Major overhaul coming to Schermerhorn Street bike lane

existing schermerhorn bike lane
The existing bike lane on Schermerhorn Street. The city’s Department of Transportation is planning to make major changes to the thoroughfare this summer.

Schermerhorn Street’s infamous bike lane is finally getting an upgrade from the city’s Department of Transportation, with major changes coming to the thoroughfare as soon as this summer. 

The heavily-trafficked Schermerhorn Street, which stretches about a mile from Clinton Street to Third Avenue, where it connects to Flatbush Avenue, is a major component of Downtown Brooklyn’s bike network, with about 1,200 bikers traversing the lane each weekday, according to DOT data.

It’s also, despite clearly marked painted bike lanes, a slow and dangerous route for cyclists, who are routinely hit by cars or forced to swerve into traffic to avoid cars and trucks parked illegally in the lane, which does not have a physical barrier to separate it from the road.

schermerhorn plan
The city’s Department of Transportation is planning to install a new two-way, parking protected bike lane on Schermerhorn Street between Smith Street and Third Avenue, with additional safety measures like curb extensions and loading zones also planned. NYC DOT

The city’s new plan, set to be implemented in the next few months, will turn Schermerhorn Street between Smith Street and Third Avenue into an eastbound one-way street for vehicles, who will have one driving lane down the center of the street, DOT announced at a Community Board 2 meeting last week.

This will allow the agency to rearrange the rest of the roughly 50-foot-wide stretch, installing a two-way bike lane protected by a parking lane on the side of the street and widening the parking lane on the north side of the street. 

Between Boerum Place and Clinton Street, where Schermerhorn Street is already a one-way, the existing “standard” painted bike lane will be moved to the south side of the street.

Cyclists aren’t the only focus of the redesign, which will also add painted curb extensions to the intersections at Boerum Place, Third Avenue, and Hoyt, Bond, and Nevins streets, shortening the crossing distance for pedestrians traversing the wide roadway.

“We’re excited to see strong local support for this holistic approach to address traffic safety on Schermerhorn Street,” said Vin Barone, a DOT spokesperson. “This project will improve bike and pedestrian safety on an absolutely vital east-west bicycle route in downtown Brooklyn.”

schermerhorn street bike lane
A ghost bike on Schermerhorn Street honors a pedestrian who was hit and killed on the street. The DOT’s redesign seeks to make the street safer for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Kirstyn Brendlen

Leading pedestrian intervals and plastic “Quick Kurb” bollards, which prevent cars from parking illegally close to street corners and keep cyclists visible to drivers will also hopefully reduce the number of crashes on Schermerhorn Street — most cyclists and pedestrians who have been struck by cars were hit while the car was turning.

The plan, which was developed after DOT surveyed business owners, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians last year, seeks to knock out the street’s biggest safety concerns.

The agency expects the new one-way Schermerhorn will make driver behavior more predictable for cyclists and pedestrians, who said erratic drivers were one of their top safety concerns, while eliminating all left-hand turns onto side streets between Smith Street and Third Avenue. Left hand turns are particularly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists citywide, but especially on Schermerhorn Street, where 75 percent of pedestrians who were injured while crossing in the crosswalk with the walk signal were hit by cars turning left, according to DOT data. About 40 percent of cyclists hit were struck by turning drivers.

More than 150 drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians were injured in crashes on Schermerhorn between 2015 and 2019, according to DOT, with injuries rising across the board. Most drivers and vehicle passengers were hurt in sideswipe and rear-end collisions as cars navigate an often backed-up, busy roadway blocked by double-parked cars and delivery vans.

car on schermerhorn
A car parked on Schermerhorn Street with an MTA vest on the dashboard. All city agencies will retain their allotted parking spots on Schermerhorn Street after the redesign. Kirstyn Brendlen

City agencies with designated parking spaces will retain their allotted space, a DOT spox said. Placard abuse, where city employees leave expired placards, notes, or city paraphernalia on their dashboards, is rampant along Schermerhorn Street.

Designated loading zones for hotel pick-up and drop-off are planned to reduce that congestion at the ACE Hotel near Bond Street and the Hilton Hotel near Smith Street, and DOT told Brooklyn Paper that they will consider adding additional “targeted” loading zones along the commerce-heavy street. 

“Schermerhorn Street is the only way to bike through Downtown BK & it’s a disaster,” tweeted local Councilmember Lincoln Restler, who attempted to bike the infamous “Schermerhorn Challenge” earlier this year. “We need streets that are safe for cyclists & pedestrians. Getting Schermerhorn fixed by the end of our first year in office has been one of my top priorities.”

Installation will start after Schermerhorn Street’s battered roadway is resurfaced, and will be completed using in-house money and existing contractors, according to a DOT spox.