‘Fifth’ dimension: Slope merchants want to eliminate bike lane

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Fifth Avenue ain’t wide enough for the both of us.

That’s the message merchants gave cyclists this week after calling on the city to change the busy commercial strip’s bike-only paths into less-protective shared lanes.

Neighborhood shopkeepers claim that the delineated cycling lanes that run on both sides of Fifth Avenue between Carroll and 24th streets leave drivers and deliverymen with little room to double-park — causing traffic back-ups and making deliveries a daily debacle.

“When people double-park, they have to park outside the bike lane and that brings traffic to a dead stop,” said Irene LoRe, director of the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District and the owner of Aunt Suzie’s restaurant.

LoRe is calling for shared lanes, which are typically implemented on roadways too narrow for traditional bike lanes, like Fifth Avenue north of Carroll Street. Marked with chevrons instead of painted lane barriers, the shared lanes require cyclists to ride amidst automotive traffic.

LoRe’s proposal gained traction with Community 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman.

“The bike lane enhances safety and security for the bicyclists, but right now, businesses are unable to conduct their business,” said Hammerman, who sent a memo to the Department of Transportation encouraging the agency to consider converting the lanes into shared paths.

The proposal — which was first reported on the transit tracking Web site Streetsblog — has earned the ire of bikers, who say it would actually encourage double parking, which is illegal whether it’s in a bike lane or a moving lane.

“The problems on Fifth Avenue have nothing to do with the bike lane,” said Wiley Norvell, the spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, a pro-biking group. “Double-parking is illegal because it is dangerous and it impedes traffic flow. Now people are looking for a scenario that makes it easier to double-park?”

For its part, the city has expressed no interest in installing the shared cycling and driving lanes in place of the current the bike paths — which hosted 865 cyclists in a single 12-hour sample last fall, according Department of Transportation spokesman Seth Solomonow.

“Changing it from the lane to a shared bike route would diminish the effectiven­ess,” he said.

But Solomonow noted that his agency — which is in the midst of a parking study on congestion in Park Slope — isn’t unsympathetic to drivers and merchants.

“We have a working group looking at that and we are going to come up with some options,” he said.

— with Jacob Kleinman

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Reader Feedback

Mike from Ft Greene says:
The BID's position doesn't make any sense (and, as reported by Streetsblog, is not representative of many merchants). Double-parking is just as illegal whether the bike lane is there or not. The real problem is that street parking is too cheap, so people park there for a long time (including merchants who feed the meters) and there's no room for trucks to unload.

The solution here? Designated loading zones, higher meter prices.

Taking the bike lane away would reduce safety without addressing the actual problem of curbside space availability.
June 12, 2009, 10:47 pm
sid from Boerum Hill says:
its not illegal to double park when actually unloading. The rule is you can double park and unload to the curb and then move the car/truck. Designated loading zones take away from the merchants having people able to park. Unless you make the loading zones only 7-10 am(like they do in Chinatown) then the area becomes meters. Higher meter prices are being put into effect. Its easier when they have muni meters since those can be remotely programed.
It is illegal to block a designated bike lane while unloading. so to be legal you have to double park outside the bike lane thus really screwing up traffic on a narrow street.
June 13, 2009, 4:49 am
Mike from Ft Greene says:
"Designated loading zones take away from the merchants having people able to park."

Get real. No one is driving to Fifth Ave in order to shop -- or if anyone is, they're completely overwhelmed by the number of people who come by foot and bike. Getting rid of a necessary safety measure out of a misperception about where customers come from would be a huge mistake.
June 13, 2009, 1:34 pm
sid from Boerum Hill says:
except that designated loading zones will be taken up by other commercial vehicles-other than the ones making delivery to the merchants. Mike you really don't know what you are talking about. that is what happens for real not some pie in the sky unworkable time think before you type.
June 13, 2009, 11:06 pm
Mike from Ft Greene says:
There's a big difference between a designated loading zone and commercial vehicle parking. Anyway, it's a lot easier to try that than to rip up a bike lane. So why not try it?
June 13, 2009, 11:10 pm
Steven from Kensington says:
As far as deliveries are concerned, these businesses open up on a busy avenue to attract the significant foot traffic found there. It's a trade off: they all knew the difficulties of making deliveries on the avenue, so why are they whining? It's the cost of doing business in a busy area. If they don't like it, let them open up on a side street or in a less congested neighborhood.

In the meantime, the way to reduce congestion is 1)to ticket double parking--all of it--commercial and otherwise and 2)to improve public transportation so that it is actually a viable alternative within the borough instead of the last resort of the poor and carless.
June 14, 2009, 9:37 am
jooltman from Park Slope says:
An Open Letter to Craig Hammerman re 5th Avenue bike lanes:

The merchants who control the 5th Avenue BID and encourage the destruction of the Class II bike lane on that avenue do not represent the prevailing sentiment of the community at large. Most Community Board 6 residents understand that a viable system of Class II and higher bike lanes is vital to the future of NYC. It’s a simple matter of sustainability.

