City backpedals on Jay St. protected bike-lane plan

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This is going to be an uphill battle.

The Department of Transportation is backpedaling on its popular plan to install a two-way protected bike path on Jay Street between York and Prospect streets in Dumbo, leaving locals grinding their gears over its new proposal — for Downtown-bound cyclists to ride against car traffic with naught but a painted line between them and the 3,000-pound steel machines.

“Can you imagine walking uphill and the only thing separating you from cars coming downhill are lines on the street?” said Hilda Cohen of Community Board 2’s transportation committee, where the agency presented the new change Thursday.

The meeting marked the fourth time the city has presented the panel with a new bike-lane plan for this single block of Jay Street.

Transportation officials in March last year agreed to wedge a bi-directional green bike track in between the curb and a lane of parked cars on the stretch — earning the committee’s unanimous support — after local cyclists objected to an earlier proposition for riders and drivers to share lanes.

But almost 12 months later, officials have only just realized that waterfront-bound riders zooming downhill in that configuration won’t be able to see much over the barrier of stationary vehicles, and could collide with motorists when they merge into shared lanes at York Street, agency reps told the board.

“They’re going to go right into each other,” said Dan Wagner, coordinator for the transportation department’s pedestrian projects. “As you’re going faster, it’s hard for you to look over your shoulder and see if they’re going faster or not.”

Now they’re proposing a waterfront-bound bike track painted green on the York Street station side of the street, and a Downtown-bound “contra-flow” bike lane — that is, headed in the opposite direction of traffic — on the other side, separated only with a pair of yellow lines.

But the panel members hated the idea of pitting uphill riders against downhill traffic so much, one said he’d prefer to use the generally reviled “sharrows” system — where painted markings denote a shared lane for motorists and cyclists — if it frees up space for a more-necessary parking-protected Downtown-bound lane.

“Sharrows on the downhill for this one block doesn’t strike me as a bad idea,” said committee member Brian Howald.

But bike activists say there’s no need to scrap the two-way lane at all — the city could just take away a couple of parking spaces at the York Street end to ensure cyclists can see before they merge.

“The protected bike lane is the best plan and I don’t understand why it’s being taken off the table,” said Luke Ohlson from bike advocacy group Transportation Alternatives after the meeting. “If it means taking away a parking space or two where cyclists would have to merge back into traffic then so be it.”

He thinks the new proposal is a disaster waiting to happen.

“Anyone who has ever been on a bike lane and had a car coming towards them, it’s one of the most frightening experiences you can have getting around New York City,” said Ohlson. “You’re absolutely powerless in that moment.

The committee didn’t vote on the plan — Wagner said he just wanted to get its feedback before presenting what will be the fifth iteration of the bike lane at a future meeting.

Along with whatever lanes end up going in, he also announced that the city is finally putting in a signal and crosswalks at Jay and Prospect streets.

The agency had been hoping to make the additions for years, and a spike in pedestrian traffic thanks to developer Jared Kushner’s new Dumbo Heights office complex nearby finally sealed the deal, he said.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated with comments from Luke Ohlson.
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Reasonable discourse

Rider from Brooklyn says:
If the cars are too dangerous, the solution shouldn't be to water down protection for bikes. The solution should be to limit the volume and speed of cars.

Get a spine, DOT.
Feb. 21, 2017, 10:18 am
Jonah from Brooklyn Heights says:
To the contrary, the streets were made for cars. Trying to fit bikes in is the old square plug/round hole exercise, as seen in this fifth failed DOT attempt to squeeze bikes into one little block. On to the sixth attempt! Seventh, eighth...
Feb. 21, 2017, 12:30 pm
Historian from DUMBO says:
NYC was founded long before the advent of the Model T, so I'm pretty sure the streets weren't made for cars. It might surprise you to learn that there was a time when long-term, on-street car parking was not allowed either.
Feb. 21, 2017, 12:44 pm
Lucy from Flatbush says:
It's still going in the same direction as trafic. If they want to make sure cars see them it should be petpendicular to the cars, run horizontally across the street.
Feb. 21, 2017, 1:41 pm
Jonah from Brooklyn Heights says:
These streets were made for cars. Streets in New York 100 years ago were made for vehicles drawn by horses. People on bikes joined in the traffic.
Feb. 21, 2017, 1:54 pm
TOM from SUNSET PARK says:
NYC and all cities in the world provided for access to all localities and buildings with whatever was the mode of conveyance popular at the time.

I just don't know why there is this effort to replace a 20th century mode with a 19th century mode and not think it odd.

