Earlier this week, Brooklyn Community Board 10 voted to stick with their stance against adding a painted bike lane to Bay Ridge Parkway. Since the project [PDF] would simply impose a little order on an extra-wide street without removing any traffic lanes or parking spots, it’s tempting to write off the whole board as hostile to any bike infrastructure. That would be a mistake. There were signs of progress on Tuesday, as a few CB members signaled their determination to dispel myths about bike projects and win over their colleagues.
First, hats off to Transportation Alternatives for helping to turn out what board chair Joanne Seminara called the longest list of speakers CB10 has ever seen for a single agenda item. More than a dozen people showed up to testify in favor of adding a bike route to Bay Ridge Parkway. They included David Aja-Sigmon, pastor of Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church, who called the provision of dedicated space for cycling “responsible policymaking”; Harry Denny, a 12-year resident of Bay Ridge Parkway; Juliet Moore, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood; and Jessica Panettiere, who recalled getting hit by a car while riding on Sixth Avenue in Sunset Park.
Ultimately their testimony didn’t sway a majority of the board, but they moved the needle. And they caught the attention of Council Member Vincent Gentile, who’s lobbied against the Bay Ridge Parkway project but felt compelled to tell the audience that he’s a co-sponsor of the bill to convert the traffic lights in Central Park to flashing yellows. (This was preceded by, “I don’t know if the bikers are still around…”)
After some procedural wrangling (get the recap at L Magazine) the dramatic moment of the night came on a vote to rescind the board’s 2010 decision to oppose a Bay Ridge Parkway bike lane. The motion failed by a large margin — 32-8 — but three board members who had sided against the bike lane last year voted to reverse that decision this time around.
Bob Cassara, the board member who led the push to undo the board’s bike lane opposition, told me the next day that all it would take is a little education to win over more doubters.
He believes a patient explanation of the overall safety benefits of bike lanes, plus some reassurances that narrower lanes won’t cause traffic back-ups (the project would actually add left-turn bays at a few intersections, leading traffic to flow more smoothly) would go a long way.
“The first go around, they got broadsided with this thing, and the knee-jerk reaction was ‘No’,” he said. “I expect the education of the Community Board to continue, and we will continue pushing until we get it. There are people on that board who are on the fence. They just need to be educated, that’s all.”
Remember it was only a few years ago that Brooklyn Community Board 6 could barely muster the votes for a regular old buffered bike lane on Ninth Street in Park Slope. Now they’re known in some circles as card-carrying bike lobbyists. With a few more nudges, CB 10 could probably come around to support a common-sense, traffic-calming bike lane as well.