Pedal-pushers in northern Brooklyn will soon be safer while cycling the Kings County streets, as the Department of Transportation is planning to improve two notoriously dangerous bike lanes on Wythe Avenue and on Navy Street.
DOT approached Community Board 2’s transportation committee last year about improving the one-block stretch of Navy Street between Sands Street and Flushing Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn — identifying the roadway’s dual unprotected bike lanes as both heavily-used and dangerous for cyclists.
According to CrashMapper, there were seven crashes at the intersection of Navy Street and Flushing Avenue between 2016 and 2021, which resulted in the injury of five cyclists and two pedestrians. Three crashes at the intersection of Sands Street and Navy Street injured one cyclist, one pedestrian, and one driver in the same five-year span.
Starting this month NYC DOT will implement street safety improvements on Navy St (Sands St to Flushing Ave) in #Brooklyn. This work will:
— NYC DOT (@NYC_DOT) September 7, 2021
The proposal called for a new protected two-way bike lane on the east side of Navy Street, preserving the one-way bike lane on the opposite side to facilitate safe and easy access for bikers turning onto Flushing Avenue. The new lanes would remove 14 parking spaces and relocate the bus stop for the B57, B62, and B69 routes.
When project manager Preston Johnson returned to CB2 last summer, transportation committee members expressed concern over the loss of parking in the neighborhood — especially for residents of Farragut Houses.
“I just feel like this plan is poorly designed,” said Lisa Hudson, a member of Farragut Stakeholders, at the June meeting. “There are better ways to implement this bike lane and allow for parking to be maintained.”
“Does nobody care about what the Black communities have to say?” said committee member Esther Blount. “This is outrageous. We voted it down, and you come in here and just say, ‘Oh, we doing it.’”
Committee chair Sidney Meyer said he supports protected bike lanes, and would like DOT to reconsider the committee-approved plan, which suggests removing the one-way southbound bike lane on the west side of the street in favor of adding a parking lane between the two-way lane on the east side and traffic lanes.
“We voted last time for a situation that would approve the bike lanes and the parking,” Meyer said. “I know that was rejected. I’m going to ask again for them to go back and look at it one more time.”
“I think this is a pretty crucial connection between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges and the rest of Brooklyn,” committee member Brian Howald told Brooklyn Paper ahead of Tuesday’s meeting. “I’m not surprised that DOT decided that the project was absolutely worth doing.”
While only a block long, a 2016 DOT study found that nearly 3,000 cyclists used the Navy Street lane during a 12-hour period on weekdays. It’s a crucial connection point between networks of protected bike lanes, Howald said, often used by commuters riding in and out of Brooklyn.
While those commuters aren’t members of CB2, he said, the board has a responsibility to consider their interests and keep them safe.
Where CB2 was hesitant about the improvements, Community Board 1 was the catalyst for the Wythe Avenue lane, said DOT spokesperson Brian Zumhagen.
In October 2020, the traffic and transportation committee agreed to send a letter to the DOT asking for an “expedited pedestrian and bicycle safety study” on Williamsburg Street, Wythe Avenue, and Kent Avenue after 35-year-old Sarah Pitts was hit by a bus and killed while riding through the intersection.
The committee also sent a letter to the 90th Precinct asking that they increase traffic enforcement in the area.
The intersection of Wythe Avenue and Williamsburg Street East is has seen twelve crashes and eleven injuries since 2016. Eight of the people injured were pedestrians, two were drivers, and one was a cyclist. The twelfth crash was the one that killed Pitts.
The intersection of Wythe Avenue and Williamsburg Street W has been a concern for the department at least since 2019, when they came before CB1 to propose traffic and safety improvements at the BQE off-ramp adjacent to Williamsburg Street. Drivers were frequently weaving between lanes and making unsafe turns, according to the presentation.
At least 23 crashes are documented on Williamsburg Street W near the off-ramp, in the last five years, injuring nearly 30 drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.
A year after her death, DOT started work improving the bike lane between Williamsburg Street W and Penn Street, resurfacing the road and installing jersey barriers to create a physical separation between car traffic and the bicycle lane. The block-long lane passes under a BQE overpass and currently has no physical protections.
Work should be completed by the end of September, Zumhagen said.
Correction (Sept. 20, 2:43 pm): An earlier version of this story misquoted Sidney Meyer. It has been updated to more accurately reflect his opinions. Brooklyn Paper regrets the error.