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Pothole for Lafayette bike lane

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A city plan for a new bike lane in Fort Greene skid to a halt after community objections last month, the latest clash in a winter of discontent about bike lanes across the borough.

The city was cruising toward installing a new cycle path on Lafayette Avenue between Flatbush Avenue and Broadway until the Department of Transportation mysteriously scrubbed the plans two weeks ago.

“It’s off the table for at least the rest of the year,” said Community Board 2 District Manager Robert Perris.

The flat tire came only one week after the city’s Downtown Brooklyn Transportation Coordinator Chris Hrones optimistically presented the bike lane to Community Board 2 as a way of eliminating speeding — and amid increasing controversy over bike lanes in other neighborhoods.

Under the agency’s plan, the Lafayette lane would run eastbound and would complement the westbound lane on DeKalb Avenue. An existing eastbound lane on Willoughby Avenue five blocks north isn’t suitable, cyclists say, because it starts at Fort Greene Park, not at Flatbush Avenue.

“Lafayette is a route we cyclists want to take,” said Caroline Samponaro from Transportation Alternatives, the bike-advocacy group. “But you’re forced to ride in the door zone with speeding cars all around you. It’s totally harrowing.”

Others cyclists agreed that slower auto speeds would benefit everyone.

“It’s not the kind of street that should be used as a thoroughfa­re,” said Cassidy Vale, the owner of Bespoke Bicycles on Lafayette Avenue near S. Elliott Place.

Residents stepped up the effort to get a bike lane last year, prompting a city traffic study that showed a bike lane could help retard drivers and make cyclists safer.

But after subsequent community meetings this January and February the city suddenly downshifted.

“There was not a lot of enthusiasm from Community Board 2 or Community Board 3 about the lane,” said Perris.

“Granted riders who are heading east need to do a little zigging and zagging to get over to Willoughby, but that doesn’t seem like a persuasive argument that a new lane should be created one block to the south.”

Community members were also frustrated that their requests to slow speeding on Lafayette from Flatbush Avenue to Cumberland Street turned into a 2.7-mile-long bike lane.

“Part of [the opposition] was surprised that we’d asked for one thing and we got something that was much grander,” Perris said, adding that the city may revisit the idea in the future.

Whatever the reason, the scrubbed Lafayette Avenue lane is part of an ongoing backlash against cycle paths. The city has embarked on an ambitious plan to build 200 miles of new bike lanes, but increasingly, neighborhood groups have been pushing back.

An anti-bike lane group in Park Slope sued the city this week to dismantle the Prospect Park West bike path. And in the same neighborhood, the city took a pair of lanes on 14th and 15th streets off the agenda of a Community Board 6 meeting after some locals objected.

Meanwhile, Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Canarsie) is pushing a bill that would require public hearings before any bike lane could be installed.

The goal, Fidler has said publicly, is to curtail the city’s free-wheeling approach to cycle paths, which offends some drivers.

Updated 4:32 pm, March 10, 2011: Fixes a misattributed quotation at the bottom.
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Reader Feedback

driver from Fort Greene says:
I'm a fan of bike lanes in general, but this one scares me. When I drive east of Cumberland, there is barely room for two lanes of traffic. I worry that a bike lane will squeeze the cars too much and accidents will happen.
March 9, 2011, 7:59 am
mike from GP says:
driver: Looks like there's room there. When they do projects like this, the DOT measures the street width at all locations along the planned route, and verifies that there'd be room. Traffic will be calmed along the route, which would be nice!
March 9, 2011, 8:29 am
pedestrian from Fort Greene says:
This is disappointing to hear. I was looking forward to watching others use the bike lane, and benefiting from the slower car traffic. I've seen cars shoot up at 50MPH down Lafayette; it's nonsense.
March 9, 2011, 10:57 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
yes, cars need to drive quickly to the next red light.
March 9, 2011, 11:35 am
henry ford from detroit says:
“It’s not the kind of street that should be used as a thoroughfare,” said Cassidy Vale, the owner of Bespoke Bicycles on Lafayette Avenue near S. Elliott Place.

