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Prospect Lefferts Gardens

Community Board Wants Protected Bike Lane on Empire Blvd.

Brooklyn Community Board 9 wants city to upgrade Empire Boulevard's frequently blocked bike lane, which serves as a gateway to Prospect Park.

Dave Colon|

They say there’s a bike lane on Empire Boulevard. But people always park on it.

Excelsior!

A Brooklyn community board wants city to upgrade the frequently blocked bike lane on Empire Boulevard that serves as a gateway to Prospect Park and bring some much needed road safety to a neighborhood Vision Zero forgot.

Brooklyn Community Board 9 passed a resolution last week asking the Department of Transportation to build a protected bike lane on Empire, an east-west road that leads to Prospect Park and connects to the southern end of the Flatbush Avenue protected bike lane and the northern end of the planned Ocean Avenue sidewalk bike lane.

The resolution, passed on April 18, asks the DOT to extend the current painted bike lane, which runs from East New York Avenue to Bedford Avenue, west to Flatbush Boulevard and upgrade it to a "vehicle-protected" lane.

CB 9 was instrumental in getting the existing painted bike lane added to the block in 2009 when its pushed the DOT to include it in a traffic calming project. But that was 15 years ago — today drivers park in the fading painted bike without fear of penalty or enforcement, so the board is now asking for an upgrade.

And Empire could use safety upgrades. The the block — once known as Malbone Street until a notorious train wreck — continues to pay unfortunate tribute to its history. Between 2021 and 2023, there have been 406 crashes on the 1.7 miles of Empire Boulevard between Flatbush Avenue and East New York Avenue, injuring 29 cyclists, 52 pedestrians and 158 motorists.

Two cyclists and two pedestrians have also died on the corridor since August 2011, according to city data. The crashes — along with Empire Boulevard's direct connection to Prospect Park — has neighborhood residents saying it's time for a change.

"I have two kids on my bike and the five-year-old is desperate to ride a bike this summer, especially to camp at Prospect Park," said Dave "Paco" Abraham.

"It's crazy that I live a half mile from the entrance and can't fathom her biking to it because infrastructure here hasn't kept up with the rest of the city at all. Improvements on Empire are long overdue."

A cyclist navigates traffic on Empire Boulevard where the bike lane doesn't exist.Dave Colon

Bordered by Eastern Parkway and Clarkson Avenue to the north and south, and Rochester Avenue and Ocean Avenue to the east and west, Community Board 9 currently has zero miles of protected bike lanes.

There are plenty of unprotected painted lanes, though, including Bedford Avenue and crosstown lanes on Lincoln Road and Maple Street. In 2017, the board rejected a DOT proposal to install another painted lane on Franklin Avenue — opting to maintain an extra-wide parking lane instead.

Local electeds and advocates have also pushed for the city to protect the Bedford Avenue bike lanes, but the DOT has yet to propose any such improvements for the district. A proposal to upgrade the bike lane on Bedford further north has stalled in recent months.

Despite its relatively small geographic size, CB 9 has seen plenty of carnage in the last few years. Between 2021 and 2023, there were 3,713 crashes in the district leading to the deaths of 6 pedestrians and 2 motorists and injuries to 216 cyclists, 369 pedestrians and 1,390 motorists.

The block is repped almost entirely by Council Members Rita Joseph and Crystal Hudson, and Hudson expressed enthusiastic support for the resolution.

"Our office is aware of the resolution," said Hudson spokesperson Alejandro Gonzalez. "It's great news and a necessary step to protect cyclists and pedestrians on Empire Boulevard. We hope DOT will hear the members of CB9 and take steps to expeditiously add a much-needed protected bike lane along this corridor."

Council Member Joseph and the DOT did not respond to a request for comment.

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