DOT’s Latest Missed Opportunity for Protected Bike Lanes

Nope, no room for a protected bike lane here. Image: DOT [PDF]
Nope, no room here for a protected bike lane, or even a striped bike lane. Image: DOT [PDF]

Eighth Street, which cuts eastbound across Greenwich Village just above Washington Square Park, had two traffic lanes until recently. A road diet by the Department of Transportation dropped it to one lane and added new pedestrian crossings. Left out of the redesign: bike lanes. Instead, there are “extra-wide parking lanes” that also accommodate double-parked drivers.

Last November, the plan went before Community Board 2 [PDF], which usually doesn’t hesitate to support bike lanes. “I specifically asked why the wide parking lanes instead of bike lanes and as I recall the only concrete reason they gave is that they didn’t want to create a bike lane that doesn’t go all the way across town,” said CB 2 transportation committee vice-chair Maury Schott. The board eventually passed a resolution supporting the plan. It did not ask for bike lanes.

DOT calls this design "bike-friendly." Photo: Stephen Miller
DOT calls this design “bike-friendly.” Photo: Stephen Miller

Crosstown bike lanes already exist on Ninth and 10th streets, said a DOT spokesperson, and the new Eighth Street design is “bike-friendly” with its extra-wide parking lanes.

Schott isn’t convinced. There were 12 cyclist injuries on Eighth Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway from 2008 to 2012, according to DOT. The bike lanes on Ninth and 10th Streets are narrow, he said, and the agency recently came to CB 2 with a bike lane proposal for Spring Street that doesn’t stretch across town or connect with the Hudson River Greenway.

DOT often expects cyclists to share “extra-wide parking lanes” with double-parked cars. What makes this example so galling is that the street is 34 feet wide. That’s exactly the same width as Grand Street, which DOT redesigned in 2008 [PDF], keeping parking on both sides of the street and repurposing extra space to create a parking-protected bike lane.

In addition to the road diet, the Eighth Street plan also includes sizable curb extensions. Most are in the process of being painted, but some along Sixth Avenue will be cast in concrete later this year. It also includes new crosswalks at MacDougal, Greene, and Mercer streets. Two bike corrals will be added on 8th Street.

DOT is also installing split-phase leading pedestrian intervals, which hold turning cars with a red arrow while pedestrians cross before giving turning drivers a flashing yellow arrow. The signals will be installed in coming weeks on Eighth Street at Broadway and Fifth Avenue, and on Ninth Street at Sixth Avenue.