Grand Street redux: City to finish, extend halted Williamsburg bike lanes

Blocked: A cyclist dodges a parked van obstructing the Grand Street bike lane. Transit honchos revived the L-pocalypse-era plan to construct two so-called protected bike lanes along the busy corridor on April 24.
Photo by Maya Harrison

It’s a Grand comeback!

The city will finish and extend the so-called protected bike lanes along Grand Street, a transit leader announced Wednesday.

The Department of Transportation will revive the L-pocalypse-era design of building the two cycle lanes along the commercial corridor in Williamsburg from Rodney Street to Morgan Avenue, and extend the path into a more industrial area to Vandervoort Avenue, the agency’s chief said Wednesday.

“We’re going to be keeping that bike lane design that we had rolled out during the L-train closure — one protected lane and one buffered lane — and we are going to extend it into that industrial area to Vandervoort,” Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said at the April 24 press conference in Manhattan.

The agency still plans to replace one of two parking lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge-bound side of the thoroughfare with a bike lane protected by a painted buffer and the remaining parking lane, while painting a buffer and adding plastic poles that are supposed to shield the Bushwick-bound bike path across the street.

The department will also install additional metered parking and new loading zones around the corners from Grand Street, according to a release from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office.

The city announced the plan’s revival as part of their joint pilot project with Hizzoner to close off a busy street on the Distant Isle to private through-traffic in order to clear the way for buses there during the L-train tunnel reconstruction, which kicks off this Friday night on April 26, as first reported by AM New York.

The bike-friendly project was in limbo since Gov. Andrew Cuomo abruptly called off the L-train closure in January and local cycling advocates demanded the city keep its promise to finish the project it started in the fall of 2018.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s cross-borough shuttle buses — which were initially going to transport straphangers from the Grand Street L-train stop to Manhattan via the Williamsburg Bridge as part of the shutdown plan — did not make it into the new plan.

The agency got rid of that proposed service because the L-train will continue to run for the repairs of the Canarsie Tunnel, albeit at reduced frequency on nights and weekends, and because of the alternative lines available to commuters, according to an MTA spokeswoman.

“The new plan keeps L-train service running throughout the day so we won’t need shuttle buses across the Williamsburg Bridge,” said Amanda Kwan.

Trottenberg said she and her fellow transit leaders are still hashing out a blueprint for the new extension between Waterbury Street and Vandervoort Avenue to make sure the lanes will be safe for pedal pushers while not hampering businesses.

“We’re going to come up with a design that’s safe for cyclists but enables them to do their business.” Trottenberg said.

Trottenberg didn’t commit to a completion date for the new lanes but said the transit agency would aim to finish them as soon as possible now that the warmer weather allows for builders to once again pour the green paint.

“That’s going to be as fast as we can now that the weather’s turned,” she said.

One cycling advocate lauded the city for bringing the bike plan back to life, but said that the buffer with the plastic poles doesn’t adequately protect bikers and that scofflaws block the Bushwick-bound lane by parking their cars there.

“The painted buffer, which we’ve seen isn’t safe — they’re routinely parked in and driven in and really aren’t providing the level of safety to make sure that all cyclists are still safe,” said Philip Leff, a member of the pro-cycling group Transportation Alternatives.

The Williamsburg resident urged the agency to instead build concrete barriers between traffic and the bike lanes.

“The worldwide gold standard is physical protection with concrete,” Leff said.

Motorists have killed three cyclists and injured dozens more on the strip since the beginning of 2016, according to city records.

One biker told this paper he sometimes goes on the footpath to avoid the risky road.

“I mean I wouldn’t call this road safe to bike on,” said Rio Gonzales. “I tend to bike on the sidewalk because it’s safer.”

Several cars and trucks obstructed the bike lanes on Wednesday around noon, forcing many cyclists to swerve out into traffic or go along the middle of the road past rows of trucks.

One local bodega owner said he needs the road space for deliveries on an almost daily basis.

“We get deliveries four to five times a week — we need our delivery trucks parked outside our store,” said Hector Arollo, owner of D&J Spanish Grocery Store at the corner of Catherine Street.

But many people working in the area are also cyclists, so business owners — especially those in heavy industries — should encourage a safer street for them too, according to Leff.

“It’s not the most easy issue to solve, but when you’re running a factory you have a commitment to ensuring the health and safety inside and outside of the building,” the bike advocate said.

– with Maya Harrison

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Moving forward: A rendering of the proposed Grand Street bike lane plan, released in January of last year.
Department of Transportation

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