Ninth Street freezeout: Neighbor vs. neighbor on bike lane plan

Whose Ninth Street is it anyway?

That’s what Park Slope residents are asking after the neighborhood clashed this week over a suddenly controversial city plan to add bike lanes and left-turn bays to Ninth Street.

The Department of Transportation plan was presented to the community two weeks ago as a way of reducing car speeds on the lightly used east-west roadway and adding Ninth Street to an an existing bicycle network that stretches from Red Hook to Prospect Park.

Cars tend to travel too quickly on Ninth Street because there are so few of them, DOT said. Just 11,500 cars use the road every day, as compared to 26,000 per day on Atlantic Avenue and 19,000 on Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, which had lanes removed last year to create the kind of left-turn bays the DOT wants for Ninth Street.

Then, as now, the DOT says its goal is to improve pedestrian safety. Despite the light traffic on Ninth Street, there have been 274 crashes on the thoroughfare between Prospect Park West and Third Avenue in the calendar years 2004–2006, DOT said.

One of those accidents involved a sedan that flew into the front entrance of Dizzy’s diner on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Ninth Street in July, 2005. No one was hurt, but the incident put Ninth Street’s speeding traffic on many activists’ radar screen.

But despite a very vocal band of supporters cheering the plan, residents of Ninth Street brought up a lot questions and complaints.

“There needs to be traffic calming, but we don’t think this was a well-thought-out plan,” said Bob Levine, a member of the Ninth Street Block Association. “The bike lanes and traffic-calming is too much all at once.”

But the plan’s proponents disagree.

“This plan works,” said Eric McClure, of the Park Slope Neighbors. “It’s the combination of the turn bays and bike lanes that makes this work so well.”

Having clearly defined bike lanes only makes the road safer for everyone, McClure added.

“I think the fears of the plan’s opponents are unfounded,” McClure said. “The turn bays will keep traffic flowing smoothly in the thru-lanes, and according to the DOT’s daily car count, congestion won’t be a problem.”

Community Board 6’s Transportation Committee motion to approve the plan narrowly passed and was sent to the full board last week for approval.

But instead of an expected rubber stamp, the board tabled the motion and sent it back to the committee for further review.

The DOT does not need board approval to go ahead with the plan, which the city plans to implement in July.

The next meeting of the CB6 transportation committee will be May 17 at a location to be determined. Call (718) 643-3027 or visit www.brooklyncb6.org for information.