Ninth Street Protected Bike Lane Taking Shape, Albeit With Narrower-Than-Normal Bike Lanes

After a fatal crash, city officials went to the drawing board to create a safer street.

The redesign of Ninth Street in Park Slope has created protected bike lanes on both sides, albeit tighter lanes than others in the city. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
The redesign of Ninth Street in Park Slope has created protected bike lanes on both sides, albeit tighter lanes than others in the city. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

No passing!

City and local officials on Thursday heralded the redesign of Ninth Street in Park Slope as green paint, new no-parking areas and pedestrian buffers are well on the way towards a mid-September completion — but cyclists won’t be imagining things if they feel a little squeezed.

The new protected bike lanes on the deadly stretch between Prospect Park West and Third Avenue will be only four feet wide, with a three-foot barrier alongside parked cars, rather than the standard five-foot width.

Of course, even with the city's press corps watching, and city officials championing their new bike lane, trucks were still illegally parked on Ninth Street, creating a safety hazard...and bad optics.
Of course, even with the city’s press corps watching, and city officials championing their new bike lane, trucks were still illegally parked on Ninth Street, creating a safety hazard…and bad optics.

The cozy confines will likely be an issue on both the westbound lane, which goes downhill, allowing cyclists to pick up speed, and on the eastbound side, where it will be difficult to pass cyclists struggling to go uphill.

But the Department of Transportation’s Brooklyn Commissioner Keith Bray said the narrower lanes were necessary to accomplish everything the city hoped to fix.

“It’s a newer design of a protected bike lane on a two-way street,” he said at a press conference on Sixth Avenue, one block from where a driver struck and killed two children in March, creating the outcry that sent DOT to the drawing board.

Yes, it's real and it's spectacular. Borough President Eric Adams touches the new green paint to make sure he's not dreaming.
Yes, it’s real and it’s spectacular. Borough President Eric Adams touches the new green paint to make sure he’s not dreaming.

Bray touted other safety measures — such as additional loading zones to reduce double-parking; left-turn bays to maintain car flow; additional space for pedestrians; and extra paint on corners to slow down drivers as they make right turns — that will make the roadway “safer for all users.”

And that’s a crucial priority on Ninth Street, where 12 people were killed or seriously injured since 2012, putting it, Bray said, in the top third of the most-dangerous stretches in Brooklyn.

But the bike lane in the redesign does not meet the five-foot minimum established by the National Association of City Transportation Officials, a national group that advocates for good urban design. And the roadway does not meet Vision Zero design standards being advocated by Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets, which call for 10- or 10.5-foot wide travel lanes for vehicles.

Ninth Street remains 11 feet wide, as it was before the death of Joshua Lew and Abigail Blumenstein under the wheels of driver Dorothy Bruns.

Both Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Council Member Brad Lander (D-Park Slope) paused for a moment of silence at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street, where Lew and Blumenstein were killed. Adams placed a bouquet of flowers and called on New Yorkers to “transform our thinking” about the automobile culture.

“We must share our streets,” he said.

For his part, Lander called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to call the State Senate back into session to vote on an Assembly bill that would reauthorize and expand the city’s speed cameras, which went dark in July after the Senate failed to act on the bill approved by its counterpart chamber.

Amy Cohen of Families for Safe Street put it tersely: “We can’t only paint the street after they’re dead.”

Update: After publication of this story, DOT sent over additional information about the new loading zones:

Along Ninth Street between Fourth Avenue and Fifth Avenue, DOT added a 50-foot loading zone on the south side approaching Fifth Avenue, where there are several businesses. On the north side we added a new loading zone extending 40 feet from the end of the bus stop and added a new No Standing zone in front of the post office.

Between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, we extended the hours of the existing loading zone at the grocery store from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. to 7 a.m-7 p.m. and we extended the No Standing zone in front of the YMCA by 25 feet. 

Sixty-foot loading zones were also added on Fifth Avenue, between Ninth and 10th streets and on Seventh Avenue between Eighth and Ninth streets to move some of the loading off of Ninth Street.

  • JarekFA

    I take this route daily. This is better, I suppose. I got caught behind a slower bike yesterday going uphill. I find 5th avenue to be much more dangerous than 9th street. As always, the culprit is parking. I attended the CB6 transportation committee which unanimously supported the redesign. There was some light kvetching about the loss of parking and some real stupid fears expressed about “now my child might run into the street and get hit by a bike” and “I need to load my child’s car seat on 9th street and this will make it more dangerous since I have to double park.”

    So, while this CB is almost certainly the most bike friendly in all of NYC — even entertaining removing substantially more parking would be a total non-starter I imagine, even though, the car parking volumes on 9th street, can’t be that high. That’s the thing that pisses me off the most. 9th st isn’t a super busy commercial corridor such that you have rampant double-parking the entire duration. You have people stopping for 5 min to go to the post office and mcdonalds. But otherwise, as it makes sense given the high residential density and proximity to the R/F/G and numerous bus lines, the vast majority of people get here on foot, bus, train or bike.

