19 May 2009

The Fast-Vanishing, Welfare-Endangering Union Street Bike Line

There's been lots of good news for bikers lately. City Hall seems to be encouraging the increased use of bicycles to get around and about. One of the ways they have been helping matters is in multiplying the number of bike lanes in the metropolis. It seems a new lane crops up every couple months or so in my neighborhood, on Kane Street or Congress Street or Columbia.

All that notwithstanding, I still have found something to complain about. One of the first (and, for a long time, one of the only) bike lanes in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens was the Union Street path, running from Henry Street all the way to Prospect Park. But, while other new lanes are busy being painted, Union Street has gone neglected in the most abominable fashion.

Between Henry Street and Court Street, you can barely see the white lines marking the lane. They've long ago been rubbed away by weather, wind and too many tires. The same goes for the bike-rider symbols. The one pictured below is one of the few that can be made out by the human eye at all.

What's more, the lane is utterly riddled with potholes, and various half-assed attempts to fill them in. You can literally hardly go a yard or two without encountering not just one pothole, but a cluster of them. The lane is simply not passable. One must weave in and out of the lane, and into the traffic, in order to achieve a smooth, safe ride.

The mysterious thing about this is, there are very few potholes on Union Street proper; they're all clustered in the bike lane. It's enough to provoke conspiracy theories. Did the city use lower quality asphalt in the bike lane than it did in the car lane?


Andrea said...

I agree, the number/severity of the potholes on Union is utterly freakish. It's bad enough having to worry about being doored from the right without being forced to veer into the traffic on the left.

Ed said...

Not a biker, but I suspect the "paint a white line on the street and tell people that area is reserved for bikes" method of creating bike lanes will mostly fail. This is mainly because I remember a similar city program to create lots of bike lanes after the 1980s transit strike. After awhile, the lines faded and cars ignored them.

As an alternative, the city should be creating bike routes, long stretches which bicylists can use that are free of auto and pedestrian traffic (remember pedestrians are also obstacles for cyclists, and vice versa). Instead of turning Broadway into a pedestrian mall -talk about another old urban planning idea that has failed just about everywhere its been tried- we could use a north-south avenue in Manhattan reserved for cyclists, express buses, and (genuine) emergency vehicles. Or once there is money for it, build an elevated highway somewhere for bikes only and see how that works.