As you may know, one of the main initiatives of PlaNYC is to promote sustainable modes of transportation such as cycling. In fact, the 2009 PlaNYC Progress Report features the addition of 80.9 miles of bicycle lanes as one of the city’s proudest achievements! Why should a few self-interested merchants -- who are simply misguided in blaming cyclists for their suppliers receiving double-parking tickets -- set back a citywide initiative that has massive, multiple agency support? The merchants’ concerns surely pale in comparison with the future of our city’s well-being. Fortunately, they can be solved through creative transportation solutions (dedicated loading zones on every block!) that in no way impact the existing bike lane.

A New York with bike lanes is one that will survive into the next century, a city whose residents will be healthy and happy enough to frequent the stores along 5th Avenue and throughout the five boroughs. It’s time for big picture thinking when it comes to improving our environment and economy, and Community Board 6 should lead the way despite the loud roaring of dinosaurs.
June 14, 2009, 3:49 pm
David Edelman from Park Slope says:
The bike lane does absolutely nothing to impede double-parking. Take a look at all of the trucks double-parked in the bike lane on any given day and this is apparent.

The merchants and CB6 should be calling for dedicated loading zones on the curbside, not destruction of a facility that calms traffic and makes clean, sustainable transportation safer and more viable.

The 5th Avenue BID is well aware that the vast majority of business on 5th Avenue is done on foot, by bus, bike and subway. The merchants only want to preserve their OWN parking spaces. Their customers are, for the most part, not coming by car.

Craig Hammerman is an absolute traitor to his community and Irene DeRoe is complete out to lunch. Has she even queried her own members about this issue? Has she collected any real data or information to quantify the problem? Obviously not. Someone put Hammerman and DeRoe out to pasture already. They are both totally out of touch with their community. They represent the neighborhood's past, not its future.
June 15, 2009, 12:40 pm
Chris from Park Slope says:
What a bunch of rubbish! As a merchant on 5th Ave i say LEAVE THE BIKE LANE ALONE! More people travel along 5th ave at a speed that they can see the stores rather than increasing the street again so cars can race down there. We have a bunch of customers that arrive by bike, good for business, good for the enviroment & good for the soul! Why the hell do we have a BID anyway? We wash down our sidewalk regularly, powerwash the gum off Monthly & clean it several times a day, any graffiti that appears disappears the same day. $400 for Christmas lights? Who is getting the kick back on this one i wonder?
June 15, 2009, 12:53 pm
Mirza from Sunset Park says:
“When people double-park, they have to park outside the bike lane and that brings traffic to a dead stop,”

I have never seen a truck parked outside the bike lane. It is amazing to see someone who has seemingly allied herself with a "green" movement in Brooklyn call for pro automobile measures that endanger bicyclists and encourage pollution. Shared bike lanes are a joke. If Irene LoRe was a cyclist or knew anyone who rode their bike down 5th Ave on a regular basis, she would know the plain and simple facts about bike lanes. Shame on her and Craig Hammerman for helping to destroy our neighborhoods.
June 15, 2009, 2:39 pm
bike built for 2 from Slope says:
If the 5th ave merchants changes the bike lane to make it more unsafe than it is, I'LL NEVER shop on 5th ave again.... it's that simple....
June 15, 2009, 3:57 pm
Eric B from Park Slope says:
This is rediculous. Sadly, the proprietor of Aunt Suzie's restaurant, who has been in business in the neighborhood for _many_years, is unsure of who her customers are. I have biked to dinner at Aunt Suzie's many times, as well as many restaurants and stores on 5th Ave, and each time I enjoy the comfort and safety of the painted bike lane.

I hereby call for a boycott of Aunt Suzie's restaurant by the community until Irene LoRe recognizes the important role that bike lanes and bicyclists play in delivering diners to 5th Avenue. She should drop this ridiculous line of protest, and instead try to make bicycling SAFER in park slope for her customers and neighbors.
June 15, 2009, 4:32 pm
Slopester from Slope says:
Let's take ALL of our business to 7th ave....
June 15, 2009, 5:15 pm
lulu from Park Slope says:
Take away the bike lane. Bikers will still ride in the middle of the street with the bike lane and all. And oh, take every red light they can.
June 16, 2009, 11:26 am
Melle from Park Slope says:
People (not just delivery vehicles) illegally double-park all over this city regardless of bike lanes, yet bike lanes do provide a safer environment for bikes and cars to share the road. I don't see how getting rid of the bike lane offers any sort of solution for the parking issue. These merchants should worry more about keeping customers coming through their doors, many of whom arrive via bicycle.
June 16, 2009, 2:44 pm

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