Classon Avenue getting bike lane after thousands of people demand it

Beep, activists to police: Quit blaming cyclists in fatal crashes!
In memory: A ghost bike memorial at the corner of Classon and Lexington avenues sits where Lauren Davis was killed by a driver as she was cycling with traffic on April 15.
Photo by Jason Speakman

The city will install a bike lane on Classon Avenue between Clinton Hill and Crown Heights where a bicyclist was killed last year, heeding the call of the more then 5,600 petitioners who demanded the safety measure after the tragic death.

A driver ran over and killed Crown Heights resident Lauren Davis as she pedaled down the street last year and her sister led a campaign for a bike lane shortly after. And the new peddler’s highway is a bittersweet first step in protecting other riders who use the stretch, she said.

“My initial response was crying, I just couldn’t believe it’s actually going to happen,” said Danielle Davis, who launched the petition in August. “I feel incredibly happy just to know that having a bike lane on Classon could help other families not have to endure the same loss, I would never want someone to have to go through what we have to go through.”

The Department of Transportation sent letters to Community Boards 2 and 3 in March telling them it is installing dedicated bike lanes on stretches of the one-way street that now have wide parking lanes from President to Union streets, Sterling Place to Dean Street, and Madison Street to Myrtle Avenue. Sharrows — markings designed to alert drivers to cyclists — will be painted on the two-lane spans for the remaining 11 of the street’s 28 blocks.

No parking spaces will be lost as a result of the changes, according to an agency spokeswoman.

The new lane won’t make much of a difference to drivers, but will help improve the safety of pedal pushers traveling down the street, according to the letter.

“The upgraded design will have little impact on drivers while helping maximize the visibility and right of way for cyclists,” it said.

Local community boards usually make a recommendation on plans for new bike lanes, but this proposal will not go before Community Board 2 because it had already voted to endorse the space for riders in 2012. The Clexy Block Association — which covers Classon, Lexington, and Quincy avenues — had asked for traffic calming and a bike lane at the time, according to the advisory panel’s district manager, who said it won’t be voting again because it took its stance back then.

“We have no plans to do that because the community board has already taken a position,” said Rob Perris.

The full board voted to recommend the addition of a bike lane by a tally of 28–3 at its January 2012 meeting, he said.

Classon Avenue marks the border between Community Boards 2 and 3, but the bike lane would technically be on the Community Board 2 side of the street, according to Perris. Community Board 3 has not ruled out bringing up the matter for input and is still deciding whether it will hold a vote, said district manager Henry Butler.

Community boards are only advisory, however, and the Department of Transportation has the authority to make changes to the streets without first consulting locals.

The city withdrew its last proposal to build a bike lane in Clinton Hill after locals railed against plan to install one on Clinton Avenue at several heated public meetings.

But thousands of people have already made their voices heard by signing the petition in support of the cycling space, said one bike activist.

“I’d say it’s a misconception to say the DOT is doing this without input. There are 5,600 other people who are asking for improved safety on Classon Avenue,” said Luke Ohlson, who is the Brooklyn director for safe street advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.

He’s pumped that the street is finally getting a bike lane, but said the city should ditch the sharrows — once called “chevrons of death” by Brooklyn Paper Radio co-host Gersh Kuntzman — and put in separate space for riders.

“I have to say we’re disappointed it’s going to incorporate sharrows,” he said. “I think the space is adequate enough to allow for a class 2 bike lane. We know that will be a safer option we’d like to see that implemented.”

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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