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DOT Knows: A Protected Plaza Street is Better

April 17, 2012

A slide from DOT's April 2010 Grand Army Plaza Improvements presentation

The above image is from DOT’s April 2010 Grand Army Plaza Improvements presentation.  It’s a collection of images meant to introduce the presentation’s section on Plaza Streets East and West and the solutions that were eventually endorsed by three local community boards.

If you look closely at the upper left corner of the slide, you’ll see one image that demonstrates every reason for a protected, two-way bike lane on Plaza Street.

The image shows:

  • An SUV driving or parked in the bike lane.
  • A double-parked truck.
  • A contra-flow cyclist.

To break it down, by passing the SUV blocking the bike lane against the direction of traffic, the cyclist renders himself invisible to oncoming vehicles coming from behind the double-parked truck.  Any car speeding down Plaza Street would be similarly invisible to him.  Yes, the truck may be parked in a way that would block traffic if there was a protected bike lane on the street, but can anyone really argue that not delaying motorists for even a second is more important than a person’s life?

In 2010 DOT felt that this image smartly demonstrated the key reasons for a protected, two-way bike lane.  Nothing has changed in the last two years except for the fact that cycling has grown more popular than ever.  Yes, the PPW lawsuit affected the politics, but only on the pages of the Brooklyn Paper.  If anything, the fight over PPW showed just how much pent-up desire there is for more pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure.  Are we really willing to sacrifice the safety of our community on the altar of politics?

  1. Mike permalink
    April 17, 2012 12:57 pm

    Great point.

  2. dporpentine permalink
    April 17, 2012 7:35 pm

    This is the worst argument imaginable for a totally necessary project. The threat to this cyclist’s life comes from . . . salmoning. That’s it. No salmoning cyclist, no problem.

    The double-parking truck and the SUV in the bike lane would be real problems to a cyclist following the law. But that’s not what’s happening in this picture.

    • April 17, 2012 8:13 pm

      You’re correct that salmoning on Plaza Street — or anywhere — is illegal and foolish and I’m in no way excusing this kind of behavior.

      But the point of the proposed two-way bike lane is to address the fact that cyclists currently go against the direction of traffic here in order to connect with the bike lane on Lincoln Place. It was one of the issues DOT addressed in the 2010 plan and was illustrated in their report by this picture.

      Few cyclists want to go all the way around Grand Army Plaza if they’re already at PPW & Union with Lincoln just a few blocks away. A two-way lane would legitimize this behavior, and unprotected contra-flow lanes are not unprecedented in the realm of street design.

      But imagine the same scenario with a new two-way bike lane without physical separation: a double-parked truck, an SUV in the bike lane, and a cyclist trying to get around both. Is it any less dangerous than what’s pictured above simply because it would be sanctioned by arrows and signs?

      • dporpentine permalink
        April 17, 2012 9:38 pm

        Thank you for the response–really. Thanks.

        But I think you misunderstand what I said: I think a *protected* two-way bike lane is necessary but the argument for it is hobbled by using a salmon to defend it.

        Part of it is simply that it plays to the stereotype of bikers wanting only privileges and no responsibility on the streets. But the more important part is that, yes, I think even an unprotected lane would make the scene unfolding above much safer, mostly because the cyclist would likely be closer to the SUV. If that were the case, he could easily see around it and could easily by seen by oncoming traffic.

        In that scenario, oncoming traffic could also easily see him–and, seeing him, be more likely to stop and let him pass the truck since he’s got the legal right of way.

        Even in the photo it’s obvious that there’s a clear gap between the line of visibility left open by the truck and the line left open by the SUV. The biker is being dumb not just by salmoning, but (perhaps as an expression of a guilty conscience) going way to the other side of the road to do so. *That’s* what puts him in danger.

  3. Plaza denizen permalink
    April 18, 2012 8:26 am

    It’s one picture. The truth is there’s going to be hundreds of cyclists going the “wrong” way every day. Thousands on weekends. And all it takes is one car in the bike lane to make a problem. Better to have protection here.


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