit-and-run driver as he walked near the intersection of McGuinness and Calyer Street.

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Next Year, Peds and Cyclists Won’t Have to Fight for Scraps on Pulaski Bridge

One southbound lane of the Pulaski Bridge would be converted to a two-way bikeway under the plan. Image: DOT

A southbound lane of the Pulaski Bridge will be converted to a two-way bikeway in NYC DOT’s plan. Image: NYC DOT

By this time next year, people walking and biking across the Pulaski Bridge between Brooklyn and Queens won’t have to share a single narrow path. With a new, two-way protected bike lane spanning the bridge, cyclists will have a safe route and pedestrians will have the existing 8.5-foot wide pathway exclusively for walking. No more fighting over scraps of street space.

The only remaining milestones are final approval from state DOT, followed by NYC DOT moving ahead with a contract for construction — though the agency isn’t sure it will finish the project in time to help people looking for alternatives to the G train during a scheduled closure next summer.

The news came at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Brooklyn Community Board 1 transportation committee, which voted unanimously to support the project [PDF]. DOT also presented the plan at the transportation committee of Queens CB 2, which is waiting for more design details before taking a vote but expressed support for the project earlier in the planning process.

The need for more space for walking and biking is clear: In 2009, DOT added new striping for pedestrians and cyclists to the already-busy sidepath. Since then, the number of cyclists crossing the span has more than doubled, while the number of pedestrians has increased 47 percent, according to DOT counts.

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On the Queens side, the bikeway entrance to the bridge will be carved out of this car ramp and the planted traffic island.

The path will run on the west side of the bridge, replacing one of three southbound car travel lanes over Newtown Creek. Existing peak-hour traffic volumes on the bridge can easily be accommodated in two lanes, DOT’s Hayes Lord said, and the new two-lane configuration, matching the number of lanes on speed-plagued McGuinness Boulevard, will reduce merging and speeding by drivers as they drive into Brooklyn.

On the Queens side, the new bike path will curve alongside the existing walkway, which hugs a one-lane ramp that drivers use to access the bridge. To make room for the new bike path on the existing ramp, DOT will trim back the size of a Greenstreets traffic island at the bridge entrance. Drivers using the ramp will merge with southbound traffic from 11th Street entering the bridge, instead of continuing in the same lane as they do today.

Earlier this week, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called for safety improvements in this area, near the intersection of the Pulaski Bridge, 49th Avenue, and 11th Street.

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Lentol: DOT Will Finalize Design for Pulaski Protected Bike Lane This Year

DOT is drawing up plans for a dedicated bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge, according to the office of Assembly Member Joe Lentol, and should have a final design ready before the end of the year

The current layout of this Queens-Brooklyn link squeezes pedestrians and cyclists onto a narrow shared path, while motorists speed along on six lanes for auto traffic. A year ago, Lentol asked DOT to consider adding a two-way protected bike lane, and has since worked with Transportation Alternatives staff and volunteers to build support for the project. After the proposal cleared a traffic analysis, DOT conducted an engineering study, presumably focusing on how to protect cyclists from car traffic and make it safe to bike across the bridge’s wide expansion joints.

Today Lentol announced the final design will be presented to Community Board 1 in Brooklyn and CB 2 in Queens before the year is out. ”The bike lane construction slated to begin in late spring or early summer of 2014 will allow for cyclists and pedestrians to be enjoying a safer journey over the bridge sooner rather than later,” Lentol said in a press release.

“We have been working on obtaining a dedicated bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge for over a year now and I am happy to say it is finally coming to fruition,” Assemblyman Lentol added. “The safety of bike riders and pedestrians on the bridge has always been of my utmost concern.”

“I applaud Commissioner Sadik-Khan for her vision in creating a more pedestrian and cyclist friendly transportation infrastructure for New York City,” Lentol concluded.

We’ve asked DOT to confirm the project timeline, and will update here when we hear back.

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Pulaski Bridge: Six Lanes for Cars, One Cramped Path for Peds and Bikes

The Pulaski Bridge is a vital link between Queens and Brooklyn. Since it was built 60 years ago, pedestrians and cyclists have been relegated to a narrow path. The shared path was good enough for some time, but when Greenpoint and Long Island City started growing rapidly a few years ago, that ceased to be the case. With more people walking and bicycling between boroughs, the path has become cramped, uncomfortable, and now — at times — even dangerous.

Currently, NYC DOT is studying the possibility of putting a two-way bike path on the south-bound side of the roadway, which would open up the current path for people walking. It presents a few tricky design obstacles, but a plan to make it happen is reportedly nearing completion and will soon be presented to the local community boards.

