If de Blasio Is Serious About Vision Zero, 4th Ave Will Get a Protected Bike Lane

DOT added eighteen miles of protected lanes to this map in 2016, but NYC will never have cohesive citywide network of safe bike routes without protected bike lanes on major streets like Brooklyn's Fourth Avenue. Map: Jon Orcutt
DOT added eighteen miles of protected lanes to this map in 2016, but NYC will never have cohesive citywide network of safe bike routes without protected bike lanes on major streets like Brooklyn's Fourth Avenue. Map: Jon Orcutt

After traffic fatalities fell during the first two years of the de Blasio administration, this year New York is not making progress toward the Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths. Will City Hall be more committed next year to ambitious street redesigns that save lives?

An early litmus test will be Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn — which is ripe for a protected bike lane but is currently in line for much more modest changes from NYC DOT. If the mayor is serious about Vision Zero, Fourth Avenue will get protected bike lanes, which will deliver the more effective safety overhaul.

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Mayor Bill de Blasio

Fourth Avenue is scheduled for an upcoming capital construction project, one that de Blasio has touted under the umbrella of his “Vision Zero Great Streets” initiative. But the design that’s currently on the table won’t do much besides cast the current layout of Fourth Avenue in concrete, raising what are now painted medians a few inches above street level.

Recently, responding to increase in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities this year, de Blasio has insisted that Vision Zero is “still in its infancy” and that there’s “no lack” of funding or will to redesign streets as safely as possible.

If that’s the case, then a protected bike lane on Fourth Avenue must be a City Hall priority. Data from other protected bike lane projects indicates that they lead to a significant reduction in injuries for all users — including pedestrians and drivers.

For pedestrians, a protected bikeway would do more to narrow the longest crossing distances on Fourth Avenue, and it would provide more opportunities for concrete refuges.

For cyclists, Fourth Avenue is the ideal street for a north-south protected bike lane connecting Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Park Slope and downtown. This would do wonders for the bike network and improve access to safe bikeways in neighborhoods that sorely lack it now.

If the de Blasio administration moves forward as planned with the current design, however, it would forestall a bike lane on Fourth Avenue for decades.

“Once they lay that concrete, if nothing happens, if momentum proves to be the strongest thing here, then we will never see a bike lane on Fourth Avenue,” Council Member Carlos Menchaca told Streetsblog in August.

That leaves a few months for DOT to adapt, change course, and pursue a project that includes protected bike lanes. A city that’s truly committed to Vision Zero will recognize the necessity of committing to the safest possible designs for walking and biking on big arterial streets like Fourth Avenue.

Not good enough. Image: NYC DOT
Turning paint into concrete while foreclosing the possibility of protected bike lanes for years to come is not what a city that’s serious about Vision Zero would do on Fourth Avenue. Image: NYC DOT
  • J

    Yes! The city says it has the money and says it’s committed to safety, so why do we keep seeing truly subpar projects being implemented?

  • Reader

    NYC needs to build for the future, not design things that make the future further off. Thank you, David, for this post. Let’s all pressure the electeds along Fourth Ave to support this idea.

  • J

    Also, someone needs to update the map to highlight some of the real progress that has been made this year in Manhattan (mostly), which is actually beginning to resemble a nice place to bike. This includes 2nd Ave, 6th Ave, Chrystie St, Amsterdam Ave, and Jay St, none of which appear on the map above.

  • On Twitter, I mentioned Sønder Blvd, which a Danish friend told me is a good model for Fourth Avenue. If we played our cards right, Fourth Ave could eventually look like this. It would take some time – and parking reform, and congestion pricing, and a lot of other things – but it is possible.

    https://twitter.com/BrooklynSpoke/status/809817641531699200

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    It’s impossible to overstate how important this is to any future with expanded cycling in NYC. 4th Avenue protected lanes are probably the ONLY chance for low-stress, all ages and abilities cycling in South Brooklyn and beyond, because no one seems willing to do anything with the other avenues in Park Slope. 6th Avenue and Carlton would make an ideal bicycle boulevard (see http://nacto.org/publication/urban-bikeway-design-guide/bicycle-boulevards/volume-management/), but for some reason that’s totally outside the world of possibilities here and has never been considered.

    More door zone shitlanes that turn into sharrows every few blocks on hostile, high traffic streets are not going to make cycling safer or more comfortable for a wider part of the population to ride. This is the approach that failed to expand cycling from the 1970s to the mid-2000s when some cities, including New York for a time, got serious.

