Brownsville Will Get Bike Lanes After Supportive Vote from CB 16

Brownsville is set to have extra asphalt converted to bike lanes after Community Board 16's supportive vote last night. Photosim: NYC DOT

Good news out of Brooklyn last night: After a community-driven process that started in 2011, Community Board 16 voted to support painted bike lanes and sharrows on 15 miles of Brownsville streets.

The proposal calls for bike lanes on New Lots Avenue, Pitkin Avenue, Mother Gaston Boulevard, and a north/south pair on Hendrix Street and Schenck Avenue. DOT is also in the process of installing more than 600 bike racks in the neighborhood and community partners are hosting bike rides and helmet fittings.

The effort to bring bike lanes to Brownsville was started by Bettie Kollock-Wallace, who now serves as CB 16’s chair. Kollock-Wallace began working with the Brownsville Partnership and the Brooklyn District Public Health Office, which reached out to community members, Transportation Alternatives, and DOT to formulate a plan for bike lanes.

Community Board 5, covering East New York, is expected to vote on the plan soon. Its transportation committee supported an earlier, less comprehensive version of the plan in November. The lanes are slated for installation this spring, according to the Brownsville Partnership.

  • HamTech87

    This is great. But what I’ll never understand is why it is ok to have unprotected lanes in the door zone that of the most frequently-used door, the driver’s?  

  • Ben Kintisch

     After two years of community workshops, a full network of lanes have been approved for a part of the city that had ZERO miles of bike lanes. I imagine that to go full press for protected bike lanes from the get-go would have been unwise politically. It seems to me that once a basic painted lane is in, and ridership goes up, the activist community can return to the city in a few years and ask for upgrades.

  • Sean Kelliher

    I realize the tendency is to be happy about installations such as these and see them as progress. But, unfortunately, I feel less optimistic. Infrastructure such as this already exists in other parts of the city and it doesn’t work very well. It’s rare to ride more than, say, five blocks without having to navigate around motorists parked in the lane. You’re frequently riding in the “door zone” and with passing vehicles either edging into the lane or so close to the edge that there is little margin for error if a bicyclist were to fall. At intersections, the lanes effectively “disappear” as motorists drive into them to more easily navigate turns or get around other drivers who are turning.

    When lanes like this or sharrows are installed it likely means that for the next decade or maybe never, the street will not have quality infrastructure. Put enough of these together and it becomes impossible for New York to become the “world class” bicycling city people like us want it to become.

  • Ben Kintisch

    We’ve had this discussion before….painted “sub-par” bike lanes versus “world-class” bike lanes. While I agree that these are not ideal, they are a TREMENDOUS jump ahead in bike infrastructure for a neighborhood which literally had ZERO bike infrastructure.
    Remember, three or four years ago, protected lanes barely existed in the city’s bike network. Now, on some major corridors, they have been installed, which is a wonderful safety and comfort improvement for riders of all abilities. Nonetheless, we need to balance our desire for the best with the hope for progress. I would be thrilled to see 15 new miles of protected bike lanes for Brownsville. I can say with confidence that a proposal to move parking and re-align car travel lanes (as is customary for protected lanes) would have been dead on arrival in a community that had not yet seen any bike lanes installed.

  • jrab


    I suggest that the bike lanes in Brownsville will end up like the bike lanes on East 167th and 168th St in the Bronx: barely used and worn into invisibility.

    East 167th/168th is a pretty good way to get crosstown across the Bronx, with shallower grade hills and less trafficked intersections than many other cross streets, yet there is no bloom of cyclists. According to the DOT, the lane dates from 2007. The Bx35 bus, which follows the same route, is regularly jampacked throughout the day and is one of the only Bronx bus routes that actually makes a profit on fares. So there are plenty of reasons for one to be optimistic about more people bicycling on that route.

    Since that halcyon year, incessant motor vehicle traffic has worn away the stripes, which makes it hard to claim the bike lane for bicyclists. Other comments on Streetsblog have described the dog-eat-dog nature of motoring in New York City in far more detail than is necessary to understand why there aren’t more people venturing out into the streets on bicycles on this particular Bronx route.

    I’m glad you’re excited about these Brownsville routes, but I’m not.

  • M to the I

    I think these new bicycle lanes will be really awesome. NYC is starting to build a great bicycle network. Pitkin provides a great connection to the existing Eastern Parkway bicycle path. Its a great east/west link. If/when the Conduit path gets built we could start to have a great long distance network to Queens, JFK and into Long Island, which the state DOT will hopefully start building Route 27 as a complete street in the near future). 

  • Anonymous

    This is a great conversation.  I frequently hear that the reason that a street like the one in the article doesn’t get protected bike lanes is that there is lack of road width.  Maybe the standards for width needed for a protected bike lane is too much?  

    I notice that there is a big buffer between the protected lane and the row of parked cars in NYC.  In Montreal, I don’t think there is the same buffer width, so the lane requires less space.

    Maybe NYC’s bike lane buffer width needs to be reduced?

