DOT Shows Fourth Avenue Bike Lane Concept in Sunset Park

Council Member Carlos Menchaca, who called on DOT to add protected bike lanes to its plan for Fourth Avenue, urged the agency to pursue an inclusive public process.

Council Member Carlos Menchaca speaks to the crowd last night. Photo: Teka-Lark Lo
Council Member Carlos Menchaca speaks to the crowd last night. Photo: Teka-Lark Lo

DOT reps brought the conceptual design for a redesign of Fourth Avenue with protected bike lanes to Sunset Park last night, following a similar event in Park Slope last week.

A DOT road diet for Fourth Avenue implemented in 2012 and 2013 removed a motor vehicle lane in each direction while widening pedestrian medians, bringing traffic crashes and injuries down. Last year, with the city gearing up for a top-to-bottom reconstruction that would cast the improvements in concrete, Council Member Carlos Menchaca prevailed on DOT to consider adding protected bike lanes to the plan. DOT is now showing that concept in public forums, in preparation for detailed design work.

Last night’s event drew a crowd of around 60 people, but some Sunset Park communities, including the neighborhood’s non-English-speaking residents, were underrepresented. Elizabeth Yeampierre, the executive director of neighborhood environmental justice group UPROSE, said the city needs to do a better job of including people.

“My concern about this gathering is that it doesn’t represent a cross-section of this community, or the majority of the people who live neighborhood,” Yeampierre said at the start. “I’m concerned that the recommendations that come of this space are not going to reflect the priorities of the people impacted by this corridor.”

Fourth Avenue plays an important role in the cultural and commercial life of Sunset Park, with a number of schools, businesses, and places of worship lining its sidewalks. Speaking last night, Menchaca called on DOT to ensure that families with children, small businesses, and immigrant communities are included in the process moving forward.

DOT Bicycle Program Director Ted Wright committed to working with UPROSE and other groups to involve the entire neighborhood. “We want to get out there, we want to talk to as many people as possible,” Wright said. “We usually just go through the community boards and use the community boards. This is above and beyond.”

In DOT's design for protected bike lanes on Fourth Avenue, the typical intersection will have four pedestrian islands. Image: NYC DOT
In DOT’s design for protected bike lanes on Fourth Avenue, the typical intersection will have four pedestrian islands. Image: NYC DOT

Instead of extra-wide medians, the revised concept calls for four pedestrian islands at typical intersections. Those islands will narrow some crossings more than the original plan, improve sight lines so drivers can better see crossing pedestrians, calm turning traffic, and improve safety for cyclists at intersections.

In general, that aspect of the new redesign concept is likely to reduce crashes and injuries more than the current configuration. The islands will also replace parking spaces, which figures to be a point of contention moving forward.

“We need better bikeways across the city, especially connecting [north-south] — Fifth Avenue is a mess, Fourth Avenue needs to be a bikeway,” said Sara Greenfield, who lives at 47th Street and Fifth Avenue. But, she said, “it’s going to be a hard sell for some small businesses and a lot of drivers.”

Greenfield bikes to work in Park Slope via Fifth Avenue, which has unprotected bike lanes that are often blocked by double-parking. She said the ride doesn’t feel safe. “Fourth Avenue would be a huge bonus, and I think it will help pedestrians a ton,” she said. “It will slow traffic down and it’ll allow a much safer crossing.”

“There are some gives and takes in everything that we do. We can’t do everything,” Menchaca told the room. “The pedestrian experience across Fourth Avenue is so important. We have schools, we have businesses, we have residents, and we have a corridor that has MTA train stations. There’s a lot of activity here. And the bike lane is an important part of the conversation because it provides that corridor and connection.”

  • J

    Awesome! Let’s get people organized to support this, and show businesses how it will get many MORE people access to their stores.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Ms. Yeampierre had some good points (as well as some bad ones such as the bike lanes = gentrification canard), but let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is about a geometric change to the street layout. She didn’t seem to care about the design and didn’t stay at a table to talk about it.

