CB 2 Committee Asks DOT to Study Lafayette Avenue Bike Lane

It only took Hilda Cohen and Ali Loxton ten weeks to collect 1,600 signatures supporting a traffic-calming redesign, including a bike lane, for Brooklyn’s Lafayette Avenue. Yesterday evening they took their petition to the transportation committee of Community Board 2 and made their case. The result: a 9-1 committee vote asking DOT to study Cohen and Loxton’s proposal.

Last October, two drivers traveling at high speeds crashed at the corner of Lafayette and Vanderbilt, jumping the curb. Photo: ##http://fortgreene.patch.com/articles/photos-cars-jump-curb-at-queen-of-all-saints#photo-8240719##Fort Greene Patch##

There’s still a long way to go before an official redesign moves forward, but Cohen and Loxton’s impressive organizing has revived the idea of redesigning Lafayette, and it’s a great case study in how to mobilize for safer streets.

Cohen and Loxton both live in Fort Greene and bike, walk and drive on Lafayette with their kids. They told the CB 2 committee last night that the street feels like it’s geared more toward fast-moving cars than people, with two eastbound traffic lanes and two parking lanes. The galvanizing moment for them came last October, when two drivers crashed at high speeds at the corner of Lafayette and Vanderbilt Avenue, jumping the curb outside a packed church.

The next week, they started gathering signatures supporting “traffic calming and a bike lane” on Lafayette. Their regular sign-up spot was the farmers market by Fort Greene Park. Since the weekend of the New York City marathon in early November, 1,500 people have signed the petition in writing and another 100 have signed it online.

“You would just say ‘Lafayette’ and people would want to talk to us,” said Loxton. “In the cold, they would stop.”

Cohen said petition-signers described Lafayette as a “notorious speedway,” and parents shared fears of letting 10-year-old kids cross the street alone. On a recent Friday evening, she clocked drivers routinely exceeding the speed limit by 7 – 10 mph.

Under the banner “Make Lafayette Safer,” Cohen and Loxton propose extending the Lafayette Avenue bike lane from Fulton Street to Broadway, preferably on the left-hand side of the street, and adding sidewalk extensions and more prominent crosswalks at intersections. In addition to providing a useful new link in the bike network, especially for cyclists heading east from the Manhattan Bridge or neighborhoods on the other side of Flatbush Avenue, striping the bike lane could curb speeding by reducing excessive capacity for car traffic.

Following the committee vote, there will probably be another vote at the full Community Board before DOT puts out a plan to redesign Lafayette. (“If we hear a lot of support from the community, that could move things forward,” said DOT’s Chris Hrones last night.) There may also be some action at Community Board 3, which covers Lafayette east of Classon Avenue.

While “Make Lafayette Safer” has the backing of City Council Member Tish James and the Fort Greene Association, a Lafayette redesign is no gimme. Most committee members who spoke last night seemed to be open to change, but there’s more apprehension on the board than the final vote lets on. Committee member Nancy Wolf questioned why a bike lane was needed to calm traffic: “There are a lot of ways to do that that don’t involve a bike lane.” And Board Chair John Dew framed the potential conversion of a motor lane to a bike lane as a loss: “Downtown Brooklyn has changed so much, with a new park, new condos, a new arena. We’re not getting any more streets. We’re losing streets.” (Replied one committee member: “It makes it more urgent to look at issues like this to slow traffic and makes streets safer.”)

Supporters of redesigning Lafayette for greater safety made a strong showing last night too, crowding the room and speaking extensively about their experiences on the street. It will take a few more evenings like that before the vision of a safer Lafayette reaches fruition.

  • J

    If the idea is to remove a travel lane anyway, then let’s do this project right and implement a protected bike lane on Lafayette, complete with pedestrian refuge islands to dramatically reduce crossing distances for pedestrians. Otherwise, we end up with the same situation as on DeKalb, where the bike lane serves as the double parking lane. A few years after implementation, the striping on DeKalb is nearly gone. I’ve also had some close calls on DeKalb, when cars use the bike lane to pass. Let’s not make the same mistakes again. While we’re at it, let’s make the DeKalb lane protected as well!

  • Bolwerk

    Looks like that bike dented that car.  I hope whoever parked that bike there was ticketed.

  • Ian Brett Cooper

    So in the pursuit of ‘safety’, they’re implementing a bike lane – a facility that 10 recent studies have shown to be more dangerous than an unmarked road? Classic!

    Is the idea to put an ambulance at each end of the street, like they have at airports?

  • J

    @google-9037ff778bf6fdfccd1c5c7886d979a8:disqus Where to start? An extensive 10-year study of bicycle injuries and fatalities in 2006 showed
    that bicycle crashes occurred overwhelmingly on streets without bicycle
    lanes, leading to a 3 year 200 mile commitment to expanding the bicycle
    lane network.

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/pr06_50.pdf

    The results in NYC have shown dramatic improvements in safety from bike lanes, especially when protected bike lanes are used. The 9th Ave bike lanes reduced injuries to all users by 56%, and the Grand St path reduced all injuries by 31%.
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/20100511_columbus_ave_cb7.pdf

    Most importantly, in NYC since 2000 commuter biking has nearly quadrupled, the number of bike lanes has increased by well over 300 miles, and yet the total number of bicycle injuries has remained flat, meaning that injuries per cyclist have gone way down. In short, the data show that alongside a rapid increase in bike lanes came a rapid increase in safety. How do you explain this?
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/commuter_cycling_indicator_and_data_2011.pdf
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/nyc_cycling_safety_indicator.pdf

    Believe what you want, but NYC is getting way safer and way more bike-friendly, and it is precisely because of projects like these, and the data support this.

  • Streetsman

    I think Ian Brett Cooper’s comment illustrates a flaw in the messaging that Rob Perris also seized on. The idea put forth should not be that Lafayette needs “traffic calming” and therefore a bike lane is being installed just to slow cars down. The point is that Lafayette needs to be balanced and organized to improve safety for all users, not just bikes. A street of this type is safer for everyone when each mode has a predictable place on the street, where weaving movements are restricted, where conflicts are limited to intersections where they are expected and made visible, and where vulnerable users are protected. As it is now, cars weave in and out of both lanes, buses pull in and out of stops or sometimes half in/half out, bikes are sometimes on the left and sometimes on the right forcing cars to change lanes to go around them, and speeding is rampant. This street needs a holistic (but potentially simple) redesign to include a lane for bikes, adequate capacity for cars, and minimization of all conflicts such as bike-bus, bike-car, car-bus, bike-ped, etc. The result I am confident would be a reduction in crashes for all users and little or no impact on driving travel times. But the point is that the message should be about balancing the street – organizing it – and spreading safety around to all users, not just putting in a bike lane to combat cars speeding.

  • J

    @2e41801649b679a89dc1b0fcd1e68cec:disqus Amen. I think what we as advocates are going for here is a complete street, as opposed to a street designed mainly to move cars as fast as possible.

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