    Outside of Manhattan we are still stuck in the Iris Weinshall years.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Funny you should mention 6th Avenue/Carlton as a bicycle boulevard. I never thought of it, but it would be much better for bicyclists than heavily trafficked 4th Avenue or commercial 5th Avenue.

    The only problem is, it doesn’t run through. But perhaps a two-way protected bike lane along the cemetery on 5th could be used to make a connection.

  • BrandonWC
  • BklynBiker

    There’s something wrong with that survey – it records my information, the counter goes up 1, but if I reload or refresh it’s back to 339.

  • AMH

    Yep, I also signed but my signature disappeared immediately. Stupid Russian hackers.

    EDIT:

    It seems to be working now–it’s up to 348.

  • NYCdenizen

    These half-measures will end up being more expensive when bike lanes are added later on. Why does the city keep redesigning entire streets and leaving out bike lanes when there’s sufficient space and demand for them?

  • HamTech87

    It was really nice to ride on that street!

  • Tony Giordano

    My organization has been advocating a serious study of a protected bike lane for 4th Avenue for over two years. We had to fight against our Councilmember Carlos Menchaca who is a biker and bike advocate as he personally said NO, ABSOLUTELY NO to our suggestion (he recently changed his position to a passive agreement). When DOT did their study of 4th Avenue they failed to do a count of bike riders. When I asked Brooklyn Commissioner Bray why he said “We do not want to encourage bikers on 4th it is too dangerou”. So the official DOT position is – stick you head in the sand like as ostrich and ignore the data around you. DOT insists that their new configuration of 4th has reduced accidents, but Sunset Parker Facebook – a group with over 8,800 active members got copies of official NYPD reports showing a marked increase in accidents (although they were not as serious as the ones that were “counted” by DOT computer projections previously. DOT has since done a bike count. But DOT is still planning on making a protected bike lane impossible by widening the useless 4th Ave median (Commissioner Polly Trottenberg emailed Councilmember Menchaca saying that dimensions of 4th Ave preclude a protected bike lane – but she was using the planned increased median size). The median will not become a safety area – but an inexpensive ring of traffic bollards could do that at each corner immediately – providing 100% protection for pedestrians caught midway in the avenue while crossing. Also, DOT has released a drawing showing families with infants and children relaxing on benches in the middle of traffic – they failed to spend ten minutes on the median to experience the noise level of vehicles and the disturbing pull of wind from the large trucks – DOT is doing ivory tower planning – not listening to the community. We arranged for the Assistant Speaker of the NYS Assembly, the State Senator, a representative of the Borough President and the Sunset Park Business Improvement District to meet with the Commissioner – she said she would attend, we did all the required pre-meeting communication and planning and then she failed to appear. We were told that she was called to another meeting – but a FOIL request for her personal calendar on the day of the meeting showed she had not scheduled being at the meeting. We believe that DOT got federal money to do the 4th Ave median widening and their application listed it as a biking project (in part) – when we revealed this – suddenly DOT put 4th Ave on their official bike path map – first time – and with no announcement or signage. When we continued to push, the following year they upgraded it as a “signed” path and when we revealed there were no signs – over night a bunch of signs went up. We have compared our 4th Avenue’s dimensions with a publicly released drawing of a 6th Avenue protected bike lane that DOT announced support for (in Manhattan) and we found that 4th Avenue was wider than 6th Ave. This is a snow job and we – the average folks – are losing because our elected officials have cut deals with DOT. By the way, Transportation Alternatives in a conference call with me – early on – voiced at first reluctance to publicly support our request for a study and then discontinued any involvement. And all we have asked for is – 1. a delay of pouring concrete for the new widened median 2. a serious study of a protected bike lane….that is all we have asked.

  • J

    I’d be quite happy with protested bike lanes and protected intersections, but yeah this looks even better.

  • Larry Littlefield

    An “outrage.” They plowed the Prospect Park West bike lane, meaning that I can ride on it to work next week.

    Marty Markowitz and David Greenfield must not be amused.

  • AMH

    Can’t encourage ’em!

  • AMH

    We really need more bicycle boulevards.

  • AMH

    Freudian slip?

  • Andrew Southard

    I usually take 2nd avenue to 29th street, and then 3rd ave until bergen. You can’t do 2nd avenue on the way back as there is all the unused train tracks still in the ground. How much would it cost to remove those? I bet a hell of a lot less than a billion dollar streetcar that nobody wants. If the city was innovative you could put a bike lane straight underneath the BQE. Line it with trees/lights make it a Highline type thing. One can dream!

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