Bike opponents seek ‘Detour’ on Kent Ave

Bike opponents seek ‘Detour’ on Kent Ave
The Brooklyn Paper / Ben Muessig

Opponents of a pair of controversial bike lanes on Kent Avenue have been using school buses to block the street in an act of automotive disobedience — and now they’re publicizing their plans with a billboard blaming the resulting traffic jams on cyclists.

Last week, anti-bike lane activists put up a possibly illegal orange-and-black billboard on private property near the corner of Broadway and Kent Avenue suggesting that motorists take Wythe Avenue to avoid delays caused by buses intentionally obstructing the thoroughfare to protest the cycling paths.

“DETOUR,” the sign reads. “Due to the bike lane and parking problem created by NYC Department of Transportation, we urge all drivers to use Wythe Ave. as your alternate route so you have no delays when the buses are picking-up and dropping off kids. The buses will be in an angle blocking the road and the bike lane for safety during the hours of 8–10 am and 4–6:30 pm.”

No one has claimed responsibility for the sign, which alludes to a November announcement by Council candidate Isaac Abraham that buses would be used to block the lanes if the city did not remove them.

This week, Abraham, the de facto spokesman for the Satmar Hasidic community in South Williamsburg, defended the sign. “This is for safety — the bikers are totally ignoring the flashing lights of the buses. There is no reason this community has to accommodate bikers driving by on both sides of the street when there are already bike lanes on Wythe and Bedford.”

Only the city is allowed to establish official detours, but it remains unclear whether the Department of Transportation will remove the unauthorized sign, which is the latest in a series of spats between biking boosters who support the paths and opponents of the lanes who are furious about the loss of parking spaces along Kent Avenue.

The sign was briefly taken down on Dec. 30 when David Gold, one of the owners of the Gold Warehouse, first noticed the four-foot-by-eight-foot billboard. Gold told The Brooklyn Paper that he removed the sign because the individuals who had installed it had not asked his permission, but he said he was sympathetic with the anti-bike lane cause.

The sign was reinstalled later that day, and according to Leo Moskowitz, a Kent Avenue resident and a vocal opponent of the cycling paths, the anti-bike lane activists responsible for the billboard are planning to print a larger, eight-foot-by-12-foot sign with the same message.

Biking advocates say that the billboard is an indication that the battle over Kent Avenue is no longer about the lanes — it’s about them.

“The language has become kind of hostile and vitriolic to bicyclists,” said Transportation Alternatives spokesman Wiley Norvell. “It makes me feel like this has nothing to do with the bike lane, but it’s a referendum on bicycling in principle in South Williamsburg.”

Despite mounting opposition from residents, business owners and local politicians, the Department of Transportation stands behind the lanes, which are a preliminary stage in the long-planned Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway — a lengthy bike lane and walking path that will stretch from Greenpoint to Sunset Park.

“The lanes enhance safety in a neighborhood with one of the largest and fastest-growing bicycling populations in the city, and they are a key step in building the Greenway along the Brooklyn waterfront,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Gastel. “The project was developed with the support of the community board, and we have worked closely with the community to address their concerns.”