Activists: ‘Wall off the Jay Street bike lanes’

VOTE: Is this the scariest bike lane in Brooklyn?
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Jay Street is a treacherous stretch of asphalt that sends cars, buses, bikes, and pedestrians, on a collision course every hour of the day, but a couple of barricades could make it a whole lot safer, road safety advocates said at a meeting on Monday night.

Downtown and Dumbo residents called for the city to install a protected bike lane along the length of the arterial Downtown road, whose current bike lanes were voted scariest in Brooklyn by our readers in 2012, during a brainstorming session about how to improve the roadway hosted by car critic group Transportation Alternatives at Downtown’s MetroTech Center. The 17-block thoroughfare continues to be a danger zone thanks to rampant U-turns, double parking, and buses crossing the bike lane to pick up passengers, according to the group.

“The street just isn’t working for all the people that use it,” said Miller Nuttle, an organizer with Transportation Alternatives. “This grew from a rising chorus of demands to make Jay Street safer,” he said of the forum.

The traffic-calming meeting comes as Mayor DeBlasio is pushing his Vision Zero plan in an effort to eliminate traffic deaths by 2024. Transportation Alternatives hopes that the newfound political momentum behind street safety will help a Jay Street redesign make it onto the desk of new transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

“Under the banner of ‘Vision Zero’ hopefully Jay Street can rise to the top of priorities,” said Nuttle.

A pitch to install physically separated bike lanes along the 17-block length of the street in both directions drew the widest support of the evening, but an array of other rejiggering ideas were floated, including easy solutions such as better road markings and more complicated undertakings such as pedestrian overpasses or an outright parking ban.

Participants also put markers on a giant map of Jay Street, indicating the spots they use the most and places that give them the most trouble. The intersection at Tillary Street was the biggest offender, with complainants citing drivers exiting the Manhattan Bridge competing for territory with cyclists and with pedestrians heading towards McLaughlin Park.

People also griped about rampant double parking along the whole road, from Dumbo to the Fulton Mall. Scofflaw parkers — police cars outside the courts included — clog up the works, which is not a matter of moving lanes but of cops enforcing the law, attendees said.

“I think enforcement is humongous,” said Kenneth Nelson, who lives in Crown Heights and works Downtown. “I don’t know where enforcement went.”

Cops have recently come out in force to cite pedestrians, not cars, for contributing to unsafe street conditions, handing out 97 jaywalking tickets in the first two months of this year, more than five times the number of the same period in 2013. Officers were spotted staking out Jay Street near Livingston Street on March 7 as part of the police department’s jaywalking ticketing blitz.

Councilman Steve Levin attended the meeting and told the crowd of about 50 people he agreed with the premise that Jay Street is a mess.

“It’s been so long since it was re-imagined,” he said. “It’s outdated.”

Levin did not back any particular fix.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.