City officials and bicycling advocates came to the Lower East Side this morning to celebrate a milestone: one-thousand miles of completed bike lanes throughout New York. But the Department of Transportation (DOT) also had some news of local interest. They’ve committed to adding a mid-block crosswalk on Clinton Street between Grand Street and East Broadway.
In the past few weeks, crews have been slowly implementing a two-way protected bike lane on the west side of Clinton Street. Earlier this year, they rejected a plea from Community Board 3 and State Assemblyman Sheldon Silver for the crosswalk. At the time, they indicated there just wasn’t enough pedestrian activity to justify it. But a stepped up round of advocacy and, perhaps, a headline grabbing crash involving an out-of-control ice cream truck, apparently caused them to shift course.
During today’s media event in front of the Fine Fare Supermarket, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg confirmed that the crosswalk is coming. She said it’s just a matter of exact placement. City transportation officials will be back in the neighborhood on Thursday to begin working out the specifics. Local residents had also asked for a mid-block traffic signal, but it does not appear that will happen, at least not now.
During a reporter question-and-answer session, locals peppered Trottenberg with their own questions about the bike lane. Marc Albaum, a board member of the Seward Park Co-op asked, “Who’s going to take responsibility when someone is hurt?” In a later conversation, Albaum said he recognizes the bike lane is here to stay. But Albaum said he’s worried about the safety of the many elderly residents and small children in the neighborhood. He and his wife were both struck by bicyclists. Other residents said there’s no place for trucks making deliveries to the supermarket to safely stop.
Trottenberg later faced more grilling from perturbed locals. Standing on the sidewalk surrounded by several inquisitors, she emphasized that the DOT would work with the police department on enforcement. She also expressed confidence that the crosswalk would improve safety in the area.
State Sen. Daniel Squadron also made brief remarks, saying there has been a strong partnership between the city and the community board on the installation of the Clinton Street bike lane. He noted that the DOT is “still working on safety improvements” and he urged the agency to continue collaborating with the community. Karen Blatt, chair of C3’s transportation committee, said there has been a history of automobile-pedestrian conflict on Clinton Street. “I hope the DOT continues to improve the bike lane and to improve safety,” she added.
In a statement, Assemblyman Silver said, “Working with Seward Park advocates and leaders we have finally achieved what we’ve been fighting for: a mid-block crossing on Clinton Street. This crossing will make our most vulnerable pedestrians safer and more protected. I look forward to working with DOT to implement this crossing as soon as possible.”