The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for July 29th, 2015

irresistably borne

with 4 comments

Spock was wrong, for the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Allow a humble narrator to make this predicate statement, before the condemnations begin: I think Bike Lanes are both necessary and a good thing. I have no fundamental nor ideological objection to dedicated vehicle lanes reserved for human powered transportation. Friends of mine actually sit on the board of Transportation Alternatives, and although I’m not a bicycle commuter (dedicated pedestrian, me), it’s a worthy pursuit to encourage folks to get around under their own steam rather than use a motor vehicle. Saying that, there’s a lot of people who cannot get around under their own steam because… y’know, not everybody is 25 and in perfect health.

A set of bike lanes has recently appeared on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, which spans the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens and the lugubrious waters of the fabled Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When these bike lanes opened, websites like Gothamist, Curbed, and the rest of the Brooklyn Gold Coast elites applauded the addition. The bike lanes were a personal project for some of the elected officials who I am honored to consider friends on both sides of the Creek as well. These are what is known as “protected bike lanes,” meaning that they have these little plastic bollards running along them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Problem here is that mid span on the bridge, which is a primary crossing between the two boroughs, the two motor vehicle lanes that cross the span on both sides now merge into a single lane. The day these shots were captured, I observed three near misses as automobiles were trying to pass heavy trucks (manufacturing zoning on both sides). 

The other problem is that while there are a fair number of people who bike over this bridge on a daily basis, their numbers are eclipsed by the cyclopean numbers of trucks and cars that do so as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Several instances of southbound traffic straying into the northbound lanes were observed, and vice versa, and more than one of the heavy trucks had to jam on their air brakes to stop in time to avoid a collision. The problem, as observed, is that there are protected bike lanes for both directions of travel instead of a single dedicated path for bicycle traffic, which necessitates the 4 automotive lanes becoming two at mid span.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above, you’ll notice the white auto is forcing the dump truck onto the median “no go” area as traffic merges near the center of the span.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Queens side, the north bound bike lane terminates at a cross walk and then disappears. Just to the east of the bridge’s bike lane is an access road used by the trucks that are exiting from the recycling and waste haulage companies found along Railroad Avenue.

This is a high volume sort of intersection, btw, where Review and Greenpoint Avenues intersect with Van Dam Street and traffic is literally coming at you from six different directions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking up Van Dam in the general direction of Queens Plaza, the bike lane is intersected by a turn lane for trucks and other vehicular traffic. The Fed Ex truck is in that turn lane and making the left onto Review Avenue, no doubt heading for the enormous Fed Ex facility on Borden Avenue under the Long Island Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s a shot of the intersection which is clear of traffic, where the confusing and rather byzantine striping of the traffic indicators is fully revealed. This looks pretty dangerous to me. Notice that the turn lane used by the Fed Ex truck in the previous spot goes right through the bike lane which feeds the south bound lane of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funny thing is, despite all the work and expense of installing these bike lanes, and the series of vehicular hazards introduced to automotive and truck traffic by that center span merge – the bicyclists still seem to prefer using the pedestrian sidewalks – just as they’ve always done.

So, now is the time for the bike people to start attacking me for pointing out that these bike lanes are imperfect and dangerous. Recriminations will include accusations of Fox News style distortion, fealty to a regressive authoritarian system dominated by motor vehicles, and the other usual character assassinations favored by the scholastic and socratic elites who occupy air conditioned offices in lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn.

Hold your sophistry, the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge needs bike lanes, but these ain’t good. We need to do better. I’m talking to you, NYC DOT.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 2nd, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek – Bushwick & Mapeth Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

August 8th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills – LIC Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 29, 2015 at 10:45 am

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