Cyclists: City must finish promised Grand Street bike lanes despite about face in L closure

Cyclists: City must finish promised Grand Street bike lanes despite about face in L closure
Photo by Julianne Cuba

It’s a wheel concern.

The city must finish installing new bike lanes it began laying along Grand Street ahead of the long-promised L-train closure that Gov. Cuomo abruptly called off this month, demanded cyclists, who worried the change in plans will jeopardize the completion of long-sought-after infrastructure.

“I’m absolutely concerned that all sorts of stuff could fall through the cracks,” said pedal pusher Philip Leff, a Williamsburger and member of the pro-cycling group Transportation Alternatives.

Department of Transportation workers last fall began work on the two so-called protected bike lanes on Grand Street between Morgan Avenue and Rodney Street, months after agency honchos revealed their redesign of the commercial strip where three cyclists died in fatal crashes since 2016.

The redesign calls for removing one of two parking lanes on that stretch to make room for the green bike paths — one of which is separated from traffic by the remaining parking lane, while the other runs behind a painted buffer and plastic poles — which transit leaders said would allow Grand Street to better accommodate some of those 250,000 daily L-train riders whom officials expected to pedal across the East River once subway service to Manhattan stopped during the shutdown.

But now the job is seemingly in limbo, according to cyclists, who said swaths of the green bike lanes are still not in place, causing chaos because motorists continue to park on the incomplete pedalers’ paths, forcing bicyclists to swerve into traffic.

“It’s problematic because cars just park there, and I have to go around them into traffic on Grand Street, which is used by a lot of trucks going to and from industrial areas,” said Yehuda Pollack, a Queens resident who regularly cycles through Williamsburg.

Another bicyclist who frequently pedals along Grand Street echoed Pollack’s complaints, accusing the city of abandoning the in-the-works project despite the Transportation Department assuring him in a November tweet that work on the lanes would continue through the winter.

No progress: A car stops in the in-the-works bike lane on Grand Street right in front of a ghost bike for a cyclist who was hit and killed by a driver in 2016.
Photo by Julianne Cuba

“There’s really no effort being made to actually finish,” said Eric Helms, who lives just beyond Bushwick in Queens, and rides through Williamsburg nearly everyday. “No one is taking it seriously, someone likely will get hurt because of it.”

Earlier this week, the in-the-works lanes on Grand Street between Manhattan and Graham avenues — where a hit-and-run driver fatally smashed into cyclist Matthew Von Ohlen in 2016 — were only semi-complete when this reporter paid a visit on Tuesday. There was no green paint on the pavement to identify the paths, and plastic Con Edison barriers sat in the middle of the Bushwick-bound lane.

Other blocks’ lanes are similarly unfinished, according to Leff, who blasted the city for not cracking down enough on those scofflaws who blatantly obstruct the in-progress paths.

“There are definitely spots where either they’re not completely painted, or not completely enforced, that’s a key part of it too,” he said.

And cyclists aren’t the only ones concerned — a handful of local pols recently rallied to demand that city and state officials move forward with installing the bike lanes, and that transportation bigwigs better communicate with anxious straphangers as they sort out the details following the about face in repair plans.

“You can’t merely implement a major change in procedure without major planning and communication,” Borough President Adams said outside the Lorimer Street L station during the Sunday demonstration also attended by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D–Williamsburg), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D–Williamsburg), Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-Williamsburg), state Sen. Brian Kavanagh (D–Williamsburg), and other pols.

City transit leaders, however, continue to remain mum about the fate of the various alternative transportation options planned for the now-cancelled shutdown — which in addition to the bike lanes include a dedicated Williamsburg–Manhattan ferry service, new bus routes, and more — only promising to reveal any changes to those plans after the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Agency provides more information on its newly adopted scheme to fix the L line.

“As we get more information from the MTA on the new L train plan, we will look at our planned efforts to make sure we are implementing the right elements,” said Transportation Department spokeswoman Alana Morales.

No parking: A car parked in one of the finished portions of the Grand Street bike lane.
Photo by Julianne Cuba

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.