Public housing residents: Bike lane fence is offensive

Public housing residents: Bike lane fence is offensive

Residents of two Fort Greene housing projects want the city to come up with a way to protect cyclists from brick-throwing teens that’s smarter and less stigmatizing than a cage-like fence.

The Department of Transportation decided to replace an existing fence on a pedestrian bridge that links the Walt Whitman and Ingersoll houses with a taller, curved wall of metal mesh after a group of kids threw rocks, bottles and golf balls at more than six bikers riding below on the Navy Street bike lane.

But residents of the city-owned developments between Tillary Street and Myrtle Avenue see the planned fence as a superficial quick-fix with the aesthetics of a prison wall.

“We don’t want anybody getting hurt either — but this feels like a punishment, like we’re in jail,” said Stacy Williams, who lives there. “It’s offensive.”

The city claims the new fence, which features an 18-inch-tall inward-curved barrier much like the fence on the Manhattan Bridge bike lane — will make it harder for anyone to hurl anything onto the roadway below. But some residents say the job could be better accomplished with a security guard posted on the bridge and a little community outreach, saying they’re just as disturbed by the attacks as cyclists.

“Safety comes first,” said Kyle Okai, who also lives in the complex. “It seems like there’s a better way, though.”

The push for increased safety comes after a spree of attacks against cyclists on the popular bike route, which links Fort Greene to the Manhattan Bridge.

Park Slope computer programmer Stephen Arthur was hit in the head with a brick — leaving him with a cracked helmet, a gash on his cheek and a chipped tooth in August. Others suffered minor injuries.

Some bicyclists are happy that the city is aware of the problem but, much like residents of the public housing complex, consider city’s solution “incomplete.”

“They need to give this more thought,” said Arthur, who has called on the city to add fencing along the stairs leading up to the footbridge and remove fencing separating the street from the public housing complexes — measures he hopes would make it harder to throw rocks and more difficult for those who do to escape.

The city defends its current fence plan, noting that the design is similar to the fences used on other bridges near bike lanes.

“Making the bridge safer for everyone is a goal that Department of Transportation shares with the local community,” said a spokeswoman for the agency. “[We] also will continue to discuss ideas for ways to further enhance safety on and around the bridge.”

The city expects to install the new fence this month. The bridge wouldn’t be the first pedestrian walkway covered with lots of chain-link — two foot paths over the Prospect Expressway, connecting South Park Slope and Windsor Terrace with Greenwood Heights, are fully enclosed in fencing.

UPDATE: This story was updated at 12:21 pm on Jan. 18 to include new comments from the Department of Transportation.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.