Holy spokes! Sunset Park bike lanes approved despite protests

Pedal pushback: Sunset Parkers rail against city’s bike lane plans
Department of Transportation

They’re a new way to ride into the Sunset.

Community Board 7 members overwhelmingly approved a city proposal to add bike lanes to six streets in Sunset Park and update the intersection at 43rd Street and Third Avenue at the panel’s Oct. 19 meeting. The pedalers’ paths will be a boon to the nabe’s cyclists, said one local who rides his bike to work daily and testified at the meeting in favor of the proposal.

“I’m very pleased, because obviously bike lanes create a safer environment for cyclists,” said David Strungis, who lives on 40th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues. “You feel a difference on streets without bike lanes. Even some streets here in Sunset Park, people speed down those streets, they pass you very closely, they go by you very quickly. So if there’s a bike lane, it just creates a general feeling of safety and comfort, which I appreciate.”

The Department of Transportation’s plan includes adding bike lines to the residential portions of 43rd, 44th, 57th, and 59th streets between Third and Seventh avenues, and painting sharrows — chevrons pointing the way for bicyclists — on those same four streets between Second and Third avenues. The transportation agency will also add a lane along 41st Street between Fifth and Seventh avenues, and will install a two-way bike lane on 43rd Street between First and Second avenues as a gateway to Bush Terminal Park.

The stretch of 58th Street between First and Second avenues will also get a two-way bike lane as a gateway to Brooklyn Army Terminal and the ferry, but that addition will take away five parking spaces — three at 58th Street and Second Avenue, and two at 58th Street and First Avenue. And plans to update the intersection at Third Avenue and 43rd Street — by adding pedestrian curb cuts and smoothing the Belgian blocks — will also rob the nabe of four parking spaces on Second Avenue and one spot on First Avenue.

The district manager of CB7 said that the changes are ultimately about better-connecting the neighborhood.

“It’s not just a bike lane proposal — it’s a proposal for better transportation,” said Jeremy Laufer. “We have never turned down a bike lane before, and this one did not seem overly burdensome. It’s a good way to connect to both the waterfront park and the 58th Street pier.”

Laufer also added that the board’s approval came with caveats: that the Metropolitan Transit Authority extend B11 bus service from its current stop at First Avenue to the 58th Street pier, where there is already space for a bus turnaround, that the transportation agency work in conjunction with the sanitation and police departments to ensure the proper safety measures are implemented for pedestrian, vehicle, and biking traffic, and that alternate-side-parking practices remain as they are.

When the plan to add the bike lanes and update the intersection was initially presented to the public at a CB7 Transportation Committee meeting last month, many locals blasted the proposal, citing concerns ranging from increased double parking, to limiting access for emergency vehicles, to being left out of the planning process.

And clashes over the lanes are not new to the nabe. In the past, Sunset Parkers have railed against plans to add bike lanes to Fourth and Seventh avenues, with opponents calling them harbingers of gentrification and supporters calling them community assets.

Many of the residents who opposed the bike lanes at last month’s committee meeting were noticeably absent from the Oct. 19 meeting, when the board voted to approve the plan 34-4, but Laufer rejected the notion that bike lanes contribute to gentrification, adding that the painted-on lanes don’t have that power.

“If we’re talking about economic displacement, which is what gentrification is, I am unaware of bike lanes [contributing to that] anywhere,” he said. “We’re talking about paint.”

Sturgis also said he disagreed with the opponents, saying the lanes represent much-needed improvement.

“When I ride my bike, I see diverse representation, so I would disagree that it represents gentrification,” Strungis said. “I think it represents welcome change.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.