DOT to Bay Ridge: You Get Unsafe Bike Lanes Because We Don’t Want to Remove Parking

On Thursday night, DOT officials unveiled their plan to allow car-storers to continue to use the public right of way to block safety improvements. Board member Steve Harrison, who doesn't want to remove parking, is on the far right. Photo: Dave Colon
On Thursday night, DOT officials unveiled their plan to allow car-storers to continue to use the public right of way to block safety improvements. Board member Steve Harrison, who doesn't want to remove parking, is on the far right. Photo: Dave Colon

Bay Ridge will get painted bike lanes instead of proven life-saving road designs because the Department of Transportation capitulated to car owners — and then spun its unprotected bike lane plan as a win because no parking spaces will be reclaimed for public benefit.

“We’re not removing any travel lanes; we’re not removing any parking lanes,” Nick Carey of the Department of Transportation told members of Community Board 10 on Thursday night. “We’re going to keep saying it maniacally.”

Maniacally might be the operative word. Or “fearfully.” Clearly, the DOT did not want to touch what some people believe is a third rail in Bay Ridge: parking.

“The board as a general rule agrees” that parking should not be removed, CB10 member Steve Harrison told the DOT reps, before joking that board members can’t possibly support removing parking spaces because the neighborhood would start boiling tar and plucking feathers.

“As a general rule we do value our lives,” Harrison said.

But, apparently, the board does not value other people’s lives. The DOT “starter pack” of painted lanes will put the lives of pedestrians, cyclists and, yes, motorists in second place to car storers yet again — and flies in the face of the DOT’s own data in presentations to other community boards. In other neighborhoods, the agency is happy to tout statistics showing that protected bike lanes bring about a 15-percent drop in total injuries and a 21-percent drop in pedestrian injuries. And DOT has long said that its “road diet” plans — which remove a lane of car travel to slow down drivers — improves safety and does not adversely affect travel times. But such data was not presented on Thursday.

One wonders what DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg would make of the whole thing, given that she herself has written that “[DOT] data clearly show that the addition of a new protected bike lane – that makes crosswalks shorter and narrows driving space — increases street safety for all users: pedestrian, motorist, and cyclist alike.”

The bike network proposed by DOT on Thursday would consist of painted lanes on the southbound side of Bay Ridge Boulevard and 11th Avenue, on the northbound side of Third and 10th avenues, on the eastbound 64th and 85th streets, on the westbound 65th and 84th streets and painted bike lane on each side of Bay Ridge Parkway. The proposed routes were based on the recommendations that residents gave the department when it asked Bay Ridge residents to suggest the areas where they thought the lanes should go at a public visioning session in January.

It appears to be the lingering hangover of DOT’s experience before the same community eight years ago, when local lawmakers forced the city to scrap what would have been a modest painted bike lane. But maybe that fear is misguided: Bay Ridge is changing, thanks to the election of pro-safety Council Member Justin Brannan and State Senator Andrew Gounardes. And the public is coming along, too, warming up to cycling and bike infrastructure after a summer of relentless street safety activism over speed cameras around schools, which then-Senator Marty Golden opposed.

A protected bike lane on Seventh Avenue in Bay Ridge could eliminate speedway conditions on the wide roadway. Photo: Google
CB10 has expressed support for a protected bike lane on Seventh Avenue in Bay Ridge. Photo: Google

Since then, Community Board 10 has expressed support for a protected bike lane on Seventh Avenue, Bay Ridge’s first, albeit one that did not require the removal of parking. And at the meeting on Thursday, several asked when the long-delayed Fourth Avenue protected bike lane would finally reach their neighborhood.

And other CB10 members and members of the public expressed concern at the Thursday night presentation over issues endemic to unprotected lanes and sharrows, such as the lack of safety and the presence of drivers who double park in painted lanes. Yet protected lanes are still a bridge too far for the DOT in Bay Ridge.

The agency said it would start implementing the network by the end of the summer. CB10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann told Streetsblog that she wanted members of the transportation and traffic committee to see the streets where the lanes are planned with their own eyes, and to get feedback from local cyclists. The full board will vote in June, though the board’s vote is only advisory.

The overreliance on community input as a way to endlessly slow safety improvements down is nothing new to city government, though there are voices that are questioning why non-experts should be the ultimate deciding factors on how to prevent death and injuries on the city’s streets. But even local cycling advocates are starting to feel the strain as the process to bring some kind of safe street infrastructure to southern Brooklyn drags on.

“Everyone at this point is getting a little worn out, having to do this on a fairly regular basis,” Brian Hedden, a Bay Ridge resident and member of Bike South Brooklyn, told Streetsblog. “It’s been a year and a half for me now, it wears even me down, and I think a lot of people are feeling that as well.”

Hedden said he’d prefer “a more holistic leadership process from the city, and particularly one that isn’t always pitting one group of neighbors against another,” but added, ruefully, “It doesn’t look like we’re going to have that process.”

  • Reader

    “We’re going to keep saying it maniacally.”

    This is a disease.

  • Related:

    “By frequently mentioning concerns about parking, anyone who wants to change a street – or their city – legitimizes and perpetuates concerns about parking. You know the old thought experiment where you tell someone not to think of a polar bear with green eyes and then all they can think about is a polar bear with green eyes? I’ve been to community board meetings where DOT reps start their presentations by saying, ‘We know that parking is a top concern.’ Guess what happened? Parking was a top concern.”

