May 17, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
The Department of Transportation will begin construction of protected curbside bicycle lanes along Grand Street in coming weeks, the city agency announced at a Brooklyn Community Board 1 meeting on Tuesday.
The DOT announcement was greeted with a mixed response by dozens of attendees who packed the CB1 meeting held at the Swinging Sixties Senior Center at 211 Ainslie St. Cycling advocates said that the new lanes are a victory for safety, while business owners expressed concern over the net loss of about 50 parking spaces and the potential difficulty of receiving curbside deliveries.
The latest Grand Street design plan comes after a number of revisions. The street was originally set to have protected bike lanes as well as bus-only lanes to cope with the previously planned full L train shutdown. DOT began laying down paint for both the bus and bike lanes late last year, but work was put on hold after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement in January that the L train would no longer be closed.
The corridor’s current unprotected bike lanes, which provide a direct route to the Williamsburg bridge, are used by more than 1,000 cyclists each weekday, according to the DOT.
The new plan will see a total redesign of the street from Union to Vandervoort Avenues. The protected bike lanes will be installed curbside on both the north and south sides of the street. On the north side, the protected bike lane will be separated from vehicular traffic by an eight-foot-wide parking and loading lane, which will have with both commercial and passenger vehicle parking spaces. On the south side, the bike lane will be protected with a six foot buffer containing flexible delineators to prevent cars from entering the cyclist’s path.
East of Waterbury street, the design will be reversed, with the parking lane being placed on the south side. Representatives from DOT said this was in response to requests from business owners in the area.
Updated turn treatments will be installed at Graham Avenue, Manhattan Avenue and Lorimer Street, as well as a pedestrian island at Manhattan Avenue.
Cyclists said that the measures were needed, noting how dangerous the area is. Council District 34, which encompasses the Grand Street corridor, currently has the highest number of traffic fatalities in Brooklyn, and the third highest in the city, according to DOT.
“If you have lost somebody, the cost is really too much,” said Greenpoint resident Joe Katz, whose friend Rasha Shamoon died 11 years ago after being struck by a car while riding her bike towards the Williamsburg Bridge.
“Rasha would be 42 now, she might have a family, she would be teaching at her school,” Katz added. “She lost her life and we lost her, and this happens far too often. I’m tired of having to go to memorials for people who could have been saved if there were protected bike lanes. The data shows that protected bike lanes do save lives and I want to thank the DOT for doing the right thing.”
Some local business owners argued that the new design will in fact put cyclists at risk. Delivery trucks, they argued, will no longer be able to legally pull up to the curb, forcing workers to either illegally park in the bike lane, or cross over the bike path with forklifts and other industrial tools.
“I think we’re going to be making it more dangerous for bicyclists with people unloading next to the curb,” said Ryan Preuss, a business owner on Grand Street. “Anybody that is riding a bike at 15 miles an hour that crosses an unloading is not going to fair well. On the south side, you have 11 businesses that load heavy equipment all day. I unload tractor trailers three or four times a week.”
DOT does not believe this will be a problem, citing a decrease in cycling, pedestrian and motor vehicle accidents overall in areas where protected bike lanes have been installed on similar streets.
Erin Piscopink, Executive Director of the Grand Street Business Business Improvement District, voiced concerns about the lack of parking affecting the customer base of local businesses.
DOT says the redesign will lead to the elimination of 119 metered parking spaces along Grand Street. However, the agency says many of these spots with be restored nearby.
Sixty-five metered parking spots will be added along side streets, and parking time limits will be reduced from two hours to one hour on Grand Street to improve turnover. DOT will also allow dedicated commercial space from Union to Bushwick Avenues to be used as passenger vehicle metered parking from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
Eight additional parking spaces will be created on the north side of the street as a result of to the new design.
DOT will start painting the green bike lanes, laying down new traffic lane lines, and installing the delineators in the upcoming weeks.