North Brooklyn is asking the Department of Transportation to upgrade the Grand Street Bike Path to something that lives up to its magnificent name.
In a letter to the DOT sent this week, the North Brooklyn Committee of Transportation Alternatives, along with area elected officials such as Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, State Senator Julia Salazar, member of the Assemblyman Emily Gallagher and City Council members Lincoln Restler and Jennifer Gutierrez have called on the agency to deliver on the promise of the vital east-west bicycle connection, something that can only happen if upgraded to a real protected cycle path.
“The Grand Street Bikeway has the potential to be a vital link between communities, but it needs protective jersey barricades and measures taken at every intersection to prevent cars from entering the protected bikeway” , wrote the signatories. “Otherwise it’s only a matter of time before the next preventable death.”
Above all, the signatories want more than just Jersey barriers to replace easily overlooked plastic delineators on the bike path. The group also called for the entrances to the bike path itself to be upgraded, as it is currently plagued with double parking and construction equipment.
“From day one, the Grand Street Bikeway has failed to keep people safe,” the letter reads. “The plastic delineators put in place did not prevent vehicles or dumpsters from blocking the cycle paths. Illegal double parking in the bike lane creates a dangerous situation for cyclists and motorists.
Due to the less than grand design, the street has become dangerous. Since 2019, 67 cyclists have been injured along Grand Street and 196 accidents have been reported in total. The letter also points out that the city’s own data from the latest “Cycling in the City” report [PDF] showed huge increases in trips over the Pulaski and Williamsburg bridges and the Kent Avenue bike path between 2019 and 2020, meaning the cruddy design also means Grand Street is missing out on the all-around bike boom.
DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and Mayor Adams have a chance to finally end the chaotic Grand Street Bike Lane saga if they make the changes demanded by elected leaders and activists, a history that dates back to before the era of the L train almost at a standstill. Activists and then Council member Reynoso began pushing for a safer street redesign after cyclist Matthew von Ohlen was killed in a hit-and-run in 2016. This campaign extended into the planning process around of the planned closure of the L rail tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn, when bike lanes on the north and south sides of the street were first proposed and then installed as a mitigation measure for the transit closure.
The L-train service between the boroughs was never closed, but the de Blasio administrations retained the cycle paths. Nonetheless, the redesign was flawed from the start, so much so that a bike activist once said the city should just scrap the whole project if they weren’t going to design it for safety. The eastbound road on the south side of Grand is protected only by plastic delineators that drivers can easily destroy or park. The bike lane is also literally wide enough to drive a truck through, a design flaw that car and truck and even bus drivers have been willing to take advantage of, which can be seen in both angsty tweets and Google Street View images of the area. .
I take Grand Street, the main protected bike path to and from the Williamsburg Bridge, every day to work and the number of cars parked ABOVE the barricades is a joke. Please be concrete or WHEN someone is killed it will be in your hands @ReynosoBrooklyn @NYC_DOT @placardabuse pic.twitter.com/9GEyiGFPDW
— Nico Press (@nico_press) December 29, 2020
Hello, neighbor! @Gansettbeer parked on a Brooklyn bike path on Grand Street, two blocks from where a cyclist was killed a few years ago. This is #bikenyc #VisionZero under @BilldeBlasio and @NYCSpeakerCoJo. @TransAlt @Dianne4NYC @MarkLevineNYC @NYCBikeLanes @bikenewyork pic.twitter.com/lMxjOODxmc
— Ian MacAllen (@IanMacAllen) March 4, 2021
The bollards didn’t prevent it from parking on the Grand Street bike path, but did prevent me from going around it.
Me, forced to walk on the sidewalk as he gets off the bus: You can’t park there.
Him: No? Why not?
Me: It’s a bike path.
Him: Oh I’m sorry to hear that. (He moves away) pic.twitter.com/I94O1zHxkh
— Shannon Manning (@shannonmanning) April 10, 2021
Hey @NYC_DOT, are you going to do something for all the vehicles constantly on the Grand St bike path in Brooklyn? It’s like that every day. /CC @BrooklynTalk @2AvSagas @TransAlt pic.twitter.com/jmfI6S87oA
—Juan Ignacio (@jiserra) October 16, 2020
The letter comes as the DOT begins to deliver on Rodriguez’s original promise to harden half of the city’s plastic delineator-protected bike lanes during his first 1oo days as head of the department. That pledge became a promise to complete hardening work on 20 miles of bike lanes by the end of 2023. Five and a half miles of bike lanes were originally identified by the DOT for hardening, but beyond those first miles, the agency said it was still looking at where it wanted to start removing the barriers.
“We are working around the clock to strengthen the bike lanes we have previously announced and appreciate the support for this important work,” DOT spokesman Vin Barone said. “We are considering locations throughout the city for future lane hardening and will have more to share soon.”