    This neighborhood and this city can be made safer with better design, which affects everyone no matter what they look like or where they come from, or it can be kept the same, in which case more people will be hurt and killed, and in this neighborhood that probably means disproportionately Latino and Asian delivery workers on bikes and seniors on foot. If she’s concerned about the group last night not being representative of the community, I hope she also attends the CB meeting or meetings that are likely to happen about this, where the members and attendees tend to be even older and whiter than last night.

    Also, let’s hope we never see another new “wide parking lane” again, ever. The proposed protected bike lane seems to be well supported, but a lot of the concern about it is about double parking, which has been encouraged along this corridor for years by the double parking lane. Rather than being an incremental step in an ongoing effort as is sometimes argued, the double parking lanes have actually undermined the possibility of this project coming to fruition.

  • Geck

    This is a beautiful response to the bike lanes=gentrification canard

  • Vooch

    language police :

    “…A DOT road diet for Fourth Avenue implemented in 2012 and 2013 removed a motor vehicle lane ..”

    reallocate a motor lane

    please 🙂

  • Tony Giordano

    Carlos Menchaca fought against us for 3 years as we suggested a protected bike lane – he insisted that the center median expansion was crucial for safety of pedestrians caught midway crossing. We pointed out that safety bollards could achieve far greater safety than a wider median. When we asked DOT – 3 years ago for their bike count (they did extensive data collection to plan the changes on 4th) the Brooklyn Commissioner told us “We didn’t count bikes because we didn’t want to encourage them to use 4th – it was too dangerous”. We countered by suggesting that NYC DOT may have received extra points (to win federal funding) by saying this was a “bike improvement” – and soon after DOT suddenly put 4th Ave on their bike map, the next year they upgraded to a “signed” bike route (and when we asked where the signs were – they suddenly were installed). This was an improvement that began in the community and was fought in a David fighting Goliath style with our Councilmember in firm opposition and DOT lying (as recently as this year DOT’s Commissioner Polly Trottenberg wrote to our Assemblyman to say “A protected bike lane is impossible on 4th – it isn’t wide enough”. The Assemblyman was kind enough to forward our letters to DOT.) We have all of this in email & in our Facebook posts for the last 3 years. Even Transportation Alternatives refused to help us – after initial interest when they heard that Menchaca was against it (again we have the emails). As for UPROSE – they did not make any complaints about the composition of the demographics when they were part of the process that gave us the current plan that while DOT says “improved safety on 4th” actually led to more accidents under the new plan (we reviewed the NYPD accident reports). I admit, I am bitter to a degree – we had to “live” this issue as volunteers for 3 years and now the power players are all taking credit. But maybe they should now shed some light on nearby 3rd Ave & 60th Street where we have the 2nd highest number of traffic injuries in the borough. It is time for a task force approach to traffic patterns in sunset park – especially when Carlos & the Mayor announced they were getting 55,000 trucks off the roads in NJ and putting them at SBMT in Sunset. And Nadler is still pushing a 65th Street Cross Harbor Tunnel that would bring (by the EIS estimate 800 more trucks a day….I don’t want to bore you too much but do a quick count on the EDC projects that involve bringing more trucks to Sunset – like the Cement Hub being formed at 25th Street – adding to the current cement trucks the ones from the cement plant on Hamilton Ave moving to 25th also. Or maybe the fact that SIMS has gotten thousands of trucks off of the streets of most NYC neighborhoods – but have them now mostly coming to us at 29th Street (I have the statistics on the number and size of these trucks – they said they could address the increased truck traffic (DOS garbage trucks from all over Brooklyn coming to us) by minor changes in red light timing. I am now rambling – but please consider the added traffic from BAT, the coming Bush Campus Textile/Media Hub, Industry City, the Liberty View Plaza site and the new grease recycling plant next to our waterfront park…..where is the political leadership in Sunset?


To keep making progress on traffic safety, redesigns as substantial as this protected bike lane planned for Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn will have to be implemented citywide. Image: NYC DOT

DOT Shows Its Plan to Get the Reconstruction of 4th Avenue Right

Fourth Avenue is far and away the most viable potential bike route linking Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, and Park Slope, but it's still scary to ride on, with no designated space for cycling. At 4.5 miles long, a protected bike lane would make the reconstructed Fourth Avenue one of the most important two-way streets for bicycle travel in the city, connecting dense residential neighborhoods to jobs and schools.