Winter 1999-2000, p.10

Will Grand Concourse Pilot Project Fly?

The start of something good? Extended medians on the Grand Concourse.After decades as the city's deadliest roadway, a five-block section of the service roads on the Grand Concourse in The Bronx is being treated to a little traffic calming. In late November the Department of Transportation constructed a test pedestrian safety project from 165th to 170th streets. The test will remain in place for at least a year while the DOT monitors the changes. The project leaves the main roadway the same, but narrows the service roads from two travel lanes to one, with temporary curbs, extensive street markings, large planters and a bike lane.

T.A. applauds the DOT for their initiative, and would like to see more cost-effective pilot projects like this throughout the city. This said, the pilot project's design could include more safety improvements. For example, the access "slipways" between the main roadway and the service road remain intact. These slips not only create a variable speed hazard for motorists, but they also restrict the possibility for truly useful designs for the median itself.

For cyclists, the placement and width of the bicycle lane is worrisome. The lane is a full foot short of the six feet needed for bike lanes adjacent to parking lanes in busy urban areas, creating a dooring hazard for cyclists. Additionally, the parking lane is the standard eight feet, but the curbs along the service road must accommodate hundreds of buses a day, which are much wider than that.

Five blocks of new Grand Concourse striping are now The Bronx's first bike lane.As a collection of prefabricated curbs, thermoplastic markings and planters, the project still retains the air of a construction zone. Obviously, area residents' acceptance of any project will dictate better aesthetics too. A similar widening experiment in Times Square (see p. 8) received asphalt infill in addition to the curb, showing a more appealing temporary curb extension.

The DOT should launch and evaluate other similar test projects that effectively demonstrate the variety of design options available to the Grand Concourse Redesign Plan. For success though, the agency must be diligent with public outreach and input. For this test, some community residents, elected officials and other city agencies expressed irritation at the DOT's failure to consult them before changes were made. The Borough President's Office and other elected officials would like to guarantee that future pilot projects reflect their vision of a world class redesign of the Grand Concourse, from Mosholu Parkway to 138th street - nearly the entire length of The Bronx.

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