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Cycling Groups Sound Alarm that More of Ocean Parkway Bike Path is Falling Apart

9:25 AM EST on March 2, 2022

A cyclist heads towards Ocean Parkway’s cracked pavement, which has spread north of Avenue R. We added “Danger” tape to make it more dramatic. Photo: Jon Orcutt

The rot is spreading.

While cyclists wait (and wait and wait) for the city to start repairs on a notoriously cracked up southern stretch of the Ocean Parkway greenway, bike advocates are pointing out that the path is breaking apart in even more sections.

In a letter sent to the Parks Department and the Department of Transportation, advocacy organizations Bike New York and Bike South Brooklyn pointed out that the problems are no longer mostly just between Avenues R and X.

"Asphalt is heaving and cracking at many points from the northern end of the bikeway to Avenue R," the groups wrote in their letter, with attached photos of craggy asphalt at Beverly Road, 18th Avenue, Lawrence Avenue and Avenue M (one of which is below). "These conditions will worsen as long as they are not repaired or addressed."

An unwanted off-roading bike experience at Avenue M and Ocean Parkway. Photo via Jon Orcutt
Now: An unwanted off-roading bike experience at Avenue M and Ocean Parkway. Photo: Jon Orcutt

The bike path now has the distinction of being broken up on both ends, like a restaurant diner who first didn't enjoy a meal and then ended up with dysentery from it.

"The northern part isn't as bad as the southern section, but it shouldn't have been allowed to get as bad as it has on the northern section," said Bike South Brooklyn Co-Founder Brian Hedden. "I wouldn't want to go through this as a years-long issue that can only get fixed if it gets attention from City Council members and then gets thrown into the capital project grind."

Cyclists have to be part rider and part mountain climber on the Ocean Parkway greenway. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Last year: Cyclists must be part rider and part mountain climber on Ocean Parkway. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Another piece of the bike path falling apart while cyclists are stuck waiting until 2023 for repairs on the southern piece of the bike path does more than just create increasingly dangerous conditions for cyclists. As the city tries to position itself for federal and state funding to finally finish a massive citywide greenway project, the parkway of broken dreams leaves serious questions as to whether the Parks Department is up to the task of managing an even bigger portfolio of bikeways.

And broken pavement is not merely an inconvenience for cyclists — it can be deadly. Late last month, Lin Wen-Chiang hit some rough pavement on a quiet Queens street, fell off his bike, struck his head and died. Records indicate that the city had been warned repeatedly about the small sinkhole — yet had done nothing about it.

"We think Parks' inability to move projects like these or stay ahead of decay poses big problems for an expanded citywide greenway system," said Bike New York Advocacy Director Jon Orcutt. "Park projects take so long, the department doesn't appear to have any kind of routine for fixing path surfaces akin to DOT's roadway operation, or even clearing them in the winter."

The letter asked Parks to make long range plans to take care of its greenways so that they only needed an occasional repaving instead of letting things lapse into such disrepair they need major capital work done to make things right.

But the advocates didn't only train their ire on the Parks Department. The groups also urged the DOT to finally solve the issue of the diagonal slip street that cross the bike path at inopportune moments. The city's main attempt to deal with the the slip street designs, which invite drivers to speed through intersections without signals, has been to put up signs asking cyclists to get off their bikes and walk which the advocates point out is both unrealistic and discriminatory.

"Needless to say, the presence of 'Walk Your Bike' signs along a major bikeway — indeed, America’s first-ever bike path — is a big embarrassment to the city’s avowed efforts to encourage bike use and to keep bike riders safe," the groups wrote, before pointing out that the designs are completely hostile to people just trying to use a bike path for what it's intended for, i.e. riding a bike.

The letter encouraged the city to update the slip lane designs to the ones that the city uses on Queens Boulevard, which require drivers to come to a full stop before they cross the bike lane. Without such a design, or one that closes off the slip lanes entirely, the bike path's spiritual soul is as wounded as its physical one, Hedden said.

"This design really says that the Ocean Parkway greenway isn't living up to the promise of being something that anyone of any skill level or age can ride on, or the promise of being the nation's first dedicated bike path," he said.

The Department of Transportation and Parks Department did not respond to requests for comment.

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