It's not your street to decide. It is a public street and I'm gonna drive my SUV up Lafayette every day to make my point.
March 9, 2011, 5:04 pm
JudahSpechal from Bed-Stuy says:
There are no vehicles doing 50mph on Lafayette it's always pack w/traffic. The distance bet. Fort Greene Park where the Willoughby lane starts & Flatbush Ave are 2 blocks. I am all for more biking but I think St. Sen.Fidler's law make sense. There are 2 lanes of traffic on Lafayette with parking on both sides using one for bike lane will reduce it to one lane for traffic. Has anyone driven on Fulton or Myrtle Ave during rush hour? In a neighbor hood where parking is non existence, can't see giving up a parking lane for seldom used bike lanes. Truth is there are hardly anyone using bike lanes. Bikers are in the minority. Learn to obey traffic laws 1st before more expansion. The Community did not ask for bike lane.

I'm all for Bike lane but this ramming lane down the throat of others is downright undemocratic & if the pro bike crowd don't find another inclusive way to go about it they will continue to lose support. No one likes Dictators, that's what the pro-bike crowd is becoming.
March 9, 2011, 5:56 pm
jonesy from fort greene says:
henry ford from detroit could stand to return to the declining car mecca and take your SUV with you. As a resident of Lafayette Ave, I agree with Cassidy of Bespoke Bicycles that the street needs to be safer for its residents. A bike lane would make for slower traffic, but really, what is the hurry. Take Fulton if you want to show off your speedy SUV.
March 9, 2011, 6:25 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
No argument there JudSpechal. I have been driving on Lafayette Street a number of times to get to events that were going on that in that area. As a matter of fact, I recently went there for the play In the Footprint, which was based on the Atlantic Yards, and comming there at rush hour wasn't so easy. I too am for cyclists learning to have to follow the rules as well as having them getting licensing and registration. I am tired of them behaving like spoiled brats in getting whatever they want whenever they want it. If they keep demonizing the opposition, it will just lead to even more opposition. If they keep up that attitude, there is a good chance that the next administraition will take it away from them, because they will want to show that they are not like Bloomberg.
March 9, 2011, 7:04 pm
Mike says:
Judah, you seem to have trouble counting.

Ashland, St Felix, Ft Greene, S Elliott, S Portland, S Oxford, Cumberland, Carlton. That's 8 blocks, not 2. And they're quite hairy blocks, with very aggressive drivers. Very difficult for all but the most experienced cyclists to maneuver through without feeling bullied.

And Judah, in fact, the community board DID ask for these bike lanes, for the stretch between Flatbush and Carlton, about a year ago, after the problems stemming from their absence were presented to them. Your comments about it being "undemocratic" are completely off base and should be retracted.
March 10, 2011, 12:15 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Seriously, why do bicycles need special lanes just to get around when they can just follow the rules with all the rest to begin with? I am tired of hearing all of the excuses that you can't follow the rules and act as if they don't apply to your kind. This is the reason why many don't want anymore bike lanes. The moment you stop saying that you are holier than thou is when you will start getting allies rather than enemies. Again, ask the people who live right where the bike lanes are, and they will gladly tell you how much they are used. It makes no point of taking away a lane that was used for either traveling or parking just for a small group of people who hardly even use them even when weather permitting. Fidler isn't denying bike lanes, he just wants a more open process. Basically, he believes in populism over elitism, not the other way around.
March 10, 2011, 9:08 pm
m.s. from Fort Greene says:
As a decade-plus NYC cyclist and long-time Fort Greene resident who bikes up Lafayette from Fulton to Washington Ave about twice a week, I fear for my safety on Lafayette as much as, if not more than, on any of the traffic-snarled streets of Manhattan. Many of the cars do not obey the speed limits and do not respect cyclists. Those of us who do all that we can to stay out of their way (and who obey all traffic rules) are constantly put into life and death situations by drivers who think the road is for cars alone. A bike lane up Lafayette would be wonderful for the community and a benefit to the health and safety of cyclists. This postponement is a huge disappointment - particularly with the summer coming and more cyclists sharing the raod.
March 11, 2011, 12:35 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I will not argue about reckless drivers, and I do call them out myself. However, I have hardly ever seen responsible cyclists call out the rogue cyclists except for those on Critical Manners, who were created to call out Critical Mass. I think that the claim is sort of overstated on saying that us drivers don't respect cyclists. NYC is not a place where one can floor the accelerator on local streets, and I know this from experience, but it's also not a place where cyclists can race as if this was the Tour de France either. Salmoning on many of the streets does give little time for the driver to notice them, and it does put the cyclist into harm's way. Still, I only oppose the bike lanes because they are not used largely by cyclists as the streets are for motor vehicles, so why put a lane for just a small number? Statistically, comutting by bicycle is still a very small, and bike ownership isn't that big either. The reason why potholes should take a priority and be fixed is mainly because they are use consntantly compared to the bike lanes. One other thing, I have seen webcams that have shown roads with bike lanes, and while the streets were sometimes packed, the bike lanes were hardly ever used.
March 11, 2011, 6:19 pm
Cliff from Fort Greene says:
Cars are bad for world. They are bad for the environment and bad for the economy and kill over 35,000 people a year, including hundreds in New York City. People should not drive their cars in cities when other alternatives are available. I am both a cyclist and a car owner. I try to drive as little as possible and take public transportation or bike whenever I can. People that use their cars needlessly are selfish, uncaring people.

