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Protected Bike Lanes Are (Finally) Coming To Car-Centric Dyker Heights

The southern Brooklyn area severely lacks safe street infrastructure.

Photo: DOT|

DOT plans to make Seventh Avenue in Dyker Heights more bike and pedestrian friendly.

The city will install nearly a mile of protected bike lanes on Seventh Avenue in Dyker Heights this summer, bringing much-needed safety upgrades to a section of southern Brooklyn with virtually no safe cycling routes on roadways.

The Department of Transportation's proposal [PDF] pitched the redesign as a school safety project, given the adjacent private school Poly Prep and an incoming middle school that will open at 86th Street in the fall. There is also an outpost of Maimonides Hospital and a Veterans Affairs hospital.

Yet the neighborhood and its adjacent areas like Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst have no protected bike lanes on roadways beyond several greenway bike paths, and DOT has long held off on extending safe cycling paths into the area.

"Two schools, two hospitals, lots of buses, trucks — definitely a lot going on in this area," Alex Ussery, a project manager for school safety at DOT, told Community Board 10's Traffic and Transportation Committee on June 12. "We’ve received some concerns from the community and various elected officials specifically regarding safety around students getting to and from Poly Prep, and the new school that’s going to be opening up in the fall."

The change is much needed on Seventh Avenue which is a hotspot for speeding. And, as a deep investigation by Streetsblog in 2022 found, streets near schools are uniquely dangerous, with crash and injury rates exceeding city averages.

DOT plans to replace the current painted bike lanes between 86th and Poly Place on each side and move them to the east curb, making for a two-way protected lane bordered by painted buffer and parking parking. The agency will also add a five-foot painted sidewalk extension to give pedestrians more room.

DOT plans to install the two-way protected bike lane along the east curb. Graphic: DOT

The three-quarter-mile corridor is a hunting ground for speeding drivers and motorists doing donuts at some of its wider sections. There have been 110 crashes with injuries in the last four years, plus one fatality, according to DOT stats.

When agency workers recently visited the site to log motorist speeds, all drivers were going over the speed limit, averaging 43 miles per hour, with the 85th percentile going a whopping 50 miles per hour — double the citywide limit.

"Everybody within an hour that we checked was speeding, and it was some pretty high speeds, so that was definitely concerning," Ussery told CB 10.

Well above half (59 percent) of crashes that injured pedestrians were instances where the walkers had a signal.

The foot paths are so narrow that joggers routinely run in the street's painted bike lanes, and pedestrians have to traverse the 60-foot wide thoroughfare to get to the other side. There are slip lanes at Parrott Place and at Poly Place that encourage faster driving and donuts for the latter space, which is wide open.

DOT cited tire marks as evidence of donuts at Seventh Avenue and Poly Place.Photo: DOT

DOT will close those two driver shortcuts to motorists, creating more space for pedestrians and calming unruly traffic behaviors, one local advocate hoped.

"You get a lot of people down there drag racing and doing donuts," said John Tomac, of Bike South Brooklyn. "Hopefully you won’t get the guys out there doing their 'Fast and Furious' impressions."

The agency will also install concrete bus boarding islands along Seventh Avenue to replace the current stops that are little more than mounds of dirt along the sidewalk, which aren't fully accessible for people in wheelchairs.

On 86th Street, where many cars come off the Gowanus Expressway, DOT plans to give pedestrians more of a heads up with walk signals, a design known as leading pedestrian intervals, and the incoming Middle School 407 at the corner of Seventh and 86th will build out a corner extension as part of its construction.

All told, the changes will remove 28 car parking spots in favor of the pedestrian and bike safety upgrades.

Locals at the community board meeting were largely not pleased with the plans, however, which came as no surprise given the area's history of hostility toward projects that inconvenience drivers and prioritize safety for people on foot or bike.

"The lack of protected lanes down here is kind of glaring and it’s the sort of thing where the only reason those sorts of connections don’t exist which is because you have a community board boundary," said Tomac.

The area's protected bike lanes are largely at the margins.Map: DOT

The Fourth Avenue protected bike lane, which runs south from Atlantic Avenue famously ends abruptly at the Community Board 10 border.

"Every morning I travel along Seventh Avenue to get on the Belt Parkway. Today there were 41 trucks — 41 — and you want to take away 28 parking spots? You’re ridiculous," said one public speaker named Margaget. "The bike lane is another joke-and-a-half. They’re not in the bike lane majority of the time, they’re weaving in and out, they really don’t care. And you just really want to do this damage."

However, one Bay Ridge resident said DOT must go further to ensure cyclists don't take their lives into their hands on the southern Brooklyn streets.

"That area is extremely car-centric, there’s no biking or pedestrian safety infrastructure," said the speaker, who gave his first name as Constantin. "We desperately need these changes. This proposal is beautiful, it’s exactly what our community needs, and I would really urge the DOT to do more, especially on Fourth Avenue, connecting Sunset Park down to Cannonball Park [at the southern end of Bay Ridge]."

DOT plans to begin installing the upgrade over the summer and wrap it up later in the fall, according to spokeswoman Mona Bruno.

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