Rush hour is when you see the worst crowding. On a recent commute home, I took 15 minutes of footage for this Streetfilms Shortie. As you can see, the path is full of people going both directions — runners, bicyclists, walkers, subway commuters and even quite a few rollerbladers. This isn’t the worst of it — I’ve seen the path much more congested.

While observing the ped/bike interaction (and in most cases it is extremely gentle and cordial — in all my years I’ve never seen more than a few words exchanged between users), make sure to also take note: there is no traffic congestion on the roadway. I’d say the numbers of cars that pass over the Pulaski barely justify two lanes in each direction. Three lanes is overkill. Repurposing one car lane for bicycling will not hinder car traffic and should even help calm drivers as they transition to McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint, which has a terrible safety record.

Just in case the community boards need a reminder of why this project should move forward, I thought it was prudent to grab this footage.

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Pulaski Bridge Bike Lane OK’d by DOT Traffic Study; Engineering Review Next

A protected bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge — calming traffic heading to McGuinness Boulevard and providing much more breathing room than the bridge’s narrow bike/ped path alone — has cleared a significant planning hurdle. In a letter to Assembly Member Joe Lentol [PDF], DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said that the proposal meets traffic analysis requirements, and that an engineering study and recommendations will be made by the end of the year:

DOT says an engineering study is underway for a protected bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge, and the agency will make recommendations by the end of the year. Photo: *Bitch Cakes*/Flickr

Since December, we have analyzed traffic data and we are confident that one Brooklyn-bound lane can be removed from the Pulaski Bridge without an adverse effect on traffic flow… However, there are some engineering questions remaining about how to properly design and install such a bicycle path on the bridge. To resolve these questions, we are initiating an engineering study with a structural engineering consultant.

The most likely engineering concerns are related to the bridge’s wide joint gaps, which could ensnare narrow bike tires, and how to maintain an adequate physical barrier between bicycles and motor vehicles on the drawbridge section of the span. DOT expects to wrap up the study and recommendations later this year, according to Sadik-Khan’s letter.

While this update puts the study schedule behind the March deadline that Lentol had cited at the beginning of the year, it’s a good sign of progress.

In the meantime, advocates continue to build support for the bike lane. The Transportation Alternatives Queens volunteer committee, which has a petition supporting the lane with 300 signatures, will be gathering more signatures on the Queens side of the bridge path on Saturday, May 11, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

The bridge path would complement a separate proposal to bring bike lanes to 11th Street in Long Island City, connecting north to Queens Plaza and the Queensboro Bridge. ”DOT and CB 2 have already agreed to this,” TA volunteer Steve Scofield told Streetsblog via e-mail. “We’re expecting their exact proposal and an implementation date in a matter of weeks.”

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Eyes on the Street: NYPD (?!) Tells Greenpoint Drivers, “No Dooring”

Spotted on the door of Greenpoint Finest Deli on Manhattan Avenue. Photo: Hilda Cohen

Here’s a welcome sign on the front door to Greenpoint Finest Deli, at the corner of Manhattan and Norman Avenues. The notice, ostensibly from NYPD, reminds drivers and passengers of their obligation to look before opening the door of parked cars. “Summonses will be issued,” the sign warns.

The sign, spotted by Hilda Cohen, would be consistent with the anti-dooring campaign TLC and DOT launched in September.

Bodega employees said that an officer from the 94th Precinct had distributed the sign. Officers on the street couldn’t verify whether the sign came from the precinct or not. Streetsblog has put in an inquiry with NYPD headquarters and the 94th Precinct for more information. We’ll let you know if we hear an update.

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Lentol: DOT Study of Pulaski Bridge Bike Lane Slated to Wrap By March

Photo: Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

Quick update on the campaign for a protected two-way bikeway on the Pulaski Bridge: We don’t know if DOT is going to implement one yet, but we know when they’ll make a decision. Yesterday, Assembly Member Joe Lentol sent out word that DOT chief Janette Sadik-Khan told him the agency will wrap up its feasibility study of the bikeway by March:

Although the response from Commissioner Sadik-Khan did not provide a definitive answer to the likelihood of the dedicated bike lanes installation, it did explain that the Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs unit is investigating the matter. The investigation will examine various factors, including the traffic conditions on the roadway, the structure of the movable bridge and the connections on the Brooklyn and Queens sides of the bridge. The investigation is slated to be completed by March 2013.

Lentol asked DOT to study the bikeway in October, after hosting a public meeting about the increasingly crowded conditions on the bridge’s narrow bike-ped path. DOT announced their feasibility study the next month, saying the main engineering challenge would be designing physical protection for cyclists that works on the drawbridge section of the roadway.

