Plaza Street in Progress
Progress on the Plaza Street two-way bike lane continues. As of yesterday’s evening commute there was a fresh coat of green paint that was taped off for drying. Above, the view looking toward Union Street.
Above, the view from Union Street. I’ll say this to all the of the Plaza Street residents who opposed a protected bike lane and complained that moving the cars over would have destroyed the historic character of the street: your efforts to stop that from happening have now resulted in an ugly, bright green stripe that will be unavoidably visible from your apartments. Congratulations.
While this will soon provide cyclists with a legal way to ride to and from bike connections at Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park West, it’s a little disconcerting that DOT can take a major cycling route offline without providing a safe alternative. In my short time on Plaza Street yesterday evening I saw many cyclists forced into tights spots with drivers.
It may look like the cyclist above has a bit of room, but that’s only because there were no traffic cones or barrels on the new speed bumps. It was much tighter a little farther up. And while I know that this set-up is only temporary, accidents don’t always wait for infrastructure projects to be completed.
The picture above is a striking example of how good infrastructure breeds good behavior and how the sudden elimination of that infrastructure brings the bad behavior right back. It’s not an excuse for riding on the sidewalk, but it does demonstrate the importance of safe, separated, and short routes for cyclists.
So, what could DOT have done differently? For starters, it could have used the space left behind by all the relocated cars as a temporary protected bike lane.
I don’t know why DOT couldn’t have put cones and tape on both sides of the bike lane, which would have allowed cyclists to use the space between the curb and the white stripe for now. Yes, there would have been an issue at Lincoln and Berkeley, but that’s nothing that couldn’t have been fixed by leaving a black patch of pavement at those intersections for a day or two. (By the way, where does everyone park their cars during roadwork like this? The fact that these cars can more or less disappear overnight demonstrates that we most certainly have the space, if not the political will, to create safe bike lanes.)
On a very positive note, I noticed that cyclists made up a significant portion of the traffic on Plaza Street during the evening rush.
In the short video above there are six people on bikes–including the kid being transported on the sidewalk–and one person in a car. It’s may be only twelve seconds of footage, but using the standard multiplier effect of 50:1 means there were a heck of a lot of cyclists.