Ask and Ye Shall Receive: Brooklyn CB9 Gets a Bike Lane on Empire Blvd

empire_boulevard_traffic_calming.jpgDOT added bike lanes to its traffic-calming project for Empire Boulevard — at the request of CB9. Image: NYCDOT.

These days, it’s not often that we get to report about New York City community boards pushing DOT for more progressive street designs. So sit back and enjoy this post. If you read Streetsblog regularly, it’ll blow your mind.

Back in April, DOT met with members of Brooklyn Community Board 9, which covers parts of Crown Heights and Flatbush, about a traffic calming project for Empire Boulevard. At the time, the project did not include a bike lane.

I asked district manager Pearl Miles about that meeting. "We said, ‘How about a bike lane?’" she recalls. "Our community is largely residential, so we want it to be safe."

When DOT came back in May for a presentation to the full board [PDF], the project — now sporting a bike lane — passed in a resounding 38-2 vote.

Crews are now working on the Empire Boulevard project, which closely resembles the template DOT used to calm traffic on Vanderbilt Avenue. A moving lane will be removed in each direction, and a painted median with pedestrian refuges will run down the center. (Allerton Avenue in the Bronx is slated for similar treatment [PDF], as Mobilizing the Region reported on Monday. "We presented the Allerton project to the CB 11 committee that covers the specific area and we are taking their input as we finalize the plan,” said DOT spokesman Scott Gastel.)

There are many more streets where CB 9 would like to see bike lanes installed. Back in the 90s — before anyone had ever uttered the words "Google Maps" — land use chair Mike Cetera plotted out a bike network on an aerial map of the district. The goal, says Miles, was to identify routes for families to ride safely to local parks, including Prospect Park. The addition of the Empire Boulevard bike lane marks a major milestone for that plan.

"This is our first real implementation, and we’re excited about it," said Miles.

  • Left turn bays transform pedestrian refugee medians into speedway medians.

  • 2.7m for a parking bay is pretty larger. 2m is the standard here but for bus stops you could go to 2.5m (8 ft). But the real problem is the 3.3m driving lanes. 3m is big enough for buses/trucks and anything wider just encourages speeding. So if you slice off those extra 3′, you get a 2m bike lane.

  • Corey: Empire is a designated truck route. I don’t know if DOT will go less than 11′ on a truck route.

  • Jay Datema

    Brooklyn Av between Fulton and Empire could do with a bike lane, too.

  • Mike: I didn’t realize that. Which DOT (NYC, NY, Federal) are you speaking of? Happen to know where those regs might be?

  • NYC. I don’t think they’re published…

  • lee

    Truck routes are listed in the nyc traffic rules section 4-13

  • The truck routes are published, of course, but Corey was asking about the lane width standards for truck routes, which I don’t think are published.

  • Kudos, CB9 (and DOT).

  • Shemp

    Check out DOT’s street design manual –

  • Richard V.

    This is just retarded I live on Empire and Empire is a mess as it is and adding this will just makes it worst. There is a Funeral home on Empire and Bedford that when it has Funerals Empire is all doubled parked. When the clubs are in session it’s the same problem. Also Empire intersects with Rogers, New York, and Nostrand they have some of the worst lights at the intersections there with Empire. But I would add that I think it’s a good safety for pedestrians because I know from trying to cross Empire and Franklin is like a death trap it’s possible to cross if you know how to cross quickly.

  • Scott

    I live a couple of blocks from empire, and Richard V has some good points double parking won’t stop with this set up. There is currently no median on empire, that means they’re already spending the time and money to put in a curb. Why don’t they add an additional curb 5 feet from the sidewalk and put the bike lane between parked cars and the sidewalk? With all the problems that Manhattan and has been having you think they’d stop proposing lanes like this.

  • I agree. If there is going to be a high volume of truck traffic on the street it makes sense to give cyclists a better buffer. I’ve never understood why all the new bike lanes mix cyclists and car traffic so closely. If you’re going to give that space to cyclists, then really make it useful. I hate riding next to fast moving truck traffic even if there is a bike lane.

    I love all the new bike lanes and medians but anemic looking trees in a big concrete median will not make a street into a great space. People are going to be more receptive to changes in traffic flow and parking if those changes are accompanied by some good aesthetic changes as well. Vanderbilt Ave is a great example of how you can calm traffic and still create a street that feels to wide and looks pretty shabby. There’s a difference between a good street and a great place. I know these are really just first steps, but some of these opportunities to redesign the streetscape are not going to come along again for a long time.

  • Dan Berkman said:

    I’ve never understood why all the new bike lanes mix cyclists and car traffic so closely.

    The conspiracy theorist in me says it’s so that automobilists can use the bike lane as an ad hoc double-parking lane or while preparing to parallel park without impeding other automobilists.

  • It’s nice that the community board asked for bike lanes, but it would have been better if they had asked for loading zones and metered parking. We need to be proactive about getting these things included in the plans, or else we’ll be fighting the same fight over and over again.

  • jay

    I second the necessity of the a bike lane along Brooklyn between Fulton and Maple. This would connect the bike lane along Tompkins in Bed-Stuy with the bike lanes already present along E. New York and Maple.

    As an aside, I believe there should be a concerted effort to improve and simplify bike access into Prospect Park from the east side at Lincoln. The bike lanes on Lincoln and Maple don’t exactly line up with the Prospect Park exit and Lincoln and it’s really kinda kludgy.

  • gecko

    This his nice stuff but, a central two-way protected bike lane would likely be safer, practical; more suitable for recumbent cyclists and be a more effective implementation.

  • It’s nice that the community board asked for bike lanes, but it would have been better if they had asked for loading zones and metered parking. We need to be proactive about getting these things included in the plans, or else we’ll be fighting the same fight over and over again.

    You’re right, everyone, but this is not the place to point that out. Had there been a dozen people at the community board meeting pressuring the CB to demand it and DOT to get it right, it might just have happened.

    It’s easy to post on a blog and sucks to sit through a boring meeting… but one has the potential for results, and the other potential to show up on a Google search.

  • Ian, my goal is not to criticize past efforts, but to slightly redirect future efforts. I’m sorry if this was misunderstood.

    Also, how do you know I’m not posting on blogs and sitting through boring meetings?


DOT has reportedly modified plans for an Amsterdam Avenue road diet north of 110th Street. On Thursday the project will be presented to CB 9 for the second time. Images: DOT

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