    So, while I guess this is an improvement I think on the bike infrastructure it’s more of a wash given the narrow bike lanes and sense of feeling trapped versus the status quo ante of a very wide buffer and low car volumes. The real safety enhancement, which is substantial as my family crosses 9th on foot with stroller in hand a lot — is the shortened pedestrian crossings with the refuges.

    I think another overlooked but related issue is the failure to install curb extensions when making curb cuts ADA complaint. I understand that curb extensions on their own are expensive — but when you’re tearing up the curb already to make the cuts ADA accessible, the marginal cost to making them into a curb extension has to be affordable.

  • When it came to Seaman Avenue in Inwood, Brad Aaron’s reporting for Streetsblog informed me that DOT decided that the street was too narrow for full size lanes on either side and therefore one side would have sharrows. Now that DOT has changed the implementation of its policy, will they go back and add narrower bike lanes to other streets like Seaman?

  • O. Well

    The next mayor needs to make reducing the number of cars in this city a top priority. That’s the only way things will get safer and the only way we won’t get stuck with substandard designs like this. It took dead people to… take 2% of the space away from cars? Come on.

  • O. Well

    One addition: to say that this bike lane is four feet wide is not the truth. The six inches or so immediately next to the curb should not count as no one can ride that close to the sidewalk and still be able to pedal. No bike-friendly city would count that space toward the actual travel lane for bicycles. DOT needs to do better and just stop prioritizing parking over people. Enough already.

  • Joe R.

    Besides that, the 6 inches by the curb often has sewer grates or leaves. It’s seldom usable space even if you could in theory pedal less than 6 inches from the sidewalk.

  • Daphna

    I would say that the 1′ to 1.5′ next to the curb, not just 6″, is unusable and should not be counted as part of the bike lane.

    Why have a 5′ center median “buffer”? Why increase that buffer from 3′ to 5′ with this redesign? Better to have eliminated the 3′ buffer instead of upping it to 5′, then each bike lane could have had 2.5′ additional – which would still be small!

  • crazytrainmatt

    That’s the same width as the new midtown lanes (which are 5+2 rather than 4+3 here). In practice it is foot narrower as drivers have been parking inwards of the line dividing parking from traffic.

    They are indeed mighty tight when you account for the usual potholes, puddles, garbage, pedestrians and urinating dogs. Got stuck behind a smoking ebike delivery guy once for a couple of blocks — not fun!

  • KeNYC2030

    Why on earth didn’t they narrow the motor vehicle lanes to 10 feet? When DOT narrowed Columbus Ave.’s lanes from 11 to 10, we were told that 11 is an Interstate width, which means they are an invitation to speed. Totally inappropriate in a neighborhood.

  • William Lawson

    Christ I hate those smoking delivery guys. What planet do you have to be on to think that smoking and cycling are two awesomely compatible activities.

  • JarekFA

    Could it be because 9th st is a truck route from 3rd ave to 4th ave?

  • Daphna

    And why have a 5′ center median. Eliminate the center median buffer and just have two yellow lines. That would be a way to add 2.5′ needed feet to the bike lanes on each side.

  • Rex Rocket

    Delivery guy on bike: Bad low-paying unpleasant dangerous occupation, not engaged in for fitness or Strava numbers.

    Smoking: Habit, often associated with coping with a hostile environment–war, prison, manual labor– regardless of health consequences.

  • Yeah, well yesterday I was at the Wall Street ferry terminal. I wanted to ask one of the surprisingly many bicyclists whether the boats still have racks on the wall, racks that require you to lift your bike off the deck (which in turn would force someone with saddle bags to remove them).

    There was one guy who was with his bike, but who not on the line that was boarding at that moment. Perhaps was preparing to get on line for the next boat that was to depart from that slip. I figured that I would ask him this question about the on-board bike racks. But when I got close to the guy, I saw that he was smoking. The incongruity and absurdity removed any thought of talking to this fool.

  • manny

    I could not even get my groceries in to the car that picked me up from
    C-Town, I rolled my shopping wagon with my food and a bike just missed
    me. the bikes are speeding down the lane not evening stopping for a
    light. really how can I food shop, and get my groceries across the
    street in to a car. the delivery with the electric bikes are going so
    fast no respect for people crossing the street. we need the cars to park
    near the curb where they belong. Putting bikes first is not right.
    we have to let passenger out of car to go to doctor, some have canes.
    who ever created this mess of cars parking away from the curb didn’t
    think plan accordingly. there will be more accidents especially when
    school starts. which we hope not.

  • Rex Rocket

    I guess you showed him. Starting to make smoking attractive.

  • I showed him nothing; the guy never even saw me.

    I have no objection to someone smoking, especially outdoors. Indeed, I disagree with prohibitions on smoking in outdoor locations such as beaches, parks, stadiums, and outdoor subway stations.

    But it was just the incongruity of a bicyclist smoking that caught me by surprise, and was a little too ridiculous for me.

  • JarekFA

    They said it was for double parking purposes. Not that they want to encourage double parking. But that they know it will happen and they wanted to make sure buses and fire trucks could still pass. It’d be tight and they’d have to slow down but vehicles could pass.

    I was thinking, the roads should always be that narrow.

  • AMH

    They need to start making it physically impossible to double-park. I really wish we would outfit fire trucks to flatten cars that don’t get out of the way.