Protected bike lane likely for Hudson St.

 A D.O.T. graphic showing the proposed street configuration on northbound Hudson St. between W. Houston and Bank Sts.

A D.O.T. graphic showing the proposed street configuration on northbound Hudson St. between W. Houston and Bank Sts.

BY SAM SPOKONY  |  Two weeks ago, Community Board 2 approved the Department of Transportation’s plan for a new parking-protected bike lane along Lafeyette St. and Fourth Ave. Last Thursday, D.O.T. returned to the board with a proposal that would provide the same upgrade to the current bike lanes along Hudson St. from Houston to W. 14th Sts.

The plan, which would essentially extend the already-protected Eighth and Ninth Ave. bike lanes down from Chelsea through the West Village, was unanimously approved by C.B. 2’s Transportation Committee on April 3, and will next go to the full board on April 24. The committee had originally called for a bike-safety upgrade along Hudson St. back in 2011.

In order to link up with those already-protected lanes to the north, both the southbound portion of Hudson St. (which runs between W. 12th and Bank Sts.) and Hudson St.’s northbound portion (which runs from Houston St. up to Bank St.) would be covered by the upgrade.

Parking-protected bike lanes, as the name implies, involve placing painted bike lanes directly next to the curb, while moving the car-parking lane away from the curb and into the street. The parked cars — along with an additional five-foot buffer zone — protect cyclists from traffic.

Those upgrades have already led to sizable safety improvements in Chelsea, according to D.O.T. statistics. On the current parking-protected lane along Eighth Ave., between Bank and W. 23rd Sts., injuries to cyclists have dropped by 25 percent since 2009. And on the parking-protected lane along Ninth Ave., between W. 33rd and W. 16th Sts., cyclist injuries have dropped by 46 percent.

Due to the Hudson St. proposal’s addition of seven mixing zones — which improve visibility between turning cars and bikes at intersections — and several pedestrian islands, D.O.T. said the new bike lane upgrade would eliminate 58 parking spots (or around 25 percent of the current parking along the proposed stretch).

Several residents attended the April 3 meeting to support the proposal.

“I’m very excited to see them,” said Willow Stelzer, who lives at Hudson and Barrow St. and uses the Hudson St. bike lane as part of her commute to Midtown. “It makes a world of difference to have that extra protection, and to feel confident that you can get to work unscathed, without having to avoid traffic or dodge trucks parked in your way.”

However, similar to reactions to the previously approved plan for a parking-protected bike lane along Lafayette St. and Fourth Ave. (between Prince and E. 12th Sts.), some Hudson St. merchants said they aren’t happy about the idea. Along with losing some parking spots, the new bike lanes would impact businesses dependent on daily deliveries by trucks or vans that use the curbside spaces.

“I just hope [the bike lane upgrade] doesn’t happen, because it would definitely cause problems for us in terms of deliveries,” said Rodolfo Goncalves, owner of Sweet Corner Bakeshop, at 535 Hudson St.

He said it’s already challenging to move his shop’s large and intricately designed cakes to the curb without damaging them.

“Bad things can happen to the cakes, and it could become dangerous for whoever’s carrying them, especially if it’s raining or snowing,” he said. “I know it’s safer for the bikes, but I have to think of my business.”

But Michael Burst, owner of Hudson River Flowers, at 541 Hudson St., said he could accept the negative impact on deliveries because of a particularly positive side effect.

“Sometimes cops from the Sixth Precinct [on W. 10th St. near Hudson St.] leave impounded cars sitting along the curb outside our shop, and it stops the street cleaner from coming through,” Burst said. “I’d support [the bike lane upgrade] because they won’t be able to leave those cars there.”

If C.B. 2 approves, work to upgrade the bike lanes would begin in July, according to D.O.T.

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