Delancey gets safer with protected bike lanes

A cyclist using the new protected Delancey St. bike lane last week. Photo by Sydney Pereira

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | A new protected, two-way bike lane was officially rolled out along Delancey St. last Thursday.

The bike lanes are expected to be a critical part of how the city will handle displaced L train riders amid the Canarsie tunnel repairs, which are slated to start in April.

Department of Transportation officials expect the number of cyclists crossing the Williamsburg Bridge to double or even triple, from 7,300 cyclists up to as many as 22,000 cyclists per day.

“It’s never been safer here on Delancey St., so it’s a great reason to celebrate and see how these bike lanes do during the winter — give them a go,” said Chelsea Yamada, the Manhattan organizer for Transportation Alternatives. “It’s never been safer to access the Williamsburg Bridge to get across from 14th St., all the way on the West Side, across town into the North Brooklyn area.”

Between 2012 and 2016, Delancey St. had 24 serious traffic injuries and two fatalities, both pedestrians, according to city officials. A research Web site called Localize found the part of Downtown Manhattan that includes the Lower East Side, Little Italy and Soho to be among the city’s 12 most dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.

The new Delancey St. protected bike lanes will soon be accompanied by protected one-way bike lanes on 12th and 13th Sts. that have been partially rolled out.

The new protected Delancey bike lanes run between Clintton and Allen Sts. They connect the Williamsburg Bridge bike path to bike lanes on the north-south roadways at Allen St., First Ave. and Pike St.

Heading eastbound toward the bridge, cyclists can take the Second Ave. bike lane onto a one-way protected bike lane on Delancey St. between Chrystie and Allen Sts.

Protective Jersey barriers line the south side of the Delancey bike lanes between Allen and Clinton Sts. A “bike island” has been added at the intersection of Allen and Delancey.

Specific aspects of the bike lanes could still be improved, but not until after the L train shutdown starts. For one, at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge’s Manhattan side, the eastbound bike lane remains extremely narrow to slow down approaching cyclists.

D.O.T. says pedestrian traffic is one reason for the barriers, which encourage cyclists to reduce their speed at the pedestrian crossing. The bike lane could be altered at this spot, and a capital project to do so is in the design process, but cannot go through until after the L train shutdown.

“We do want people to slow as they approach the bridge,” said Ted Wright, D.O.T. bicycle and greenway programs director. “There’s also going to be a lot of pedestrians [going] to and from right there.

“I’m not a big fan of narrowing it down,” Wright admitted, “but there is a positive element to that.”

Kinks like the narrow portion of the bike lane and a hard turn heading eastbound are ongoing safety concerns, especially for inexperienced cyclists.

Max Sholl, a North Brooklyn Transportation Alternatives activist, said the bike lanes “will be a major quality-of-life improvement.”

“Delancey St. has for so long been a traffic sewer connecting truck traffic from Brooklyn to New Jersey, and [it has] disregarded people who live here and walk to get around,” he said.

The excessive truck traffic is due to the one-way toll on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge — enacted decades ago — which gives trucks a free ride from Brooklyn to New Jersey through Downtown Manhattan’s streets.

For years, Downtown community activists have called on Congressmember Jerry Nadler to reinstate a two-way Verrazano toll since the toll is technically under federal control. A recent study found that Lower Manhattan congestion would be dramatically cut by a two-way toll.

The ongoing toll disaster is a major contributor to Downtown’s congestion nightmare, which many fear would only worsen under the so-called “L-pocalypse.”

For the L shutdown, the city’s plan is to make the Williamsburg Bridge all high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV-3) lanes from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., with police enforcement expected to occur on the Manhattan side. D.O.T. says the specifics are being worked out with the Police Department.

“I think it will be a real institutional challenge to push that forward and I hope that the N.Y.P.D. is up to that,” said Philip Leff, a North Brooklyn Transportation Alternatives organizer. “If people switch to cars instead of transit or biking, then the doom-and-gloom predictions will absolutely come true. If we have strong, effective, reliable consistent transit, we will weather through it much better.”

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