A Sunset Park councilman announced Wednesday that a substantial portion of the long-delayed Fourth Avenue bike lane will open by the end of this year.
Transit officials originally planned to completely finish the bike lane spanning Sunset Park and Park Slope this summer, but the project was delayed indefinitely to accommodate much needed repairs to the N and R train subway tunnel that runs beneath Fourth Avenue.
Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed he would “accelerate completion” of the Sunset Park bike lane as part of his “Green Wave” plan announcement last month, but it wasn’t until Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park) reached out to transit officials on July 29 that the project gained a year’s end deadline, according to a spokesman from Menchaca’s office.
As a result, the two-way, two-and-a-half-mile bike path will stretch uninterrupted from First Street in Park Slope to 57th Street in Sunset Park before the end of fall, according to the Department of Transportation. DOT now plans to complete a four-block stretch of cycling paths between 60th and 64th streets this fall as well, while leaving construction of a three-block gap in the bike lane between 57th and 60th streets for sometime next year.
Transit officials plan to paint the new bike paths and place temporary fencing around them before embarking on a capital project, which will replace the barriers with concrete traffic islands and foliage.
Another bike path called the Brooklyn Greenway is slated to open along Second Avenue and part of Third Avenue in 2022, connecting Gowanus and Red Hook to Sunset Park’s waterfront, transit authorities claimed.
Elected officials and local cyclists praised the upcoming Fourth Avenue project during its announcement Wednesday afternoon.
“We’ve needed a protected bike lane on Fourth Avenue for a long time, and I am proud to stand beside the Department of Transportation to announce its arrival by year’s end,” Councilman Menchaca said.
The Fourth Avenue bike plan comes after a surge in cyclist deaths in Brooklyn, two of which occurred in Sunset Park. In January, a car fatally hit a 26-year-old man on Third Avenue and 29th Street, and last week, a tractor trailer struck and killed 30-year-old woman just seven blocks away, marking the 13th cyclist fatality in Brooklyn this year, and the 18th citywide.
In response to the bike fatalities and a growing demand among transit advocates for better cycling infrastructure, de Blasio announced a $58.4 million initiative to create an additional 80 miles of protected bike lanes throughout the city before his lame duck term ends in 2021. The day before, the City Council passed a law allowing cyclists to ride with pedestrian lights at intersections.
But for Brooklnynites grieving dead friends and family, the mayor’s bike lane project comes as too little, too late.
“We’re being reactive instead of proactive,” said an emotional Jane Martin-Lavaud, a member of the advocacy group Families for Safe Streets, whose daughter was killed by a speeding driver in Gravesend. “These deaths that we read in newspapers as statistics, as numbers, are human beings. They’re family members.”
A Park Slope councilman insisted on the need to keep pushing for better cycling infrastructure in the wake of tragedy.
“We have collective responsibility for the lives we keep losing,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D-Park Slope). “It’s from that place of sorrow and collective responsibility that we have an obligation to keep pushing forward.”
And while the gravity of the cyclists’ deaths weighed on the crowd, Lander encouraged Brooklyn bike advocates to stay positive.
“Every project we do is probably saving lives we don’t know that they’re saving,” he said. “We’ve got to hold onto that.”