DOT reconsidering Canarsie bike lane after pushback

bike lane
The Jay Street bike lane.
File photo by Jessica Parks

When transportation officials announced plans to install 10 miles of protected bike lanes throughout the borough this year, only three streets in southern Brooklyn were earmarked for new cycling paths — but even that was too much for local civic leaders, who successfully lobbied the city to reconsider their plans for a bike lane on Canarsie’s Remsen Avenue. 

“Maybe eventually we will need bike lanes when people are going to be forced off the streets and forced to ride bikes, scooters, and roller skates,” said Dorothy Turano, the district manager of Community Board 18 . “Until that occurs, we don’t want bike lanes on Remsen Avenue. It serves no function.” 

The city’s chief street designer Polly Trottenberg unveiled the slate of green-painted paths, which would separate bikers from vehicular traffic with a physical barrier, as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Green Wave plan to open 80 miles of protected lanes citywide by the time he leaves office in 2021.

Hizzoner’s renewed push for safer streets comes amid a deluge of traffic fatalities in the five boroughs — where motorists fatally struck 29 cyclists in New York throughout 2019, including 18 in Brooklyn. 

But many residents of southern Brooklyn, where locals are disproportionately dependent on car usage, have long resisted efforts to alter roadways in favor of bikers, arguing that the added congestion is a deal breaker.

So when the transit department announced a 1.3-mile protected bike lane slated for Remsen Avenue between Foster Avenue and Canarsie Park, several local leaders demanded that the agency reconsider. 

“There is absolutely no reason for a bike lane on Remsen Avenue. It will disrupt traffic and it isn’t needed,” said Councilman Alan Maisel (D—Canarsie). 

Canarsie features just over 30 north-and-south oriented streets, two of which feature partial bike lanes, which Maisel argues makes the proposed Remsen Avenue path redundant.

“Canarsie has two bike lanes already, both going in the same direction,” said the councilman. 

In response to Maisel and Turano’s frustrations, Transportation Department reps told the civic leaders that they would evaluate the scheme.  

“We asked them to look at other traffic calming modifications, they agreed,” said Turano. “They said they would rethink and come up with another plan.”

But other southern Brooklynites were less upset by the agency’s proposed peddler path, arguing that Canarsieans would love to bike more — if only the streets friendlier to alternative transportation methods.

“I think it is a great idea, it provides a good connection to various points in the neighborhood,” said Marc Want, the head of civic group the Canarsie Improvement Association. “The Paerdegat North bike lane is getting tremendous use.” 

According to Want, the proposed lane will succeed if it guarantees that cyclists will be safe when riding on it. 

“I think that it depends on how it is done,” Want said. “If it is done…right next to the moving cars — that is a problem.”

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