Bay Ridge pressures city to kill bike lane

Some cyclists are bummed that the Department of Transportation pulled its controversial plan to install a bike lane along Bay Ridge Parkway.
Photo by Bob Hacken

In Bay Ridge, the cars are taking back the mean streets.

The city is putting the brakes on a controversial set of bike lanes on Bay Ridge Parkway that residents claim was being forced on an unsupportive neighborhood.

The bike path, part of an ongoing city plan to install 200 miles of new bike lanes in the next three years, would have stretched three miles between Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst to Shore Road in Bay Ridge.

A second lane proposed for Shore Road between Fourth Avenue and 68th Street is reportedly still in the works, despite community opposition. The city says that the new lanes would provide safety for cyclists while decreasing automobile speeds.

But Community Boards 10 and 11 protested the two new routes, arguing that the city has gone too far in accommodating the two-wheeled menaces.

“We had a long list of safety and traffic concerns,” said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann. “Bay Ridge Parkway is already tends to become gridlocked and is accident-prone.”

She said that Bay Ridge Parkway had an average of about 10 pedestrian-involved accidents each year from 1995 to 2005.

Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D–Dyker Heights) went further: “The Bay Ridge Parkway bike lane was a disaster waiting to happen. It would have actually made it more dangerous for drivers, pedestrians and bikers — all of whom would be competing for too little space on what is already too narrow a road.”

The stretch of Bay Ridge Parkway is actually substantially wider than normal city streets. Abbate did not provide evidence for his fears.

Indeed, some locals were disappointed by the city’s bike lane balk.

“Bike lanes slow down traffic,” said Maureen Landers, a founding member Bay Ridge Advocates Keeping Everyone Safe, a pro-bike group. “To make the argument that Bay Ridge Parkway is too dangerous for bikers so we can’t put bike lanes on it seems counter-intuitive to me. Bike lanes would make it less dangerous.”

But Landers added that she isn’t surprised that the community was able to strong-arm the city into pulling its plan.

“Bay Ridge has a very strong and vocal driving culture,” she said. “They’re a bit slow to respond to the progress made in other neighborhoods.”

Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio jumped in on the side of the drivers to which Landers was referring.

“I commend the [city] for responding to community concerns by halting its plans,” he said in a statement. “This was an important step forward that shows a willingness to respect the input of residents and community leaders.”

The Bay Ridge Parkway bike lane blockage is the latest in a borough-wide series of bike lane showdowns. Recent flare-ups include the lawsuit against Prospect Park West bike lane, which was countered with cyclists riding in support of the lane on Sunday.

Throughout Southern Brooklyn, the battles over bike lanes have been just as fierce. Over the past year, at least three neighborhoods protested the city’s quest to create an inter-borough network of bicycle lanes.

In Manhattan Beach, Community Group president Ira Zalcman said he’d sue the city for painting a bike lane down Oriental Boulevard in 2009, claiming it added to the confusing traffic patterns on the strip.

In Gerritsen Beach, the city was planning to put bicycle lanes along Gerritsen Avenue in October, 2009, but blocked it after Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Canarsie) threatened legislation that would have the route removed once it was put in. Fidler also called for legislation that would require more community hearings before a new bike lane is installed.

And in Canarsie, Community Board 18 has shot down the city’s plan to put bicycle lanes on both E. 94th and E. 95th streets which would connect East Flatbush and the Canarsie Pier.

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