Bike plan is less than Grand, some say

By Lori Haught

Community Board 3 passed a resolution in the spring saying it did not support a bike lane on Grand St. By November, the city Department of Transportation had put it in.

Citing its extensive research, the D.O.T. said it was the safest and most convenient route for a bike lane.

Community members at a meeting last week were split down the middle. Some love not being hassled by cars while cycling in the street, while others are sick of double parking and congestion from losing a lane of traffic both ways.

“The noise level is up and I haven’t seen traffic that backed up since the [transit] strike last year,” one resident said of his recent encounter at Grand and Essex Sts. at last week’s C.B. 3 Transportation Committee meeting.

Josh Benson, a representative for the D.O.T., said that the traffic study did not show signs of impeding anything. Another resident present at the meeting laughed outright at the comment.

The resident said that the D.O.T. missed the finer points when doing its study and that because of double parking the bikers now have to find their way into the traffic as opposed to just flowing with it as they did before. The intersection of Clinton and Grand Sts. was cited as a particularly bad location for double parking and standing buses.

Benson also said that the studies done by the D.O.T. do not take into account any illegal behavior that might occur. He said that the community board should work with the police to help solve the problem of illegal activity.

A representative from Transportation Alternatives, a New York based organization for eco-friendly travel, said that he supported the D.O.T. and said that they would be happy to work with C.B. 3 to help improve relations with the police precinct. He said that illegal activity, like double parking, becomes a problem because police do not realize it’s a ticketing offense for a bike lane. Committee members agreed to listen to a presentation from Transportation Alternatives at the next monthly meeting, and also suggested that T.A. make a presentation at the Ninth Precinct Community Council.

Benson said one of the reasons they chose Grand was because of the activity, which already existed there. There is shopping on Grand along with a well-established bike population going to and from the Williamsburg Bridge, which Benson said is used nearly twice as often by bikers than the Brooklyn Bridge. People asked why the D.O.T. did not pick a more direct route, like Delancey St., to the Williamsburg or a safer one, like Broome. Benson said neither of those were conducive as Delancey would be much more dangerous and Broome would simply go unused.

The community also seemed outraged that the D.O.T. took one lane, either way, on Grand St. for the bike path while painting a 10-foot-wide median in the middle of the road. Benson said the D.O.T. has an “eye for the future” and plans to put a concrete median there once it receive funding.

“We’re trying to think of the pedestrians who might get stuck on the median,” he said, as Grand is a wide and busy street.

The installation of the Grand St. bike route was part of D.O.T.’s Bicycle Master Plan Route, which seeks to connect the city via 200 miles of safe routes for bicycles by the end of 2009.

About five miles of lanes have been installed Downtown this year.