Bicycle traffic across the Williamsburg Bridge is soaring, just-released statistics show — and neighborhood bike advocates are claiming victory in their bloodless battle for bike bragging rights over Brownstone Brooklyn.
“We’re number one now in terms of biking communities,” crowed Teresa Toro, chair of the Transportation Committee in Williamsburg and Greenpoint’s Community Board 1. “We’ve got so many bike rack requests coming in, the city can’t even keep up with them. We’ve totally tied up the city’s bike rack staff — and that’s a good problem to have.”
It is true that more Schwinns, Bianchis and Treks traverse the Willy B. each day than any of the city’s other crossings — and as a result, North Brooklyn has a symbolic edge in the battle for bike supremacy, Department of Transportation Senior Policy Advisor Jon Orcutt said at a June 18 meeting.
But the 2,257 bike riders who use the Williamsburg Bridge every day is crushed by the daily traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge, which serve as the bike routes into Manhattan for most of Brownstone Brooklyn. Every day, 2,939 riders use those spans.
Those numbers jibe with the prevailing notion that Brownstone Brooklyn is more bike-friendly than anywhere else. Indeed, last year, the Department of City Planning awarded Park Slope the yellow jersey after a sizable plurality of the 1,086 respondents to an online study said they commuted by bike from the 11215 ZIP code.
Then again, in that same 2007 study, Williamsburg and Greenpoint were counted as separate neighborhoods. Had they been tallied together — as they were in the bridge-crossing statistics — North Brooklyn would have narrowly edged past Park Slope.
So as North Brooklyn bragged about the latest numbers, bikers in the Slope retorted their tree-lined streets are far more ideal for pedal pushers.
“Park Slope is a good place to be a cyclist. There are a decent amount of bike paths, and Prospect Park is just great,” said Aiyana Kanuer, a single-speed rider and sales associate at Park Slope’s On the Move bike shop, where business has accelerated in recent years.
And when it comes to bike culture, the cycle-crazy nabes are neck and neck.
While Park Slope is famous for its “peloton” of Lycra-clad speedsters that circle Prospect Park on weekend mornings, Williamsburg and Greenpoint have emerged from the pack by hosting street races known as “Alley Cats” and Bicycle Fetish Day — an annual celebration of all things on two wheels.
In terms of bike shops, Williamsburg and Greenpoint barely beat Park Slope with four shops to the Slope’s three.
But for Transportation Alternatives spokesman and Greenpoint cyclist Wiley Norvell, it’s not the number of shops that matter — it’s the number of cars.
The ridership numbers for the Williamsburg Bridge, coupled with statistics indicating that North Brooklyn has lower rates of car ownership than the rest of the borough, have convinced Norvell that his neighborhood is the most heavily biked part of the city.
“There are times looking down Bedford Avenue when every other vehicle is a bicycle,” he said.
City statistics can’t provide a clear winner, so it’s a tie as far as city Transportation spokesman Scott Gastel sees it.
“Both communities embrace bicycle usage and are leaders in the city in that regard — they both have a lot to be proud of in terms of what they do for bikes,” he said.