Word on the Jay Street: Cyclists weigh in on new bike lane

Word on the Jay Street: Cyclists weigh in on new bike lane
The bike lane at Jay Street Downtown

The new Jay Street bike lane is on the right path, but there are still some roadblocks, according to riders.

The Department of Transportation installed the long-awaited peddling paths on the treacherous Downtown thoroughfare last month, and cyclists say it is a definite improvement, with fewer motorists getting in their way than before. But some scofflaws are still brazenly cruising and parking in the new lanes with impunity, and riders say the city and police must do more to keep the two apart before they’ll truly feel safe there.

“It’s great for commuters right now who are already fearlessly going up Jay Street, but families, kids, people who are concerned by biking aren’t going to try it out because it’s still so lawless,” said Brandon Chamberlin, who rides the path to work every day from Prospect Heights.

The new dedicated bike lanes between Fulton and Tillary streets are painted a bright green and are separated from traffic by a row of parking. Previously, cyclists had to ride alongside vehicles on paths marked only in white paint that motorists — especially city employees, cops, and news crews with placards — routinely double-parked, u-turned, and drove on, sometimes with tragic results.

One cyclist died and 270 people were injured in crashes on the arterial roadway between 2010 and 2014, according to city data, and this paper’s readers voted the previous lane the scariest in the city in a 2012 poll.

Pedal pushers report more drivers staying in their own lane thanks to the new Jay Street layout, but say police still aren’t cracking down on the ones who continue to cross the line.

One bike activist said he was riding on the street with his 7-year-old daughter recently when the driver of a security truck veered into the bike lane and nearly hit his kid, then parked over the path. He said he alerted a nearby cop, but the patrolman claimed he couldn’t do anything because it wasn’t his jurisdiction.

The new lane is better, he says, but ultimately only as effective as those enforcing it.

“It often seems to be a pretty safe and unincumbered passage, but that experience really underscores the need for the NYPD to enforce the lane and keep cars from parking in it,” said Windsor Terrace resident Paul Steely White, the director of bike advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.

Riders also say they’d like actual barriers to keep drivers out of the path — something many had asked for when the transportation department was still planning the road makeover. The transportation department has put in a handful of short plastic posts called “bollards” near bus stops, but cyclists say way more are needed to keep drivers out.

“There needs to be something to physically demarcate the buffer when people park their cars,” said Prospect Heights resident Paul Vogel, who claims a police officer sideswiped him recently as he was riding in the lane on his way to work.

A Department of Transportation spokesman said the agency is planning to add more bollards, but wouldn’t say when or where.

The Police Department did not return a request for comment.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill