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A vicious cycle: Bushwick board not fans of planned bike routes — or bikes, generally

Taking a ride: Bicyclists ride down Myrtle Avenue in Bushwick. The city will give riders a chance to say where they would like new bike lanes at a workshop this weekend.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Talk about a circular argument.

Transportation officials unveiled plans for new bike lanes on several busy Bushwick thoroughfares to the neighborhood’s community board on Wednesday night, but gained little support from panel members who demanded the city crack down on two-wheeled menaces who rampage unchecked through their streets before paving the way for more pedal-pushers.

“When a car hits a biker, they’re going to jail — but when a bike hits a car they don’t want to fix nothing,” said Community Board 4 member Robert Camacho following the Department of Transportation’s presentation. “We’re willing to give you bike lanes, but when something happens, you have to take the fall.”

But department reps said the lane-deficient nabe is already heavily trafficked by cyclists, and the separate paths will help keep both parties safer. More than 700 bike riders make their way down Knickerbocker Avenue on weekend days, for instance, but currently have to maneuver around cars on the busy one-way street.

The city’s plan — developed after a year of consultation with locals — is to install lanes on Irving and Knickerbocker avenues between Cooper Street and Flushing Avenue, as well as on Jefferson Avenue, Cornelia Street, and Hancock Street between Broadway and Wyckoff Avenue.

The bike-averse Bushwickians questioned whether the changes would actually make a difference, however, claiming cyclists in the neighborhood often roll outside the few lanes that already exist and have no regard for the pedestrians and drivers they share the road with.

“They’ll go any which way — whether you have arrows, lights, or whatever,” said Mary McClellan, who called for bikes to be fastened with license plates for easy identification in case one ever mowed her over.

A handful of local cyclists spoke up in favor of the plan, countering that power-mad motorists are the real menace and that lane markings remind them not to plow into innocent bike commuters.

“I believe bike lanes make the road a safer place, not because of the behavior of the cyclists but because of the education of motorists, who are always going to be more dangerous and more belligerent about their right to the road,” said Tucker Sabath. “The minute you put paint on the street, the motorists become more sympathetic to the physical safety of the cyclists.”

After the lengthy debate, the board had to put off voting on the proposal until next month’s meeting because it didn’t have enough members present for a quorum.

If the city goes ahead with the plan, the new lanes will appear this summer and the department will immediately kick off efforts to expand the routes in 2017.

The transportation department will also make an effort to educate bikers and drivers about safe road-sharing before the lanes go in, the reps said — which will include distributing lights, bells, and helmets to cyclists.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.
New routes: The Department of Transportation wants to stick bike lanes on some of the neighborhood’s most heavily-trafficked thoroughfares to provide safe passage for cyclists.
NYC Department of Transportation

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