Dozens of transit advocates gathered at the Brooklyn bike entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge on Tuesday night to announce a campaign for safer and more efficient pedestrian, cyclist and commuter flow on Grand Street in Williamsburg during the impending L train Armageddon. Focusing on the section of Grand between Metropolitan Avenue and the bridge, their concept takes inspiration from a car-free 14th Street proposal across the river.
The rally was organized by Transportation Alternatives, an organization that advocates for "complete streets." Spokeswoman Caroline Samparo said Tuesday that investing in bus, bike, and pedestrian improvements and "potentially cutting out car traffic" on Grand Street by "adding some dedicated space for bus lanes and bike lanes" will contribute to increased foot traffic to local businesses. "Rather than people fleeing the area," she challenged, "how do we turn a crisis for Brooklyn into a positive?"
The group believes that expanded bike lanes and bus service will also protect cyclists and pedestrians who will likely be commuting above ground in higher numbers during the shutdown, which is expected to begin in January 2019 and eliminate L service between Brooklyn and Manhattan for at least 18 months. Grand Street can currently transport between 10,000 and 13,000 people an hour, they said. They're hoping the so-called "PeopleWay" can increase capacity to 33,000.
"With a shutdown you have an opportunity to invest in better transportation that serves the neighborhood. That's a change that could keep adding value long after," said Samparo.
Grand Street is also considered to be one of the most dangerous streets in the area.
Last year, 29 cyclists were injured along Grand Street between the BQE and Metropolitan Avenue, according to Vision Zero statistics.
Amanda Stosz, a concerned commuter who was also a friend of Matthew von Ohlen, a cyclist who was killed in a hit-and-run collision on Grand Street in July, told us that she's been trying to push community boards and Council Member Antonio Reynoso to send a letter to DOT regarding a safety study on Grand Street. She said that the study could "address Matthew's death and all the injuries that have happened along Grand Street, all the way to the bridge."
Council Member Reynoso and Brooklyn Community Board 1 are looking into a possible protected bike lane on Grand Street, according to Transportation Alternatives.
A DOT spokesperson stated that the city is "working closely with the MTA to look at all ways to mitigate the impacts of the L-train shutdown, with a focus on mass transit, bikes and ferries."
Transportation Alternatives will be holding an L-Train PeopleWay Community Planning Workshop on Thursday, November 10th. Those who are interested in designing a viable transportation corridor in the midst of L'apocalypse are encouraged to attend.