Bike lane to the danger zone: Hundreds support Flatbush Ave. plan, but predict uphill battle against drivers

Bike lane to the danger zone: Hundreds support Flatbush Ave. plan, but predict uphill battle against drivers
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

It’ll be the new Prospect Park West bike lane — for more reasons than one!

Hundreds of cyclists are demanding the city build a bike lane along Flatbush Avenue through Prospect Park in a new petition — but locals predict longtime residents and motorists in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods nearby will fight the plan, just as they did in the years-long battle over the park-adjacent bike lane in Park Slope.

“It’s a great proposal,” said Community Board 9 member and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens resident Tim Thomas, who signed the petition. “[But] I think it will create a lot of negative feelings from longtime residents and drivers, not unlike the ‘fight’ on the other side of the park,”

Since the petition went online three weeks ago, some 900 people have added their digital John Hancocks, telling the city to build a two-way pedaling path protected by a line of parked cars between Grand Army Plaza and Empire Boulevard — which would likely end up taking space from vehicle traffic.

The “affluent” side of the park already has its lane on Prospect Park West — powerful locals sued to nix it, but proponents finally won the six-year court battle in September — and Lefferts Gardens and Crown Heights riders who use Flatbush Avenue to get to and from their homes are sick of dodging drivers who treat the park-spanning roadway like it is the Indy 500, said the petition author.

“You have to worry about speeding cars, MTA buses, and dollar vans … I’ve come close to being swiped a few times,” said Prospect Lefferts Gardener Cal DeJesus. “Some cyclists still ride in the street on that stretch, but I started riding on the sidewalk, and I notice other cyclists riding on the sidewalk as well.”

But some longtime residents already think the bike lane proposal will only serve new, more affluent locals, and that the money could go to better uses, according to a local activist.

“This petition started out of a Facebook page geared to newer residents and in a lot of ways it promotes gentrification,” said Imani Henry, the lead organizer of the anti-gentrification group Equality for Flatbush. “We can talk about hospitals, about subway fares going up, but it’s interesting that they want to talk about spending money on a bike lane.”

The Department of Transportation has previously kowtowed to community boards opposing bike lanes. It spiked a planned lane on Clinton Avenue in June after angry residents flooded meetings complaining that it was just catering to a minority of yuppy “settlers”. And it also exempted Bedford-Stuyvesant from a new pedaling path on Lafayette Avenue this year that the nabe’s community board objected to it.

Still, proponents have a powerful advocate on their side — Borough President Adams has been pushing for a bike lane along the stretch since April, when he reached out to borough transit commissioner Keith Bray requesting a feasibility study.

A Department of Transportation spokeswoman refused to say whether such a study was in the works, but said the agency is working with the Beep and other local leaders to discuss “possible options” regarding the proposal.

Those talks began shortly after the letter was sent, but have yet to evolve into a real project, according to Adams’s chief communications honcho.

“We’re at the moment open to where the conversation goes,” said spokesman Stefan Ringel. “We’re not specific on this is the exact design and form and infrastructure, other than we’re looking for a good conversation.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.