Lafayette St. Slated for a New Protected Bike Lane – Update

Lafayette Construction

Update:  Beware NoHo

Lafayette Sts’ New Protected Bike Lane was the topic on Thursday, March 6th at CB#2’s Traffic and Transportation Committee. (Updated March 7) 

The original plan called for the protected bike lane to run along the west side of Lafayette St from Broome to 14th St.  It has now been shortened and is now planned for Prince to 9th Sts.

We met with Nina Haiman from the Manhattan Borough Commissioner’s office regarding this plan last week for two hours. We were joined by two restaurant owners on the west side of Lafayette to gain their insight as regards the operation of their businesses and their observations about deliveries, pedestrian activity, garbage pick-ups, etc that are affected by the 12 ft occupation of bike lane and parking in the current Lafayette St. roadbed. Moving trafffic lanes will be reduced from 14′ to 11′.

While parking on Lafayette is supposed to be reserved largely for commercial pick-ups and deliveries,inspection revealed that the signage does not reflect that intention.  Ms. Haiman will investigate the correction of this situation.  Once that is solidified, the parking space in the protected bike lane configuration will be devoted to deliveries dropping off and picking up.  This will be helpful.

The most obvious impediment in the new configuration (cars on the outside, bike lane by the curb) would be the elimination of the buffer zone (cross-hatch area)  that helped to protect from moving traffic.  The affect of this elimination is that there will be no remaining neutral area for cabs to pick-up or drop-off passengers, meaning that anyone using a cab will have to enter or leave in a lane of moving traffic.  The experience of Laurence Kretchmer (restaurateur) is that this increases honking from cars unable to move in the traffic lane, in addition to subjecting passengers to increased danger.  Mr. Kretchmer has observed this from the several other locations of his restaurants in NYC.  Secondarily this configuration lengthens the time taken for deliveries and pick-ups because the service has to accommodate moving bike traffic before they can reach the sidewalk and the delivery entrance.  This can be a particular impediment where large volume goods are being transferred.

Assuming that this pedestrian/cab customer issue can be overcome, eventually, it is our recommendation that the capital investment for a protected bike lane be postponed until the Lafayette Construction Zone which now takes up the majority of space of the proposed bike lane configuration, and the Astor Place Plaza construction, is completed.  An earlier version of this plan showed the installation to begin at Broome St and extend to Union Square.  The REVISED plan, since last weeks CB#2 hearing begins at Prince St and extends to 10th St.  At least some neighborhoods get heard!

NoHo has no objection to eventually having a protected bike lane along this part of Lafayette St.  We have many resident bike riders, have welcomed bike racks, and Citi-bike installations but until the constructions are near completion around here, we feel it is irresponsible and premature to represent this area – protected lane or not – as a safe biking street.

Whatever could be jury-rigged now would have to be done over, maybe even several times. Between the closed sidewalks; blocked crosswalks; sidewalk sheds; large Citi-Bike rental installations; a significant increase in pedestrian traffic from NYU student population travelings by foot daily thru NoHo to and from east side dorms and classrooms, the additional impediment of a protected bike lane to safe pedestrian traffic is, to us, an issue.

Additional to the planning for this protected  bike lane should be the provision of a fire lane up Lafayette from Engine 33, Ladder 9 on Great Jones which will be the only means of reaching anything north, east or west from that station within its service area.

DOT’s standard seems to be to provide two lanes for moving traffic –
though NOW reduced from 14′ to 11′ . It is doubtful that even this is going to manifest particularly for traffic approaching Astor Place (one of several massive constructions underway for the next 3 years). . It would seem that a
lane (usually in the middle so large fire trucks can make corners) should
be a major consideration in determining even the sufficiency of two lanes.

This initiative needs considerable re-consideration before it is employed.

Next stop: (1)  Meeting for all NoHo Merchants, Property Owners, Residents, Sunday March 16th at 6:00pm at Lafayette Grande Cafe.  (2)  Testimony at this month’s CB#2 Full Board Meeting, Thursday, March 20th at 6:00 pm, 63 Fifth Ave, at the New School.

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