By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Department of Transportation will begin implementing improvements along the East River Greenway near Waterside Plaza at the end of September with street configurations meant to calm traffic and protect cyclists. The DOT announced the improvements via Twitter late last week, although the agency originally presented the changes to Community Board 6 nearly two years ago in November, 2016.
Regarding the gap between the presentation to Community Board 6 and the project’s implementation, a spokesperson for the DOT said the time frame for this “complex” project is not unusual, due to working out the final design and construction scheduling.
The improvements are planned specifically for the area of the Greenway between East 25th and 34th Streets, alongside Waterside Plaza, the Water Club Restaurant at East 30th Street and the East 34th Street intersection.
One of the existing issues that the project hopes to correct is the Greenway path near Waterside Plaza. According to the DOT, the path isn’t intuitive and is only protected in one direction on the southbound side. Cyclists on the southbound side are protected from traffic by a concrete barrier but riders on the northbound side share a narrow lane with large vehicles.
The proposed design would replace the concrete barrier with flexible delineators that will add two feet of space to the bike lane, which would then be divided in half to create a two-way lane. The concrete barrier would be moved to the other side of the bike lane to protect cyclists against traffic on the FDR Service Road.
The existing protected one-way bike lane is currently five feet across, but with the concrete barrier shifted to the other side, cyclists on each side of the bike lane would have 3.5 feet of space. Even in its current state, bike riders frequently ignore the designated directions for the lane and already use the protected southbound lane for going northbound as well, as a reporter for Town & Village observed earlier this week.
The Department of Transportation also attributed some of the delay for the project on changes that the Water Club had requested since the agency gave their original presentation.
“We have revised the design at the Water Club entrance to reduce conflicts between cyclists and restaurant operations, and we added a two-way Jersey barrier-protected bike lane north of the restaurant, rather than having cyclists use the parking lot,” a spokesperson for the DOT said.
Manhattan DOT Community Coordinator Colleen Chattergoon was also at CB6’s recent transportation committee meeting earlier this week, on which DOT representatives primarily focused on bike lane improvements for the area around the Queensboro Bridge, but Chattergoon gave the committee brief updates on the improvements for the Greenway improvements, noting that the main revisions to the plan were around the Water Club.
“They didn’t want bike traffic in front of their entrance,” she explained.
She noted that the changes include the addition of granite planters and a Jersey barrier as buffers, both of which the Water Club has agreed to maintain. The restaurant has also agreed to relocate a large container in their parking lot to more easily implement the changes.
The proposed design for East 34th Street includes a two-way shared bike and pedestrian path on the median to the east of the FDR off-ramp, as well as the installation of a new painted pedestrian area and crossings at the parking lot.
The changes would also include improved access to and from the Greenway from the protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenues at East 37th Street.