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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5 Responses to A Strategy for Squeezing Bike Lanes into Narrow Streets

  1. Kordor says:

    Um, maybe we should get local cities to adopt unsophisticated alternative transport programs before we go to triple lutz, triple salchow stuff. Like how about a tried-and-true, bread-and-butter streetcar? Oh, I forgot, a few racist Commissioners got in the way of that one. Wouldn’t want “those people” to have access to Miami Beach. Why doesn’t Power U call out that farce?


  2. adam says:

    So, during rushhour there will be two lanes on moving traffic on either side of the bike lane, with leftover parking in the outside lane and a car-lane’s worth of bike lane in the middle. Hmmm…


  3. Ryan says:

    Adam, I have no idea how you got there. Check the pictures again.

    During rush hour there will be two lanes of moving automobile traffic, one parking lane, and the bike lane.

    From left-to-right: parking lane, bike lane, moving traffic lane 1, moving traffic lane 2 (which is parking lane 2 during off-peak hours).


  4. adam says:

    ah, my mistake, I thought the parking lane on the left was the one that went away.


  5. Georgio says:

    Bull SHIT!
    It is nothing else but to get money from the Fort Greene`s residents who own cars!
    I live on DeKalb Ave. for several years now and I have been watching all this crap with my own eyes…
    First, I`m a biker myself so I`m not saying that this bike line is wrong… Yet, I`m riding my bike usually on the weekends like most people who has jobs and don`t have the time for biking during the week (especially from 4pm to 7pm)
    Second, who rides bike durin the winter??

    All of this, is sooooo damn New York !!!
    They make rules that will bring some extra money to the city`s pocket, right from the pockets of New Yorkers who also will suffer because there is no parking on the neighborhood already, so if you own a car you better move to the mid-country. It`s been about a year now since they have made the bike lines and changed the parking rules on Dekalb.
    I sat so many times on the staircase of the brownstone that I live in, and I saw hundreds of cars being ticketed and towed right after 4pm but guess what… if you want to see any bikers you have to wait till after 7pm, when people get home from work and have the time to take a bike ride… not even mentioning that you never see any bikers when it`s cold outside during the winter time.
    So the whole project is completely pointless except bringing extra cash for the city…
    New York is just ridiculous!



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