Bike Lanes Being Rolled Out on 12th and 13th Sts.

A cyclist was already using the new partially completed 13th St. bike lane on Thurs., Oct. 18. | Photo by Lincoln Anderson

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Just call them the “fast lanes.” The Department of Transportation (DOT) has started installing new bike lanes across 12th and 13th Sts. — nearly half a year ahead of the so-called “L-pocalypse” subway shutdown.

In April, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) plans to stop service on the L train between Bedford Ave. and 14th St./Eighth Ave. for 15 months. The crosstown protected bike lanes are part of the city’s “alternative service plan” for transportation in the L train’s absence.

Other parts of the plan include adding four bus routes that will shuttle straphangers across the Williamsburg Bridge and to Downtown subway stops, a scheme to turn 14th St. into a “busway” from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, and ferries connecting Williamsburg to Stuyvesant Town.

During the L shutdown, the MTA plans to repair the line’s Canarsie Tunnel tubes under the East River, which were flooded with corrosive salt water during Hurricane Sandy.

So far, some of the white striping for the new bike lanes — as well as for a wide buffer area outside of them — has been painted on some blocks. A small section of the 12th St. bike lane had been painted green as of the evening of Sat., Oct. 20. None of the flexible plastic bollards, which will separate the bike lanes from the buffer areas, have been installed yet. Fire trucks and emergency vehicles will be able to drive over these flexible posts, if needed, to access the curb.

Earlier this month, Village attorney Arthur Schwartz failed in his efforts to get a court-mandated temporary restraining order (TRO), to stop the installation of the bike lanes, as well as to stop the disruptive work at the First Ave. L station, which is currently having entrances put in at Avenue A and readied to be the primary staging area for all the demolition and construction work on the tunnel.

On Oct. 2, Scott Gastel, a Transportation spokesperson, said, “DOT is grateful for the judge’s decision [not to enforce a TRO]. We look forward to continuing to work with the MTA, local communities, stakeholders and officials to closely coordinate our efforts for next year’s 2019 [L train] closure.”

Representing the ad hoc 14th St. Coalition — a broad-based group of Village and Chelsea residents — and other Downtowners, Schwartz is suing in state court to stop the entire L shutdown project. His argument is that the plan has not undergone the proper environmental reviews under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

Thanks to strong community opposition and Schwartz’s lawsuit, in late June, DOT decided to scrap its preferred option for a two-way protected bike lane on 13th St., in favor of one-way protected lanes on 12th and 13th Sts.

Last Thursday night, block residents walking their dogs near 12th and Sixth Ave. were not happy about the new bike lane having recently been painted onto the street.

One woman, who gave her name as Nancy, said she had “made a list” of all the vehicles that would be stopping in the buffer zone next to the bike lane, which would make it hard for other cars to pass by, especially since the street narrows — as could be seen by how the bike lanes and buffer-zone lanes angled in toward the middle of the street a bit farther down the block.

“Con Ed, Verizon, Time Warner/Spectrum, UPS, FedEx, Fresh Direct, garbage trucks,” she said, adding, “and now you’ve got car services.”

As she spoke, an app-hail cab drove up and parked in front of the building in the not-yet-protected bike lane and the fare unloaded his luggage from its trunk. Soon after, an ambulance from Northwell’s Lenox Health Greenwich Village came screaming by with lights flashing.

Nancy said she has lived on the block 34 years, “and I have never seen a big problem like we’re going to have” with the protected bike lane.

She said just thinking about the idea of the plastic bollards for the lane coming in was making her anxious.

A neighbor of hers, Kevin, who has had his apartment on the market, said he’s worried the bike lane would affect its value.

“I’m legitimately concerned it’s going to knock 10 to 15 percent off my sale price,” he said.

He said he has two young children who he sends to classes in ride-share cars and that now he’s worried about doing that with a bike lane right in front of his building.

Meanwhile, Schwartz assured his lawsuit against the project is still ongoing.

“We’re hiring a traffic study. Those lines are really crazy,” he said of the striping for the bike lanes and how they veer in and out, depending on the streets’ varying widths.

On top of that, 12th and 13th Sts. and other surrounding side streets would be slammed by traffic under the “busway” plan, he warned.

“Just wait till they close 14th St. to traffic,” he predicted.

All that said, the new protected bike lanes would certainly be much safer for cyclists than the existing crosstown bike lanes on Ninth and 10th Sts. Those latter two lanes have no protection at all, and cyclists using them can easily be doored by parked cars or hit by moving car traffic swerving into the lanes or by cars pulling into or out of curbside parking spots. The Ninth and 10th St. bike lanes also are regularly obstructed by double-parked vehicles — sometimes in two or three spots per block — and, on top of that, there is also car traffic cutting across the lanes from garages.

The new crosstown bike lane on 12th St. angles in at certain points, following the narrowing width of the street. | Photo by Lincoln Anderson

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