Bike lanes slow traffic. Fewer people are killed or maimed. That is good. Bike lanes attract more bike riders. That is good. Bike lanes need to be created so that more people feel more comfortable using their bikes. Encouraging bike riding by building more bike lanes is environmentally responsible and could help to save our planet.
March 11, 2011, 8:19 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First off, let's not not stereotype all people who drive cars, because I am sure nobody would like that if this was said to cyclists, so what what you say to others. Some of us drive because we have no access to any mass transit where we live or that our schedules don't go with it. In other words, it makes more sense to drive for us. BTW, there is a company that is making electric cars known as Better Place. If any of you went to that event earlier this month over in Times Square, you would have heard about this. These new cars will not produce any emissions, and there is no need to have it charged overnight, so owning a garage is no longer a necessity to this. However, I guess to some rogue cyclists even this will make them mad, because it's still a car to them. As for bike lanes, this isn't Field of Dreams where if you build it, they will come. Be realistic on this for a second. The city has placed many of these, and they were still hardly used, which is why they are seen as nothing more than a pet project. Don't give the claim that only riding a bicycle is good for the environment, because there are other things to, plus most NYC cyclists weren't drivers to begin with especially when they were mass transit riders, which is hurting another system.
March 12, 2011, 5:53 pm
SWilliams from Ft Greene says:
The idea of a bike lane on Lafayette is scary. For those of you suggesting that bikers are safer that drivers, give me a break. There have been many a days when my daughters and I try to cross Dekalb Avenue only to be nearly run over by a biker riding against the light. Respect the street rules!!!

If you really want to increase the bike lanes in our neighborhood, start to respect pedestrians and maybe we will support you in your efforts.
March 13, 2011, 9:47 pm
Mike says:
SWilliams, the best way to get wrong-way riders off of DeKalb is to provide a safe and legal bike lane going in the correct direction where none now exists. Lafayette is the only logical street where that can happen.
March 14, 2011, 2:16 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Sorry Mike, but SWilliams is right about that. Acting as if the rules don't apply to you isn't going to help you at all except call for more enforcement. Even with the bike lanes, there are still cyclists who tend to disobey the traffic laws and even the signals that were made especially for them. Just yesterday, I was in Times Square and the Rockefeller Center, and I saw a cyclists go down a block on 6th Avenue the wrong way, while another rode through a traffic light over on 8th Avenue. I shouted to them to follow the rules, and they ignored me. Then again, what can I expect from rogue cyclists anyway. This attitude is only going to create more enemies for more oppositions of further bike lanes. BTW, if you happen to read a drivers manual from the DMV, they actually consider bicycles to be vehicles and they are told that drivers have to share the road with them yet they are not licensed or registered like all the rest. Overall, there is a reason why places such as Streetsblog and TA are being looked down upon, and the same can be said about Bloomberg and JSK.
March 15, 2011, 6:38 pm
swilliams from Ft Greene says:
@Mike, Who said they were going the wrong way! The problem is there are bike lanes on Myrtle & Flushing, that are underused, Dekalb is used, but at times cyclists are traveling at a speed that either doesn't allow them to stop for pedestrians or they choose not to because they are trying to get to their destination and don't feel like stopping for lights.

