Safer Cycling Is on the Way to Some Lower Manhattan Streets

Rendering of two-way protected bike path leading to and from the Brooklyn Bridge. The path will replace curbside parking (inset), which will be relocated at the nearby Park Row median, between Spruce and Beekman. Rendering: NYC Department of Transportation; inset photo: Tribeca Trib

Mar. 20, 2017

Bike and pedestrian safety upgrades are down the road for some Lower Manhattan streets.

A new two-way, protected bike path on a short stretch of Park Row and Centre Street will help fix the confusing and dangerous way that many cyclists approach and leave the Brooklyn Bridge. And between the bridge and The Battery, newly marked, mostly shared lanes will offer what the city aims to be a simpler, safer and more direct route through the tangled grid of narrow Lower Manhattan streets.

The planned improvements, announced last week by the city’s Department of Transportation, also include a second crosswalk on Park Row at Spruce Street and extended and widened medians at that intersection that will shorten the crossing distance and help prevent pedestrians from getting caught in traffic when the light changes.

The barrier-protected two-way bike path, in the area where Park Row merges with Centre Street around City Hall, is meant to keep bridge-bound cyclists from riding against the flow of southbound traffic and off the sidewalk. (More than a quarter of bike riders heading for the bridge get there by riding, illegally, against Park Row and Centre Street traffic, and nine percent ride on the sidewalk, according to DOT counts.)

The path will also help guide riders to the bridge’s bike entrance, Preston Johnson, a DOT project manager, told Community Board 1’s Planning Committee last week. “It’s possible to make the mistake of turning onto the roadway. And then the way you correct that mistake is turning around and heading into traffic on the same roadway before you can get on the bike path,” which is a short distance to the north.

To make way for the protected bike lane, special permit parking on Centre Street alongside City Hall Park will be relocated to a nearby median, between Spruce and Beekman.

Most of the streets between the Battery and the bridge are too narrow for dedicated bike lanes, Johnson said, but marking the streets as a bike route will gives riders unfamiliar with the area a way to “follow this breadcrumb trail through the neighborhood.” He added that those markers, on the inside of the lane, will help keep cyclists away from opening car doors. Currently, the signed bike route to the bridge from The Battery takes cyclists all the way west to Church Street and across City Hall Park at Warren. The new route will be a half-mile shorter and keep cyclists away from a dangerous stretch of Church Street near the World Trade Center, Johnson said.

The plan was well received by the committee and cyclist commentators on largely supported it. “I think this is a great and much needed project which should have happened ages ago,” said one.