A sharrow escape! City plans dedicated bike lane on Lafayette Avenue

A sharrow escape! City plans dedicated bike lane on Lafayette Avenue
Sharing is not caring: Cyclists on Lafayette Street currently have to share the lane with traffic — a dangerous combination according to critics.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

They’re finally drawing the line.

The city plans to create a dedicated bike lane on Lafayette Avenue through Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, delighting cycling activists who have been demanding a safer way to peddle the congested street for years.

“It’s a route that people want to take, but it’s a scary street to bike on as it is now,” said Caroline Samponaro, deputy director for pro-bike group Transportation Alternatives.

Transportation officials plan to employ the traffic-calming measure between Fulton Street and Classon Avenue, turning one of the one-way Bedford-Stuyvesant-bound street’s two moving lanes into a dedicated peddling path, with some painted asphalt in-between the two species and parking lanes flanking the road.

The plan — which would mirror a buffered bike lane on DeKalb Avenue — also calls for expanding the parking lane on the car side of the street in an effort to dissuade drivers from double-parking in the narrower one next to the bike path.

The city had planned to make the change back in 2010 — and extend it all the way through Bedford-Stuyvesant to Broadway — but scrapped the scheme due to lack of enthusiasm from local community boards and broader anti-bike-lane sentiment sweeping the borough at the time.

Instead, it painted road markings on one of the lanes — so-called “sharrows” — indicating that it was a shared path for two and four-wheelers. But locals kept up the pressure for a lane of their own.

Samponaro said inexperienced cyclists are especially vulnerable when riding in the midst of fast-moving traffic, because they typically cruise closer parked cars and inadvertently put themselves at risk of “doorings” — when passengers open their car door unexpectedly, knocking cyclists off their bikes and sometimes into oncoming traffic.

But even experienced cyclists say riding bumper to mudguard is a hair-raising experience on Lafayette Avenue.

“There are sections of Lafayette now that are a little sketchy because it’s shared,” said Jason McMahon a Williamsburg resident who works at bicycle store Bike Slug in Bedford-Stuyvesant near Lafayette Avenue and cycles on the stretch often. “It would be great to have a bike lane.”

Between 2010 and 2015, 24 cyclists and 27 pedestrians sustained injuries on the road — three of them seriously, according to city data.

Community Board 2 — one of the aforementioned apathetic panels — voted to approve the new lane plan on Feb. 10. Some members were concerned that losing a car lane will back-up traffic and make it more difficult for residents to find parking, but those in favor said that slightly slower driving speeds are a fair trade-off for bike safety.

“It might make it so you can’t speed, but there will be more lives saved,” said board member Hilda Cohen.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Reimagined: This diagram shows the current (inset) and proposed lanes for Lafayette Avenue.
NYC Department of Transportation

More from Around New York