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DOT Adding Badly Needed Upgrade To Parkside Avenue Bike Lane But Delays Other Life-Saving Fixes

The Department of Transportation will make it safer to turn off of and access the Parkside Avenue bike protected bike lane, but the city is still making neighborhoods south of Prospect Park wait for new protected bike lanes.

12:01 AM EDT on June 19, 2023

This spot of Parkside Avenue is slated for a big safety upgrade. Photo: Dave Colon

This calls for a parade. But a small one.

The protected bike lane on Parkside Avenue along the southern border of Prospect Park will get a new mid-block crossing with concrete pedestrian islands to give cyclists a safe path to the adjacent Parade Grounds, city officials said this month — while proposing a long-delayed painted bike lane network just south of the park in Flatbush, Midwood and Kensington.

In a presentation to the Transportation Committee of Community Board 14 on June 6, the Department of Transportation announced plans to install a mid-block signal with pedestrian islands on the north side of the park-adjacent strip, a half-block from where 25-year-old Kala Santiago died on her bike last year when an off-route truck driver attempted to pass her and killed her instead.

Officials installed a two-way protected bike lane on Parkside Avenue in 2021 between Ocean Avenue and Machate Circle, but neglected to create a safe crossing to the popular Parade Ground area — setting the stage of Santiago's death.

The DOT's plan for improving crossing capacity between Parkside Avenue and the Parade Grounds. Graphic: DOT

The forthcoming safety fix will take about three or four parking spots on each side of the street to allow for safer crossings for pedestrians and create a safe route for cyclists traveling between nearby north-south bike lanes on Argyle and Rugby roads.

DOT's first pitch the network of unprotected lanes for the neighborhood in 2021. Community Board 14 is one of the agency's "priority bike districts," meaning it has little bike infrastructure but a high number of cyclists deaths and injuries.

Between 2019 and 2022, there were an astounding 7,299 crashes in CB 14 killing 13 pedestrians, one cyclist and one motorist and injuring 774 pedestrians, 397 cyclists and 1,983 motorists.

DOT has not proposed a protected bike lane for the district despite the grim statistics. The updated proposal differs slightly from its 2021 edition by shifting some of the proposed painted lanes to nearby blocks and relying less on the use of shared lanes as opposed to bike-only lanes.

The DOT's new proposed painted bike network for Community Board 14. Graphic: DOT

On Cortelyou Road, Dorchester Road, Foster Avenue and Farragut Avenue, DOT will install complementary one-way painted bike lanes to give cyclists eastbound and westbound routes. Avenue L will also receive a westbound painted bike lane. East-west Avenues I, J and M will get will get a combination of painted bike lanes and sharrows.

For north-south connections, DOT wants to put southbound bike lanes on East 12th Street and East 18th Street, and northbound lanes on East 13th Street and East 17th Street.

DOT Project Manager Lauren Martin at the June 6 meeting also broached the possibility of bringing crosstown protected bike lanes to the area, something that attendees of the 2021 meeting where the painted lanes first came up request.

"We know they have benefits we know they are great for safety," Martin said this month. "They calm traffic. They shorten crossing distances they make it comfortable for different comfortability of bike users."

But...

"But we also know that these take up space and they come with trade-offs and they come with a lot of studying to be done," she added. "So we wanted to come to the community and start to talk about these different options and how we look at it in your neighborhood."

Those trade-offs, Martin said, involve losing on-street parking for safety. DOT has identified Dorchester Road — which is getting a painted bike lane in the current plan — along with Ditmas Avenue as possible streets for protected bike lanes.

Possible landing spots for crosstown protected bike lanes in CB14. Graphic: DOT

On Ditmas Avenue, which becomes 18th Avenue west of Coney Island Avenue, the city would need to either convert the street to a one-way eastbound street —which would require moving the westbound B8 bus off the street — keep the street two-way and remove every parking spot on the south side between Ocean Parkway and Flatbush Avenue, Martin said.

Members of CB14 urged DOT to follow through on the potential protected lanes.

"I really appreciate your considering protected lanes," said Elizabeth Denys. "I hear from so many people that that's such an essential route that they don't have an option for and that they do it anyway because it's the best way for them to get there. There maybe aren't good bus connections, or good subway connections to get from their area on the eastern side of our district to a school on the western side or something like that. So I really hope that those proposals can get studied and implemented as soon as possible so that there aren't more deaths or serious injuries."

Another board member said he felt his block could accommodate more than the promised paint on the ground.

"I live on Dorchester and I can tell you that there's a lot of space for the protected bike lane," said Mehdi Heris. "We see so many parents every morning walking the kids on the street and ... we really need a protected bike lane. A parking space is not something that everyone can use [but] a bike lane is something that so many people need and their safety and their life is depending on that."

The most notable opposition to the plan came from Council Member Kalman Yeger, who represents a piece of the CB 14 south of Avenue I. Yeger told attendees he objected to every proposed bike lane in his piece of the district, allegedly in the name of safety.

"There is no block that doesn't have a double parker on it, a double-parked truck at any given moment, and the city hasn't made any effort to remove that and the DOT puts its hands in the air and says, 'Go call the cops, that's not our problem,'" he said. "We've had this conversation 1,000 times so solution isn't let's put it there and then let it be figured out later how the enforcement takes place. The solution is let the enforcement be there, and once it's safe, put the bike lane in. Without that, it's simply not safe."

Yeger's suggestion that a street is essentially immutable until the police begin giving tickets is contradicted by the city's own data that show even painted bike lanes reduce cycling injuries by 32 percent on a given street.

Outside the community board itself, neighborhood safe street advocates said they would be holding the DOT to its promise to come back with a plan for protected lanes.

"We really have to ask, how many pedestrian and bicycling lives are a few parking sports worth, especially during the climate crisis we're in?" Flatbush Streets for People tweeted after the meeting. "We're really looking forward to [the DOT] working on these protected east-west connections and coming back to present them as soon as possible."

As far as next steps, Martin said that the DOT is planning on installing the Parkside Avenue crossing upgrade this summer, and the midblock signal itself in the fall, while the bike network installation is slated to begin this summer and finish next year.

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