Photo: New DeKalb Ave bike lane in
When it comes to adding bike lanes, a common roadblock (pun intended) is that the prospective street does not have enough horizontal space to accommodate them. For example, a typical striped bike lane should be at least four feet wide, but five feet is preferable. However, few streets have this kind of space between the parking lane and an adjacent traffic lane to make way for bike lanes without compromising legal lane widths. While taking away a traffic lane OR taking away a parking lane is an option, it can be like running up Everest trying to get the support of the community and its’ officials for this to happen, thanks to our powerful car/oil addiction. However there is one option that could serve as both a compromise and a win for the cycling/livable cities community: take away a traffic lane during off-peak hours.
To illustrate my point, I’m going to use a case from my Brooklyn neighborhood on DeKalb Avenue. As of about a month ago, DeKalb Ave was a one-way street with two traffic lanes and two on-street parking lanes. The avenue moves westbound moving out of Brooklyn toward the Manhattan Bridge, so cars regularly flew at speeds between 40-50 mph. As a result, the street was very dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians despite a high number of both being present on the street throughout the much of the day.
Picture: Existing conditions on DeKalb Ave (NYCDOT)
The solution? NYCDOT decided to take away a lane of traffic during off-peak hours and add a five foot bike lane plus a three foot buffer to protect cyclists from traffic, getting doored, and hopefully mitigate maddeningly frustrating bike lane parking. By narrowing the street to one traffic lane during off-peak hours, it serves to calm traffic from the wild, unnecessary speeding and lane changing for much of the day. However, to help accommodate more traffic during rush hours, a parking lane (on the opposite side of the bike lane, of course) becomes a traffic lane. Any car still parked during peak hours gets ticketed.
Graphic: Conceptual plan for DeKalb Ave (NYCDOT)
Some people may ask, what about the businesses on DeKalb getting hurt by the loss of parking, especially during peak periods? The answers are straight forward enough. First, NYCDOT is installing meters to encourage turnover instead of all-day parking squatting. This will actually help businesses by facilitating turnover as well as generate revenue for the usage of valuable urban street space. It will also redefine loading zone hours in order to combat double parking that clogs traffic and creates dangerous conflicts. Lastly, by calming the street and improving access for cyclists and pedestrians, the potential is there to enhance local business activity even further.
Of course this will not be a perfect scenario, but it should certainly make DeKalb Avenue more livable as it functions more like a complete street. For example, I’ve noticed that it’s actually a little more difficult for pedestrians to cross DeKalb at mid-block now, since there is a steady (albeit slower) flow of traffic along the single traffic lane. However, this can be expected in the short term, as drivers adapt to the roadway changes. Over time, studies have shown that such street changes should eventually lead to disappearing traffic, whereas drivers either choose other routes, other schedules, or not to drive. I’ve witnessed idiot drivers double-parking in the bike lane already, but so far the only way to really solve this problem is physically separated bike lanes.
So how does this tie into Miami? There are many streets with parking lanes that could sacrifice a lane of traffic during off peak hours in order to incorporate bike lanes. Some of the streets that come to mind are operated by FDOT, so it’s important that this is taken into consideration when advocating for this type of roadway reconfiguration. Many other streets in more urban areas of Miami, Miami Beach, and Coral Gables have the potential to utilize this configuration.
(Note: I know there will be at least a few haters reading this who will be eager to point out how different New York is from Miami and how this type of street space reallocation would never work in Miami/South Florida. Well let me tell you this — NYC may be quite different in many ways, but this kind of thing isn’t just being done there, it’s being done it cities all over the country, many of which are less densely developed than Miami.)
Photo: DeKalb Ave @ Washington Ave
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