A city plan for new bike lanes to the Ikea superstore would be so “dangerous” according to the store’s manager that he’s threatening to renege on some promises to the community if the project goes forward.
The Department of Transportation says that the four-block lane, which will be painted in both directions on Columbia Street from Bay Street onto Halleck and Beard streets, is a reasonable measure given that the Swedish furniture giant has not received as much car traffic as originally expected.
The lane would eliminate one lane for drivers on the southbound side — an acceptable loss, according to the city.
But a “confrontational” Ikea Manager Mike Baker said that a southbound bike lane along Beard and Halleck streets would put cars, buses and bikers on a collision course to the entrance of the big box on Beard Street.
“It seems dangerous to officially encourage bikes to the front of Ikea,” Baker told Community Board 6 on Thursday night.
Baker was so opposed to the project that he said Ikea would not conduct promised traffic analyses to determine the store’s impact on Red Hook, a key concession to the community in the lead up to the store’s 2008 opening.
“If [the city] insists on proceeding with the south-side bike lane, [it] should be responsible for periodically monitoring safety along those bike lanes,” said Baker.
One member of the transportation committee, Roy Sloane, described Baker’s statement as “confrontational.”
Baker justified the surprising ultimatum by saying that the bike lane would undermine many of Ikea-provided traffic-calming measures, such as neckdowns and pavement markings.
“If the … traffic management elements constructed and funded by Ikea are going to be modified … then Ikea is not responsible for impacting or remedying the vehicular flow in Red Hook.”
But cyclists, as well as board members, were skeptical of Baker’s claim.
“Scores of people ride that route because it’s a connection from Court Street and the Red Hook ballfields towards the western part of the neighborhood,” said Noah Budnick, a policy adviser with Transportation Alternatives, a cycling advocacy group. “People naturally follow Halleck already — it makes sense to put in a safety measure [for bicycles].”
Budnick also scoffed at the threat from Ikea.
“It’s clearly written by a lawyer,” said Budnick. “Ikea has enough enemies as it is in that neighborhood, I don’t know why they would stand up and oppose a safety project.”