‘Protected lane’ endangers cyclists and protects parked cars, advocates say

‘Protected lane’ endangers cyclists and protects parked cars, advocates say
CNG visualization using DOT images

Call it a “roll” reversal.

The city is endangering bicyclists by using them to protect parked cars from bad drivers, critics are charging. The Department of Transportation is re-jiggering a new “protected” Marine Park bike lane after complaints that it made E. 38th Street so narrow that drivers were clipping parked cars’ side-view mirrors. So planners flipped the normal protected lane layout — where parked cars protect cyclists from raging traffic — and is foolishly putting cyclists in peril to keep parked cars safe, according to one bike advocate.

“If drivers are knocking other drivers’ mirrors off, they should slow down. The solution is not to move vulnerable bike riders into harm’s way,” said Caroline Samponaro of Transportation Alternatives.

In the initial configuration completed in early August, cyclist had an 8-foot, two-way path next to the curb. A 3-foot buffer and an 8-foot parking lane separated them from moving vehicles. Under a proposed change, cars go back to parking curb-side with the buffer shielding them from the bike lane but nothing between bikers and traffic.

The city put the buffer between parked cars and pedal-pushers to protect passengers getting in and out of cars, a transportation department spokeswoman said.

“The buffer allows for space between cyclists and passengers exiting their cars,” she said.

But that decision lacked thought and concern for cyclists who traverse the park-side path, according to a cycling-safety guru.

“Clearly there’s a huge safety advantage to have the bike lane separated from moving cars. I think this is a mistake on the part on the city. It should have stuck to the original design and people would get used to it from a driving perspective,” said Eric McClure, whose group Park Slope Neighbors famously advocated for the Prospect Park West bike lane ahead of its adoption.

The Department of Transportation will finish repainting the lanes by the end of the month, a spokeswoman said.

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