Bay Ridge Supports Some Cycling Infrastructure — But Protected Bike Lanes Don’t Seem Likely

This is Bay Ridge Parkway. If you think that it's too narrow for proper safety infrastructure, perhaps you should not be sitting on a community board. Photo: DOT
This is Bay Ridge Parkway. If you think that it's too narrow for proper safety infrastructure, perhaps you should not be sitting on a community board. Photo: DOT

A long-sought bike lane on Bay Ridge Parkway may be back on the drawing board nearly a decade after it was unceremoniously buried by Brooklyn’s Community Board 10 — but more ambitious street safety improvements seem to be off the table.

At a Department of Transportation-sponsored workshop last week, five out of seven groups independently recommended the painted bike lane on the roadway as essential to improving the neighborhood’s cycling infrastructure and extending it into Dyker Heights.

About 70 people attended. Photo: Dan Hetteix
About 70 people attended. Photo: Dan Hetteix

The parkway, which is the equivalent of 75th Street as it runs from Bay Ridge’s Shore Road to Bensonhurst’s Bay Parkway, currently has extra-wide parking and travel lanes and could accommodate a painted bike lane with no impact on car storage or travel, according to plans drafted by the DOT [PDF]. But there was little talk of a true protected bike lane, a proven safety measure for a roadway where 142 motorists, pedestrians and cyclists have been reported injured since January, 2017, according to city stats.

Local cyclists focused on “what was realistic,” said Bike South Brooklyn! activist Brian Hedden.

“There are only a few streets wide enough to not affect parking, and [Bay Ridge Parkway] is one of them,” he added.

There have been 142 reported injuries along Bay Ridge Parkway since January, 2017.
There have been 142 reported injuries along Bay Ridge Parkway since January, 2017.

Those very conditions remain unchanged from 2010, when a similar proposal was shot down by a coalition of CB members and politicians, including then-Council Members Vincent Gentile and Domenic Recchia, who described the 50-foot wide two-lane boulevard as a “narrow street.” The lane was killed again in 2011.

Maybe third time’s the charm?

Only two workshop groups didn’t recommend the Bay Ridge Parkway route. One consisted entirely of Community Board members and was overseen by current CB10 president Doris Cruz, who was chairwoman of a subcommittee that killed the Bay Ridge Parkway proposal nine years ago. Back then, she explained that “CB10 and many other parts of our city do not yet have [a cycling] culture.” Last month, she decried the “well-networked” nature of the local cyclists and encouraged motorists to participate in the workshop for “balance.”

This call to action may have been the reason the second group didn’t recommend Bay Ridge Parkway either: after nearly an hour and a half of mapping and discussion with DOT facilitators, the group of nine residents failed to recommend any cycling infrastructure whatsoever.

Mary, a resident who was part of that fruitless discussion, explained that much of the group’s time was spent arguing about whether cyclists paid taxes or not, and whether cyclists were more dangerous than drivers.

On Jan. 14, two days before the workshop, Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights’s 68th Precinct had 17 car crashes within a single day — not that the road violence persuaded people at Mary’s table.

He's no "old fart": Bob Cassara shows his support for bike lanes. Photo: Dan Hetteix
He’s no “old fart”: Bob Cassara shows his support for bike lanes. Photo: Dan Hetteix

“It was such a siege mentality. At our table, nobody questioned drivers,” she said, adding that cyclists at the table had to spend so much time simply defending cycling that “their feedback was ignored. They didn’t get to map anything.”

However, according to a majority of those interviewed, the workshop was a positive experience, and turnout was high.

Former Community Board 10 member Bob Cassara admitted that the local community board has long been part of the problem.

The current bike infrastructure “sucks,” Cassara said. “And it won’t get better till the old farts, like me, are off that community board, and we get young people in like the ones here [at the workshop].”

Cassara has long claimed that he was denied reappointment to the board because he strongly advocated for the Bay Ridge Parkway bike lane in 2010.

In addition to the Bay Ridge Parkway route, other tables suggested an extension of the Fourth Avenue bike lane from its current terminus at 65th Street down to the Verrazzano Bridge; along 86th Street, a major east-west corridor; and a “bike superhighway” up the center of Third Avenue under the Gowanus Expressway. The group representing CB10 members proposed a one-way route east along 83rd Street and continuing along 81st Street in Dyker Heights. That table placed the westward return lane 13 blocks north at 67th Street.

In true South Brooklyn fashion, the majority of groups ended up planning bike routes that would take cyclists directly to L&B Spumoni Gardens, a noted neighborhood pizza landmark.

The DOT will return to the neighborhood this spring to reveal a new plan based on the feedback. Applications for Brooklyn Community Boards are open until Feb. 15. Apply here.

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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

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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.