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‘We’re all at great risk’: Cyclists blast Williamsburg’s Grand Street bike lane

The soon-to-be-completed Grand Street bike lane still poses a hazard to cyclists due to the many cars illegally parked in it, local pedalers claim.
Brooklyn Paper
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Call it a Grand failure.

Cyclists are calling a more than mile-long stretch of protected bike lanes spanning Grand Street in Williamsburg an unmitigated disaster, slamming transit officials for using plastic flaps in lieu of solid concrete barriers, which permit illegally parked cars to force riders into traffic.

“If this is their response to mounting cyclist and pedestrian fatalities in the city then we’re all at great risk,” said cyclist Philip Leff. “I’m incredibly disappointed by DOT’s execution of that bike lane.”

The bike lanes — which will stretch between Rodney Street and the Grand Street Bridge when they’re completed later this month — eschew permanent concrete barriers, or medians, and instead employ a combination of cheaper safety devices, including using a row of parked cars to separate drivers from cyclists, and installing painted buffers and plastic floppy bollards the agency calls “delineators.”

These light, plastic flaps are designed to bend when struck by a vehicle, and provide no barrier to the scofflaw motorists who routinely park their cars in the bike lanes, according to one frequent rider.

“People that have experience riding are used to it, but people that don’t are getting hurt,” said Israel, a Bushwick resident and bike messenger, who declined to provide his last name.

During a recent mid-morning survey, dogged Brooklyn Paper intern Joe Hiti encountered rampant obstructions on both eastbound and westbound bike lanes, including eight illegally-parked cars, several delivery and box trucks, welders sawing off the back of a pickup truck, mechanics changing tires, and delivery men unloading refrigerators.

A trailer serving as a temporary construction office was placed smack in the bike lane opposite Catherine Street, where the green paint comes to a sudden halt and spray-painted arrows and orange traffic barriers divert cyclists around the structure — and right into a row of vans at the entrance of a nearby auto shop.

A delivery man for FedEx said he was forced to park his truck in the bike lane during stops, because the new loading zones were taken up by illegally parked private vehicles.

“Even though we have commercial spots to park in, residents are still parking there,” said the delivery guy. “It takes no more than three minutes for me to make deliveries — but I can’t park anywhere.”

Hiti also discovered several floppy bollards lying broken on the road, demonstrating just how well they stand up to a two-and-a-half-ton vehicle.

In response to the complaints, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation said the agency will continue to augment the bike lanes with additional safety measures in the coming months.

“We are currently in the process of finishing all touch ups, including reinstalling delineators where necessary, and expect this work to wrap up by the end of this month,” said Lolita Avila. “We are also looking for locations where we can add additional protection to prevent vehicles from parking in the bike lane, this work will continue through the fall.”

But fixing a few sheets of flimsy plastic remains a poor excuse for a protected bike lane, according to Leff, who said if the agency really wanted to protect cyclists, it would start over and use materials that work.

“The worldwide gold standard is some kind of concrete curb that’s impossible to drive over,” Leff said. “Any strategy that relies only on tickets and enforcement won’t work — there should be physical structure to discourage that behavior.”

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Updated 4:06 pm, September 16, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Greg from Greenpoint says:
Grand is just too much of a commercial street for these bike lanes. If the hundreds of businesses, mostly mom-an-pop locally owned, are going to operate, they need deliveries which means many trucks. I don't think there is a viable solution to putting a protected bike lane on such a street.
Sept. 16, 11:32 am
Tyler from pps says:
Greg -- It's not the commercial vehicles OR the bike lanes that are the problem. It's the self-entitled drivers "A delivery man for FedEx said he was forced to park his truck in the bike lane during stops, because the new loading zones were taken up by illegally parked private vehicles." That's the problem. Not anything else. I'm sure this is why the DOT doesn't install more loading/unloading zones. They're just filled with parked cars.
Sept. 16, 12:49 pm
Peter Petino from park slope says:
This is an ongoing problem with deliveries - first, the biker should be wearing a helmet he should get a ticket. The driver parked in the commercial zone he should get a ticket, finally, the truck should not be in the bike line even if other cars cannot pass and he should get a ticket. This way everyone will be angry because they rightfully receive a ticket. Case closed the streets are dangerous and unfair.
Sept. 16, 1:50 pm
Kim from Brooklyn says:
Tyler: just for your information these stores and manufacturers will bee soon out of business then you will complain, bikers should take the other avenue/streets and leave Grand street open for business,
Sept. 16, 2:28 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
DOT's big mistake was designing a street that relies on the NYPD to enforce traffic laws. I see them ticket illegally parked cars sometimes, but it can never be enough because drivers will never follow laws. I have a lot of sympathy for the FedEx driver just trying to do his job while people illegally park in the loading zones.
Sept. 16, 2:28 pm
Jim from Greenpoint says:
‘We’re all at great risk’: Business blast Williamsburg’s Grand Street bike lane
Sept. 16, 2:32 pm
jerry krase from park slope says:
what is clear in all these sad and often nasty bikes vs whomever stories is that the nyc and local electeds sees transportation planning as a political constituent issue and not a transportation planning issue.
Sept. 16, 2:33 pm
Ro from Park Slope says:
Commercial boulevards need to be assessed prior to simply slapping down a bicycle lane along the street. Driving, cycling, biking and walking are all difficult in New York City. Like everyone else, cyclists cannot guarantee that their lanes will be free for a 25 mph ride. Defensive riding for all and always yielding to pedestrians.
Sept. 16, 4:39 pm
Kevin D of bedford ave from Wburg says:
I'm a daily biker AND i have a car. On weekends I go here and there, shop, run errands, etc. bla bla. I must say, for bikers AND for drivers? This street is a TOTAL disaster!!! Who thought of this plan? Seriously, just to be mean—who would take limited lane space and completely paint off one segment, add weird plastic poles that allow the bike lanes to be ignored - AND - have another lane on the oppoiuste side?? A better plan? Make a 2-way bike lane with a curb-lip. On ONE side of the street - I guess the north since it leads to the bridge etc. Everything - EVERYthing - must be reconfigured. Its like they didn't do a moment of investigation or surveying, and spent tons of money and time executing this weirdness. And half-completed bus lanes... ugh. This is a shining example of The Worst of Government. They've done well in other areas, but YES grand street is horrid now.
Sept. 17, 1:04 pm
Tom from WIlliamsburg says:
The parking protected westbound bike lane seems to get the job done; eastbound is the biggest issue here. We need permanent concrete barriers, not flimsy delineators. On a typical ride basically every single stretch of the bike lane is obstructed by drivers either parking or using it as a loading zone. If DOT declares the job done before the protection is upgraded they should be held liable when someone inevitably gets hurt.
Sept. 17, 4:03 pm
Brother THEo from Canarsie says:
Ro is soooooooooo right. In my neighborhood, TA patsy , DOT is painting bike lanes within narrow streets giving the cars less than 1/2 of the width of the lane. (Avenue W and Avenue X.............west of Nostrand) with all the jockying for the lane, accidents will occur at a faster clip. Learn to pedal instead.
Sept. 17, 7:22 pm

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