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Heights cars hurt bicyclists

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Complaining about parking in Brooklyn Heights is about as popular as bashing A-Rod.

But as annoying as it is for drivers to circle block after block looking for that golden spot, bicyclists face a much bigger threat from the parking crunch than a modest dose of road rage.

That’s because of double parking, an obvious repercussion of the crunch on single parking.

As more and more vehicles jockey for street space, bikes are forced to swerve around double-parked vehicles. They then contend with traffic while veering around the side of a parked car, SUV or delivery truck.

Lately, double-parking has been even more of an issue. The Saint Ann’s kindergarten, on Henry Street between Clark and Pierrepont streets, is routinely home to several cars obstructing the bike lane, often Land Rovers lined up to retrieve their owners’ tots.

But the private-school toddlers aren’t the only ones to blame.

UPS trucks consistently double-park on residential streets in Brooklyn Heights.

“We need to keep commerce moving,” said Dan McMackin, a UPS spokesman based in Atlanta. “If we are ticketed, then that’s part of the cost of doing business. But we do train drivers not to park in marked lanes.”

But double-parking exists in and out of bike lanes, and so do those big brown trucks.

One way to combat the issue on a local level is to more vigilantly issue tickets. Even if it doesn’t create a fundamental shift, if even a handful of drivers stop hovering in front of businesses and schools, it would be a help.

Judy Stanton, the executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, doesn’t agree.

“There are certain circumstances when you have to double-park,” she said. “If you’re dropping someone off, or running in to grab something.”

Wiley Norvell, of Transportation Alternatives, also thinks ticketing is futile. “Enforcement is great when it comes, but seldom lasts forever,” said Norvell. “Double-parking is a 365 day, 24-hour problem, and we have to recognize the shortcomings of enforcement.”

If upping the amount of tickets distributed for double-parking is not enough to solve the problem, then we must address the bigger issue — there are simply too many cars and not enough street space. One possible solution is residential parking permits, Stanton said.

“It’s time for the Department of Transportation to start thinking about how to do it,” said Stanton. “New Yorkers have this entrenched view that the streets are free. But other cities have found parking permits to be environmentally sensible, traffic calming and congestion reducing.”

Stanton hopes parking permits will be low-cost for residents, but significantly more expensive for those with second and third cars and for violations.

The city, which was dead set against the idea last year, said recently that it will consider residential permit parking as part of the PlaNYC congestion pricing initiative.

From a biker’s perspective, more vacancy make for safer driving conditions. But safety still depends on how people actually use the street.

“Our streets are only so wide,” Norvell said. “These bike lanes are for optimal conditions in a fantasy world where no one double-parks.”

Juliana Bunim is a writer who lives in Brooklyn Heights.

The Kitchen Sink

Congratulations to the Village Voice for finally recognizing that big body of land across the river. But the Manhattan-based free weekly still got in a little snark by naming DUMBO “the best Manhattan neighborhood in Brooklyn” in its latest Best of New York issue. Thanks for nothing, guys.

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