    I know people will say a narrower lane is not safe, but compared with a Class II lane, it has got to be safer.  IMHO

  • Daphna

    To HamTech87: The reason the buffer next to a curbside parking protected lane in NYC is large is not for bikes, rather it is because of the size of fire trucks and street cleaners.  The fire department and ambulances want the option of using the bike lane and as such they require a wide lane.  Also, for the street cleaner to pass through the lane has to be 11′ wide from the curb to the pedestrians islands.

    To change the design there would need to be the discussion about whether fire access in the bike lane really needs to be designed for.  If the lane were designed just for bikes, without that dual purpose, there would be more options in the design.
    Also there would need to be a smaller street cleaning vehicle used if the pedestrian islands were closer to the curb.

    Hopefully in the future there will be more willingness to give bicyclists dedicated space without demands from other departments (such as fire and emergency vehicles) to be designed for their possible occasional use.  We do not design sidewalks to double as vehicle access; it would be nice if bike lanes received the same mentality. 

  • Anonymous

    @SeanKelliher:disqus I’ve been trying to find something reasonable about your argument, but I really can’t.

    If we can’t have perfection, we should take nothing and work really hard to demand perfection because that will make perfection come? Pure pony thinking.

    Meanwhile, @85211970d034887d032f8c319f70adbb:disqus  all the people already biking in Brownsville should be given not even the very real protection that results from bike lanes because the paint *might* wear down and not be repainted rapidly enough?


  • Anonymous

    @88b32fb69e499718d95067da9d3d7b03:disqus Thanks for that explanation about NYC.  I’d forgotten about the need for the fire lane and street cleaning provisions.  I imagine that these were part of the compromise for NYC.

    I looked at the NACTO design guide, and it seems (I’m no expert) that the same buffer is required.

    Guess I’m wondering whether this political consideration specific to NYC should be carried-over to the rest of the country, or if we should look more to Montreal?  How do Montrealers clean their streets?

    Again, thanks for replying.  

  • jrab

    dporpentine, what is this protection provided by a painted line? Please describe how it is going to keep motorists from double parking, or from use as a right-turn lane, without appealing to the fantasy of police enforcement.

    I repeat my morning comment in other words: based on my observations in the Bronx, the painted lines planned for Brownsville will wear away well before replacement date and any temporary rise in cyclist population will be eroded as well.

  • Ben Kintisch

    If you’re unhappy with deteriorated painted lines, but in a call/email/tweet to 311 to have the lines repainted. In my neighborhood, after several neighborhood complaints, several paint only bike lanes have been repainted and some even got added painted buffers.
    Yes, paint is inferior to an actual physical protection. However, I’m pretty sure that NYC has never gone from no bike lanes to protected bike lanes without first laying out a painted bike route. Correct me if I’m wrong, Streetsblog readers.
    Once a bike route becomes popular enough, it can be easier to advocate for an improvement from something. 

  • Anonymous

    @85211970d034887d032f8c319f70adbb:disqus There is plenty of protection provided by that painted line. I’ve seen it in the difference it’s made on Vanderbilt Ave. in Brooklyn, which went from a hellish quasi-four-lane road to a perfectly bikeable road absolutely clogged with bike traffic in the morning–and that’s with much of it protected only with sharrows.

    Those lines grant legitimacy to bikers. And we need legitimacy more than anything.

    I’ll also note that I see cars parking on the raised bike lanes on Sand
    Street. I see people opening their doors and parking their strollers in
    the protected lanes on PPW. Protected lanes don’t eliminate bad behavior

    Meanwhile, I see plenty of bike lanes fade and get repainted, fade and get repainted. It’s part of the process.

  • Ian Turner

    @88b32fb69e499718d95067da9d3d7b03:disqus , it is for bikes, otherwise we could have two-way protected buffered lanes, which DOT has shot down due to the desire to maintain the buffer.

  • Driver

    Cyclists should be thankful for the buffer next to the bike lane, it allows room for passing other cyclists and avoiding obstacles and pedestrians, and allows for a widening of the travel lane as cycling becomes more popular.  Designing single file protected lanes would be short sighted and probably unpopular with faster paced cyclists. 

  • Danny G

    @Ben_Kintisch:disqus Never say never: Ninth Avenue in Manhattan between 34th Street and 59th went from nothing to a protected path.

  • jrab

    This is what I got back from 311 after requesting repainting. Guess all the safety benefits dporpentine cites will have to wait for “future marking seasons.”

    Service Request #: C1-1-807189672Date Submitted: 12/05/12 9:25:29 AMRequest Type: Street ConditionDetails: Line/Marking – Faded

    Your Service Request was closed.

    The Department of Transportation inspected the condition. Street markings will be painted in future markings seasons or when contracts are awarded.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve also made 311 requests for lanes to repainted, and gotten the same response. I assume they just add them to the back of the very long queue of road work to be done. But hey, at least they are in the queue!

  • Scott

    I hope the plan also includes removing on-street parking, because those bike lanes are squarely in the door zone.


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