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Cycling Advocates To DOT: Great Bedford Avenue Bike Lane Plan, Here’s How To Make It Better

Cyclists wait to make the transition from the east. side of Bedford Avenue to the west side of the block. Photo: Dave Colon

It's a great start, can it be a great finish?

Cycling advocates in Brooklyn gave the Department of Transportation high marks for its proposed protected bike lane upgrade on Bedford Avenue, but said there's a couple of tweaks that can turn it from good to great.

The Transportation Alternatives Brooklyn Activist Committee told the DOT in a letter this month that it could improve the project that the agency pitched to Brooklyn Community Boards 3 and 8 by, most important, by taking the step of totally eliminating northbound traffic on Bedford between Dean Street and Bergen Street.

Cyclists headed north on that block of Bedford will need to transition from a bike lane on the east side of the street between Bergen and Dean to the bike lane on the west side of Bedford by merging across northbound traffic. The DOT proposes to make this transition more apparent to cyclists and drivers by painting a midblock transition to a bike box on the south end of the Dean and Bedford intersection.

Simply eliminating northbound car traffic on that one-block stretch would solve that problem, the committee wrote in a letter signed by TA Brooklyn Organizer Kathy Park-Price and Brian Howald and Sam Anderson, the co-chairs of the TA Brooklyn Activist Committee.

"As currently proposed, the new bike throughway at this intersection would have cyclists cross moving traffic when the bike lane switches from the east side of the street to the west," the letter said. "This is an unacceptable safety risk. It creates points of conflict for all road users, offering no safety improvement to the current street design. To mitigate these hazards, we suggest: Eliminating northbound traffic on Bedford Avenue between Dean Street and Bergen Street."

Traffic along that block could easily move to northbound Rogers Avenue, which intersects with Bedford at Dean Street, and is consumed by it. Former DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo, now a private citizen living in Crown Heights, testified in support of the northbound traffic ban when Community Board 8 received DOT's presentation in April.

"The community board needs to take some leadership and say that northbound Bedford Avenue isn't really needed for traffic," Russo said. "Traffic coming north on Bedford Avenue is quite light, and unfortunately since it's light, it does proceed at a high speed. It could jog over to Rogers at multiple locations. St. Marks, one block south is a place you could jog over to Rogers, Park Place you could jog over to Rogers and we could close northbound Bedford between Bergen and Dean to general traffic."

Getting rid of northbound traffic on Bedford would require removing a handful of parking spots next to the statue of Gen. Ulysses Grant at the Bedford and Rogers confluence, but it would not interfere with the MTA's bus operations since the B44 runs north on Rogers instead of Bedford.

But if the DOT doesn't want to take the boldest step it can, the letter suggests the agency can at least add a delayed traffic signal that allows cyclists to cross to the west side of the street at Bedford and Bergen.

The activist klatch also told the DOT to make sure that the agency doesn't skimp on its safety offerings for the truly hellish intersection of Bedford and Atlantic Avenue where pedestrians and cyclists currently need to cross seven lanes of traffic. The DOT has promised to upgrade the west side crossing by installing a concrete midblock pedestrian island, but the letter suggested a few ways to ensure the pedestrian island does the most it can.

One suggestion is to add a pedestrian and cyclist-only crossing period, and a left turn traffic signal in order to cut down on potential conflicts with motor vehicles. In addition, the letter asks that the DOT truly build out the midblock crossing using concrete instead of using a quick curb and building it out so it encompasses the bike lane, which the letter suggests could provide additional protection and keep westbound traffic turning left from cutting the corner.

Ultimately, the letter does emphasize that the activist committee supports the project, which it sees as the first step in a larger effort to protect all ten miles of Bedford Avenue, from Sheepshead Bay to Greenpoint.

"We ... express our support for DOT’s proposed Bedford Avenue protected bike lane. The increased protection for people riding bikes on Bedford Avenue is a step toward creating a safer and more accessible transportation system in our city," they wrote.

DOT spokesman Vin Barone said the agency would review the proposal.

"DOT is excited to deliver this project to enhance safety for all road users on this critical cycling corridor," he said. "We are exploring options for a southbound pair to Bedford Avenue and appreciate the specific feedback on our Bedford proposal."

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