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NYC’s Varick Street Gets a Granite Bike Path

As any bicyclist can tell you, a bumpy ride on cobblestones is no fun. In NYC, the DOT has implemented its first granite bikeway on one block of Varick Street to make it easier for cyclists and to keep them off the sidewalks.

You will almost never see me on a sidewalk in NYC for any reason, but I confess, I have used the sidewalk for this one block in the past. The smooth granite is a great idea.

I got to speak with Nick Carey, a project manager with NYC DOT's bicycle program, about how the project came to be and how the department might use the same idea for future bike routes.

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  • BrandonWC

    The granite pavers are awesome (truly), but the idea that anyone will respect the 6' wide bike lane that is supposedly delineated by "the longitudinal cobbles" is ludicrous. Even if drivers were inclined to respect bike lanes, no one is going to notice such a subtle difference in the pattern of the cobblestones and interpret that as a bike lane. Maybe if they used different colored stone for both the granite and the surrounding cobblestones that apparently make up the bike lane there would be a chance. Regardless, it's an interesting new tool, which will hopefully get refined with more use. Clarkson St between the Hudson River Greenway and Greenwhich St could really use this treatment.

  • red_greenlight1

    It's a very nice idea but it needs to better marked for all the good it'll do.

  • Daphna

    This is a good idea but too narrow. As BrandonWC and red_greenlight1 wrote, those "longitudinal cobbles" are not a marking that will be respected by motorists in any way. It would have been better to make the granite the full width of the bike lane, rather than to only fill part of the bike lane with granite, and leave the rest as cobblestones, and in silly perpendicular cobbles that are supposed to tell the real width of the bike lane. Any part of that lane that is not granite is useless to cyclists, and motorists are not going to respect bricks in the road that happen to be laid at a right angle to other bricks and realize that that means they must not drive there.

  • Nemo

    Nice design. It should be noted that NYC's original cobblestone streets also had smooth paving stones at intersections, for pedestrians, approximately where modern-day crosswalks are.

  • c2check

    Man, this looks like a horrendous place to be biking, by the tunnel ramps and all with no real bike lanes.

  • scofflaw_cyclist

    I've biked it a few times in the past two days and it's wonderful. Of course cars won't really respect it, but it is coming right off the turn lane onto Canal. So I haven't had a problem yet with any cars. I guess time will tell, but as someone who bikes on this stretch of road at least 20 times a week I can't begin to stress how happy I am that I don't have to choose between the cobblestones or the sidewalk anymore.

  • BrandonWC

    I took a detour to check it out this morning, and it seems to work really well so I take back some of my reflexive doom and gloom from yesterday. As Scofflaw noted, the enhanced shared lane that feeds into the granite bike way is a left turn only lane for cars so cars going straight have to swerve pretty far left to get into the bike lane. Plus there are curb extensions at both ends of the block so its too a bit to narrow for a car to try and use it as a third car lane. In my one pass though it, in the middle of the rush hour snarl, no cars came near me. Hopefully, it works just as well for other people.

  • Matthias

    Interesting, I've seen this done in Europe. I love cobblestones--they are beautiful and a natural traffic-calmer but they are bad for biking. I hope this can be done in tandem with a restoration of the cobblestones on W 125 St near the greenway.

  • Seth Rosenblum

    This is perfect. Any way to ask Nick if they plan to do this for the "bike routes" of York and Water street in DUMBO?

  • http://walkbikejersey.blogspot.com/ Andy B from Jersey

    It's a good idea but I agree that it appears too narrow. DoT had 4 feet of cobbles pulled up so why not make it wider? I think they might have taken this directly from either the Dutch or Danish playbook which may say that 2 feet (60cm or so) is wide enough. I do agree that the pattern of stones does little to demarcate a 6 foot wide bike lane. I didn't even notice it until it was mentioned at the end of the video.

    Still this is a great idea and thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.streetfilms.org/ Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    One thing that others have brought up - yes, it is too narrow for cargo bikes and three wheelers (though NYC we still have very few of those as a % of riders) - BUT if DOT did make it any wider you might have drivers aiming for it for their left side wheels to drive over at that busy spot coming out of the Tunnel.

    To those on Facebook stating this was a "fail" I really beg to differ. Could the design be improved? Sure. But I have ridden over these cobblestones many times (and, yes, ridden the sidewalk too cause it sucks) and this is a vast improvement.

  • Laiba Abro
  • Walter Crunch

    Looks good, but...what about painting it thermoplastic green and marking it with a bike?