Maybe Bay Ridge is a bike-friendly community after all.
Residents continually pan plans to bring bike lanes into Bay Ridge, but now merchants along Third Avenue are cheering the Department of Transportation’s proposal to repurpose obsolete “lollipop” meters into bicycle racks.
Robert Howe, president of the Third Avenue Merchants Association and an avid cyclist, said the racks would be a boon for cyclists who can’t find a place to hitch their wheels onto in car-heavy Bay Ridge.
“I know whenever I’m riding my bike, I’m always looking for the tallest pole I can put my bike on,” Howe said. “You see people chaining their bicycle up to trees and alternate side parking signs all the time,” he said. “This program would obviate that need.”
The city gave Third Avenue merchants the option to have the meter in front of their store converted into a bicycle rack once new muni-meters are installed in the fall.
Several merchants like restaurateur Anthony Loupos, who opened Glow Thai between 71st and 72nd streets, have already jumped at the chance.
Loupos said he was very excited about getting more two-wheeled business rolling past his eatery.
“Last fall on a nice day we would see four or five tables per day come on bicycle,” he said.
Loupos also claimed that the racks would help him protect his eatery’s delivery bike, which thieves have pedaled away with in the past because it wasn’t securely fastened to anything.
Howe hoped the city’s plan would motivate more Ridgites to leave their motorized wheels at home and bike to their favorite stores and restaurants.
“[Ridgites] are famous for driving two blocks to the store,” he said. “Maybe this will cut back on that bad habit.”
Loupos agreed that Bay Ridge residents need to move away from their steering wheels and get behind a set of handlebars.
“There are so many benefits and no downside,” he said, stating that more bike traffic would decrease automobile congestion and maybe even free up parking spots. “If you live on 95th street, there’s no reason to haul 2000 pounds along with you to travel 20 blocks so you can go the gym or get a coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts.”
Yet most Bay Ridge residents don’t agree with Howe and Loupos.
Over the years, the neighborhood has thwarted the city’s attempts to bring more bicycle lanes into the neighborhood.
Last June, then-Community Board 10 member Bob Cassara, a biking advocate, clashed publicly with his peers and with Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) who shot down plans to put in a bike lane along Bay Ridge Parkway. Sources say Cassara was drummed out of the CB10 as a result.
Cassara praised the city’s bike rack conversion program.
“It’s an inexpensive way of getting bike racks and getting more people on the streets,” Cassara said. “We should be doing more things like this. Any merchants who are against this aren’t informed about how having more people on bikes can increase business.”