As Lentol noted in his statement yesterday, converting a southbound traffic lane on the bridge to a protected bikeway would also help control drivers’ speeds as they head off the bridge onto McGuinness Boulevard, which has a terrible safety record:

“I have long advocated for traffic calming measures on McGuinness Boulevard and this proposed bike lane would undoubtedly slow drivers down, while making the Pulaski Bridge safer for pedestrians and cyclists who travel along this road everyday. This bike lane is a common sense solution to a multi-faceted problem and I hope Commissioner Sadik-Khan’s investigation will result in the correct decision to make this bike lane a reality.”

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Brooklyn CB 1 Committee OKs West Street Greenway, Borinquen Place Plans

Last night, Brooklyn Community Board 1′s transportation committee voted 3-0 in favor of a preliminary design for the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway’s first capital project on West Street in Greenpoint, and, in a separate 3-0 vote, endorsed pedestrian safety improvements for Borinquen Place in Williamsburg. These projects will bring major improvements for biking and walking on these two North Brooklyn streets.

NYC DOT has proposed sidewalk extensions, concrete medians, and other safety fixes for Borinquen Place. Above, a rendering of the intersection where Borinquen Place converges with Grand Street. Image: DOT

Borinquen Place is a major route for cyclists and drivers going to the Williamsburg Bridge, and it has a deadly history. Because it intersects the grid at an angle, it creates dangerous crossings for pedestrians. The intersection with Grand Street, for example, has an exposed crossing distance of 130 feet.

DOT’s plan is to expand pedestrian space and reduce crossing distances using painted curb extensions and concrete median islands.

The agency began studying Borinquen Place after a request from Council Member Diana Reyna and a string of fatalities. The agency is proposing painted curb extensions at Grand Street, South 1st Street, and South 2nd Street. A concrete median island would be installed on Borinquen Place between Rodney and South 2nd Streets, and concrete curb extensions would be added to the intersection with Marcy Avenue.

One block of South 1st Street, between Keap and Rodney Streets, would be changed from one-way westbound to one-way eastbound to minimize conflicts with pedestrians near Borinquen Place.

In addition, South 4th Street, which widens to 45 feet as it crosses the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, would receive a 15-foot wide painted sidewalk extension, narrowing the travel lane to 12 feet.

The agency is still working on identifying community partners to maintain possible tables and chairs in the sidewalk extensions and will reach out to businesses along the street in the coming weeks. Implementation could begin later next year.

The committee also voted to support the first capital project for the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, which would reconstruct West Street in Greenpoint, converting it to a one-way street with a two-way bikeway separated from motor vehicle traffic by a mountable curb.

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DOT Begins Study of Dedicated Pulaski Bridge Bike Lane

The NYC Department of Transportation is undertaking a feasibility study for constructing a protected bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge connecting Greenpoint and Long Island City, agency representatives said at a neighborhood transportation town hall on Monday night.

The study, coming after Assembly Member Joe Lentol met with constituents about the issue in October and wrote to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan asking for a change, will likely take several months.

DOT is studying a protected Pulaski Bridge bike lane and how to overcome the challenges posed by the span's drawbridge section. Photo: *Bitch Cakes*/Flickr

The study is necessary, DOT staff said, because the agency has to figure out how to separate the bike lane from motor vehicle traffic on the drawbridge section of the crossing, which presents challenges that other bridges do not.

Because the center span of the bridge is opened for nautical traffic on Newtown Creek, any physical separations installed on the bridge would have to be lightweight yet stable when the drawbridge is opened.

Another issue raised at Monday’s meeting is the need to replace the wide expansion joints on the roadbed with a smaller joint that poses less risk to bicyclists. The existing shared path already has smaller, bike-friendly joints. The bike lane connect to the growing network of bike lanes in Long Island City and Sunnyside.

DOT staff acknowledged that the roadway had excess capacity for the number of vehicles that use it and said that reducing the number of southbound motor vehicle lanes on the bridge from three to two could help reduce speeding on McGuinness Boulevard, which is two lanes in each direction.

DOT staff also presented data showing that non-fatal injuries on McGuinness Boulevard are declining, dropping from 51 in 2006 to 11 in 2010. However, traffic fatalities on the roadway have remained steady. DOT representatives said that the agency would look into dedicated left-turn signals on McGuinness Boulevard, which already has dedicated turn lanes, as a way to reduce the number of crashes.

That wraps up our coverage today, Streetsblog readers. Enjoy the holiday and we’ll see you back here on Monday.