I am all in favor of reducing our carbon footprint, but Fulton and Lafayette don't have cars moving at 50 mph as stated above. There are laws for cyclist too, and until the city enforces I really don't want to entertain the thought of more bike lanes. Share the road!
March 15, 2011, 8:35 pm
Mike says:
When you said "a biker riding against the light" I think I misread that as "riding against traffic". There is a real problem with bicyclists riding against traffic, though, on the part of DeKalb by the park.

I would be happy to share the road if drivers weren't so aggressively trying to force me and other bikers off the road! Riding on Lafayette takes balls of steel. A bike lane would make getting around our neighborhood on a bike safe and approachable for everyone, not just daredevils.

It's ludicrous to refuse to install bike lanes because some bike riders don't follow the law. Should we also remove car lanes every time a driver runs a red light, makes an illegal u-turn, or fails to yield to a pedestrian? Why punish everyone for the actions of a few?

I don't condone bicyclists who fail to yield to pedestrians who have the right of way, and I never do that myself. So why shouldn't I be allowed to get around safely?
March 15, 2011, 9:24 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Mike, just like you are saying that you are not one of those cyclists who acts as if the rules don't apply to them, I don't act that was towards others when I drive. For the record, I have never tried to force cyclists off the road, and I am hardly considered reckless as your Streetsblogger friends claim. Everytime I see a bicycle, I keep a distance from them so I don't hit them. Overall, I do follow the rules a lot, and you should to with your bicycle. When I walk, I don't jaywalk either, I wait for the walk signal, and I don't care about the time either. Nobody is trying to say you can't get around safely, it's just that many streets aren't that wide enough to have a bike lane, and that was learned the hard way when placed in the LES and West Village, which caused them to have traffic. Also, it's very dangerous to make a rolling stop in a major city like NYC especially when this isn't Idaho, and riding into an intersection without stopping can be very dangerous and even kill you. One other thing, a red light isn't a stop sign, and also in NYC, you can't make a turn on red even if it was a right turn, which is allowed in the rest of the US.
March 16, 2011, 6:22 pm
Mike says:
Tal, nobody is talking about (or to) you here. Unfortunately, the vast majority of drivers on Lafayette are not nearly as civil as you claim to be. Your statements are otherwise irrelevant; no one is even talking about rolling stops or turns on red, and they're totally orthogonal to the issues at hand. Stop barging in and changing the subject. Please realize how boorish and out of place your comments are, and try to stay on topic (or go post on the Pleasantville Press website; your comments there might actually be relevant).
March 16, 2011, 10:05 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Mike, first off, you don't get to come here and say who can post here and who can't. If you don't like my comments, then don't read them, because nobody is forcing you to do so. BTW, I would welcome you to places that talk about my town all the time. One of the big reasons why there is opposition to new bike lanes is mainly on the fact that cyclists tend to think that the rules don't apply to them. Another is that many bike lanes are hardly ever used and are seen as a waste of speace in that matter. On the City Room, I have heard from people who live and work near bike lanes and look at them on a daily basis, and notices them hardly ever being used even when the weather was good outside. On a side note, I know that you impersonated me on another topic especially since your comment immediately follows it, and I find that a real low even for you.
March 17, 2011, 7:20 pm
Mike says:
Tal, stop lying. I didn't impersonate you. You've become completely unhinged. None of what you said above is at all relevant. I'm done responding to your nonsense.
March 17, 2011, 11:40 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Another reason why bike lanes are being opposed is mainly because many in the city feel that there is more important things they should be going to rather than this. I am sure you heard about the closing of public schools and teacher layoffs. Also, this is the case with many firehouses, hospitals, and senior centers that are facing closings as well. How is there almost no money for those, but plenty for bike lanes? The reason why Fidler wants hearings on any new bike lanes is because he knows that they are not free, and he doesn't want something just forced on them in favor of a select group. The attitude just makes more enemies to the cyclists group. BTW, I do thank that police for their crackdown on cyclists in Central Park, and I feel that they are doing a good job on that, and I cannot believe how those Streetsbloggers are crying foul on that when they want everyone else to follow the rules except them. On a side note, if you didn't impersonate me, then who did? It was probably someone from Streetsblog or TA.
March 18, 2011, 5:21 pm
Dave from Park Slope says:
Tal, it was probably Bruce Ratner.

The backlash to the backlash is in full swing. Bring on the Lafayette Avenue bike lane!
March 19, 2011, 3:37 am

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