Bronx Electeds Call for “Complete” Concourse for Buses, Bikes, and People

Council Member Andrew Cohen speaks in favor of the "Complete the Concourse" in front of the Bronx County Courthouse. Photo: David Meyer
Council Member Andrew Cohen speaks in favor of making the Grand Concourse a complete street. Photo: David Meyer

With momentum building for a complete street and fully-protected bikeway along the Grand Concourse, Council Member Andrew Cohen joined Bronx activists on the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse this morning to call on the city to redesign the street thoroughly and expeditiously.

“The entire length of the Concourse… [represents] a design from the 1950s — all about moving cars as quickly as possible without regard for pedestrian safety.” Cohen said. “We really need to make sure that we’re getting the resources, our fair share of Vision Zero improvements to make this Concourse everything it has been in the past and everything it will be in the future.”

More than 1,000 people have been injured and 13 have been killed on the Concourse in the last four years, according to city data. In light of the staggering losses, Transportation Alternatives has called on the city to bring protected bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, and safer sidewalks and crosswalks to the entire length of the Grand Concourse. So far, more than 3,000 people have signed on to TA’s “Complete the Concourse” campaign.

The effort also has the support of the Bronx Health REACH Coalition, which aims to combat the high rates of diabetes and heart disease in the southwest Bronx. “We have one of the highest rates of obesity in the Bronx, and having a safe Concourse means people will want to get out, they’ll be able to ride their bikes and they’ll feel much safer,” said Amril Hamer, who lives near the Concourse at 165th Street and Gerard Avenue.

Hamer, who bikes in the neighborhood, said the Grand Concourse’s current un-protected bike lanes leave much to be desired. “They don’t have that bike lane infrastructure in place, so we’re competing with the double-parked cars, somebody maybe opening a car door on you or something like that, so it’s not safe at all,” she said.

After Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. endorsed safer bike lanes on the Concourse in February, DOT said it would “replace and upgrade existing bike lanes” on the Concourse. The next month, the agency proposed a package of safety fixes for the corridor south of 158th Street that did not include any bike lanes [PDF]. Then in June, DOT presented a capital project for 166th Street to 175th Street that would eventually build out raised, protected lanes along the service road medians, but did not give a timeline [PDF].

DOT plans to realign nine blocks of the Grand Concourse service road bike lanes along the medians, then cast them in concrete at an undetermined time in the future. Image: DOT
On parts of the Grand Concourse, DOT plans to shift bike lanes away from the parking lane, then cast them in concrete at an undetermined time in the future. Image: DOT

Before the full capital construction project, DOT plans to realign the buffered bike lane along the median, which may reduce double-parking but won’t provide physical protection. DOT will host public workshops this fall about the next phase of the Grand Concourse reconstruction project, which will run from 175th Street to Fordham Road.

That project won’t reach Cohen’s district, which includes the eight northernmost blocks of the corridor. He wants to see a similar redesign further north.

Council members Vanessa Gibson, Fernando Cabrera, and Ritchie Torres were not in attendance but provided statements of support. Last month, Gibson became the fifth Bronx council member to endorse the campaign, joining Cohen, CabreraTorres, and Rafael Salamanca. Of the six council members who represent the Grand Concourse, only Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has yet to sign on.

“The potential dangers posed by the Grand Concourse make it long overdue for a redesign. The City should move promptly to revamp the corridor to protect public safety and ensure it can tackle increased traffic demands,” Torres said in a statement.