A stretch of Ninth Street in Park Slope where a driver hit and killed two children last year is now more dangerous to pedestrians than ever, following a redesign that brought new protected bike lanes to the road, locals alleged.
The new bike lanes — which run on either side of Ninth Street between Prospect Park West and Third Avenue, and are separated from traffic by a parking lane — embolden cyclists to speed, according to Ninth Street residents, who on Jan. 24 met with a representative for Borough President Adams at Seventh Avenue’s All Saints Episcopal Church to share their concerns about the infrastructure.
An organizer of the meeting told its roughly two dozen attendees that her neighbor, whom she described as a 93-year-old World War II veteran, nearly died when a bicyclist almost hit him as he recently attempted to cross one of the bike lanes.
“There’s a deep concern about safety, and that’s the reason we’re here tonight,” said Myra Manning.
Another Ninth Street resident told the room his 13-year-old son was skateboarding to school in one of the protected bike lanes in December, when a truck driver turning onto Sixth Avenue struck him. And that incident, coupled with the invitation to speed the lanes’ give to cyclists, has cast serious doubts on the infrastructure’s efficacy, according to the local.
“I’m afraid of getting out of my car, and I’m afraid of my son getting out of the car,” said Jeff Raheb.
Last year, some Slopers warned the city that redesigning Ninth Street would do little to protect pedestrians if officials did not simultaneously crack down on truckers who illegally use the local street as a thoroughfare into Southern Brooklyn.
And those predictions are coming true, according to a crossing guard for Sixth Avenue’s PS 39 between Eighth and Ninth streets, who said truckers that in the past used Ninth Street as an illicit shortcut now drive even closer to the school down Eighth Street, because city’s redesign of Ninth Street narrowed its driving lanes, resulting in more traffic.
“I have huge trucks coming down, making wide turns. It’s inconvenient and it’s dangerous,” said the crossing guard, who only gave her name as Liz. “It’s not just my life, I’m there for the kids.”
Other locals, of course, blasted the Department of Transportation for removing 26 Ninth Street parking spaces to accommodate the redesign, claiming the agency scheme to make the street safer came at car owners’ expense.
“The DOT overkill, without any community involvement, was let’s make it safe and take parking spaces without any regard to the people living here,” said Ninth Street resident, the Hon. Bernard Graham, who serves on the Kings County Supreme Court judge.
Safe-street advocates also turned up for the meeting, one of whom did his best to sow chaos among the disgruntled Ninth Streeters by interrupting them as they spoke, and at one point accusing Manning of pulling information “out of her a–,” a comment that almost induced a fist fight with Raheb.
Other proponents of the new bike lanes, however, argued their points more civilly and effectively, citing city studies that show how dedicated pedalers’ paths reduce injuries and fatalities.
“These protected bike lanes really in every case have been proven to protect the safety of not just bicyclists, but everyone, including pedestrians, and drivers too,” said William Farrell, a traffic engineer who lives in Boerum Hill.
And most in the room praised Adams for being the only elected official willing to entertain to their complaints, after Park Slope’s Councilman Brad Lander and Assemblyman Robert Carroll declined to attend the meeting, according to Manning.
But critics of the new Ninth Street bike lanes shouldn’t expect the beep to push for their destruction, according to a spokesman, who noted his boss is among Brooklyn’s biggest supporters of better bicycling infrastructure.
“The borough president has been an active supporter of the Ninth Street bike lane, he was there at its ribbon cutting, and he conducted a bike ride down Ninth Street to highlight safe streets needs,” said Stefan Ringel.