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This article was originally published in in the 2016 Election Corner back in May 2016. Considering that this issue continues to have significant impact on our neighbors, it is being republished as part of the main SPBuzz.org site, as not to be relegated to the dusty corners of Seward Park history.

Cycle Hazard!

Cycling is great — it offers convenience, independence, affordability, speed, exercise, all with a minimal environmental impact. However, some manifestations of cycling in our neighborhood are outright hazardous.

Electric Bikes

Local restaurants are increasingly deploying electric bikes for their delivery personnel. These bikes can regularly be seen running lights, scooting the wrong way down streets, and riding on the sidewalk. Operators of electric bikes vehicles tend to be far more oblivious to their surroundings than people on traditional bicycles, who, due to the very nature of their pedaling are more engaged in their environment than those who are driving a motor vehicle. In my view, people who operate motor vehicles in such an unsafe manner should be ticketed. It should certainly be prohibited for them to drive on sidewalks.

The Williamsburg Basin

Traffic flows in and out of our neighborhood via the WIlliamsbug Bridge. This the bridge touches down at Delancey Street and Clinton Street. The huge amount of traffic it carries has always been associated with difficult and often treacherous crossing. Recent redesign has significantly improved the area with dedicated bike lanes, longer lights with countdown clocks, barriers protecting pedestrians waiting at the curb, and a spacious traffic island where pedestrians can pause if they don't make it all the way across at once.

These design features seem to be mostly well-considered but they are undermined by the lack of adherence by cyclists.This is not just a local street where cyclists can use their discretion as to whether to follow the rules of the road — this is basically an eight-lane highway with a stoplight. There is simply too much traffic and too many pedestrians — burdened with too many strollers, walkers and shopping carts — for the "subjective" adherence to traffic rules to be safe.

With that in mind, I propose that the following:

  • At present, cyclists coming off the bridge must either bear right in order to either turn onto Clinton Street or merge onto Delancey Street, or turn left onto Clinton Street. They can't continue straight. That is fine. However, in practice, many cyclists do continue straight through, continuing the wrong way in the bike lane meant for eastbound traffic. This poses a danger to people traversing the traffic island. It also poses a danger to pedestrians as far down as Suffolk Street who have no reason to on the lookout for bicycle traffic coming from that direction as they cross this busy intersection. These cyclists should be ticketed.

     
  • The bike path going east onto the bridge cuts right through the traffic island. Cyclists tend to speed up in order to have power to ascend the bridge, and although there is a sign telling them to yield to pedestrians, the sign is badly placed, and there is no grooved pavement, "rumble strips", or obstacles in place to force cyclists to slow down and pay attention. Signage should be made much more clear, and a the road surface should be modified accordingly.

These two measures would address the problems in an acceptable way, but I believe a much better approach would be to redirect the eastbound bike path so that it adjoins the eastbound lane of traffic, rather than cut through the traffic island (the island would probably need to be made slightly narrower and cyclists should have to wait at the same red light as cars), so that that once people reach the safety of the traffic island, they can be sure that they are indeed "safe".

Finally, one block west — at Suffolk Street — the traffic on Delancey Street still warrants treatment as a highway and not as a residential road. Cyclists on Delancey Street routinely run the light going west... and police conducting traffic simply ignore it. This puts pedestrians scambling to cross this highway at risk. Simply put, rules of the road on this highway need to be enforced.