Instead of a Classon Avenue Bike Lane, Bed-Stuy Electeds Want a Street Where No One Rides Bikes

City Council Member Robert Cornegy, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, and Assembly Member Tremaine Wright say that adding some stripes and stencils goes too far. Borough President Eric Adams, meanwhile, says the project should proceed.

Lauren Davis was killed by a turning driver on Classon Avenue last April. Photo: Family of Lauren Davis
Lauren Davis was killed by a turning driver on Classon Avenue last April. Photo: Family of Lauren Davis

On Thursday, DOT announced plans to paint a bike lane on Classon Avenue, the northbound one-way street where a left-turning driver killed Lauren Davis as she rode her bike to work last April. As bicycle infrastructure goes, it’s the bare minimum — some stripes and stencils to designate space for biking, with no changes to moving lanes or parking. But that hasn’t stopped a group of local officials from coming out against it.

The project is set for installation this summer, DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray said in a April 11 letter obtained by DNAinfo [PDF]. On most blocks, a new stripe of thermoplast will divide what is now a 13-foot parking lane into a five-foot bike lane and eight-foot parking lane. Blocks that have two travel lanes will only get sharrows:

Image: DOT
Image: DOT

Nearly 6,000 people signed a petition from Davis’s family asking for a bike lane on Classon Avenue. Now that DOT is moving forward with the new stripes, three elected officials are trying to block it.

In a June 12 letter rife with errors and misinformation, Council Member Robert Cornegy, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assembly Member Tremaine Wright, and CB 3 chair Richard Flateau informed DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg of their “significant opposition” to the project.

It’s hard to find a single factual statement in the entire letter, which begins with the assumption that “the decision to convert the existing lane into a conventional bike lane on the west side of the street will not increase safety but will in fact cause additional fatalities.” They go on to argue that the painted lane will “slow down cars,” “impede… timely delivery of goods and services,” and result in “a deleterious impact on economic development.” Of course, no real world examples of the link between bike stencils and economic decline are cited.

Apparently, nothing less than a bicycle-free street will satisfy the signatories. Since Bedford Avenue, Franklin Avenue, Marcy Avenue, and Tompkins Avenue have bike lanes, they argue that the area has a shortage of north-south routes where commercial vehicle drivers can “avoid cyclists.”

“As elected officials who are charged with supporting the needs of all constituents (bicyclists and motorists),” they continue, “we cannot and will not support one group over another.” At least there’s an inadvertent truth buried in there — opposing these basic safety improvement benefits nobody.

“We understand and sympathize with the on-going loss the Davis family is experiencing,” they conclude. “However, DOT needs to think of other ways to keep bikers safety other than instituting a quick fix.” As for what those “other ways” might be, don’t bother looking for specific, usable ideas from this letter.

The Classon Avenue bike lane does have the backing of Borough President Eric Adams, who declared his support for the project last week.

Meanwhile, Lauren Davis’s family continues to seek some measure of accountability for the driver who struck and killed her.

The initial NYPD crash report incorrectly claimed Davis was riding against the direction of traffic, effectively blaming her for her own death. The report was eventually amended to reflect the culpability of the driver, Jennine Chung. But a judge at Chung’s initial DMV safety hearing only had the incorrect, victim-blaming police account. The NYPD officer assigned to the case failed to show up to correct the record.

He came to the follow-up hearing last week, but the DMV judge adjourned the proceedings because Chung’s lawyer was not present, scheduling the next hearing for May 2018, according to Lauren’s sister, Danielle. It could be years before Chung faces any repercussions for killing Lauren Davis, which could take the form of either a license suspension or revocation.

“I am very disappointed and frustrated,” said Danielle Davis. “It feels like invisibility is the only form of representation Lauren deserves in the eyes of the judicial system.”

  • “As elected officials who are charged with supporting the needs of all constituents (bicyclists and motorists),” they continue, “we cannot and will not support one group over another.”

    What if you’re a motorist who also bikes or a bicyclist who also drives? In other words, what if you’re just a person who doesn’t like to be pigeon-holed into pointless categories by anti-bike politicians? What if you’re not willing to let another person die, no matter how they get around? What category do you fit in then?

  • J

    It’s a shitty bike lane project, that is basically the same as the status quo, which just makes the opposition all the more ludicrous.

  • Pat

    “Notably, the 88th Precinct is also located on Classon Avenue and it is vital that they have unfettered access during emergencies.”

    Damn cyclists are always parking in front of hydrants and blocking the path for emergency vehicles with their double parking.

  • AMH

    They go on to argue that the painted lane will “slow down cars”

    I highly doubt that, but I would certainly hope so!

  • Maggie

    This is the most frustratingly dangerous, tragic, and myopic line in the entire letter to me:

    “Bedford Stuyvesant is home to over 1,500 small businesses and 150,000 residents; they cannot be expected to use one thoroughfare to avoid cyclists.”

    Ah, how many of their local businesses and residents do they acknowledge to be pedestrians, bicyclists, or interested in safe local streets? After someone was killed, they still think this number is zero?

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    They’re right that separation between auto traffic and cycle traffic is desirable. They’re right that the City should be looking for more than a quick fix.

    They don’t seem to understand the actions that these two positions imply: Unravelling of routes through bike boulevards on secondary streets and high quality segregated cycling infrastructure on primary routes.

    I don’t like to have people cycling in front of me when I am driving either, nor do I like being boxed in by auto traffic when I am riding a bike. This is solvable, but not by stonewalling the only people suggesting any changes, big or small.

  • HamTech87

    “bike lanes remove commercial parking for small business owners”
    You mean, bike lanes call out the rampant and illegal double-parking situation? Yes, indeed it does. And in no way does this bike lane remove legal commercial parking. Maybe the answer is to make the entire street commercial parking only with a 15 minute limit? Enough time for small biz owners to take deliveries, and would end the illegal double parking.
    As for the economy, haven’t they read the studies from Sadik-Khan showing that bike lanes are better for business? Gggrrrr….

  • Andrew

    As for the economy, haven’t they read the studies from Sadik-Khan showing that bike lanes are better for business?

    Probably not. Or, if they have, they’ve probably already dismissed them, because anything that goes against one’s preconceived notions must be a lie.

  • Velamanette has a history of being opposed to things but making zero sense in her opposition.

  • walks bikes drives

    They don’t jive with their alternative facts.

  • walks bikes drives

    I am my own category.

  • Miles Bader

    A far more reasonable alternative: ban cars.

  • Miles Bader

    If not, there’s always plan B: molasses dispensers.

  • It’s already been said, but it bears repeating; if cats are concerned with cyclists “being in a driver’s way,” then said cats should agitate *for* protected bike infrastructure (ideally w/physical separation). Then the cyclists will be “out of the way” (not that such should be the goal of bike infrastructure, of course).

  • darafurlow

    The 88th illegally parks a ridiculous number of cars on the sidewalk and the bike lane impeding and endangering pedestrians, people who are physically challenged, children, strollers, and bicyclists. In addition to our elected officials, as a neighborhood resident, Tish James should be involved in resolving this and protecting all of us.

  • Ryan Griffin

    yes. yes. yes. yes….. yes.

  • BrooklynCyclist

    So awesome that my elected officials who claim to represent this neighborhood seem to have no connection with the actual neighborhood. Any of you fools actually traveled down Marcy? There is no bike lane on Marcy. Their claim that it has a bike lane is a straight up lie.

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