City jonesing for Smith bike lane fix

Fresh on the heels of the new Flushing Avenue bike lane, the city unveiled plans for a bike-friendly facelift for Smith Street, turning the much-used approach to the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges much less harrowing.

The improvements will work as a complement to the bike lane on the parallel, one-way southbound Hoyt Street.

“The bike lanes on Smith and Hoyt streets will work as a pair,” said Preston Johnson, an official with the Department of Transportation. “They’ll enhance access to the bridges and also to destinations on Smith Street.”

The upgrades break down into three different sections on Smith Street, which runs one-way northbound.

• A curbside lane from Hamilton Avenue to Ninth Street, where cars tend to speed as they emerge from the traffic under the Gowanus Expressway. There is currently no parking along that strip.

• A standard bike lane from Ninth to Bergen streets. There would be no loss of parking in this stretch, either.

At Bergen Street, the road narrows, so the city will continue to call that a “shared route,” which affords cyclists limited protection. Johnson said that it’s the only option, but said it does help riders.

“We’ve seen that the shared lane does get a good response [from drivers],” Johnson said. “It acts as a reminder.”

The changes are certainly warranted by city statistics, which show that 449 cyclists used that Downtown-bound stretch of Smith Street during daylight hours.

The city’s recognition of the need for a complement to Hoyt Street also marks a significant change in tactics from previous bike lane projects on dangerous thoroughfares like Fifth Avenue and Adams Street — projects that were criticized for inviting disaster.

Hoyt Street will not be neglected during all the upgrades, either:

• The curbside lane will be extended one extra block to Wyckoff Street — meaning the loss of nine parking spaces — a proposal that was greeted with surprisingly little opposition during Thursday night’s Community Board 6 Transportation Committee meeting at New York Methodist Hospital.

• A standard bike lane will be painted from Wyckoff to Douglass streets.

• And there will be a shared bike lane from Douglass to Third streets, an upgrade from nothing.

Cyclists won’t have to wait too long before the upgrades will be implemented.

“We’d like to do it in June,” said Josh Benson, the city’s bicycle coordinator. “It’s kind of an easy project. We’d like to do it quickly so that people can use it in the summer.”

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