Anyone wanting horses again? Much prettier than bikes.
Feb. 21, 2017, 3:27 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
How about just getting cyclists to follow the rules instead of spending money on a special infrastructure for them that barely gets used? It won't cost anything for them do that. In some cases, there are streets where a bike lane would be a bad idea be it protected or not being that this is near the Manhattan Bridge, and even has a lot of commercial traffic coming both to and from it in both directions. I feel that the bike zealots just can't seem to face reality when it comes to having bike lanes everywhere. They also need to understand that not everyone can ride a bicycle and some of that is due to physical reasons.
Feb. 21, 2017, 3:45 pm
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
Rider from Brooklyn:
The article specifically notes that the drawback to the plan is the design of the bike lane, not the speed of the cars. It says "...waterfront-bound riders zooming downhill in that configuration won’t be able to see much over the barrier of stationary vehicles, and could collide with motorists when they merge into shared lanes at Prospect Street..." That is that the problem is bike running into cars, not cars running into bikes. The issue in this case isn't the cars, it's the bikes traveling downhill at higher speeds having to merge into a shared lane around an obstacle, the protective barrier of parked cars.
Feb. 21, 2017, 4:05 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
...poop. I thought it was a good idea.
Feb. 21, 2017, 5:29 pm
The Dude from Nowhere says:
It started with Share the Road so we shared it. Now it is take the road and suddenly we are wrong for wanting g to share the road?
Feb. 22, 2017, 12:29 am
NN from Boerum says:
I really hope they stick to the plans for adding the new bike lane. Whenever I'm over there I see so many people riding on that stretch going towards Dumbo, towards Downtown or getting on the Manhattan Bridge.
Feb. 22, 2017, 8:17 am
Sue Wallace says:
Excusies but bicycle is very dangerous? You just get what you are doing. I mean please - you think you not get it you riding on bicycle? No-no!
Feb. 22, 2017, 8:58 am
Shamqueesha says:
As a WOMAN of color, I think OUR voice needs to be heard! We want more space for cars, not funky-azz bicycles!!!
Feb. 22, 2017, 10:19 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Who ever wrote that comment at 9:15 am was not me. Knock it off! I don't like cats, they scratch my genitals too much. I like to have intercourse with my neighbors dog and piles of feces. I also like to wrap gerbils in duct tape so that when I enter them they don't explode in my hand. I learned that the hard way. At 9:15 am I was inside my mother.
Feb. 22, 2017, 11:37 am
boof from brooklyn says:
Get a grip, Jonah. Cyclists built the roads.
Feb. 22, 2017, 11:39 am
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Hahahahaha "cyclists built the roads". Roads were built for horse drawn carriages, the precursor of automobiles. Cyclists are certainly welcome to use them, but to say cyclists built the roads, or roads were made for bicycles is laughably wrong.
Feb. 22, 2017, 11:54 am
boof from brooklyn says:
You always were good at car boosterism, Henry. Too bad automobiles been such a failure. 40,000 killed a year, unsolvable congestion, destruction and/or usurpation of public space, climate change, etc., etc. And all to serve just a minority of NYC citizens.

Reading compression? You're apparently not as good at that. Oh, well, can't win 'em all.
Feb. 22, 2017, 12:58 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First of all knock it off with the impersonations as I find them to be very unprofessional, and I wasn't even at my computer this morning. Getting back to the issue, roads were around since ancient times and long before bicycles. They were always used by anything that used wheels even before the first motor vehicle. The reason the automobile was made was mainly due to having horses and other service animals being obsolete at the time. Then again, even carriages had more usage than bicycles did at that time as well. BTW, when the roads were widened for cars to help move them faster, that wasn't to create a car culture, that was to react to one especially because it already existed before that as the same for creating highways for them. The truth about bicycles is that if there was a way to make them more useful, that would have been the case in their early days just like the cars, but that was never case as they have always been seen as nothing more than recreation, which is why I feel that more bike lanes shouldn't be done when you look at how much they really used.
Feb. 22, 2017, 3:56 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
That is an impressive amount of talking points in one paragraph, Boof. Lol at the ursurpation of public space. Definitely the highlight of your alrernative facts.
Feb. 22, 2017, 3:58 pm
David from Downtown Brooklyn says:
Will the bike lane be adjacent to the sidewalk and the parking lane to the left of the bike lane?

If yes, does such an arrangement preclude parking meters because the parked cars are not adjacent to the parking lane?

Is this arrangement only for Jay Street or for streets throughout New York City?

Traditionally, the parking lane was adjacent to the sidewalk.
Feb. 24, 2017, 8:51 am
Old Tim Brooklyn from Slope says:
Tal is right
Some of the comments should hav a laugh track
Feb. 24, 2017, 6:07 pm

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