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Get on the bike - 21 miles of lanes planned

The Department of Transportation (DOT) continues to work on an ambitious network of bicycle lanes in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, neighborhoods with the highest concentration of cyclists in New York City.

At a Community Board 1 Transportation Committee meeting last month, DOT officials presented plans for 21 miles of bike lanes in the area.

These new lanes – some recently installed, some proposed for the near future – will link to existing lanes to provide access to key area transportation connections like the Pulaski and Williamsburg Bridges.

In May, the DOT installed a southbound lane on Leonard Street that begins on Greenpoint Avenue, complementing an existing northbound lane on Manhattan Avenue.

After maneuvering a couple of streets, this Leonard Street lane links to an existing southbound lane on Tompkins Avenue, providing a continuous bike lane from Greenpoint to Bedford-Stuyvesant to points south.

To enable easier access to the Williamsburg Bridge from the waterfront – which will soon be heavily populated when new residential high-rises completed and peopled – the DOT installed a half-mile of both east and westbound bike lanes on a stretch of Broadway between Bedford and Kent avenues.

As part of this street reconfiguration, the DOT installed a pedestrian “refuge island” in the middle of Broadway. One traffic lane was removed in each direction to accommodate the bike lane and the island.

Another measure DOT officials think will improve access to the Williamsburg Bridge is the installation of 4.5 miles of lanes along Grand Street and Driggs Avenue, which officials hope to begin installing by the spring of 2009.

In Greenpoint, installation of a five-mile “neighborhood network” of bike lanes is currently underway. Included in this network are lanes on Greenpoint Avenue, the northern portion of Manhattan Avenue, McGuiness Boulevard, and Provost Street, among other streets.

This network would connect to Brooklyn to Queens via the Pulaski and J.J. Byrne Bridges. From there, proposed lanes in Queens would connect to the Queensboro Bridge, an option for cyclists looking to get to midtown Manhattan.

DOT officials also discussed plans for a 3.5-mile route that would go down Wythe Avenue, starting from North 14th Street, and continue to where Wythe meets Franklin Avenue. From there, it would go down Franklin Avenue all the way to Bergen Street in Prospect Heights.

Work on the Wythe and Franklin Avenue lanes is expected to begin in August.

In addition to these lanes, cycling enthusiasts throughout Brooklyn are looking forward to the Brooklyn Greenway, a continuous network of landscaped two-way bike paths physically separated from traffic along the Brooklyn waterfront.

But construction on the ambitious project is still at least a year away from commencing. Once construction begins, it will take at least another year until portions of the Greenway are complete.

Until then, Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents will have to content themselves with 5 miles of temporary lanes along Kent Avenue and West Street. Installation of northbound and southbound lanes – starting from Eagle Street and going all the way down West Street and then Kent Avenue – will begin this October.

Community Board 1 Transportation Committee Chair Teresa Toro praised the work of the DOT.

“It shows the city is trying to get more people to bike instead of driving their cars. Even just by painting lines on the street, it’s a great message they’re getting out,” she said.

Toro believes the prevalence of bike lanes will encourage cycling, saying, “A lot of people feel much safer seeing the lines. It encourages them to bike more and that’s a very positive result.”

The bike lanes in Williamsburg and Greenpoint are part of a three-year citywide project, currently in its second year, in which 200 miles of bike lanes will be installed throughout the five boroughs.

Community Board 1 has the most bicycle traffic in the city: An estimated 2,257 bikes cross the Williamsburg Bridge every day, 700 more than the Brooklyn Bridge, the next most-trafficked bridge in the city.

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