By Sam Schwartz
The Grand St. protected bike lane has been called a dismal failure by some and others are offering their congratulations to the N.Y.C. Department of Transportation commissioner (see Downtown Express letters to the editor, Nov. 28 Dec. 4). From your debut column, I see that you live and work Downtown. Can you help us sort out things here with your input?
P. Smith, Tribeca
Dear P. Smith,
Ive driven Grand St., biked it and walked it since the new lanes have been put in. Its slower to drive, better to bike and has made little or no difference in the walking experience (although I did see a father walking with his toddler on a tricycle going the wrong way in the lane but no harm, no foul).
The traffic is more sluggish, but far less so than what I was expecting. Thats because fewer cars or trucks double-park since theyd bring the whole street to a complete stop. On the other hand, when a car backs into a space, it stops traffic till the driver finishes his maneuvers.
For the most part biking is very good. However, you do have to watch for pedestrians and be alert at turns but its certainly better than it was before or is on comparable streets. I will be biking Grand St. far more than I ever did before.
I do admit that the layout of the lane can be confusing. Frankly, I dont think I would have implemented it by looking at the plans. So, I am pleasantly surprised that parkers seem to get it and know where to park. Fewer than 100 cars can park on the south side as its currently designed. I probably would have opted to ban parking as was done on Prince St.
I checked with the fire and police departments and they report no problems although I did read of a complaint that fire trucks couldnt negotiate the turn in one maneuver. I will keep an eye out for that.
After reaching out to the Lower East Side Business Improvement District and the Chinatown Partnership, both indicated that the jury is still out.
The D.O.T. says this is a test and they will be monitoring it. You can be sure I will let them know what I observe. In the meantime, I recommend keeping it in place until at least mid-spring, then re-evaluate and go from there.
Sam Schwartz, a former first deputy commissioner of city transportation, is president and C.E.O. of Sam Schwartz Engineering, a traffic engineering consulting firm to private and public entities including the Port Authority at the World Trade Center site. Email your questions to TransitSam@DowntownExpress.com