Canarsie residents unleashed an SUV-load of outrage upon the city’s plans to put bicycle lanes along E. 94th and E. 95th streets.
Their victims, a handful of city Department of Transportation bicycle network experts invited to Community Board 18’s Oct. 20 meeting to outline their plan, learned quickly that Canarsie isn’t a fan of the city’s pedal-pushing ways.
Some board members booed the city officials. A handful accused city planners of putting bicycle lanes on streets they never visited, while others lambasted the city for not consulting the community board or any local elected officials before setting its sights on the neighborhood.
Before the city could even conclude its presentation, Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano kicked off the barrage of negative comments, claiming that bicycle lanes are a great idea “if you live in La La Land.”
“If we lived in some kind of utopia, bicycle lanes would be wonderful,” Turano said. “But in reality it’s not practical. This is an area with two- to three-car families. No one here bicycles to work.”
Turano also charged that the city has done very little to ensure bicyclists obey the rules of the road.
“When I come back from the city, I take Union Street in Park Slope,” she said. “There’s a bicycle lane there but the bicyclists ride all around you. You’re in fear for your life and I’ve never seen a cyclist get a summons.”
Barbara Bieber, a community board member who lives on E. 95th Street, said if a bike lane is put on her block, it will be the most unused one in the city.
“A bicyclist rolls down my block maybe once every three months,” said Bieber.
Yet city bike lane planner Hayes Lord thinks E. 94th and E. 95th streets are perfect additions to the city’s 1,800-mile bicycle network.
In fact, the route is already on the city’s biking map: the lane would begin at Avenue D going eastbound on E. 95th Street on its way to the Canarsie Pier. Bicyclists would use the E. 94th Street bike lane on their way home as they go westbound to Ditmas Avenue. Once at the Canarsie Pier, bicyclists can connect to the Shore Parkway greenway that stretches from Queens to Sheepshead Bay.
“The goal of the bike lane is to connect Eastern Parkway to Shore Parkway so this world class path could be more accessible,” Lord explained.
Very few at the meeting were convinced. Many said they would rather see bicycle lanes around parks and waterfront property, not on city streets.
“You could put the bike lane in Paerdegat Park or on E. 108th Street,” recommended Avenue L Merchants Association President Mercedes Narcisse. “Not in the center of the neighborhood where you park cars.”
“This is not Copenhagen or Amsterdam,” added Assemblyman Alan Maisel (D-Canarsie), recalling comments made by Borough President Markowitz during a dispute over a dedicated bike lane along Prospect Park West in Park Slope. “People in this neighborhood are not taking bicycles to the grocery store.”
Well, at least one person is.
Out of all the Community Board members in attendance, only Old Mill Basin resident Deborah Smith said she uses her bike to run errands and get around town.
“I want to thank you for your forward thinking,” she told city officials. “I wish we had more bike lanes. I feel safer riding on street with a lane on it.”
Lord said he was going to take the board’s comments back to Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, but made no promises that the bike lanes slated for E. 94th and E. 95th streets would be removed. The bike lanes could be put in as early as this spring, officials said.
“All we are trying to do is carve five feet of space for the bicyclists,” Lord explained.