Grand Street Bike Lanes: Bicycling Advocates Respond

As we have reported, Co-op Village residents voiced their strong displeasure with the Grand Street bike lanes during a town hall meeting Monday night. We contacted the bicycling advocacy organization, Transportation Alternatives, for a response.

Several residents argued that the bike lanes, combined with the center islands installed east of Essex, have created gridlock and dangerous conditions on Grand Street. They claimed that emergency vehicles can't get through, especially when cars and trucks are double parked. They said trucks making deliveries stop in the middle of the street, since double parking in the bike lanes can result in a $115 fine.

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Wiley Norvell of Transportation Alternatives said that since the new configuration on Grand Street is a first for New York City, there's a natural period of adjustment for motorists, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. He believes that the center islands have made the street safer by helping to reduce vehicle speeds. Norvell said it's important to remember that double parking is illegal — and it would be wrong to blame the bicycle lanes for increased congestion.

Norvell said the city and the community boards agreed to evaluate the changes on Grand Street this spring. If double parking is a concern, he suggested, it would be specifically addressed.

We also discussed the behavior of bicyclists. Residents at the town hall complained that they frequently disobey traffic laws, ride the wrong direction in bike lanes and ride on sidewalks. Norvell said that, in the past, some bicyclists, considered themselves "dissidents of the transportation system," in part becase New York was so inhospitable to them. But as the city has become more bike friendly, he argued, behavior of bicyclists has improved.

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Norvell said his organization is committed to educating bicyclists about the rules of the road and about the "softer street code." On May 20th, Transportation Alternatives will launch a new education program and a companion web site www.bikingrules.org.