  • 1ifbyrain2ifbytrain

    Time for New York city residents who don’t own a car to start placing car-sized storage bins along the curbs (wheeled so you can “double park” them on alternate side days. Given the typical size (or lack altogether) of our closets it will be a win-win.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The same generations that oppose street safety for bicycles also like to get benefits and privileges at the expense of the generations to follow, and they remain in control.
    So the way to make anything like this work is to have permit parking overnight, with a nominal charge for existing parkers and market rates for the new people. With no new permits issued in areas with a parking shortage.
    “You get to keep your cars and park them for $10 per month, but new people can’t have any to make it easier for you to park! Screw them if they want to live in your community!”
    They’d love it. And then when an improvement that required fewer street spaces went through, they wouldn’t be the ones losing the parking spaces. Otherwise we’d just have to wait for them to die off, and hope NYC is still inhabitable.

  • The one place where they absolutely need to remove parking for this bare minimum of a plan to work is on Bay Ridge Parkway by the Gowanus Expressway overpass, between Seventh Ave S/B and Forth Hamilton Parkway.

    Last year they added about 40 (mostly unused) angled parking spaces near here on Seventh Ave N/B as part of a traffic calming project. But now they can’t remove 20 so people don’t get crushed by traffic on the most direct east-west route in this part of Brooklyn.

  • Resident

    Sorry, but I guess you haven’t heard of the official DOT slogan: “Parking is more important that people’s lives.”

  • MPB

    It’s hard to blame DOT given how anti-bike this neighborhood has been for the past decade. So much so that I’d say this is progress for CB10.

    This still falls short though. The only person who could change that here is Councilmember Justin Brannan. He’s been quick to curry favor with TA about sidewalk parking and loves to retweet their messaging, but does he love them enough to sacrifice a few votes from those who may lose a couple of parking spots? This indecision leaves us all at risk.

  • thomas040

    So a few dozen car owners jeopardize the lives of 100s of bike riders, because they value their convenience higher? God forbid they’d have to step over a bike lane to get to their vehicle that one day a week they move their car from parking.

  • 8FH

    Though CB10 has historically been anti-bike, they are far from the worst in the city, and every single meeting on this has had the anti-bike-lane people far outnumbered by those demanding protected bike lanes. We’ve even had multiple people (including me) insist that safety should be prioritized over parking. This proposal is a stunning abdication of responsibility, and the DOT needs to know that this is unacceptable, especially due to the levels of double parking, speeding and general lawlessness in southern Brooklyn.

  • 8FH

    Sorry, but we have multiple older people in our community advocating for bike infrastructure. Don’t count out the older members of our community.

  • Joe R.

    Welcome to the brave, new world where feelings, anecdotes, and laypeople trump facts, statistics, and experts. It might even give fodder for comedians if people weren’t dying because of it.

    For all the talk among some motorists about how “entitled” cyclists are, nothing compares to the entitlement motorists feel to store their private property for free in public space.

  • Larry Littlefield

    In you opinion would my suggestion convince your less forward looking peers, as I believe, or not?

  • 8FH

    Would your suggestion convince the anti-bike-lane people? I don’t know, but it’s not a good plan.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I like it. If you are a car person, you get to stay a car person. But no more car people allowed. Over a few decades the parking problem solves itself.

    Also, no permits unless you are licensed AND insured where you live. That would get rid of a bunch of parkers right away.

  • Nothing in Vain

    Brannan should act now before more precious blood is spilled. His silence on the matter is rather unorthodox.

  • Joe R.

    I’ve suggested that except let’s have full-size 20 foot containers which are repurposed for storage. No need to move them on alternate side days, either. Since they sit right on the pavement, no debris can accumulate under them. You can designate part of the street for storage containers and the street sweepers can just go around that part. As more people demand storage containers, you repurpose more and more parking spots. My guess is the free market will eventually result in little or no curbside car parking.

  • Joe R.

    The problem with the entire idea is it gives the older generation a benefit which the younger generation never gets to enjoy. This is just like multi-tier union contracts, higher Social Security benefits relative to earnings/payroll deductions for those already receiving it, etc. NYC should just systematically start get rid of curbside parking until it only exists for delivery vehicles. If you want to own a car, you’ll need an off-street space to store it.

    And we should go after people who register their vehicles out of state regardless. Immediately prohibit overnight car storage on public streets if the vehicle is registered in another state. Sure, this makes things less convenient for people visiting relatives, but it’s a small price to pay given the benefits. Quite a few car owners wouldn’t be able to afford their vehicles if they had to pay NYC insurance rates. This would get rid of a bunch of car owners almost overnight.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Yes we are screwed across the board, and our children and grandchildren are screwed worse.

    And Generation Greed keeps taking more, and more, and more, and it’s bi-partisan.

    This is a case, however, where we can actually use Generation Greed’s Greed. Later born generations are, and will always be, vastly worse off. How should that be allocated?

    One way is for them not to have cars. Perhaps the best way. OK, so you’ve been driving you whole life, and will keep doing so until your diminished capacity to do so causes you to kill a child. Fine. New people, however, have to be better than Generation Greed.

    In fact, that’s true across the board.

  • Kimberlymoran10

    I’m sorry you haven’t heard the vast majority of people that live and work in this community don’t want your bike lanes why don’t you take the hint and stay out or better yet take the train or the bus. By the way those were metered parking spots do you think the city is going to give up revenue ? If you were so concerned about the lives of people using bicycles maybe you’d make it required that they will carry license and go through some sort of educational requirement in order to understand the laws so that they’re not blindly going through lights not stopping at stop signs riding on the wrong side of traffic etc.