From The New York Shitty Inbox: Everything You Wanted To Know About Those Lines On The Pulaski Bridge

(and I do mean EVERYTHING)


Rick writes:

I’m a new-ish fan of the blog, 10-year Greenpointer (what I call “outer” Greenpoint — Morgan near Driggs — as opposed to “upper” Greenpoint, meaning along the Manhattan/Franklin corridor), and bike commuter. I’m also a journalist who just finished a year reporting on urban spaces and infrastructure for PBS and public radio.

So after seeing the markings on the Pulaski Bridge path — and reading your posts — I decided to call someone who’d know what was up: Wiley Norvell, Communications Director for bike advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.

I asked him about three things: (1) the “lane” markings on the ramps; (2) the seemingly-superfluous white lines along the main stretch of the path; and (3) the “Stop and Dismount — Walk Bike” signs.

Wiley checked with NYCDOT and got back to me with the following answers:

1. The lane markings at the entrances “are designed to provide guidance,” he said. Every bridge in the city handles cyclists and pedestrians differently: they’re segregated on the Brooklyn and Manhattan spans; pedestrians move counter to cycle traffic on the Williamsburg; and (iirc) they move in the same direction on the 59th. So, Wiley said, “the DOT’s trying to clarify the rules for the Pulaski.”

2. The white lines are an effort to get cyclists to chill out, for lack of a better way of putting it. “That’s typically done for cars,” Wiley said. “They visually narrow the space. That’s intended to get people to slow down and focus. It make it look like the space is only five feet wide, so it’s a visual traffic-calming cue.”

Of course, Wiley says, none of this deals with the underlying problem on the bridge: That the path is simply too narrow for the amount of pedestrian and cycle traffic it’s already handling. And things are likely to get worse: Between the impending completion of the Kent Avenue greenway (which I rode today and is coming along beautifully) and the coming greenway along the LIC riverfront, there’s likely to be a lot more traffic on the Pulaski path. “It’s like the Brooklyn Bridge path,” he said. “We’re running up against the laws of physics.”

The bridge’s roadbed has the opposite problem: It has too much capacity, Wiley said. The evidence: cars routinely exceed the speed limit over the Newtown Creek by 15-20 MPH. “And that behavior continues on McGuinness Boulevard and into Long Island City,” Wiley said.

So there’s a built-in solution that would solve both problems at once: Take a lane away from the roadbed and turn it into a dedicated cycle path. Wiley says Transportation Alternatives supports that idea, but it’s likely a long way off: The Pulaski Bridge was last rebuilt just 15 years ago, so any reconfiguration is likely years in the future.

3. The signs are mandated by a regulation, likely a federal one, Wiley said. That regulation governs how traffic is supposed to behave on drawbridges. The problem, he said, is that the signs are in the wrong place: Cyclists are supposed to dismount and walk their bikes over the expansion joint between the leaves of the bascule (i.e. at mid-span). The signs, however, are hundreds of feet away from the joint. Even so, Wiley said, DOT doesn’t enforce the rule. “They’re planning for the real world, in which cyclists are riding across the bridge.”

Hope this helps… Keep up the good work!

No Rick, thank YOU for taking the time to give us the 411! If anyone has a question for Rick you can leave them in the comments or contact him via email at: rick (at) technopop (dot) org.

Miss Heather

P.S.: Rick was also kind enough to forward me a DOT presentation regarding the Pulaski Bridge. You can view it in jpeg format by clicking here.


2 Comments on From The New York Shitty Inbox: Everything You Wanted To Know About Those Lines On The Pulaski Bridge

  1. AMOJA on Wed, 30th Sep 2009 11:16 am
  2. Wow. Thank you Rick and Heather for this. It’s both fascinating and frustrating, but I really appreciate the logic behind the white lines that were painted.

    As you may have noticed, I’m no fan of bicycles on the walkway (is it now just a path and not a walkway?), but the fact I find far more distressing is that vehicles are entering Brooklyn at an average of 48mph. I knew people were speeding, but that’s outrageous.

    […] New lane markings split up an already-tiny space for pedestrians and cyclists on the Pulaski Bridge. Photo: New York Shitty […]

Tell me what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

You must be logged in to post a comment.