Sand trap makes for risky detour

Frustrated family: Alan Cohen and his daughters, Phoebe and Chloe, would like to ride on the bike path that he said needs to be fixed — fast.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

For Sheepshead Bay cyclists, it’s no way or the highway.

The washed-out stretch of the Sheepshead Bay-Plumb Beach bike path has switched gears from an annoyance to a danger now that cyclists have started biking on the Belt Parkway to avoid the sandy swath.

The unpaved portion has been a sand trap since the asphalt was washed away by Hurricane Sandy, and the city has been slow-rolling the planned fix, instead posting signs on the path advising cyclists to dismount and walk their bikes over the sandy stretch.

But that’s not an option for serious cyclists, who often wear cleats — cycling shoes with grooves that clip onto a bike’s pedals and make dismounting a chore. One cyclist said cleated riders also won’t walk through the sand because of the damage it would do to their pricey specialty shoes.

“No cyclist is going to do that because it destroys them,” said Alan Cohen, who lives in Sheepshead Bay.

Cohen said he’s irked by the sign telling riders to dismount and walk their bikes over the sand, because he said it means the city is aware of the problem and forcing the responsibility of the situation onto riders.

“It was like putting salt in the wound,” said Cohen, who sometimes rides an extra three miles to avoid the sandy strip.

Cohen said that many of his fellow cyclists are opting for a shorter — but much riskier — detour.

Sandy situation: Alan Cohen said because it is such an inconvenience for cyclists to remove their specialty cycling shoes before walking across the unpaved, sandy stretch of the Sheepshead Bay-Plumb Beach bike path, many cyclists have started to ride on the Belt Parkway.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

“They will ride on the Belt Parkway itself,” he said. “It is a risk — something is going to happen.”

On a clear day, up to five cyclists may zoom by on the Belt Parkway in a 30-minute interval, some even riding against the flow of traffic.

One cyclist, who chooses instead to carry his bike across the sand, said the bike path needs renovations soon, before the inevitable happens.

“I don’t know if anyone’s been hit yet, but it’s a good chance it’ll happen soon,” said Danny Santana, a cyclist from Midwood. “Just clean it up.”

Former Councilman Lew Fidler allocated $450,000 to the Parks Department to fix the damaged bike path last summer. But a Parks Department spokeswoman said that work to repair about 450 feet of the eroded path, isn’t expected to begin until after the summer.

“We anticipate construction to begin and be completed this fall,” said Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department. In the meantime, Cohen said he hopes to see some sort of a stopgap solution — like wooden or metal plates — before then so cyclists can enjoy an uninterrupted ride without having to worry about sand or cars.

“Something temporary, so life can go on,” said Cohen. “I don’t think that is rocket science.”

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at vogle@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow her attwitter.com/oglevanessa.
Facing danger: Cyclists have started riding on the Belt Parkway to avoid the sandy stretch of the bike path, which has community members concerned about inevitable accidents.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

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