City needs to solve bike lane problem

If there is any single topic (besides Atlantic Yards, see below) that gets our readers going, it’s bike lanes.

These seemingly innocent strips of white paint generate immediate and visceral response from drivers, merchants, residents and even the cyclists for whom the lanes are designed.

In some neighborhoods, bike lanes have been installed in the wrong place — as in the horrendous lane along the roller-derby-esque Jay Street in Downtown — while in others, there aren’t enough of them.

And in virtually every case, the lanes offer a false sense of security to bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians. Yes, accidents are down, but no amount of paint can protect a cyclist from a collision with a menacing automobile or save a pedestrian from the two-wheeler who speeds through a red light.

There’s obviously a problem.

The latest evidence comes from bike-loving Park Slope, where merchants along Fifth Avenue are complaining that bike lanes are causing double-parked delivery trucks to tie up traffic and endanger bikers.

Despite our longstanding support for the city’s efforts to encourage bike commuting, we agree.

Fifth Avenue is not an appropriate place for a bike lane. There are too many trucks making too many sudden stops, too many busses, and too many cars using the avenue as a bypass of busy Fourth Avenue.

Worse, the northern portion of Fifth Avenue is too narrow for a standard bike lane, so cyclists confront the horror of having the lane disappear north of Carroll Street — just as car traffic is backing up from Flatbush Avenue.

We do believe that the Department of Transportation’s bike program has played an important role in reducing accidents and encouraging bicycling. But too many bike lanes have been laid down without sufficient understanding of how the lanes will conflict with existing conditions.

Before installing a bike lane, planners should take this common-sense quiz:

• Does the road have heavy traffic?

• Does the lane fail to get bikers safely to key destinations?

• Is there a lot of through- or two-way traffic that will conflict with the bike lane?

• Is it a busy pedestrian area?

If the answers are “yes” to all of these questions, a bike lane is clearly not appropriate in that location.