East New York and Brownsville on the Cusp of Getting New Bike Lanes

A snafu at last night's Brooklyn Community Board 5 meeting delayed a vote for bike lanes on Pitkin Avenue until next month. Image: ##http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/DOT_BKCB5_20121127.pdf##NYC DOT##

After more than a year of collaboration between residents, community groups, DOT, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the first project in a new round bike lanes for Brownsville and East New York is almost in the books and ready to be installed next year. The proposal is for simple lines on the pavement — not protected bike lanes — but, along with a road diet on Pennsylvania Avenue, it would bring safer conditions to parts of eastern Brooklyn that currently have next to no bike infrastructure.

At Community Board 5’s transportation committee meeting Tuesday evening, DOT presented the proposal to bring a combination of painted bicycle lanes and sharrows to more than two miles of Pitkin Avenue. East of Pennsylvania Avenue to Fountain Avenue, DOT is proposing dedicated lanes, while the narrower road west of Pennsylvania Avenue will have shared lanes to Legion Street.

Although an exact implementation schedule has not been set, DOT will soon be developing its work program for 2013, and the Pitkin Avenue bike lanes can be included, likely in the spring, according to DOT staff at the meeting.

“We’re excited,” CB 5 District Manager Walter Campbell said after DOT’s presentation. “I think it’s terrific that we can get more people to ride their bikes,” adding, “Pitkin Avenue is a great place to start.”

The other bike route identified by DOT and local residents based on community workshops this summer is Mother Gaston Boulevard, home to the neighborhood’s only bike shop, Brownsville Bikes. DOT has not yet presented formal designs for a bike lane on Mother Gaston, which will come in future phases.

A helmet fitting at the Brownsville Recreation Center in September. Photo: Nupur Chaudhury, Brownsville Partnership

After successful bike-oriented events and rides starting at the Brownsville Recreation Center this summer and fall, more community events are on the way, including a mid-January helmet fitting and learn-to-ride workshop at an elementary school in East New York.

Meanwhile, the area’s livable streets progress isn’t limited to bike lanes. Christmas tree lightings are coming soon to two public plazas: tomorrow from 5 to 7 p.m. at Zion Triangle at East New York Avenue and Pitkin Avenue, and Saturday at 4 p.m. at New Lots Triangle.

At October’s transportation committee meeting, DOT also presented a plan for traffic calming on Pennsylvania Avenue, where DOT measured 80 percent of drivers speeding. The avenue also has more fatalities and serious injuries than 90 percent of other Brooklyn streets.

With a resurfacing already scheduled in 2013, DOT is planning to reduce the roadway south of Flatlands Avenue from three lanes to two in each direction, while adding painted median extensions and an extra-wide curb parking lane. The changes are similar to other road diets on Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard in Harlem. The committee recommended the full board vote in favor of the proposal.

At last night’s meeting, many CB 5 members did not express opposition but were interested in learning more about both the Pitkin Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue proposals. However, because one community board member left during the meeting, the board did not have a quorum to vote on the matter. It’s likely that DOT will present both plans to the full board before it votes at the community board’s next meeting, rescheduled for December 19 at 6:30 p.m.

The Pitkin Avenue bike lane will also go before Community Board 16 at its next full board meeting on December 13 at 6:30 p.m.

This post has been updated to provide more information about Pennsylvania Avenue.

  • J

    Ugh. First of all, sharrows are NOT bike infrastructure.

    Also, drawing a stripe on a street does nothing to alleviate the actual things that make it feel uncomfortable to cycle there. These things include double parking, speeding, and reckless driving. Bike lanes can work, but only when they are paired with traffic calming devices, reduced speed limits, and rationalized curb access that actually address the street’s problems. These things can be more difficult to implement, but that is precisely because they actually change things. If you aren’t wiling to change the environment, you can’t honestly expect people to change their behavior. Does anyone seriously believe that a white stripe or the painted bike picture is going to make a novice cyclist feel comfortable biking? Yet the city continues to install this crap and pat themselves on the back for hundreds of miles of bike lanes.

    I’ll get excited when real infrastructure is put in place.

  • I am also skeptical about sharrows in some situations. However, cyclists — less experienced cyclists especially (and I speak as one ) — will look at those symbols, which tell them they they belong on the road. Drivers will now have to look at those symbols, which tell them bikes belong on the road. That matters, even if it’s not (yet) the full infrastructure we want, need, and deserve. 

    Secondly, the sum of these small changes — and, yes, the larger ones like the 1st Ave lane — means that when people like Jonathan Maus visit NYC from Portland, they see a bikeable city, and one that is to be envied. As confident as I’ve grown cycling in NYC over the last year and a half, biking in Portland remains a much more relaxing experience overall, to me. But that folks in other US cities know for bike-friendliness can come and ride in NYC and feel like it’s doable — and fun, and not a totally crazy stress-ridden venture — that matters. 

    I’m not trying to be a pollyanna about this. These things all add up. Shouldn’t stop us from advocating for a much bigger piece of the road — or all of the road. But however moderate, it’s progress and it should be noted. 

  • It’s no protected bike lane, but it’s a step forward and should lead to better bikeways in the future. Before Park Slope got PPW, it got the Fifth Ave and 9th Street bike lanes.

  • USbike

    All they have to do is switch the parked car lane with the bike lane, and it will then become a protected lane.  Regular painted lanes can be okay in some instances, but not when there are parked cars to the right of them IMO.  Double parking, dooring and cars entering and exiting the parking lane all increase potential conflicts between cyclists and motorists.  And your also just cycling closer to moving vehicles as well.  

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